2 Questions to Ask to Plan with Purpose
As leaders we are full of ideas and initiatives.
We see potential and opportunity all around.
We have a vision and we’re eager to achieve it.
We can almost taste the outcome but oftentimes we get bogged down by how we’ll get from here to there. The “how” can be overwhelming and discouraging so we give up on our goals or fail to build a plan to help us actually achieve them. We have the big idea but we get impatient with the process.
If I’m honest, I love the idea of strategy but I don’t love the patience and discipline that strategy entails. The larger your organization gets, the more this tension exists.
A couple of years ago my husband and I went to Europe to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We are both fascinated by history and we quickly get lost wandering cities and exploring old architecture, especially castles and cathedrals.
On this trip we toured the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. If you’ve been there you know it’s absolutely stunning - beautiful French Gothic construction - and while most of the city of Cologne was destroyed by bombing in WWII, the Cologne Cathedral survived mostly unscathed.
Listening intently to our tour guide we learned that in the year 1248 Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden commissioned the building of this cathedral. In 1880, after over 630 years, the cathedral was completed with the placement of the finials on the towers of the cathedral.
Can you imagine that? 630 years to complete a vision!
630 years to implement a strategy!
And what’s amazing is that throughout the process the builders kept to the original plan of the 13th century.
You’ve likely heard the axiom, “vision leaks” and more importantly I bet you’ve experienced it. I often feel like within a few days, the vision I’ve cast has drifted from my original intent. In fact most leaders know that casting vision repeatedly is essential to succeeding in achieving our mission.
As important as it is to cast that vision consistently, the patience of the implementation - the strategy - is just as critical.
So how does one build a strategy that stays aligned with vision for a year, let alone 630 years?!
In a word, purpose.
To successfully accomplish your strategy you need to lean into the importance of purpose.
If you can picture for a minute the life cycle of an organization, we start an organization, a plan, or a new initiative with a desire to go up and to the right as quickly as possible. We desire growth.
I think the desire for growth is deeply wired in us. I don’t think it’s inherently bad. In fact, I believe it can be quite good. The desire to grow and to multiply our work is God-given. Consider the mandate God gave Adam and Eve “to fill the earth and subdue it”. There is an implication of growth. The desire to grow and pursue dreams is God-given. The greater question to me is how?
Visualize the bell curve soaring up and to the right. Now visualize the foundation blocks that also must go out to sustain the weight above it. We must go up and out at the same time.
In order to accomplish our strategy (the up side of the curve) we must clarify our purpose which I believe is the first building block that supports the strategy.
The purpose is your “why”. It's the foundational building block that supports the strategy that accomplishes your vision.
Your strategy must be built upon a foundation of purpose that is consistent, clear and understood by your team.
Here are two questions to wrestle with to help you analyze your purpose and gain perspective on how to build a strategy that is congruent with who you are.
What Is Our Purpose?
In the 4Sight Sequence for Success we believe the first building block of organizational success is clarity on your mission, vision and values. In order to chart where you want to go you need to be clear about what you’re building upon.
Do you have a written vision, mission and values?
Here is how I define those:
Mission – a definition of who you are and why you do the work you do
What’s important about a mission is that it transcends time - this is your why at the core; this is what is going to be true as long as your organization exists
At 4Sight our mission is to cultivate healthy leaders to lead thriving organizations.
Vision – a description of where you want to go and the impact you want to make.
A vision is much more specific and time-bound
At 4Sight our vision it to invest in 100,000 leaders in 5 years
Values – a set of guiding principles that clarify the habits and behaviors that are essential to accomplishing your vision and mission.
Your values help provide the guardrails that provide integrity in pursuit of mission and vision.
At 4Sight our values are:
1) Self-Leadership - we lead ourselves well to lead others better
2) People First (Heart) - we slow down to see people
3) Humble Confidence (Soul) - we know it's not about us, it's about Christ in us
4) Wise Stewardship (Mind) - we recognize the sacred responsibility of our power (influence) over decisions, people, assets
5) Courageous (Strength) - we are willing to take calculated risks and step outside of our comfort zone (and push our clients to do this)
In order for these values to be true of us we have to constantly be reviewing them and making sure we are living from these values as we pursue our mission and vision. If not, we’ll have some fractures in our foundation that won’t hold the weight of our growth.
Back to my question: What is your purpose? Do you have clearly written mission, vision, and values?
If so, pull them out, dust them off and spend time reflecting on how these impact where you want to go.
If not, now is the time to develop them. (check out our Strategic Planning Course to help you with this)
Perhaps you wrote these way back at the beginning of your organization but you’ve drifted from them. If this is the case, you and your team need to take some time to discuss whether they need to be revised or if you need to work to realign with the original purpose of your organization. This clarity is so essential for your success.
If your purpose isn’t clear your strategy is going to be built on a faulty foundation.
Where are we now?
Once you revisit your purpose it’s time to get some perspective.
In other words, what’s our reality?
Business leader and author, Max De Pree said, “the first task of a leader is to define reality.”
We have to be brutally honest with ourselves and our teams about the truth of our organization. You probably stumbled upon some inconsistencies when you reviewed your mission, vision, values. The next thing you want to do is take a closer look at the more practical side of your work.
I recommend using a few common exercises like a SWOT analysis or 4 Helpful Lists.
With a SWOT analysis you’re brainstorming your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
With 4 Helpful List you’re answering the questions: what is right, what is wrong, what is confused, and what is missing in our organization right now.
Both of these tools are helpful for you to surface the truth in your organization.
Just a word of caution, in order to get honest answers to the perspective questions, you must set an environment where your team can be brutally honest.
Here’s what I know about you, leader, you have big dreams. Don’t let those dreams just be ideas. Do the patient work of slowing down and revisiting your purpose and getting perspective. When you do you’ll set the foundation for your team and your organization to achieve your strategy with greater clarity and momentum!
Ready to Define Your Strategy and Get Moving Toward Your Goals?
Check out our new mini-course, 5 Simple Steps to a Great Strategic Plan.
This 16 minute video and accompanying workbook will provide the guidance you need to help you and your team build your strategic plan.
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There's nothing more unsettling than feeling out of control. And as leaders, the temptation to seek control over outcomes and others is especially alluring. It's a nuanced line to walk between effectively stewarding our
influence and desperately attempting to control everything.
Jenni Catron, in this episode, walks us through why we desire control and how we can let go in ways that yield healthier relationships with those we lead and a more peaceful vantage point from which to operate.