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Direction: Where do you want to go?
Welcome to Bill’s series on Good to Great – a succession of articles that help businesses with strategy and alignment. Get where you want to go and become what you want to be, faster.
This series will look to provide you with a simple road map to follow and helpful hints to assist you and your business significantly improve performance. It assumes that you currently have products or services that are already established so I won’t go into all the things relating to market research etc.
If you and your company have no clear sense of where you want to go, then the chances are you’re just bumbling along and letting fate dictate your outcomes. Sometimes it works, but most times it doesn’t. When there is clarity on direction, everything your company and its people ‘do’ will be aligned with your chosen pathway.
I used this quote in one of my previous articles and I like it so much because it’s so true.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat
Lewis Carroll’s – Alice in Wonderland
Direction consists of four things:
- Your Purpose – your organisation’s WHY
- The Vision – the long-term aspirational goals for your organisation
- The Values – the way things are done around here
- The Goals – the more specific aims to achieve your organisation’s vision
In this article, I am going to focus on the first two steps in the journey.
When I ask people what their company’s purpose is, the answer I often get is “to make money and provide shareholder return”.
Sure, I can almost see employees leaping out of bed each day with excitement thinking, “I can’t wait to give it my all so I can make the shareholders fatter and richer!”
Your purpose is not the ‘end goal’, nor is it ‘what’ you do. It is your company’s’ ‘WHY’ – the most fundamental reason for its existence.
A purpose is outward looking. It’s what your company stands for, and it brings a human element that touches people emotionally. An emotional connection gets into the heart of everything you and your teams do… and from the heart, it shifts to the heads and hands of your employees.
This is when your team members are engaged, happier, and more productive because they are doing things that help others… and that is meaningful to them.
A few examples of company purposes:
- Disney – To make people happy
- Nike – To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors
- Best Buy – To enrich lives through technology (Recommended reading: The heart of business by Hubert Joly)
- Bill Bain – To improve people’s lives through business and to improve business through people
- The All Blacks – To leave the jersey in a better place
A purpose for yourself or your organisation is always about serving others. Providing whatever it is that will improve a person’s well-being in one way or another.
Try the benefit game
First, you write down what your company does and ask yourself, “What’s the benefit of that?” You write down your answer and ask the same question again. Here’s an example:
Proposed purpose: We sell electric vehicles.
What’s the benefit of that? We help people drive in an environmentally friendly way.
What’s the benefit of that? It reduces pollution caused by driving.
What’s the benefit of that? It reduces human contribution to climate change.
What’s the benefit of that? It reduces harm to life on Earth.
Purpose: Provide a life-sustaining method of travel.
A great purpose is a distant star on the horizon. It’s the true north that everyone constantly moves towards in everything they do. It can never be achieved because there is always something that can be done to benefit others.
Prior to any leadership coaching, or facilitating a workshop, I pause and reflect on my purpose, it gives me energy and improves my focus. I am reminded that “I am here to make people’s day, to help them be better.”
That’s what gets me out of bed every morning. What does it for you?
For a great explanation of company purpose, watch this short Simon Sinek Ted Talk – Start with WHY.
An organisation’s vision is what you see it looking like in the future. It is the set of big aspirational goals that form the destination that everyone understands and aligns with.
Statements are often used to articulate the vision, for example:
- To be a world-leading sports organisation, helping all of rugby to be the best it can be – NZ All Blacks.
- Invoke the Imagination; Provoke the Senses; Evoke the Emotions – Cirque du Soleil.
- To be the organisation that people want to work for and with – Anon.
- To craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body and spirit – CocaCola.
Vision statements are fantastic, but a picture or illustration holds more impact. After all, a vision is something you see.
As a leader, you should have a clear purpose and vision to support you in establishing your organisation’s direction.
Having a clear and aspirational purpose and vision will see your organisation benefit from:
- Engaged, energised, and more productive employees.
- Higher client retention.
- Increased revenue.
- Less employee turnover.
- Increased profits.
- A better-aligned organisation.
Creating your organisation’s purpose and vision takes a fair bit of work. These are not things you can just dream up in the pub.
I would highly recommend you engage with a skilled facilitator to help you through the process. I can certainly assist you, however, I encourage you to canvas a few people or organisations and find the best fit.
My next article will cover step three: creating your organisational values.
In the meantime, if I can be of any help, feel free to contact me anytime.