This month’s print edition of HBR makes mention of a new study supporting ‘the purpose-profit’ connection (p32). The study looks at the relationship between strong purpose and public company financial performance. I believe the insights apply to all organizations – That is, any organization with a strong purpose will see increased performance.
The study finds there is a strong link between PURPOSE and PERFORMANCE (or, in my adjusted language, IMPACT). Researchers make a distinction in two types of high purpose organizations. The first is what it calls ‘high camaraderie’ where everyone simply has a sense that they are doing something great, TOGETHER. The second type of purpose is ‘high clarity’ from management. This is noted as the type where managers excel at translating purpose into action.
The statistically significant performance bump was only found with organizations that have ‘purpose clarity.’
As a leader, think not just about PURPOSE, but ‘PURPOSE CLARITY.’ To help you with this, I would bridge some of the findings of the research with some of the For Impact teaching. Think about PURPOSE as an anchor for your STORY. And, by story, I don’t mean a narrative with a beginning-middle-end. I mean how you FRAME the organization.
A GREAT STORY…
- Is anchored in hope-filled purpose (Start with WHY!)
- Simplifies WHAT you do.
- Serves as a litmus for action.
Some of the writing in the research study further supports thinking about placing PURPOSE inside of STORY. “The company’s primary purpose – the real one, which isn’t necessarily the one written in the official documents or etched in the wall plaques – [that] guides its actions and decisions.”
Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Prat, Andrea and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance (June 30, 2016). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840005
Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United for over 25 years, leading the club to 13 English Premier League Titles.
In his book, Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United, Sir Alex tells a story about his own tipping point as a leader.
Prior to his post at Manchester United, he managed Aberdeen, a Scottish Football Club. He learned about the importance of ZOOMING OUT to lead. My emphasis in bold…
Watching is (an) underrated (leadership) activity…it costs nothing. For me there are two forms of observation: the first is on the detail and the second is on the big picture. Until I was managing Aberdeen and hired Archie Knox as my assistant manager, I had not appreciated the difference between watching for the tiny particulars while also trying to understand the broader landscape. Shortly after he arrived at Aberdeen, Archie sat me down and asked me why I had hired him. The question perplexed me, until he explained that he had nothing to do since I insisted on doing everything. He was very insistent… Archie told me that I shouldn’t be conducting the training sessions but, instead, should be on the sidelines watching and supervising. I wasn’t sure that I should follow this advice because I thought it would hamper my control of the sessions. But when I told Archie I wanted to mull over his advice, he was insistent. So, somewhat reluctantly, I bowed to his wishes and, though it took me a bit of time to understand you can see a lot more when you are not in the thick of things, it was the most important decision I ever made about the way I managed and led. When you are a step removed from the fray, you see things that come as surprises– and it is important to allow yourself to be surprised. If you are in the middle of a training session with a whistle in your mouth, your entire focus is on the ball. When I stepped back and watched from the sidelines, my field of view was widened and I could absorb the whole session, as well as pick up on players’ moods, energy and habits. This was one of the most valuable lessons of my career and I’m glad that I received it more than 30 years ago. Archie’s observation was the making of me.
As a player I had tried to do both– paying attention to the ball at my feet whilst being aware of what was happening elsewhere on the field. But until Archie gave me a finger wagging, I had not really understood that, as a manager, I was in danger of losing myself to the details. It only took me a handful of days to understand the merit of Archie’s point, and from that moment I was always in a position to be able to zoom in to see the detail and zoom out to see the whole picture.
Stepping back to watch from the sidelines is not natural (at least not to me!) This story has powerful leadership insights and implications for all of us.
Ferguson, Alex; Moritz, Michael (2015-10-06). Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United (p. 18). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.
In designing, managing and leading hundreds of ‘building campaigns’, these are questions we ask – at altitude:
- Are we in the Re-Construction Biz or the Impact Biz?
- What is the Purpose(s) of the ‘Space(s)’?
- How does it relate to our Vision?
- Have we dealt with the ‘Footprint’ & ‘Bubbles’ before Wall Coverings & FFE?
- Do our Financial Goals match our Constituent’s Capacity?
- Is this about ‘Ownership’ or ‘Control’?
- How do we Share this Story (of Impact) vs. ‘Sell Recognition/Naming Rights?’
- Have we explored Partnerships? Multi-Use Facilities? 24/7?
- Have we engaged all stakeholder groups to validate that we have the best solutions/plan?
- Are there other cheaper and/or more creative real estate solutions to achieve our goal? If so, can we address why we’re not pursuing?
- Have we looked at all Creative Financing Opportunities?
- Are we telling the architects and planners what we want and need, what we can afford, how it fits… or are they telling us?
- Cost per sq. ft. needs to fit our situation
- Entire Project/Cost must enable our Case for Support
- Can this be divided into phases? (Both Building & Funding)
- Can we take 3 to 5 Year Commitments? Do we need Bridge Financing or a Construction Loan?
- Have we made Everything A Project? (within the Big Initiative)
- Are there Projects (In-Kind Opportunities) to Maximize Gifts?
