LIZ RYAN, Founder of Human Workplace, Mission driven culturerecently wrote a great article entitled “What is a mission-driven culture?

I’d highly recommend it.

She’s talking about many of the same concepts that I cover on this blog – but this article focuses on the jobseeker’s point of view, rather than the company’s.  There’s some great things to learn from this.

It’s clear that a culture isn’t a culture unless it’s pervasive.  Not that everyone in your company will use the exact same words and phrases when describing it – that just means that people know how to recite the company’s “pledge of allegiance.”  A true culture, on the other hand, just becomes as natural and embedded as the air we breathe.

So … how would someone know that you have an actual mission-driven culture when they’re interviewing for a job?

Well, it becomes part of many discussions.  It’s the basis for all important decisions.  People are proud of this difference and emphasis.  When an interviewee talks to any random person in your company, they’re going to hear someone who is excited to be part of a larger purpose, a mission that makes a difference in the world.

Something I see very often is that the founders and executives are excited about their mission, but it just doesn’t seem to reach down into the ranks.  You might have a translation problem here:  Leaders can think in terms of numbers, but most people don’t relate to that very much.  If you look around in a PTA or community meeting, you’ll clearly see that most people quickly lose interest when they’re talking about statistics and budgets.

People support causes.  They want to make a difference in their lives and in the world.  Just because a 20% net profit is exciting to you doesn’t mean that normal people (95% of your organization) understand why that’s a great thing.  When you explain that it’s necessary to keep everyone employed and what cool things you’re DOING with your profit, well, that can be exciting to everyone.

I’d also ask you to notice in Liz’s article that there can be a great deal of cynicism about the phrase “mission driven.”  It’s the same burnout I see around “purpose”, “vision”, and even “strategy.”  The lesson?  If you’re using these high-sounding words (and you should), then make sure they’re backed up with powerful content.

Otherwise, employees will think that your company’s mission is, “who cares as long as I have a job.”

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