Why Charting Your Course Matters

Three Keys to Charting a Virtuous Course: Values Fuel the Mission Built on Vision

Most folks are familiar with the concept of a vicious circle, wherein actions form a feedback loop that ultimately returns to the starting point without any benefit having been achieved. Conversely, there is the virtuous circle (more aptly described as a virtuous “spiral”), wherein positive feedback serves to elevate ensuing action toward ever more favorable results. Vision, mission, and values protect us from pointless spinning and enable that virtuous journey.

Without a vision, you cannot manifest that which you hope to build. Without a mission, you have no goals upon which to build. Without values, you have no tools with which to build. Communication is essential in forging all three keys, so that you may know what you are trying to achieve, what you need to do to get there, and how you’re going to do it.

The more time and effort you put into communicating your vision, mission and values, the more likely you are to feel passionately about your work and thoroughly enjoy your career journey. At Sterling, we strive to ensure that every employee understands all three and that our team operates in lock step (healthy debate notwithstanding).

For those who don’t know Sterling, this is our vision:

To help shape a brighter future by creating awareness and preference for technologies that deliver positive societal impact.

But penning a statement is not sufficient: A vision also requires group alignment.

We foster alignment around Sterling’s vision by seeking out clients that work to address pressing societal issues with cutting-edge solutions. Ideally, they’re tech companies capable of changing our world for the better in areas that really matter to members of the Sterling team. Sometimes it’s a matter of professional interest; other times, the interest is highly personal.

For example, one of our clients has created a solution to enhance diabetes management. My brother has diabetes, as does a Sterling employee, so this technology is highly relevant to us at a very personal level.

Several Sterling employees have elderly parents/grandparents who stand to save time and money (and reduce exposure to contagions common in waiting rooms and pharmacies) via the efforts of another Sterling client — a company that has developed a telehealth platform to radically improve access to common prescriptions for recurrent health issues.

We also have a client creating advanced technologies aimed at protecting people, structures, and communities from floods and earthquakes. The vast majority of our employees live and work near the precarious California coast, so that one is near and dear to all our hearts.

I could list several more examples, but you probably get the picture by now.

Group alignment is sustained by communication. We spend significant time at our annual Sterling Summit talking about our vision, and we actively encourage employees to be on the lookout for interesting companies working on issues that resonate with them personally. Not every client we work with fits neatly within our vision parameters, but the majority do. And when we’re looking at potential new clients, we always ask ourselves if we could get passionate about promoting the technology solutions they’re developing.

As for defining the mission, here is Sterling’s statement:

Our mission is to help our technology clients stand up, stand out, and stand for something.

You can see how our mission directly feeds our vision of “helping shape a brighter future by creating awareness and preference for technologies that deliver positive societal impact.”

The way we achieve our mission is to design and deliver high-impact communications programs that compel not just interest, but action — unique programs and campaigns that generate great ROI and leave a lasting, positive impression.

Our Sterling values have proven very helpful in keeping us “on mission” and attracting candidates who will thrive at our company; they guide the way everyone who works at Sterling relates with colleagues, clients, and partners. The entire Sterling team collaborated to cement our core values, which was a very fun and valuable exercise. To keep our values top of mind at all times, we’ve woven them into our hiring process, included them in our performance discussion documents, and listed them on a huge graphic that covers an entire wall in our open office.

Activating a virtuous spiral isn’t complicated. Define what you hope to build. Make your goals clear. Seek alignment and reward behaviors consistent with your values. Do everything you can to keep your vision, mission, and values top of mind.

We’ve found that at Sterling, charting a virtuous course—by communicating vision, mission, and values across the entire organization—begets satisfying partnerships…and builds a team full of passionate, enthusiastic colleagues who actively contribute to a fun and vibrant workplace.