Disconnected from Everyone Involved

buy-in defining my purpose definite purpose employee engagement engagement leaders purpose leadership purpose leadership purpose statement leading with a clear purpose leading with purpose mission mission vision values organizational purpose purpose values vision Mar 28, 2024
mission vision values

Make no mistake, I’ve seen some incredibly eloquent verbiage used in defining companies’ missions, visions, and values. But I’ve rarely seen the people in an organization rally around all that eloquence in a way produces. Even when the results seem to match the mission and vision, it’s far more likely due to folks just flat out working than because they were wow’ed by the wonderful words hanging in the lobby. All too often, the mission, vision, and values that are articulated so beautifully on paper get little coverage through conversation. And even when they’re shared verbally, it tends to be through a big-picture approach in large group settings. I once heard a gentleman say that he “wanted less sizzle and more steak!” I believe that applies quite well here…

At this point, I don’t have a ton of time to do much work in the safety and human resource space; and as I shared before, it’s usually so far out of line with my purpose that it drains my energy when I do. That said, I vividly remember the last employee handbook I helped create. Believe it or not, the reason this memory is so clear is because of the impact I saw it have on the team members of that company when I helped the owners roll it out.

Here’s where you’re likely thinking that I’ve bumped my head - and I can’t say I blame you! In all the years I did employee orientation, I openly told the folks coming into whatever organization I was with that about eighty percent of the handbook I was issuing them was crap the gubermint required and only about twenty percent was information they’d ever need to pay attention to. That had always been painfully accurate - until this last experience!

The company I was working with had been in business for over 75 years but had recently changed ownership. While it had been very successful, there wasn’t a lot of formality in place. I’m not a fan of intense formality but I’ve come to terms with the fact that we have nearly ten times more attorneys than we have plumbers so there is indeed a need to have our crap together when running a business. In this case, we still kept all the necessary legal mumbo-jumbo in place but the new owners were adamant that anything else we included must tie directly to at least one of the five core values they had defined for the team when they took over just a few months prior.

That alone was an interesting take on defining the work rules, paid time off policies, and so many other things that are covered in a handbook. Truth be told, it ended up being quite a bit shorter than any other handbook I had ever put together. When I met with everyone in the organization, in small groups, nearly every single individual THANKED me for helping create the handbook. I thought I was being punked!!! In a best case scenario, people tolerated those kinds of meetings. More often than not though, you could cut the tension with a knife. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened this time, but it was a world apart from what I expected.

As I dug in, I realized that those five values we listed at the beginning of the handbook were what the owners had been talking about with everyone on the team, every single day; in group meetings, one-on-one, and in nearly every customer interaction. Not only did each team member know what those values were, they had a clear understanding of what it looked like to live out those behaviors through the work they did. And because of this, they didn’t view the handbook as a punitive tool created to restrict what they could or couldn’t do, they saw it as something that provided continuity across the board. One of the most senior team members was actually in tears as he explained how much he enjoyed working with the new owners, primarily because of how much they lived by those values!

As amazing as this experience was in that particular organization, it proved everything Cindy and I cover in our keynote session on Building Buy-In Around a Clear Mission & Vision - with the core tenant being clear… I’m convinced that even the fanciest words make little difference if our teams can’t connect what they do to how the organization achieves the mission or vision, or lives out the stated values. Removing the disconnect for everyone involved can produce powerful results, but when we’re willing to put a little purpose in the mix we might just earn an even bigger chunk of that fifty-seven percent improved discretionary effort I’ve referenced a few times before. With that in mind, I think you can probably guess what will start digging into soon…