Do You Have a Job or a Mission?

Posted on March 6, 2014.

What’s the real reason you get up and go to work everyday, other than getting paid? Do you feel like you’re just putting in time or do you leave everyday feeling like you’ve contributed to something meaningful? If it’s the former then you probably don’t have the highest level of job satisfaction.

I recently attended the Association for Corporate Growth’s  (ACG) annual conference.  After listening to several panels and speakers I was struck by the similarity of message by Len Forkas and Ted Leonsis, two highly successful entrepreneurs.

While both men are successful entrepreneurs, Mr. Forkas’ message was based on his Ride Across America, inspired by his son’s leukemia diagnosis.  Mr. Leonsis discussed what he’s witnessed in successful entrepreneurs. Despite the dissimilarity of their stories, the one common denominator for both success in completing a 3,000-bike ride in 12 days and making your company best in class was having a common mission. 

As Mr. Leonsis stated, when you ask Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, what he sells, he doesn’t say “coffee”, he says, “ a sense of community”.  And if you ask the crew team on the bike ride what their sense of mission was, it wasn’t, “getting Len across the finish line”, it was “helping the children with cancer”.

These are great messages and if you own and run your own company, it shouldn’t be difficult to create the kind of culture that creates your common mission. But what if you run a small part or team within a larger company?  Can you develop a mission statement or sense of purpose of your own that will help inspire everyone to show up, be engaged and feel good at the end of the day? Absolutely!

You first need to stop defining yourself by what you do and start looking at why you do it?  Are you selling financial services or helping businesses grow? Are you building cell towers or connecting the world?  I once had a client who sold the mats you see in grocery stores and other retailers.  But he was adamant that they didn’t sell mats, they sold “safety”. 

Some of the phraseology may sound a bit corny, but creating a sense of purpose and real mission around what you do has the added benefit of building a team, instead of individual producers.  In Len’s description of his ride across America, he noted that everyone on the crew had a specific role, but unless they worked as a team, they would have failed. 

Developing and communicating a sense of purpose and mission beyond “making our goals” has the added benefit of improving employee engagement, which will ultimately lead to long-term success. And let’s face it, would you rather be selling coffee or helping establish a sense of community?