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Next Step in CEO Selection: The Vision Paper

Foundations of HR
Posted by Presser, Janice at Friday, 06/24/2005 6:53 pm
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3.0 from 85 votes
Choosing a new CEO is a landmine-strewn path: ask any law firm that�s had to defend against charges resulting from a "corporate divorce" even with a thoroughly scrupulous prenup. On second thought, don�t ask. More than likely, the settlement agreement is confidential, to the relief of both sides.

The Gabriel Institute, the Philadelphia-based professional services firm whose GAP Role Preference SurveyTM is used for selecting and coaching organizational leaders, advocates adding another layer to the selection process: asking the candidate to write a Vision Paper.

The Vision Paper is a way of explaining to the leadership team of an organization what it is that they are expected to accomplish, the purpose for the venture. It does not go into precisely how they to achieve it since that isn�t a problem for the CEO to solve alone. It begins with a bit of the history behind the product or service and goes on to simply describe the end, the goal or the long-term, desired outcome for the organization. Where most mission statements are vague and general, the Vision Paper is personal. Janice Presser, PhD, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, calls it "the best measure of the ability to be an inspiring leader I have ever seen. The knack of motivating others to follow your dream is the sine qua non of the successful CEO."

John F. Thomas, Jr., a prominent Delaware Valley business attorney, agreed. "Asking for a Vision Paper during the selection process is a way of getting to agreement as to what the performance expectations will be. You�re just trying to find someone who can do the job. To lead a company successfully, you need to know where you�re going and the Vision Paper is your roadmap," he said.

"The energy that goes into writing a Vision Paper reflects back on the author in an almost magical way," Dr. Presser continued. "It really is the next best thing to a crystal ball."

The Gabriel Institute is on the web at, and and invites inquiries and requests for feedback to 215-825-2500.

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