Having led or participated in thousands of meetings over the years, I have often witnessed business and community leaders struggle with decision making. The same holds true for individuals who run charitable foundations, as well as those who must balance careers and families.
Now, it’s not that they don’t have enough information. Indeed… knowledge and data, facts and intelligence… history, projections, advice, counsel, and forecasts are all literally at our fingertips; accessible in nanoseconds.
More often than not, the challenge comes from not fully comprehending the big picture; the hard result… the thing or things that must be achieved for the organization, corporate or domestic, to fulfill its purpose on earth.
It is about the mission.
And the mission is about the ultimate reason for being. It is about knowing, in no uncertain terms, what is singularly important; what cannot be left undone. It’s about passion and vision, and having detailed and precise answers to questions like:
Where are we going? Why are we going? What’s it going to take, and when are we going to get there? Not platitudes, mind you; plans.
It’s also about having the right people at the table; who is going along, and are they committed to do whatever it takes to reach the promised land?
You see, when the mission is clearly defined and understood, making decisions is simple. Each option is weighed in terms of its effect on the necessary outcome. If we proceed with this idea, does it move us toward our mission… or does it take us away? Maybe it’s neutral.
So, here’s how we score it.
If it moves us further away from our mission, we dismiss it out of hand. If it’s neutral, we will likely dismiss it also, in favor of a more effective use for our time, energy, and resources. Such ideas and options are not necessarily bad; they just don’t fit with the stated mission and map of where we are headed.
If it moves us toward our goal, we then need only to compare it with other options that also meet our criteria. Again, no options or ideas are necessarily good or bad; some simply do not provide an effective means to achieving the mission, and others do.
In his book Winning, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch describes the company’s mission during a period of his tenure. Each GE business unit was to be “Number 1 or Number 2 in every market”. Third place wasn’t an option. The plan called for “fixing, selling, or closing every underperforming business that couldn’t get there.”
Now, they could have chosen from a thousand and one other missions, and so can you. It was simply the concrete vision that GE cast for themselves, and the unwavering commitment to the plan that was required of all the team players.
From another point of view, let’s say a husband has been offered a position that would increase the family’s income by 55%. The promotion would also require travel of three weeks per month. Should he accept the offer?
The answer is in the mission.
What are the drivers of the relationship? …Status? …Finances? …Quality time? …Property?
…Children? What expectations exist, and what agreements have been made? The mission defines the correct path. If income is the driver, the career choice is the priority. If homeschooling the children is a must, then being away is unacceptable. The decision is easy, once the mission is clear.
So we’ve come full circle.
Too often, in our businesses and our personal lives, we haven’t settled the big issues. When players don’t know the mission… the thing that has to be… the purpose for being… decisions become difficult; and even good ideas can become distractions that keep good people and good companies from reaching their full potential.
What one thing cannot be left undone in your professional life? In your personal life?
What, or who, are you willing to die for?