How to Keep Your Business Focused Through the Subtle Danger of Mission Drift
Life is full of good opportunities.
Good books to read, good events to attend, good projects to pioneer. But good things can knock us off track in pursuing the very best.
What does “the best” look like in your leadership?
It means doing what you are uniquely called to do in the style that is distinct to your personality, position, and organizational DNA. Living “the best” in leadership means that your most important job isn’t to manage the budget, to develop new products, or even to lead your team.
Your most important task is to continually cast vision.
The subtle tension every leader will face is the reality of mission drift. Mission drift happens when we are pulled off of our message or our mission, whether intentionally or accidentally. This can be an irresistible force that results in loss of momentum or a crisis of identity, so strategic leaders build in measures to continually recalibrate. If you don’t prioritize vision casting, you may end up navigating a ship that’s going in an entirely different direction than you intended.
How can you build strategic safeguards to keep your organization focused? Here are a few steps.
One Key Leader
Begin by enlisting one board member or key staff person who is committed to alignment.
Be sure they buy into your team’s mission and charge them with safeguarding its integrity. When opportunities arise that may detract from the mission, it’s great to have someone speaking up (perhaps against the majority!) or analyzing decisions from a broader perspective.
A Focused Core Team
Do everything you can to focus your core team around the mission.
Set times to swap stories about where you recently saw the “mission win” and publicly acknowledge those who are keeping the main thing the main thing. Exit or discipline people who don’t, even if they perform well in other areas. If your core team is sold out to the mission, it will pay bigger dividends in the long run.
A Culture of Mission
Your mission should be more than a vague concept on your website, but a regular part of the professional experience.
Use stories and symbols to embed purpose in your culture so people encounter it daily:
- Mount core values on the walls. Use them as a guide for decisions and a platform for sharing new initiatives.
- Design strategic symbols (racetracks, funnels, etc.) to communicate process. 65 percent of people are visual learners, and concepts become memorable when they’re connected with an image.
- Put a face on success by sharing testimonials (in person or through letters) from people who have been positively affected by the vision. Illustrations exemplify goals and make heroes of people who are living the mission.
- Use slogans to cement conviction. Ritz-Carlton hotels use the motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” to exemplify the anticipatory service provided by all staff members. Simple slogans, shared repeatedly with conviction, can motivate people to do things they would normally never do.
Make Your Mission Specific and Measurable
When coaching your team, provide concrete actions that explain how you’ll achieve your vision.
Use results-oriented descriptions (like, “you’ll know you’ve done a good job when _____.”) Outline action steps to take and celebrate mile markers achieved. Enlist creative people who can help you celebrate daily victories.
Wandering is natural. If you don’t strategically refocus people around a singular vision, your organization will fail to thrive. Lean on these strategies and safeguard your team from the dangerous drift that every leader will face.