Blog by Sherri Baldwin with LeadAdvantage, Inc.
The key to your team’s success is embracing a Unity of Purpose.
Although companies all need a mission statement, it does not automatically give everyone a common purpose. “Purpose refers to the difference you are trying to make in the world, mission is the core strategy that must be undertaken to fill that purpose, and vision is a vivid imaginative conception or view of how the world will look once your purpose has been realized,” as stated in Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia. To sum up Unity of Purpose in one phrase it would be “the why.” It is why we do what we do; why we stay up late at night working on a project; why we work late or over the weekend; and why we sacrifice time with family and friends sometimes.
It is bigger than any one person. A Unity of Purpose involves energizing the team so they operate as one unit, fighting for the same cause.
There is a story that captures the essence of Unity of Purpose. It is taken from a book written by Erik Knight, This Above All. In the book there were two soldiers having a conversation. One was a veteran soldier, the other a young lieutenant. They are discussing the Battle of Dunkirk and how it was a devastating defeat for England. The veteran soldier was telling the lieutenant that in the military soldiers were taught to fight with discipline, organization and unity, but in the Battle of Dunkirk that did not happen. The morale was extremely low because the war had gone on and on and on. Then the Battle of Dunkirk occurred and the morale, that was already at an all-time low, dropped even lower. The soldiers began laying down their arms and walking off the battlefield. The young lieutenant asked the veteran soldier why that happened. If it was true that in the military soldiers were taught to fight with discipline, organization and unity, what happened? The veteran soldier said that in the Battle of Dunkirk, the commanders had let those soldiers down, because they did not remind the soldiers what they were fighting for. They forgot their purpose.
How we translate this to our own operating environment is this: as leaders we should constantly remind our team of “the why,” the purpose, and what we are fighting for. Because if we do this, they will fight for us to the bitter end. But if we do not remind the team of the purpose, they will walk off our battlefield, either literally leaving or mentally checking out, but both have the same negative impact.
The Battle of Dunkirk, although a devastating defeat for England, later became a defining moment and a rallying cry for the people to “never surrender” and continue fighting for victory when Winston Churchill stood at the podium and gave his famous, “We shall fight on the beaches” speech.
Other famous rally cries include:
Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, Ronald Regan’s “shining city on a hill” speech, and Todd Beamer’s “let’s roll” declaration. Each of those words gave people the authority to make decisions and take risks. Those comments gave individuals the authority to believe in something bigger than just one person and to act or stand up for a cause. That is what Winston Churchill’s speech did in 1940.