Tag Archives: purpose

Not Just a Picture

“We have to find a purpose that has us?” Rachel was confused. “I’m not sure I understand. We are trying to do strategic planning for 2020. I get that we have to define our purpose. I know that purpose will drive the rest of the plan. But you make it sound like that purpose has to be some powerful compelling force. We bake bread.”

“Exactly!” I said. “What kind of bread do you bake?”

“Well, we bake all kinds of bread.”

“So, why do you bake bread?”

“I don’t understand.” Rachel’s head was moving from side to side. She wasn’t disagreeing, but she was having difficulty with the question.

“Why do you bake bread?” I repeated.

“Because our customers buy it.”

“And, why do your customers buy it?”

“Well, bread is consumed at almost every meal in some form or another. People eat a lot of bread. It’s a comfort food.” Rachel was trying.

“Why is bread so important to people?”

“It’s just part of life, bread goes with everything. It’s universal. Around the world, all cultures eat bread. When people get together, they break bread. It’s almost a bond between people.”

“And do you bake quality bread?” I asked.

“The best,” Rachel smiled. “Hot out of the oven, warm, soft, drizzle a little honey on it, just the smell of it makes you feel good.”

“Rachel, you are on the right track. Somewhere in what you describe is purpose. Somewhere in there is vision. Somewhere in there is mission.”

“It’s funny you should say that,” she said. “In the hallway is our mission statement, only it’s just a picture, of a steaming loaf of bread emerging from an oven door.”

Or, Let It Sit on the Shelf

“Why do you think you never looked at your plan this past year?” I asked. Rachel was quite interested in making her 2020 plan different.

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “It was almost like it didn’t matter. We could re-read it and talk about, but it didn’t seem to matter all that much.”

“That’s why purpose is so important. That’s why purpose is the first step. Purpose drives the rest of the plan. Without a well defined purpose, your plan will be uninteresting and sit on the shelf.”

“So, we really need to have a purpose,” Rachel was nodding, enthusiasm creeping across her face.

“No,” I said. Rachel’s face turned quizzical. “You don’t need to have a purpose. You need to find a purpose that has you. You need to find a purpose that has a hold on you so tight that you can’t stop thinking about it. You need to find a purpose that captures you. When you find that purpose, you won’t have any problem pulling your plan off the shelf and working it.

“Find a purpose that has you.”

On Your Left

It was a late weekend morning. I was headed south on A-1-A, returning from a solo bike run to Boynton inlet. The headwind was light, but enough to knock the speed to an even 19mph. Three hours into the ride, I was in no position to hammer the wind, yet impatient to keep the speed up.

“On your left,” was a friendly heads-up as an unknown rider with fresh legs slipped in front. I downshifted and picked up the reps to catch his wheel. I settled into the quiet space of his draft at 21mph. Seconds later, I sensed a third rider on my tail. Now we were three.

For thirty minutes, we snaked down the road, changing leads, holding 21, taking turns on the nose. I was struck with the purity of teamwork between three people who had never met before, with only three words between them, “On your left.”

A team will never gain traction without a common purpose.

This was a team with nothing, except a common purpose, executing skillful manuvers, supporting each other, communicating precisely with each other. There was no orientation, no “get to know you session,” just a purity of purpose.

When your team works together, how clear is the purpose? What is the commitment level of each team member to that purpose? You don’t need much else.

Do You Carry an Organizer?

“I’ve been working with my team to get them to be more effective at time management,” Bobbie explained.

“How’s that going?” I asked.

“Kind of rough. I showed them how to use a task list, how to schedule events into a calendar, using our software. But, I haven’t really seen any improvement. They still miss deadlines and forget things.”

“Do they understand the mission of the work they do?” I wanted to know.

“Well, the company has a mission, I mean, we have a mission statement.”

“But, do they understand the mission of the work that they do? People who are clear about purpose, have little difficulty deciding what actions are necessary. Those people without a clear purpose will have to carry an organizer to plan their day.”

Good Busy or Bad Busy

“Whew,” Marcy plopped into the chair behind her desk. “What a day?”

“How so?” I wanted to know.

“Lots of things going on. Good things. Everybody was busy. Lots of work on our plate,” she explained.

“Good busy, or bad busy?” I asked.

“It’s always good to have work to do,” Marcy replied.

“How do you know?” I prompted. “The just dessert for hard work is more hard work. How do you know that the increase in activity is good, or not?”

Marcy was just trying to follow the discussion.

“Look,” I said. “Most people allow the events of the day to happen to them. They judge their lives by what happens to them. To be an effective leader, you have to judge whether those events move you toward your purpose or away from your purpose. Good busy or bad busy has to do with purpose. And without a purpose, without an objective, you will have no way to judge.”

How to Establish Purpose Across a Team

Julia was working quickly, but there were times when it seemed she was going oh, so, slow.

“Sometimes, you have to go slow so you can go fast,” she explained. As a new manager, working with a veteran crew, she had some significant hurdles to overcome. And the team had some significant changes to make. Though the volume in their department was growing, their profitability was sinking to barely break-even. This whole service line was in trouble.

“We have to make some changes and we have to make them fast. But first, I have to build a platform to make those changes.” Julia was firm in her belief about the steps she was taking.

“So, tell me about the slow part?” I asked.

“Instead of arguing about the way we do things, I have to establish discussions of purpose. I started with Ralph, then two other guys who have been around a while, then the rest of the team. All the conversations were different, but they all ended up in the same place. I got every team member to talk about a significant project and why it was important. In each conversation, I wrote the essence of the story on a 3×5 index card. Tomorrow, I am going to use that as leverage.”