Raise your hand if your organization has a mission statement. When I do this poll at leadership/culture presentations, almost all hands go up. Mission statements are as common as a logo, website, or budget. Everyone has one.
BUT… is that…
- Define the soul of your organization?
- Energize and engage?
- Align with the personal objective of leaders and employees?
- Unite your past and your future?
- Anchor hiring, promotion and firing decisions?
- Manage your strategy and your priorities?
Many mission statements seem to have been written by bureaucrats and lawyers. Others are catchy brand slogans written by marketing. In both cases, they are superficial and meaningless. Cue eyes roll and sneer.
A recent issue of Harvard Business Review features a Spotlight section on Making Purpose Real. The first article asks a vital question in its title; What is the purpose of your goal? Excellent question.
Another article in the series is written by Ranjay Gulati, professor of commerce at Harvard Business School. Gulati spent two years researching and writing her new book, Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies. He writes, “These companies weren’t just looking to ‘win‘ in conventional terms. They were on a sacred mission and had a sizzling energy about them, an energy that transcended mundane description and was grounded in both a sense of their interconnectedness with the larger world and a vision of a better future that they were trying to achieve. Leaders with deep purpose have used religious or spiritual language to describe this energy, associating purpose with words like “soul,” “soul,” and “spirit.”
Spirit and meaning are lacking in too many teams and organisations. At the same time, many of us are joining the growing ranks of meaning seekers. This disconnect is a major factor behind the great resignation stemming from the COVID pandemic. We want to know that our work and our lives matter. We want to make a difference. Our work and our lives become all the more meaningful when they are in harmony with who we are and touch the very heart of our reason for being.
In Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit, organizational consultants and professors Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal (co-author of the classic Corporate Cultures – the 1982 book that popularized the idea of organizational culture) conclude: “The signs point to mind and soul as the essence of leadership.
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Going about their business – especially in times of crisis – organizations too easily lose heart and soul. Without realizing it or without ever intending to, organizations can lose their deeper meaning. Goals, plans, reports and numbers take over. In the hard glare of ruthless analysis, soft “touching, sensitive” emotions like spirit and meaning evaporate like dew in the morning sun.
If you had to live without your heart or your lungs, which would you choose? Stupid question. We need both to live. Likewise, is your business looking for profit or purpose?
I have written extensively on the Goal-Profit paradox; determined companies without profits cannot live to do their good work. Profitable businesses without purpose do exist, but they rarely thrive, especially in today’s world. A Globe & Mail article from February 25, 2022, “Balancing Profit with Purpose,” reports a seismic shift, “a 2020 global Zeno Group ‘Strength of Purpose’ study indicates consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion and champion businesses with a strong purpose.
BlackRock is the world’s largest fund management company, with over $10 trillion in assets under management. In his 2021 Letter to CEOs, Chairman and CEO Larry Fink wrote, “The more your company can demonstrate its focus on delivering value to its customers, employees and communities, the better able you will be to compete and to provide long-term, sustainable profits for shareholders. As evidence increasingly shows, a goal that encompasses multiple stakeholders produces better financial performance.
In the Globe and Mail’s March 10, 2022 article titled “Rapid corporate action on Ukraine suggests days of corporate indifference are over,” said André Pratte, president of the Canadian Center for of the company, “Companies that have invested considerable amounts of time, energy and money in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives. It’s very different. Companies often do CSR and ESG alongside their operations. The “goal” is embedded in the operations. It involves tough decisions, balancing the interests of the company’s stakeholders.
So how about that mission statement? Is it a yawn? Or is it catchy – with stop words? Or is purpose at the core of your being? Are you directing on purpose?
Jim Clemmer is the President of The Clemmer Group, a management consulting firm specializing in the transformation of organizations, teams and people.
Jim is a thought leader at Troy Media. For interview requests, click here.
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