Leaders Lead with Shared Purpose

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading Leaders

Why don’t my employees respond to my leadership? Why don’t their values align with the organization’s values? How do I get my organization to perform at the level I know they’re capable?

            Those are questions asked often by leaders in every industry and field. Everyone has walked into an office or production floor where morale was low and productivity was lower. Places where pretty, motivational posters on the wall are a source of quiet ridicule rather than inspiration. Places where everyone wears the company logo, but no one embodies the company values. In organizations like that, the most dangerous place is being between the employees and the door at the end of the day.

            Powerless managers blame the employees, the generational differences, the economy, or a host of popular excuses, when the real problem is likely the leader himself. The truth is that external visuals and artifacts inspire people only when leaders inspire people. Only leaders who understand the relationship between them and their team, and then step up and lead, will ever be able to produce high performance in their organizations.

Leadership is the Foundation of Performance

            There’s an old adage that to build something that lasts, you must start with a solid foundation. I believe the foundation of any excellent organization is an excellent leader or leadership team. Leaders rarely lead teams where they’re the only leaders on the team. A football team has an offensive and defensive captain. Military units and large organizations are often organized into hierarchies with leaders at each level. Even small teams have leaders for various parts of the job: this one is in charge of assembly, or that one is in charge of transportation, and so on. I have been lucky to be given leadership opportunities at an early age. Even from those earliest leadership opportunities, I was leading others who had leadership roles of their own beside me and subordinate to me. In Scouts, there was a hierarchy and defined roles among the boys in my patrol. On sports teams and in business there were other team captains and assistant managers. In the military, there have been peer leaders and as I got promoted, subordinate commanders. Leading those people is what leadership is about.

            Even though I’ve developed my leadership principles primarily in military and sports environments, I can assure you that Leading Leaders principles are universal and can be applied to industry, non-profit, and government. Why? Because good leadership is fundamentally about human interaction, inspiring people to get a job done or overcome obstacles: from combat to craft fairs. Leadership is not a formula or process. There is no product to buy, shirt to wear, or pill to take that can substitute for good leadership, and good leadership requires strength of character from the leader.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating TeamsMickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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Monday Motivation

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Monday Motivation

 

 


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

 

Sign up for Mickey’s mailing list and get  Mickey’s Rules for Leaders as a thank you!

 

People Need a Purpose, Not Just a Paycheck

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leadership by Experience

images (1)“Shared Purpose” is shorthand for getting people connected to the mission of an organization. The most effective leaders are able to build a collective sense of shared purpose and connect each individual to the mission of the larger team. In fact, the teams who think and work together with a sense of shared purpose are the happiest, and the most successful. When leaders keep the welfare and engagement of their teams in the forefront of their decisions, they enable those teams to connect to the mission of the organization. That connection leads to a sense of mission and shared purpose–both keys to high performance.

When Leaders Serve, Teams Connect

In contrast to the Industrial Age, Information Age leaders have to pay attention to the needs of individuals. Those leaders who do, will be giving the individuals in their teams a sense of shared purpose. During the Industrial Revolution, management specialists de-emphasized the needs and variations of individuals in an effort to standardize the product. While standardization and mass-production enabled large scale availability of consumer goods, it often produced, ahem, sub-optimal results in employee morale and even safety. In fact, when we form a caricature of a soul crushing work environment, an industrial age factory or office comes to mind. Thankfully, we’ve learned a few things since the 1940s.

Today’s corporate leaders understand the need to develop their people, facilitate their engagement, and the need for individuals to contribute meaningfully. Good leaders care about their people and give their teams a shared purpose and mission. Companies who repeatedly score highly on “Best Companies to Work For” lists take these principles seriously. In my book, Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, I talked about companies who do this successfully. The data is a little old, but their names will be familiar:

For example, according to CNN Money Magazine, the top three companies to work for in 2012 were Google, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and SAS Institute. Employees at all three companies reported they felt valued by leadership, their work was meaningful, their pay was good, and that the workplace was a fun place to work. Google’s success as an organization is legendary: good pay, self-paced work, and plenty of free food. BCG has a focus on work–life balance, including requiring their employees to take time off, which demonstrates they value their employees’ well being as much as they value their productivity. SAS has a number of programs emphasizing the value of their employees’ well-being, including subsidized Montessori childcare, intramural sports leagues, and unlimited sick time. All three of these companies value their employees and prove that through their HR policies. What’s more, the leaders themselves model the behavior they require of their employees.

