Defining What Our Purpose Looks Like

clarity definite purpose leadership leadership purpose statement leading with a clear purpose leading with purpose mission mission vision values mission vs purpose organizational purpose purpose values vision Apr 03, 2024
mission vs purpose

To be able to put a little purpose behind the mission, vision, and values we want our teams to connect with and live out - or even be able to connect with them ourselves - it’s never as simple as reading words from a page. Let’s be honest, most companies have core values listed on their websites, in their handbooks, and on all sorts of other printed materials that are fairly simple to understand; or at least that’s how it appears. In a lesson we cover with participants in our IMPACT Leadership Academy, Cindy and I share this list of core values: Communication, Respect, Integrity, and Excellence. Being fairly straight forward, it’s never hard for members of the group to connect with those and share what each of those values mean to them. Once we’ve talked through those values for a bit, and have consensus around how powerful they could be for everyone in an organization upholding them, we share the name of the company they came from; Enron

More than two decades after that scandal unfolded, we don’t remember that company for communication, respect, integrity or excellence but we most certainly remember the impact not coming close to upholding those values had on their shareholders! When my friend Craig began talking about visibility as the sixth value for his team, he used the word constantly in conversation and he worked to provide an example through his own behavior, but he was also very intentional about providing a clear and concise definition for how being visible would have a positive impact on every customer they served as well as the company’s bottom line. He didn’t allow room for anyone to develop their own picture of what it would look like.

If we had the chance to talk with folks who were with Enron in 2001, I’d bet many believed their behaviors were in line with the stated values. But without extreme clarity in how those values were defined, what I picture as communication could be very different from what you expect. The same could be said for the rest of their values, and it could just as easily be true for the values we hope our teams uphold! And to take that one step further, we have little chance of drawing the energy we’ll need to uphold even the clearest values if we don’t have just as much clarity around our purpose.

I’ve shared a fair amount of detail leading up to this point on how having a very clear purpose helped me and Cindy navigate some significant challenges since starting our business, the gubermint shutting shutting down the primary way we earned income in mid 2020 being just one of those. Having that clarity of the impact we wanted to make served as a strong foundation, but defining the specific behaviors that we’d need to apply to live out our values has been what’s made it possible to see that impact take shape!

Defining what our purpose looks like sets the tone for building clarity around our mission, vision, and our values. When we, as the leaders in our organizations, have this in place for ourselves, we can build a culture that provides each team member with the kind of understanding they need to make the same connection. We can’t just assume they’ll latch onto it by reading or hearing our words, or even by watching what we do. We’ll need to be very intentional about providing them with a specific definition for each part so that’s where we’ll pick up next time.