The mission leader

Every seven to eight years, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services sets a new vision policy, but President Helen Hanna Casey carefully points out that it absolutely has to reflect the organization’s mission. To successfully do that, you have to know what the mission is and know that it doesn’t change.

“It’s important for the leadership to have that, for the company to have that, because where you see a lot of companies get into trouble is where they change that mission,” she says. “… Just because you got new people in leadership doesn’t mean that you can ever change that original mission, but you can change the vision of how you achieve it.”

To change the vision of achieving the mission, Hanna Casey uses a variety of people in her organization.

“If you start in small groups and expand and expand who you’re giving that message to, I think it’s easy for the people you work with to come back to you with how they think you can reach that mission,” she says.

Hanna Casey and the groups of people convened twice a month for two months in Youngstown, which was a central location for everybody. All together, she involved about 100 people from different areas of the company in the vision-setting process.

“When we say it’s people from all over the company, that’s important to us,” she says. “Obviously, the receptionist at the front desk at our corporate office is incredibly important because they are the ones that are the first line of communication. They answer the phone with a smile or not a smile and someone in marketing who is drafting the ad for this week or posting something on the Web site has input also. You want to hear their message — not just salesmen and not just management.”

In addition to the areas they work in, the people involved ranged in experience from three to 25 years with the company.

“You always have to include the past, the present and the future of your company because each one of those adds a different value level,” Hanna Casey says.

When they were done, they presented it to a committee of executives, who simply tweaked a few words here and there and accepted what the group had put together.

With a new vision policy in place, she then had to communicate it throughout the organization.

“You have to communicate it, and then you have to listen to how people respond to it,” she says.

Sometimes when you roll something out, you may think it’s great and keep running with it, but you have to pay attention to how the organization responds.

“Sometimes we can take something and we run so far with it and nobody is grasping it except us,” she says. “You have to give up when that’s the case. You have to know when it’s not something that’s really working with the people you work with, so you have to listen to them.”

Hanna Casey says it’s easy to tell when people aren’t getting on board with you.

“If nobody looks at you with a spark in their eyes and when you have tried something and tried something, it’s time to forget it,” she says.

Hanna Casey says that leadership is really a lot like being a salesperson or even a teacher.

“Just as a first-grade teacher has to be a pretty good salesperson to teach a child to read, a leader has to be a good salesperson to communicate that message to the people they work with,” she says.

To increase your chances of success as you roll it out, be very purposeful in what and how you share the message.

“Really think before you say something,” Hanna Casey says. “Understand what it is you want yourself. Understand who you’re speaking to and continually reiterate the most important points.”

Lastly, your vision policy has to be communicated in everything you do both internally and externally, whether that’s branding, community relations or any other facet.

“You do have to do it in everything you do,” she says. “If you say that part of it is you’re going to give back to the community, then you have to make sure everybody in your company is giving back to the community. It has to be true in your advertising and marketing. It has to be true in what the people that work for you say each time they talk to somebody new … it’s live what you say and live what you do.”

How to reach: Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, (412) 967-9000 or