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August 6, 2018
When we carry out our day-to-day lives without a clear purpose, it is easy to be lost in the monotony. Without a direction and an end goal, processes become meaningless.
The same is true within a company. Even an organization that began by blazing a path to help children in need can evolve into a tornado of logistics, paperwork, and feelings of disillusion.
Six years after creation, TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie, experienced a loss of connection with his executives and daily operations. In his words, “What had once been my reason for being now felt like a job.” And so, in the fall of 2012, he took a sabbatical from the company. He realized he had lost touch “because TOMS had become more focused on process than on purpose.” Likewise, TOMS marketing had become more product-focused than purpose-focused. Realizing this dramatically changed the way Blake visualized his company’s future and gave him renewed energy for his mission.
This is not an order to immediately take a month and get away from your business. Maybe you need to do some deep-dive research. Maybe you need to have some heart-to-heart conversations with a trusted council, or with lower-level employees.
Whatever will allow you to look at your situation in a new light is worth the time to invest in clarity and direction. As Andy Stanley has said, “A vision is simply a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be.”
You need to clearly define your vision and make sure those surrounding you understand it, as that is the only way you can effectively plot a course to get there.
The let down that follows an initial high is something that everyone faces at one time or another. It is especially common for entrepreneurs and performers. (So common, in fact, that it has been named ‘post-performance depression.’) Idealization and disillusionment go hand in hand. But a passion for your vision is what started you on this journey, and it is what will continue to drive you to carry out your mission every day.
Disillusionment is a realization that things are not as they should be. View this as a blessing in disguise. Until you became disillusioned, you were both unaware of the inconsistencies between your business and your mission and content with the mundane cycle of the day-to-day.
Something brought the disconnect to your attention. Maybe it was a downward spiral in office morale. Maybe it was the wrong tone being used with a client. Perhaps there is a lack of cooperation between employees or an everybody-for-themselves attitude. Whatever it is, it’s clear that what is in front of you now does not match your dream.
That hits hard, and it can be paralyzing. Carey Lohrenz, a recent speaker at Leadercast 2018, once said, “A negative attitude kills your ability to adapt.” This is true. You can not let feelings of disappointment or uncertainty stop you from doing anything. Instead of staying bogged down in how disconnected you feel from your original mission, use the discomfort to motivate you to get back to it.
Pay attention to the little things. What are you or your employees doing now that particularly misrepresents the culture you want to create? Take the time to think. When it comes to your business, the steps you take are crucial to the direction your company is headed. Make sure you are thinking through every decision and seeking counsel where needed. In the words of Ben Johnson, “He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a teacher.”
Deciding what needs to change is the first step. But going about those changes with tact and effectiveness can be more challenging. Remember that the ultimate focus here is your mission, your why. It is what pushed you to start your company, and it is what your employees should be looking towards for motivation and inspiration. When your employees know and understand your core values, they are that much more in touch with your mission!
Blake Mycoskie didn’t get it all right at first, even after his sabbatical. He reveals, “Coming back was great, but I quickly made some of the classic mistakes that founders do upon rejoining their companies.” He took on the position of CMO but soon realized he was better suited for setting the vision and communicating it. Marketing is far too important to do as a side project. And so, with the right team and mission, the TOMS team once again felt the passion for their cause.
Your plan-of-action might need tweaking along the way, as well. If you were able to fix all visible problems in one fell swoop then you would be some kind of wizard.
The good news: most of us aren’t.