Focus on the mission

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Commitment is grounded in purpose. It is the anchor that brings a diverse team together. In the military, we call it a “mission.”

What is your mission? Is it crystal clear? What are your measures for success?

Are your weekly and daily priorities centered on a mission or is your attention diffused by whatever stuff keeps showing up in your inbox?

Do your teammates share your vision because you took the time to share it with them? Not just the “what” and the “how,” but more importantly, the “why.”

A while back I led a leadership session with executives from a large insurance company. They wrestled with verbalizing their mission. They had no problem coming up with the usual corporate words to put on the wall, but nothing seemed to click, to energize them. Then someone mentioned Hurricane Katrina and the faces lit up as they recalled being on a mission to help people rebuild their lives. It was a vivid experience that still evoked strong emotions, even tears.

People hunger for purpose. They need purpose to bring out their best energy, focus, creativity, and resilience.

Those of us who choose to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on the uniform, the usual differences that often divide us don’t matter.  Marching into battle you look out for the person next to you or the mission fails.  In the thick of the fight you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden.  On it are each of their names.  Some may be Democrats.  Some may be Republicans.  But that doesn’t matter.  Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates—a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission.  No one thought about politics.  No one thought about themselves.  One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission.  It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job—the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs.  More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other—because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.    — Barack Obama

The foundation of COMMITMENT is shared purpose and mission. When your teammates know their back is covered, they will lean forward to achieve success despite risk, danger and personal sacrifice. They will be predisposed to action, to “get it done.”

Be a High-Trust Leader: give your team a vivid mission to accomplish and watch them exceed your expectations.

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