Recently I was helping run workshops on leadership at Texas Christian University (TCU), a university of just under 10,000 students based in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU is one of the hottest schools in America. It receives around 20,000 applications a year for 1,800 freshman openings.
At TCU, people are motivated by a vision phrase TCU uses as a tagline: “Learning to Change the World.” Although they know the gist of TCU’s official and more formal sounding vision, mission and values, it’s the vision phrase that all can recite.
At TCU, the vision phrase is reinforced by the stories of graduates who are helping to change the world in ways that are consistent with TCU’s values.
Take for example Mack McCarter, founder and a leader of Community Renewal International, a not-for-profit organization that helps rebuild safe and caring communities through the restoration of personal relationships and trust. McCarter and his colleagues have helped transform Shreveport, La., and they are presently rolling out their program in Washington, D.C.
Andy Dalton, a 2011 TCU graduate who is quarterback and a member of the Cincinnati Bengals’ leadership team, is another fine example. Dalton played a part in restoring the team’s competitiveness. In his rookie year he became the Bengal’s starting quarterback and led the team into the playoffs. Before Dalton, the Bengals had seen postseason play only twice sine 1990. This year will be the third consecutive playoff for Dalton and the Bengals. Off the field, Dalton and his wife Jordan run a foundation that helps seriously ill and physically challenged children and families in the greater Cincinnati area. The foundation is projected to touch the lives of 50,000 children by 2014.
Another example is Zach Freeman, a 2013 graduate of TCU’s Neeley Business School with degrees in supply chain management and entrepreneurial management, who founded Veterans Moving America, a “values-based company” that strictly hires American veterans to do residential moving work. Zach, the son of Mike Freeman, Division President of the Americas at WD-40, wanted to create jobs for American veterans.
Here are three ways you can energize people with your vision phrase.
1. Make It Matter
Unless your vision phrase matters, it falls flat. A vision phrase that matters clearly communicates how the organization brings goodness, beauty and/or truth into the world.
Goodness is reflected in organizations that help and serve people. Examples include healthcare services, food and beverage products, lawn care, construction, clothing, lodging, entertainment and travel services, utilities and police protection.
Beauty is reflected in organizations that make the world more attractive. Examples include organizations that produce or showcase works of design, art, music and theater.
Truth is reflected in organizations that help discover what works and disseminates what they’ve learned through research, advice and education. For example, research labs, universities, primary and secondary schools, and consulting firms.
2. Make it Memorable
To be memorable, a phrase that reflects your vision must be brief and aspirational. TCU’s “Learning to Change the World” is a great example. When Chuck Schwab started The Charles Schwab Corporation, his vision was to provide “the most useful and ethical financial services in the world.” Our vision at E Pluribus Partners is “unlocking productivity and innovation for good.”
3. Reinforce it Often
Because vision leaks, leaders must regularly replenish it. As I wrote in my last article, stories work best, especially those from grateful customers and members of the organization who live the vision. Encourage your employees to be on the lookout for stories that you can share throughout your organization to replenish the vision of how your organization brings goodness, beauty and/or truth into the world.
When you: 1. Make your vision phrase matter, 2. Make it memorable, and 3. Reinforce it often, the people you lead will be more motivated to help you achieve your vision and more satisfied in their work.