Want to Be a Great Manager Throw Away Your Mission Statement

How do good managers become great? They seek it. The attempt is what counts. Attributes of greatness can be achieved only by attempting to reach them. This may sound simple, but the act of extending your hand toward greatness is so difficult that many managers find that their arms become unbearably heavy when they try to reach out. These managers just settle for “success.”

 Passion and Perseverance

Greatness can’t be the goal of an individual manager. Greatness can only be pursued when the team you’re managing makes the attempt with you. Just one quality of character separates successful managers from great managers: passion.Great managers instill passion in everyone they encounter — the kind of passion that burns in your heart and turns you into an evangelist for your business.

Why is passion so important? Endless studies and books written about success and greatness offer a wide variety of reasons, characteristics and habits related to passion, but one characteristic is mentioned over and over again: perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to steadily and continuously work toward the achievement of a goal, to possess a single-mindedness of purpose.

What’s Wrong with Mission Statements?

On the journey to greatness, countless roadblocks may be encountered, frustrations may emerge, hopelessness may set in. Frequently, you and your employees can become overwhelmed by the daily tasks you must perform. Sometimes, the goal is forgotten as the struggle along the way becomes more difficult. Great managers know how to get their teams focused once again on the goal; they help each individual discover his or her own noble purpose. To do this, they may have to throw away the firm’s mission statement.

Noble purpose goes much deeper than the mission statement, is more significant than the corporate vision, is even more basic than values. It is the heart of values, vision and mission. The noble purpose of your work is related to but separate from your mission statement. It’s your own highly personal individual interpretation of the corporate mission. A mission statement that lacks noble purpose isn’t worth the parchment it’s written on or the expensive frame that holds it. You can take it off the wall and throw it away.

The problem with mission statements and other “head-office hype” is, simply, they’re top-down, probably written by the senior management team on a weekend retreat or concocted by a marketing-department committee. Regardless of where it comes from, when the mission statement is finally approved, it’s imposed on the rest of the organization.

Noble purpose is the opposite of the mission statement: it’s bottom-up. This is what gives noble purpose its power. The executive committee can’t impose it because it lives within each and every employee. Great managers help their employees uncover the noble purpose lying within. Each employee considers the mission statement through the filter of their noble purpose to make it their own. In turn, if they know their noble purpose, they can make a spiritual investment in the mission statement

Finding Your Noble Purpose

Understanding the inescapable strategic importance of noble purpose necessitates an understanding of the tactics used to uncover it.

  • Define the problem in specific terms. When your passion is impaired, you can’t move beyond success. To solve this problem, you must rekindle your personal passion and the passion of every single person on your team. To rekindle the passion, you must discover the noble purpose within you and within every team member.
  • Design a plan to solve the problem. Noble purpose is a state of mind. In order to find and keep it, you need to examine your attitude. There isn’t a class you can take at the local community college. To examine your attitude, you must look deep within yourself.
  • Implement the plan. Think about your company, division or department. Make a list of the mundane tasks you perform every day. When you effectively do your work, a customer, internal or external, should feel pleased or should be grateful or relieved. What do you think your customer’s feelings actually are?How do you feel after you’ve helped your customer or client solve their most important need? Do you feel pride? Satisfaction?Now look at the bigger picture. What is the fundamental, noble purpose of your business? What do you really deliver to each customer?Finally, find a partner with whom you can discuss these thoughts. Share the thoughts you have for each for each of these steps. When you’re done, your partner can share his or her thoughts with you. Depending on the size of your team, you can allocate more time for this part and ask each member to share his or her thoughts.
  • Reassess the strategy. When you’ve defined your personal noble purpose, post it where you can see it every day. Every team member should do the same. This is a daily reminder of why you’re in business in the first place. At least once a year you should rediscover your noble purpose. Indeed, you shouldn’t wait a whole year if you feel the flames of your passion dwindle. If your arm grows weary from reaching out for greatness, define your noble purpose again.

Stop being a manager and become a leader. Move beyond the confines of your team and encourage every employee to discover his or her own noble purpose. Likely your company has only one mission statement, one business plan and one vision. But there can be as many noble purposes as there are employees. Successful companies understand the importance of passionate execution of their business plans. Great companies understand that the source of the passion comes from a noble purpose, and they help their employees find it.

Vistage speaker Thomas T. Brown is founder and CEO of Business Jungle Enterprises, a sales training and consulting firm based in Dunnellon, Florida.

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