In sharing this, I also want to encourage leaders and readers to engage with us EARLY in the formative stages of a building project or strategy. By asking the right questions up front you can save time and money – but it’s not just about that – It’s about identifying the right solution and needs to help you with your impact!
As a leader the vision makes the most sense to you because it lives in your head. You probably have the most complete view of the operation, you spend the most time thinking about the vision, and feel like you’re constantly communicating that vision.
And yet, that vision is likely under communicated! Here is a great excerpt from Adam Grant’s Originals about how change agents under communicate their vision:
“When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically under communicated their visions by a factor of ten. On average, they spoke about the direction of the change ten times less often than their stakeholders needed to hear it. In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let alone internalize it? The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision.”
The vision for you is a full-length motion picture in which you’re the writer, producer, director — surely worth millions of words. But likely, for the rest of your team, the vision is a word-cloud they heard on Tuesday.
In a nutshell: The vision can’t be over-communicated!
A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!
This week’s theme is: Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION and ENGAGEMENT TOOL.
Here is a deeper explanation of the power of ALTITUDE in designing a presentation or on a visit:
- Get ‘buy-in’ at the highest level. As you make the Case for Support, the prospect or potential investor needs to understand and acknowledge their acceptance of the VISION and PRIORITIES. Sometimes this is a “You had me at hello” moment. Other times, it may take the entire first visit to get them to understand and agree that this is an important CAUSE and CASE. Regardless, it doesn’t make any sense to talk about PRIORITIES or the PLAN or HOW THEY CAN HELP if they don’t ‘get it’ at the highest level!
- No Dissent on Descent. There should be no ‘dissent’ on the descent! Think of this as the opposite of getting the ‘bends’. If a diver ascends too quickly, they get a case of the bends. It’s painful and many times life-threatening. During a presentation, the prospect can get the ‘reverse-bends’ if you descend too rapidly, “Hello. Thanks for seeing me. Here’s our campaign. Can you give $100,000?”
- Always go (back) up. When in doubt ALWAYS GO BACK UP TO 30,000’! The Vision, The Message, The Purpose.
- ‘Permission to Proceed.’ We have actually incorporated this specific terminology into every presentation. “It seems like you’re fully engaged with both our Mission and our Message. Would it be okay (permission to proceed) to go deeper and talk about our Strategic Priorities and our Plan to make all this happen?”
- Altitude is not always top-down or hierarchical. You can ‘enter’ at any level. You can focus on any level. You can travel up and down and even side to side when you’re using an Engagement Tool.
In September of 1953, Walt Disney was sending his brother Roy to meet with bankers in New York. Roy was going to be seeking financing for a new concept: Disneyland. At the time, Disney had cartoons but no theme parks, which is hard to imagine in the present day.
As the story is told, Walt called in an imagineer named Herb Ryman and said, “You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all. You have to show them what you’re going to do.” He then asked Herb to help him create a mock-up of Disneyland on a large storyboard. It was a splendid painting that even included black light paint so that you could see what Disneyland would look like at night.
This story comes from Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. The book includes pictures of the storyboard.
Part of our For Impact story has been the invention of THE ENGAGEMENT TOOL. This one-page presentation flow, at altitude, has become an absolutely indispensable part of our client and coaching success.
Always look for ways to SHOW what you’re going to do. Use Engagement Tools. Banker or not, there is a big difference between talking your way through something and showing your way through something. A Engagement Tool worked for Walt and Roy Disney and it will work for you.
Previous video in this sequence:
Using Altitude for Engagement, Organizational Development and Communication
In this video we cover using Altitude to develop your Presentation:
- Lay out a Vision at 30,000’
- Focus on clear Priorities over the next 1,000 Days
- Answer “How you can help” with a Funding Plan
Check back tomorrow for more on developing your Funding Rationale.
Previous video in this sequence: Introduction to Altitude Framework.
In this video we cover three ways to leverage the Altitude Framework.
- For engagement. People will engage at the altitude of your choosing.
- For organizational development. Start with WHY and answer the question, “To what end?”
- For communication. Use the metaphor to effectively communicate with your team ‘at altitude’.
In this video I give a quick overview of the Altitude Framework:
- Framework origin
- Metaphor and meaning
- Application for communication, organizational development, board meetings, presentation flow and more.
The For Impact ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK is one of our most referenced and utilized tools (by our team, our coaches and our clients) – TO RAISE THE LEVEL OF THEIR GAME!
We use Altitude to order thinking, communications, and storylines. We use it to develop Engagement Tools. And, we use it to think through the Flow of a Visit.
The Altitude Framework works great for Presentations, Agendas, Meetings, Speaking, Strategic Plans and Action Plans.
It’s also a great Framework to respond to questions. “At what altitude is the best or most appropriate response?” And, it’s a powerful coaching model. “Let’s talk about this issue at this particular altitude.”
We have color coded our Altitude Framework (Blue, Red, Green) to lay out our content, our guides and our books. And, it allows us to talk shorthand and reach decisions ten times faster than a normal process.
One of the reasons that this framing device has been so popular is its obvious simplicity. Everyone can understand the hierarchy of WHY, WHAT and HOW and they intuitively get the connection between VISION, STRATEGY and EXECUTION. Following are some ways to help you understand and apply ALTITUDE. (more…)