In addition to the work environment, 21st Century corporate leaders are getting a renewed sense that their place in the community also requires them to be involved in the common good. More than sponsoring community events, companies who value their contributions to the community are engaged in community service work as a company, and also encourage their employees to engage in individual volunteerism. In this way, corporate leaders help their people connect to the community as individuals and send the message that the company cares about the community as well.

Inspire and Connect

Corporate leaders can be just as successful as military leaders by inspiring and connecting their employees to something larger than just a paycheck. Leaders should demonstrate they care about the people they lead–and understand that leadership is a call to service rather than a mantle of success. No matter whether a company is for-profit or nonprofit, there is a purpose for the company to exist: it performs a service or produces a product people need. If there wasn’t a need, there would be no company. Leaders are responsible for helping their people see that they’re not simply creating paper or making a widget–they’re enabling others and filling a need in others’ lives. SpaceX is an excellent example: they’re going to Mars! Not every company is trying to revolutionize space travel and colonize another planet, but every company produces value or they won’t be in business for long!

Here’s the key: leaders help the employees see the value of the work they’re performing beyond the paycheck they receive each week. If leaders do that, if they truly inspire their teams and connect them to the larger mission and the community they serve, their teams will strive and reach high performance. What’s better, they’ll get there will enough gas in the tank to go farther and they’ll enjoy the journey as well.


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

The Power of Shared Purpose

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

20150902_175720As a military officer, I’ve served with some of the finest people I’ll ever know. Few of them were exactly like me, but all of us shared a common purpose to serve our country. It’s that shared purpose that unified a diverse group of people around a singular mission to fight for our country, our values, and each other. When leaders help those around them understand and work toward shared purpose, its a powerful “energizer” for the team.

As we move constantly, you’d be forgiven in thinking military people say goodbye easily–we don’t. Because of the bond of our service, saying goodbye is usually accompanied with tears and sadness. Even when we’re excited to move on to another assignment or get a promotion, leaving our comrades behind and making new friends is hard. Retirements are even more difficult because we’re leaving the “brotherhood” for good and leaving behind the symbols of our connection: our uniforms and our duties. Amazingly, even when soldiers are wounded in battle their first questions are usually about their battle buddies and when they can return to take their place in the line. Such is the power of shared purpose.

The military may be expert at helping recruits internalize the military values and mission, but that same sense of mission works in the private sector as well. I’ve written many times about the value of giving people a purpose, not just a paycheck. It’s been my experience that most people want to contribute, not just clock in and out. In fact, the most successful companies in the business today are successfull for precisely that reason. Take a look at these well-know companies and their missions:

  • Google (“…to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”)
  • REI (“…inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship”)
  • SpaceX (“..revolutionize space technology…to enable people to live on other planets”)
  • USAA (“Facilitate the financial security of [the] members”)

See? Each of those examples–and there are hundreds like them–provide their employees with a sense of shared purpose, a reason to come to work each day and contribute. Their mission statements give their employees something larger than themselves to aspire to be. However, mission statements are nothing but a pretty wall-hanging in the executive conference room if the leadership doesn’t help new people internalize the team’s values, and that process begins during onboarding and continues as long as we’re with the company.

There are two key ideas to creating shared purpose within your company:

1. The mission has to be about more than dollars and cents. Profit motive and success are important, that’s the grease for getting the mission done, but they can’t be the only thing the company cares about. In the examples above, each of those companies is worth billions–and each has a mission to accomplish that is higher than merely making money. For entrepreneurs and corporations alike: think about the reason you got into your line of work to begin with: that’s your mission!

2. Leaders from the C-suite to the front line have to “walk the talk.” No matter what your company does, leaders have to be about the mission first. Everyone want’s to be successful financially, but trust me, if you don’t get the mission done no one will care what the bottom line looks like. Business in the ’80’s might have been all about conspicuous consumption and “greed”–but that’s not the Twenty-First Century way. We care about the financials, but we care just as much about corporate citizenship. Leaders have to set the example!

Give your team a shared purpose, not just a paycheck, and you’ll see how both the bottom line and the sense of community within grow. A team unified around a shared purpose is a powerful team indeed!


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.