Stop Chasing Someone Else’s Purpose and Find Yours
In these challenging economic times, many are looking for shortcuts. Drawing inspiration from successful companies and employing proven methodologies are positive ways to make gains, but take care not to follow too closely. Vision, mission, values - these terms are thrown around so often they can become meaningless clichés. However, they are essential in articulating an organization’s purpose. An entrepreneurs’ unwavering belief in their company’s purpose is the basis of their motivation to relentlessly take action to achieve goals. Forming a company with purpose that is unauthentic to your own breeds operational confusion, leads to a lack of commitment, and can ultimately result in a flop.
Remember: When you imitate others, you work towards their best at the expense of realizing your own potential.
Here are steps to defining your company’s purpose:
STEP 1 DISCOVER YOUR PURPOSE through dialogue or imagery to align your past with your desired work future.
Natural Gifts are more than just talents; they are what makes you feel special and fulfilled. We each possess hundreds of skills, which often emerge early in our lives. Having an ability to quickly compute numbers or an aptitude for leading others are examples of natural gifts that can express your purpose. Ask yourself:
What is my work identity and style?
What do I excel at when compared to my peers?
What skills do others praise me for the most?
Serving others due to the urge to share your gifts with the world can be your purpose or calling. When you express your gifts for the sake of others in a shared purpose, you often experience a sense of fulfillment. Ask yourself:
How can I use my natural gifts to help others, meet a need or solve a problem?
What or whom do I care about most in the world?
What would I do with a million dollars and substantial resources?
Flow is being fully immersed in the process of an activity, or passion in action, which generates a feeling of energized focus, complete involvement, and enjoyment. Ask yourself:
When or where do I feel a sense of belonging?
What was I doing the last time I experienced such absorption I lost all sense of time?
What characteristics do my favorite activities or passions have in common?
What values drive my motivation to act?
STEP 2 CONNECT YOUR PURPOSE to the mission and values of your company by writing a positioning statement. Imagine a future world where you have created a company which uses your natural gifts to help others, meet a need or solve a problem. Your business is competing well in or dominating the market. Consider your company’s OAS by ask yourself:
Objective: Why does our company exist?
Advantage: How do we do things differently, better, or more efficiently?
Scope: What should or shouldn’t we do to achieve our objective?
STEP 3 DESCRIBE WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE without going into detail about how your operations work, but rather what sets them apart. Be succinct and clear with your definition.
Company type and structure mirrors the description; nonprofit organizations tend to describe an ideal world, whereas for-profit companies describe their place in an ideal world. Consider these vision statement examples:
Nonprofit, Ducks Unlimited: “Wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.”
For-profit, Under Armour: “Empower athletes everywhere.”
Reference your competitors or create an analogy that your staff would quickly recognize if you are a smaller company building into a new niche. This will allow staff to create an immediate picture of your vision. Consider these hypothetical vision statement examples:
“Our vision is to be the Facebook of networking athletes.”
“We will grow faster than X brand.” (X being the number-one brand in your industry)
Describe a measurable goal with these hypothetical vision statement examples:
“We will be number one in the industries where we compete.”
“We want to reach $X in sales by 20XX.”
Why Your Vision Statement Alone Isn’t Enough
Now that you have used best practices to define your purpose, outline your mission, and create your vision statement- the question remains, what do you do with it? Vision Casting is the number one tool an entrepreneur has to influence their world. Cast a vision that will shape business practices and motivate your staff to play an active role in executing your strategy. Here are a few suggestions on how to move forward:
Relentlessly communicate your vision to your staff and ask for and receive feedback on it. Your vision statement will not do any good if no one understands your mission and values. Create alignment and buy-in.
Implement a strategic framework, like a Balanced Scorecard, to help track progress in achieving the key aspects of your vision. Your framework should hold and track your goals, and break them down further into manageable pieces with initiatives and action items.
Update your vision when you achieve your goals. To drive of motivation, your vision should be attainable and revised when goals are met and/or your purpose evolves. Once your vision is achieved, it’s time to look into the future once more and decide your next destination.