Last year, I was approached by the executive director of Any Given Child and asked to consider participating in an upcoming fundraiser. Any Given Child is a regional nonprofit that routinely impresses me and has a habit of improving childrens’ lives through exposure to the arts, to participate in a fundraiser. (If you’re contemplating charitable gifts over the remainder of the year, I’d absolutely encourage you to consider this team!) Because I believed in the leadership team and the mission, I agreed to participate without hesitation. The event was a lip sync battle. Over the next few months we recruited a team, practiced, and got ready to do out best fake singing. Our performance was an adventure. And we lost…by a landslide.
It’s easy to categorize the entire experience as a failure. I’m a competitive person. I want to win. I aspire to be the very best at the things I do. And in this case, we came up short. And we finished last.
In the moment, it nevers feels good to finish last. But on reflection, I came back to my original purpose for agreeing to participate in the event – I believed in the leaders of the organization and I believed in their mission. We may not have raised more money than the others, but we raised important dollars that helped them do their work. And their mission of getting children exposed to the arts was advanced as I was able to take my own children and bring them past their own issues with stage fright and clunky choreography and get them excited to participate alongside us. So when I evaluate the experience against the intended purpose…when I think about the laughs we shared as we practiced and the time we spent together, it turns out the whole episode was a pretty big win.
As a leader, I often fear that my team will lose sight of purpose and mission. We risk forgetting why we are doing the work we do. If we took the time to establish a mission statement for every department, every committee, and every project we undertook, would we get a better sense of what we’re doing and how the pieces fit together? Would those we work with display stronger levels of buy-in and increase contribution? Could we, in looking at these statements as a batch, find even better ways to put our team members in their best position to succeed? Do focused mission statements at the project level allow employees to cut away from the “noise” and focus on the work that matters?
What would your team’s mission statements look like at the department, committee, and project level? Collectively, would they tell the right story and show the roadmap that supports the purpose of your organization as a whole? Would the simple act of developing the mission statement as new initiatives launch make a meaningful difference in the work that follows?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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