Unlocking Your Why to Engage with Passion
Here’s a vital question for organizational leaders to ask: Are you still on track together, or at some point did everyone get distracted from the core mission, vision, values, and purpose?
Family businesses can be beautiful instances of hard work creating something out of nothing.
They also can be prime examples of what happens when your why gets lost over time.
Grandparents carve a business out of the dirt with blood, sweat, and tears. At some point, the business gets handed off to the kids. When the second generation takes over the business, they know the passion Mom and Dad put into it, so they pour themselves into it.
But, more often than not, the grandkids will put that business in the ditch. Why? Because they didn’t share the purpose and passion or see the price paid by that first generation. They don’t share the passion, but they enjoy the privilege that has been their birthright.
Unfortunately, birthright doesn’t give passion and purpose. That’s why so many organizations, not just family businesses, flounder and lose their way over time. They lose their why.
Find the Why to Find Your Purpose
If you’re a leader of an organization that has lost its way, you must discover where you got off track and how to get back to that place of purpose. Purpose and passion produce the energy required to build an InSPIRED culture.
That’s why TOMS Shoes has been so successful. Yes, they’re selling shoes, but, more importantly, they have a social impact that drives them.
Purpose and passion are also why Michael Dell raised the money to buy his own company back. He was passionate about what he had created but knew he couldn’t make the moves he needed to protect that purpose and passion if the company was publicly traded. So, he raised the money to buy back Dell stock and make it private again. That’s what passion does.
People lose their shared sense of passion when they’ve lost their purpose. How then does an organization find or rediscover its purpose? How does it get intentional about ensuring everyone shares that purpose and passion?
- Everyone in the organization needs to know why the organization was created.
- What was the founding story?
- What needs is the company serving now?
- Could you name the why behind the how and the what?
- Can you name the team’s core values?
Passion tears down silos and positions organizational culture to be fully integrated. When an organization isn’t driven by passion that comes from a clear and honorable purpose, it’s easy to get into a mess.
So the question is this: is your organization mission-minded or messy-minded? Do you have a mission-critical mindset in your organization or a silo-centric mindset?
3 Signatures of a Mission-Minded Team
Teams working with a mission in mind can’t help but stand out from the rest. How many of these do you see every day with your organization?
- With a mission-critical mindset, people will elevate mission, purpose, and passion above the need for egocentric wins. When you’re driven by a good purpose and sense of mission, you don’t have time to get involved in all the messiness—petty arguments, power trips, turf wars, and silo building. It’s not about who gets the credit; it’s about getting things done to advance the mission. They don’t look to place blame; they try to affect change. It’s amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.
- When you have a strong sense of mission and focus on other people, you position yourself and your organization to function in a highly integrated fashion—fingers interwoven, arms interlocked, tearing down silos and moving forward together in pursuit of your shared mission. The question is simple: what is your purpose?
- Slay the dragon or rescue the princess: I believe the best teams need a dragon to slay or a princess to rescue. They can be galvanized against a common enemy (the dragon) or united toward a common goal (the princess to rescue). The former is more of a negative purpose in response to a threat, while the latter is a positive purpose in pursuit of an aspirational aim. Both can be effective in giving clear purpose and keeping teams out of the distracting messiness—but a word of warning about the dragon:
A team functioning in constant threat mode, motivated by fear of the next fire-breathing monster, can be damaged over the long-term.
Occasionally, organizations do face a real crisis that demands the slaying of a dragon. However, for long-term success, it’s far better for an organization to cast a compelling purpose—freeing the princess—and then pursue it with a shared sense of passion.
You must be realistic, of course, but always tie motivation to a positive purpose whenever possible in your leadership to bring out the most inspired performance.
Embrace the Adventure
Life is an adventure to be lived, not a crisis to be survived. Running toward something is always more empowering than just running away from something else. And that’s the beautiful thing about mission-minded leading.
When you know your mission and realize at a core level how important it is, you don’t get caught up in all the distractions, you can’t afford to take your marbles and go home when things don’t go your way, but most importantly you have in view something bigger than short-term obstacles.
Messy-minded leadership might work in a pinch—at the cost of team trust and long-term stability.