Knowing what you want out of life can help you become a better person and better business leader. One way to sharpen your focus is to put pencil to paper — or fingers to keyboard — and craft a personal mission statement. It helps zero in on why you’re here (surely there’s more to life than worrying your mother).
After you get the hang of it, straight talk offers a lot of opportunity. The law of diminishing dedication holds that malaise develops when employees aren’t challenged, inspired partners in their own fate. For most, purpose and enthusiasm have the shelf life of sushi. So I developed the four-step Ask/Tell Technique to get them to open up. It keeps managers’ and employees’ expectations in line so there are no surprises. This is how it works:
One day, Eric Randa, our vice president of loss prevention, dropped off a three-page memo. I scanned it and called him back into my office. “Eric,” I said, “this is a great memo, but I need you to condense it and make it simpler.” In fact, I said, write every memo like it’s for the president of a company, someone who has to read a hundred memos a day and doesn’t have time to read two pages, let alone three.
Like proud parents welcoming a new daughter-in-law, we warmly, if methodically, welcomed new employees into the fold. New hires acquired a “buddy” who gave them a tour of their new home along with the lowdown on the people and culture.
Jim Pascale was just 27 when we hopped into my car and took off for Iowa. It was our first market outside Minnesota, and I’d just promoted Jim to Iowa regional manager. Speeding out of Minneapolis and down I-35, I asked to see his schedule. Gripping the wheel with one hand, Jim grabbed his planner from the backseat and handed it over. I was a little shocked by what I saw.
It’s pretty darn hard to get from here to there without a road map. Laying out your goals bridges the gap between who you are today and the person you sketched out in your mission statement. Yet when I ask people all over the country whether they write up their goals each year, barely one in 10 say they have. But that 10% gushes over how spelling out their goals transformed their lives.
Success has many fathers, as the saying goes. One sire to my company’s exponential growth (the Tires Plus stores) was our obsession with improving the way we did things. We were fanatical about identifying roadblocks, unearthing errors, and fine-tuning our system. Part of our campaign included benchmarking the highfliers; and one way we did that was an occasional intel-gathering field trip.
Would you sit back and twiddle your thumbs while a competitor poached your customers and employees? Would you blow off network security until a vicious virus crashed your computer system?
Sure enough, your mission statement is a thing to behold, with the potential to light up the world. But it isn’t the Mona Lisa. You can print it out in fancy fonts, frame it, and hang it. It’s still not a work of art unless it inspires you to embrace the art of working and living ethically.
Setting a strong management methodology in motion, day after day, requires discipline, and that requires self-coaching.