How To Make Your Mission And Values Actionable

When a company is clear on its mission and the reason for being and communicates it, and when we believe the same thing, we become incredibly loyal customers. We will go to great lengths to support that company. There might be other products with more features that are even cheaper, but we stick with the company whose reason for being we can identify with. When confronted with it, we become very creative in justifying why this company’s product is superior by focusing on its strengths and ignoring weaknesses or things that are not easy to measure, like the design.

The reason for being is not enough

Of course, even the best mission or the greatest reason for being is nothing without execution. Sinek notes that while many successful entrepreneurs consider themselves visionaries, some of whom are, most are extremely good at getting things done. They love to build things, and that is a sure sign that while you have a vision of “why,” you also have an idea of “how.” You translate your vision into reality. That’s what makes you successful.

In most cases of great companies, you can find a visionary who provides the “why” and then the operations person who provides the “how.” In Microsoft, Bill Gates imagined a world with a personal computer in every home, and Paul Allen built the company. In Apple, Steve Jobs was the rebel visionary who thought differently, while Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer and, later on, Tim Cook created an efficient global operation. These partnerships between a person with vision and someone who can execute that vision build great companies.

It is a tree

In Find Your Why, Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker suggest looking at the organization’s mission as a tree. There is one overarching reason for being for the company, but each department, group, or team is like a branch and can have its own nested reasons for being. And in each of the teams, you have people who sit in these nests like a family of birds having their individual missions. Ideally, all these are aligned, supporting each other. However, since in large organizations, the overarching reason for being can be challenging to tie to your personal reason for being, it might be enough to identify with a team. It is much closer and will be much more tangible. It will lead to a sense of belonging.

This is important to realize as many companies have figured out how to hire the right people but often don’t have a way to find the right sweet spot for them. They move these great employees to the wrong teams or wrong roles. People may join the company for its vision and brand, but they stick around for the team and the people they work most closely with. Being in the wrong team, as in the wrong nest, will lead to feeling that you don’t belong. You are going to leave regardless of the company vision that may have originally attracted you.

For a team to find their specific reason for being, they need to collate and analyze the stories of those on the team who have substantial tenure and zeal. These are the people who live and breathe the company. They are passionate about its reason for being. They have the best stories to tell. Stories that define who the company truly is. Zealots are not necessarily the best performers, though they often are. They love the place and are willing to sacrifice to improve the organization. These people represent the organization at its best. Ask them to tell stories about when they felt proud of the team or the company. Analyze what impact the team had on the lives of others.

Then translate their stories to “To… so that…” statements. Sinek and team give these two examples of statements that meet the criteria: “To believe in people so that they can, in turn, believe in themselves,” and “To provoke people to think differently so that they can be awakened to new possibilities.” And you’ve got your reason for being statement, your vision, or your cause.

Living your reason for being

To truly live your reason for being or your life mission, you should use it in your decision-making. It applies to both you personally and the organization. Always ask yourself, “Would this decision bring us closer to our reason for being?” If yes, do it. If not, you should rethink. Look out for and reward behavior that exemplifies the reason for being of the organization. Ask yourself daily, “What did I do today to support my and my organization’s reason for being?” When deciding what to do and how to do it, always consider whether it aligns with it. Help everyone in the organization discover their reason for being and how it aligns with the organization.

After getting clarity on the reason for being, you need to transform it into a set of actions. They are the actions and behaviors that express how to live your life.

Sinek gives an example of a difference between a value and an action. Value like “courtesy” doesn’t lead to action. “Treat people with kindness and respect” is much more actionable. Similarly, when you see the word “integrity,” you may subscribe to it but not really know what it truly means in day-to-day practice. When it gets explained that we “always tell the truth,” it is more actionable. When you then see examples of this in practice, like witnessing a salesperson not being willing to embellish the truth a bit just to get the sale, you truly get it.

Sinek suggests not using the “be” word in the definitions as it doesn’t feel active enough. “Be connected” and “Connect with people in meaningful ways” have very different feel to them. Similarly, he suggests not using the gerund. Connect will feel more inclusive than connecting.

Company values are often words like integrity, honesty, teamwork, and many similar nouns. Yet, for them to be genuinely effective and actionable, they need to be verbs. Consider these examples, “always do the right thing,” “mean what you say and say what you mean,” and “collaborate with others.” They feel more actionable. You know what to do to live by them.

Putting it all together

Being clear on what your company stands for helps you hire people who believe in the same things. True leaders have one thing in common. They are clear on their reason for being, and they can convey that clarity to others. While energy leads to excitement, clarity of purpose leads to inspiration. Once you are inspired and understand the purpose, you can figure out what it means for you tomorrow morning when you show up in the office. You need to come up with the actions. Your values need to be actionable, and that means changing nouns into verbs.

What is your take on the topic? Do you believe that work needs to be about more than just money? How do you translate the company’s mission into action? How do you live your company’s values day to day?

Photo: geralt /

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Categories: Leadership

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