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Why Do We Do What We Do?

Why Do We Do What We Do?
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To be clear, before we move forward, what I need to explain is, what are we not talking about when I use the word vision. Oftentimes when I talk about creating and communicating a vision, people think about the words that are written up on the walls in the foyer of organizations, that this is our mission statement, this is our vision. And those are needed. They’re necessary. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about today. When I talk about a vision, what I’m talking about is what you actually say to your employees. When you’re with them every day, what are you communicating about the current reality that we’re in and ultimately where we’re going?
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So, remember, what we’re not talking about here is the fancy words, the marketing speak that shows up on the walls in your organization. You need that. That’s important. It reinforces the vision that you’re communicating on a daily basis. But what we’re really talking about here is what are you communicating every day through your words and your actions. So just keep that in mind as we go forward, about what we’re not talking about and what we are throughout. The model that I’m going to share with you for creating and communicating your vision articulates not only what you say but how you say it.
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Some people like to talk about it as substance verses style. There’s an old adage that says it’s not important or it’s not about what you say, it’s all about the style. It’s all about how you say it. And to be very truthful and honest, that’s nonsense. Both are critically important. What you say is important as well as how you say it. I can be fancy. I can be able to stand up and give a very compelling talk in the short term. But if the substance of what I’m saying is not there, ultimately, long term, people stop believing in that vision that you’re trying to communicate or articulate. So, remember, it’s what you say and how you say it.
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As part of our discussion here, we’re going to break down both of these components. I’m going to start with what you say, and then we’ll transition to how you say it, both verbal and non-verbal body language, as you think about communicating your vision to your team. In terms of what you say, I’ve been studying now for the last several years CEOs, entrepreneurs, small business owners, educators, in terms of what are they saying to capture people’s attention to motivate and engage them in a compelling vision. And what I’ve learned is, in all of these visions that work, that really motivate and engage employees, each of these visions answers three fundamental questions.
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And so I’m going to walk you through each of these questions and give you an opportunity to think about the impact of that question on the team that you’re either part of or possibly managing.
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The first question is really getting at the core purpose of why your team exists. The question is why do we do what we do. Why do we exist? Again, really that core purpose question. Let me share with you a few examples. The first one that I’m going to share with you, I want you to think about what company is this. If you just read the words without knowing anything else, can you guess the company? So here’s the first one. To be the Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer
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sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators. Now, I took these words directly from the CEO of this company. So let me pause. Can you guess what company this is?
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You have it? Maybe even write it down. Here’s the company, Amazon.com. Now, interestingly, if you go back prior to Amazon getting into the digital media business, movies, streaming content, etc., interestingly, the core purpose, the statement around why do we do what we do, and who are we at the core was we want to be the place online where people from around the world can come to buy anything they want. The question I ask you is, which of those is clearer and which of those is most compelling to you as a statement of why do we do what we do and who are we at the core. Let me share with you another example.
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To refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, to create value and make a difference. Three statements, all part of a vision, all part of the question, why do we do what we do. Going back, to refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, to create value and make a difference. Three statements, all part of this company’s communication of why do we do what we do, part of their vision, again, to refresh the world to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, to create value and make a difference. Again, let me pause. Can you guess, maybe write down, who you think this company is? Do you have it? Okay. Here we go. This is Coca-Cola.
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To refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, to create value and make a difference. I wonder if from this statement if you were able to identify that this is Coca-Cola or could that be any beverage company, for example. So you can see in both of these statements of why do we do what we do, there’s some ambiguity here. And the question that I want you to think very carefully about, is are they specific enough to guide employees, around our core purpose, why do we do ultimately what we do. Let me give you a couple of other examples from history. This is a statement that I took from historical documents of the company back in around 1950.
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The statement was to change the worldwide poor quality image of Japanese products. Now, the irony is today we think of Japanese products as being of the utmost, the highest quality, but in 1950 that was not the case. Any guesses on who this company is? Now, remember, this is a for-profit company. A for-profit company with, as part of its mission, as part of its purpose ultimately to change the image of Japanese products, not just their products, but the entire country’s set of products, to change the worldwide poor quality image of Japanese products. I’ll pause. Take a minute. Take a guess. Any ideas on who this company is?
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That company is Sony. If we think about where Japan is in the global landscape of business today, I would say Sony was pretty successful in changing the worldwide poor quality image of Japanese products, certainly not alone, but certainly a key player in that purpose. Let me share with you one more. To democratize the automobile. Now, we have to go really far back here. This is 1900, at a time when the automobile was only for the elite, it was a luxury good. Clearly today that is not the case for most people around the world. Which company is this?
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But, again, remember, this is a for-profit company who has part of its purposes, part of its mission, articulated its answer to the question why do we do what we do, and part of that answer was to democratize the automobile. That company was ultimately Ford. And so what I’d like you to do now is take a few minutes on your own, stop the lesson, maybe take five or ten minutes and reflect on your team, on the people that you manage. Maybe it’s a team at work. Maybe it’s a team in your community, in your social life, a sport team, or in your social life even, but a team that you’re part of.
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And I want you to spend five or ten minutes and see if, in a paragraph, you can clearly articulate the answer to the question, why do we exist, why do we do what we do as a team. Take a few minutes and do that exercise.
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