In an era of changing consumer attitudes, behaviors and expectations, what you stand for can be just as important as what you sell. By utilizing mission-driven decision-making techniques, your company can promote its core beliefs and values to inspire loyalty among customers and employees alike.
“Consumers and companies want to know who you are, what you stand for and what their dollars are supporting,” says Laura Gassner Otting, executive coach and author of Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path and Live Your Best Life.
“By putting mission-driven decision-making front and center, leaders can be clear about their employment proposition, thereby reducing turnover, mak[ing] more efficient progress towards goals with the assurance of team alignment, and convert[ing] customers into loyal fans.”
Think Mission First
“Rather than fill your whiteboard with ‘look-good’ goals, it’s smarter to take a minute and define what success actually looks like for you as a leader and for the company you lead,” says Gassner Otting.
That image of success becomes your company mission. It gets woven into the culture you want to create for your team and at every level of decision-making.
But what does it take to build a company culture where your mission is baked into every conversation, every meeting and every initiative you take to the market? These tips from a company already doing this can help.
1. Create alignment.
“Our mission is to find ways to empower brands and creators, connecting them to audiences with similar interests, allowing them to feel valued and included,” says Samuel Pearton, founder of Avocado. (It's an app connecting international fashion brands with consumers in China.)
Pearton knew he had to get his team on board with the company's mission. You can't fake that kind of buy in. And once you have it, every decision your team makes will always ask, "Does this decision make our brands, creators and audiences feel valued and included?"
Getting your team aligned with your mission could look like having mission-based conversations in your hiring process. There's also holding annual team member goal-setting and -evaluation meetings, as well as working with your marketing team to ensure your brand's messaging reflects your mission.
2. Put it on the agenda.
Gassner Otting suggests that leaders read their missions out loud "at the top of the agenda for every morning" to set the stage.
This practice offers an in-the-moment reminder of what every decision needs to fulfill. It also offers a moment of focus and connection, reinforcing that everyone is in the room with the same basic goals in mind.
3. Create avenues for internal feedback.
“If someone has an issue, they should have clear pathways to voice their concerns with leadership and feel valued for having the courage to try to fix the problem,” says Pearton.
To put this into practice, companies can explore anonymous employee feedback software and create review systems to regularly evaluate feedback and take necessary action.
4. Schedule time for mission-driven conversations.
“Once a leader clarifies their mission, they can bring it to the fore of the decision-making process by doing longer-term, more complicated endeavors like in-depth conversations or retreats about how the company lives the mission into existence,” says Gassner Otting.
Mission-driven conversations, especially at the leadership level, should include processes for how leadership will convey management's findings to their departments. This way, leaders can be held accountable for communicating goals and creating processes for achieving those goals at the department level.
Measuring Mission Fulfillment
As you start to implement the four steps outlined above, you’ll need to establish metrics to help track how you're adopting mission-driven decision-making throughout your company's processes. These metrics will help you to consistently evaluate how well your decisions keep the company aligned with its mission.
It helps to have a quick conversation about your company's vision and how it relates to your mission-driven decision-making process.
“A company’s mission describes the work that they do, while their vision describes their future,” says Gassner Otting. “However, these are often combined and confused when companies write lofty statements about their goals, their purpose or their values.”
She cautions brands to not get bogged down with pretty words and elaborate, esoteric statements. While they can dominate hours at a retreat, they have little discernible impact. Gassner Otting recommends that leaders instead focus on the tangible work they can do (their mission). It's that work that will help them bring about their vision for the world and marketplace.
“Leaders can role model discipline around the question, ‘How will this program, this product, this campaign—our mission—get us closer to where we see the market, the future, the world—our vision?’” she says. “Even better, leaders can ask, ‘How can we measure it so that we know for sure?’”
In order to measure whether or not you're accomplishing your company's mission, consider the following:
1. Be on the lookout for ego.
“From the CEO down, every team member should be thinking about others, not just themselves,” says Pearton. “Ego has a reliable habit of killing pure exciting vision and disrupting a thriving culture.”
If ego’s a concern, you can explore mentoring opportunities and one-on-one goal-setting conversations to help bring certain talent into alignment with a united company culture.
2. Be wary of excuses.
When there’s the potential to miss a goal, there’s also the potential to lay blame. When you sit down to assess and measure progress, switch from a blame-and-excuse-driven mindset, and encourage team members and leaders to think with a needs-based framework.
Mission-driven conversations, especially at the leadership level, should include processes for how leadership will convey management's findings to their departments. This way, leaders can be held accountable...
You can do this by asking “What do we need to be successful in the future?” You’ll not only identify shortcomings but do so in a productive way that creates opportunities for success instead of shifting focus to lack and excuses.
3. Hold leadership accountable.
Gassner Otting suggests that leaders foster accountability by making more time to listen to their teams. Leaders can do this by holding more space in both company meetings and privately on their calendars to check in, receive honest feedback about their leadership and ask for ways they can offer a higher level of leadership to foster individual, team and company success in the future.
By prioritizing mission and creating assessment mechanisms along the way, companies can evolve their decision making to a higher level—one that consistently moves the company toward a shared goal.
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