This is the third article in a 4-article series that explores each of the Four Questions leaders must ask to reveal the total job role to employees, connect daily work activities to organizational purpose, and inspire the collective pursuit of a common aspirational goal. The act of contemplating and responding to each of the Four Questions is designed to bring job purpose into the light, first for yourself as a leader, and then to help you enlighten your employees. This is how you give them something tangible to see and connect to—and customers something to sense and experience.
Answering these questions for yourself will connect you to your purpose at work and prepares you to confidently address the subject with others. First, the questions help reacquaint you with your organization’s existing mission, vision, or purpose statement(s) as well as its corporate ideals, core values, principles, pillars, or guideposts (companies use a variety of terms to capture the essence of their history, character, and culture). You must be fluent in these corporate ideals if you expect to have any credibility connecting employees’ work activities to the purpose of the job role.
Second, they help you develop your own understanding of how core organizational values can shape behavior, decision-making, and the development of team goals and aspirations.
Third, they help you get your own house in order. You must be able to articulate your own job purpose and model the values, actions, and behaviors that support it before you ask the same of your employees. That is why I first recommend answering these questions for yourself before exploring what the answers might be for any of your employees. It is true that there will be overlap in the responses as they apply to your role and the roles of those whom you supervise, manage, or lead, and with whom you work as peers. And, in some cases, the responses will be identical.
After you have uncovered the purpose of the job role (Q1) and its associated core values (Q2), expanding them into statements and labeling what they look like in action, put thought into the specific actions and behaviors that will actuate job purpose and core values.
The third question is this: What values guide my actions and behaviors at work?
In addressing this question, examine what you can do in your area of responsibility, in terms of planned, rehearsed actions and recommended behaviors that will bring your job purpose and core values to life. The founding organizational purpose at Disneyland is to create happiness for others. And one of its core values is quality. This is reflected in the behavior of paying attention to detail and the action of instituting a hypervigilant maintenance program that requires the daily assessment and, where necessary, retouching of the high wear points on the horse-head hitching posts lining Main Street U.S.A. And the starting time is based on the temperature and humidity, so the paint will be dry by the time the park opens the next morning.
Disney understands the connection between signs of wear and neglect, debris along public walkways, Out of Order signage and the resulting impressions formed by park guests. They are aware of the correlation between the behaviors and actions of cast members (paying attention to detail and executing a hypervigilant maintenance program) and core values (quality) as evidenced by attractions that are safe and accessible to park guests. And they know that an amusement park with pristine grounds, fixtures, and facilities delivers on the purpose to create happiness for others.
A word of caution: Question three is the one most likely to be ignored or left to chance. There is a tendency among leaders to believe that once they have articulated a mission, vision, or purpose statement and a set of core values, they are done. The popular assumption is that the guiding statements and values will somehow permeate the organization and influence employee behavior on their own, apart from any additional effort by leadership. This is incorrect. Energy flows where attention goes. Be highly attentive to the actions and behaviors that will bring organizational purpose and core values to the forefront of employees’ day-to-day work activities—their real world of work.