A new vision Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2008

When Frederick A. Massey Jr. came to FamilyLinks Inc. in 2005, he had a tough road ahead of him.

Two nonprofit agencies had recently merged to form the social services agency, which focuses on individual and family social services. And Massey not only had to help merge the two organizations, but he also had to craft a new vision, communicate it and get everyone working on the same page.

“I analyzed what was the best of both organizations and put that together in a common thread and then started to articulate that to everyone,” says the CEO of the $23.2 million organization.

Smart Business spoke with Massey about how to craft a vision.

Q. What are the keys to creating a vision?

The part of the vision that you want to put to an organization is not something that is separate from the individual or leader. That leader walks, leaps and believes in that vision. It has to be real and a part of you; it can’t be something you’re going to learn or adapt to.

People bring their own passions to the table. The leader has to make sure he articulates, ‘This is the single vision that we’re going to move that passion to so that we can keep moving versus being stagnant and everyone doing their own thing.’ It’s important to do that because if you don’t ... they’re going to start articulating their own, and you’re going to have a stagnant organization.

Leadership is framed from the character of the person. Life experiences help an individual to view certain situations. One has to be able to look at themselves in a mirror and feel comfortable in making decisions based upon what they feel is right.

Q. How do you craft the vision?

You have to start with your board of directors or stakeholders or shareholders who need to have a clear mission of what they want from the organization and expect out of leadership.

Then the leader has to come with their vision that’s part of them and be able to tap out and see key leadership — senior leadership — and also in the employee base people who are going to be your cheerleaders at carrying out and driving other individuals. You need to pull those individuals in and work with them so you clearly articulate to them so they can be your voice as they go out within the work force.

You must have patience. Human behavior is resistant to change. You have to communicate your vision as often as you can to as many people as you can.

Q. How do you find those people who will help you carry out the vision?

Any good leader has to get out and about in his organization and go in and talk to individuals. People want to be heard. If you go out and you’re at a point where you can be perceived as open, people will open themselves up to you.

Communication is a strong characteristic, but the flip side of it is you have to be able to listen. It’s not just hearing people complain, but it’s taking what people said and implementing it so people see the value of their words.

I have a brown-bag lunch once a month ... where I select 15 employees and bring them in and sit down and talk with them. Most employees have an idea of what is the best thing to do. You’ll be able to see the cheerleaders — those who are respected by their peers come out through those as you talk to them.

Q. How do you become more open and a better listener?

You have to be confident in your ability and relationship with employees. You have to talk and show through leadership, especially to the employees, that as an organization, just like a person, you’re going to make mistakes, but you need to be willing to have some risk in order to have growth take place.

Allow for some safety nets if all will not go as planned. When implementing plan A, make sure that plans B and C are viable if needed. When a mistake is made, have an open and honest discussion with all involved and go through the ‘what-if’ scenarios in case the opportunity comes up again.

At the same time, you have to have the confidence and trust of your employees, vice versa with leadership, as they’re willing to come forward if they see a potential problem upfront so it doesn’t get buried within the organization.

Q. What are the benefits of having a vision in place?

There are many ways, right ways, to get to one particular place, there are many spokes in the wheel, but in order to get there as fast and efficiently as possible and everyone intact, you have to have one vision that everyone buys in to.

You can have 10 different ways to accomplish the same thing, but you’re not going to have those people all together at the same time. If you want to accomplish the goals, you have to clearly articulate the vision.

HOW TO REACH: FamilyLinks Inc., (412) 661-1800 or www.familylinks.org