Recently I watched the movie, ‘The Miracle’, about the US Olympic Hockey Team and their quest to defeat the Russians in the Olympics. In one of the scenes, in response to why he’s driving the athlete’s so hard during tryouts, the team’s manager, played by Kurt Russell, states: “I don’t need common men. Common men go nowhere. I have to have uncommon men!”
Isn’t it interesting that this coach, as he looked out at the players – all of whom were considered to be the best in their schools, cities and/or states – felt they were a group of common men. In his mind only those among them who would push themselves to their fullest limits would be considered uncommon – in other words, of the caliber to be selected to represent our country.
Each day each of us have the opportunity to prove to others that we are uncommon men and women. Why is it that some days we don’t quite hit that mark? I’ve come to believe the answer lies in one or two areas.
First, we need a mission and purpose that is so clearly defined and resonates so deeply with us that we can’t help but give all that we have in order to achieve it. We need both a personal and professional mission – the most incredible successes occur when the two collide and fall into alignment. Without a purpose for what we do, we remain unfulfilled and unsatisfied, always searching for something different, bigger, better.
The hockey coach had a mission and purpose – to defeat the Russians by putting together a team of uncommon men, the likes of which the world had not yet seen.
Everyone around him understood that goal and was committed to making it happen.
Business owners, take another look at your company’s mission statement. When you read it do you still feel pulled to accomplish that mission? Or, is it so vague and full of touchy-feely words that your staff may not be sure what the end goal really is? If so, take that weak and wonky thing and rip it to shreds! Rewrite it, over and over again, until it reflects the difference that you want to make.
Here are two examples of what I believe are great mission statements.
Microsoft: ‘A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software.”
Amazon for its Kindle: ‘Every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”
Both quantify the goal, succinctly, specifically, no questions. Employees of both companies understand, buy into and rally around that end goal with gusto, constantly striving to attain it, because the goal, when achieved, will be bold and noteworthy and they’ll be able to say they played a part in that success.
But, be careful. In order for any mission to be accomplished, the leadership MUST lead by sharing and living the vision. The talk must be walked at every moment.
Consider this mission statement: Respect. Integrity. Communication. Excellence.
Sounds okay. Unfortunately that was Enron’s. Enough said.
The second major reason some of us can’t push ourselves to become uncommon is because we aren’t fully engaged. When we aren’t engaged in our relationships, work, life, etc., it’s impossible to give 100%+ to anything. No matter how much we are poked, prodded, cajoled, incentivized, begged and pleaded with, we will not respond to a level that others consider to be uncommon, to be emulated.
So, how do we as business owners and managers get our employees re-engaged? First, we need to understand their talents and the strengths they bring to us. This requires assessing, asking, listening, caring about what we discover in that process. Then, we need to align those talents to the right tasks so that each day they can feel fulfilled in the work they do for us; and we need to be very specific, putting into writing what we expect of them in their roles, each day, week, month, year.
I have witnessed and so now believe that when we understand our core talents and align them with our purpose and that purpose is aligned with the work we do, we become undeniably passionate about living - undeniably uncommon and virtually unstoppable.