Over the past number of weeks, I have commented that one of the hardest things to do is to lead the people we serve. Many authors have devised simple “marketing” approaches that I believe have more to do with their promotional appeal than with the real world of leadership. Yet as we all realize, in actual practice leadership is not that simple; quick-fix proposals don’t fit into the demands of real-life experience.
While acknowledging this reality, I have committed to outlining several key elements that can be adapted to the organization you lead (read part 1 here, part 2 here, part three here, part four here, part five here, part six here, and part seven here).
Last time I discussed the power of “promoting the faithful players.” This week I am adding to our list the importance of continuously clarifying the mission of the enterprise.
It is my observation that the best teams understand - and focus on – a clearly stated objective for their existence; they know their purpose and can articulate the nature of their mission. I believe that such clarity of focus is essential to effectiveness and success.
If the both people at the top of the enterprise and the people in the mail room or janitorial staff are not able to answer the question the same way regarding “why we exist,” the result will be a dilution of effort due to the failure of corporate mission alignment. That is why leaders must understand this principle and continuously exert leadership attention and effort to ensure clarity in understanding the corporate mission objective.
A plaque on the wall, a fancy brochure developed by the marketing team, a focus group facilitated by a consultant – none of these will effectively take the place of leadership when it comes to articulating the mission of the organization. Senior leaders and managers must constantly refocus everyone on the central purpose for the team’s existence.
To assess the reality of this principle, ask a few people at various levels of the organization to answer these questions, “Why do you believe this organization exists? What is our purpose.” If the outcome is a gaggle of incongruent answers, it will identify the need to upgrade the team’s mission alignment.
Doing so may take some effort; and it will require the courage to lead.
Photo credit: Heidi Sandstrom