Developing an organizational mission statement will only help so much. Organizations must also communicate that purpose in meaningful ways to the people they wish to engage with, both internally and externally.
In the last few years at ACHIEVE, we have become much more intentional about regularly communicating our purpose. When we’re having individual conversations at the start of meetings and when we’re giving reports about our plans and visions, we frequently refer back to our organizational purpose. It can be as simple as saying, “Although this database project is tedious, sorting our contacts into categories will help us connect in more relevant ways with those who want to access our resources.”
We believe that when we intentionally communicate why we do what we do, our staff more clearly see how their daily work fits into the bigger picture. They are also reminded that leadership values the tasks at hand – even the mundane ones.
One of the ways we build excitement around our purpose is by sharing stories of how our work has impacted others. For example, when we receive a thank-you call or email from a client, we often share it with everyone and emphasize how their appreciation affirms our purpose. These are powerful reminders of why we do the work we do. It is through these stories that we see the positive impact our work has on others.
It is also important to create intentional times and spaces to discuss how work being done aligns with organizational purpose. For instance, at the beginning of a new project, teams should discuss how it will contribute to the organizational purpose. At key points along the way, they should then review how their work is, or is not, continuing to be relevant. Likewise, policies and procedures should always be measured against their impact on the organization’s mission.
It’s not enough to have a mission statement describing your purpose. It’s not enough to post the statement on your walls, and it’s not even enough to periodically read it aloud. Your purpose, your reason for being, your why, must be something that everyone thinks about daily. Organizations that thrive do so largely because they have employees and leaders who believe in and align with their purpose. The purpose becomes ingrained in “how things really work around here.”
Ironically, we have seen senior leaders in closed-door sessions become passionate about their organization’s purpose only to leave the room and never discuss it with their staff. When organizational leaders keep purpose to themselves, they are missing an opportunity. They are failing to recognize that the best way to see their organization’s purpose manifested is to ensure that everyone within the organization embraces and is proud of its purpose.
Staff are rarely inspired by their organization’s purpose when their leader isn’t passionate about it. Leaders must inspire people to rally around purpose. We need to be passionate about our purpose and share our excitement everywhere we can – particularly when we have opportunities to do so in person. We must express our pride in the ways we impact, and could impact, the world. When we do this effectively, we energize those around us to work toward a common goal.
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