A Pragmatic Approach to Leading with Your Core Purpose

In the words of Simon Sinek from his famous Start with Why Ted Talk, “People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.”

One of the pivotal moments in an organization’s success in strategy is your leadership’s ability to truly connect your team with your core purpose. Understanding why you exist and the desired future state is foundational in any strategic plan. But alignment and achievement require your team to clearly understand the true meaning and impact of your mission while driving towards the long-term vision.

But how does that happen and what should you be doing to ensure your team understands and truly connects with your mission and vision?

Revisiting Your Core Purpose & Vision

First, we recommend revisiting your organization’s core purpose and long-term vision of success. We won’t detail how to write mission and vision statements here, but you can learn more by visiting our videos How to Write a Mission Statement that Inspiresand How to Write a Vision Statement.

Testing Your Mission Statement

Instead, we will review our litmus test on if your mission statement is impactful. Remember, it’s a clear articulation of your purpose and cause, letting your organization know why you get out bed in the morning.

The best mission statements are:

  • Original – It’s unique to your organization. If you were to see the mission statements of all the organizations in your industry, yours would be different and unique against your competition.
  • Foundational – It clearly states why your organization exists. 
  • Memorable – Mission statements need to be remembered. Make yours clear, concise, and direct.
  • Can put it on a t-shirt – Mission statements shouldn’t be filled with fluffy language. The best indication that you’ve got a solid mission statement is that it fits on a t-shirt and your staff would wear that t-shirt. If it passes the t-shirt test, you’ve got a winner.

If your mission statement passes the above criteria and answers the fundamental questions around why your organization exists, you’ve got a great mission.

Testing Your Vision Statement

Vision statements help paint a clear picture of where you see your organization in the future. In planning, we recommend 3- to 5-year vision statements.

As a test, vision statements should be:

  • Long-term and in future tense – As we mentioned, vision statements are long-term in nature and should be written in future tense. We like vision statements that represent 5 years.
  • Directional – Visions create direction to where your organization is heading in the future. You aren’t there yet, but you want to be there in 5 years.
  • Big, broad, and descriptive. Be bold, daring, and forward-thinking. But, most importantly, be descriptive.

If your vision statement passes these criteria and helps create the forward-thinking direction you need, you’ve got a great vision.

Integrating Your Core Purpose & Vision Beyond Strategic Planning

A well-defined core purpose does neither you nor your organization any good tucked away in a strategic planning document or simply framed on a wall somewhere. Making your core purpose reverberate throughout your organization requires dedication to integration within your organization’s day-to-day and leveraging it to making mindful decisions about how you operate. It might seem like a big ask out of the gate, so here are a few pragmatic ways you can start leading with your core purpose and vision.

Integrate it into Your Weekly Tactical Meetings

Most organizations have the weekly tactical meeting we all know and understand; what do we need to accomplish this week and how are we going to make it all happen? In most cases, this is how we as leaders contact the greater organization on a consistent basis. These meetings are centered around problem-solving and to-dos, leaving the breadth of your contact with your organization centered around problem solving.

To set the tone of your tactical meetings and help connect your team to your core purpose and vision on a consistent basis, think about ways you can integrate your why into the beginning of each of these meetings. Here are a few suggestions we like to recommend to our clients:

  • Begin each meeting with a success story from the week prior that demonstrates your core purpose.
  • Give praise or “kudos” to members demonstrating or living within your why. According to HRB, 80% of employees who’ve received praise during the last month are satisfied with their jobs (versus merely 56% satisfaction when their last praise was received).  Plus, rewarding this behavior reinforces your message and helps build the organizational culture you want to see.
  • Have a different team member each week explain how the weekly priorities relate to your organization’s mission or vision. We really like this tactic to connect weekly activities with organization mission and vision. With each team member, you’ll get a unique perspective to how each functional team contributes to the organization’s core purpose during their day-to-day.

Revisit It in Context During Your Strategy Reviews

During your monthly or quarterly strategy reviews, review and interact with your mission and vision. As you review your performance during the last period, lead with the question, “what did we do during the last period (30 days, quarter, or year) that allows us to fulfill our core purpose and vision of success.”

The same logic applies as you look forward and decide what the continued organizational focus will be during the next period. “What are we going to accomplish in the next period to fulfill our mission and drive toward our vision of success.”

These two simple questions keep mission and vision front-and-center and directly connects them to the strategic activities of your organization.

Make It Visible

As we stated earlier, you know you’ve got a great mission statement when it passes the t-shirt test. So – put your vision on a t-shirt!

We mean it both literally and figuratively. The most important thing is that you put it somewhere people can see it – be that framed in your office, in your email signatures, on your uniforms (if you have them, of course). It might look different for each organization, but one thing is clear; you must make it visible if you want to help create the culture you need to make it happen.

So – What’s the Point in all of This?

Wrapping it back around to Sinek’s Start with Why Ted Talk, leaders inspired action not by telling their organizations what or how to act, but rather why. Financial results are never the why, but merely a result of action.

Taking these small but impactful steps to leading your organization with its core purpose and vision will more closely connect your staff to the ethos and soul of your organization. With a team engaged in the true impact of your organization, suddenly strategic thinking and alignment around your long-term vision of success becomes less an uphill battle and more a downhill force to be reckoned with.



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