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Communicate a Bold Choice to Drive Culture Change and Results

“The most important business decision we ever made.”

That’s how Carl Sewell, Chairman of the Sewell Automotive Company, describes the decision his company made to be the best.

I interviewed Sewell for my book, Results Rule! He told me that the commitment to being the best wasn’t always the visible force that it is today. The company has always been known for superior service, but there were times when uneven performance frustrated him. After an especially challenging day, Sewell told his team that he wanted the company to be a place where everyone was proud to work. He wanted to be the best, and he asked for each person’s help in becoming and sustaining that.

That one choice—to be the best—has, according to Sewell, made life simpler, more fun, and more profitable. Over time, that bold idea combined with the company’s obsession with amazing service has fostered a high-performing culture that consistently delivers positive results.

So what is your bold choice, and how are you articulating it?

Mission and vision statements are the vehicles most organizations use to articulate what they do and how they aspire to operate. The problem is that these potentially useful tools have been hijacked by complexity and corporate speak. They, for the most part, aren’t even memorable much less bold.

Here are three ideas for how to craft a bold choice that you can use to drive culture change and results.

  1. Make it clear, simple, and memorable. Does your mission statement read like this:

“It is our mission to create an experience that captivates our customers; a workplace that sustains a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.”

If so, it probably looks great on the wall in your headquarters. But, the purpose of your mission and vision is to drive desired performance and behavior, not provide wall art.

Stephen King wrote, “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you re-write, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” It’s the same with creating articulating your mission and vision. Your first pass is likely to be about what is important to you. Your re-writes are about what will make it clear and memorable to others.

Force yourself to tell your story in as concisely ad memorably as possible. Your team doesn’t want – and won’t remember – long statements that are too long and lack clarity. They can’t use it to guide performance and behavior if they don’t remember it.

2. Make it a unifying force that drives decisions and creates urgency. One of my seminar clients recently created a mission statement that reads “Be relevant every day.” The group is a shared services operation for a public university system, and their customers have unique cultures and needs. My client’s long-term success depends on their ability to make every area of their operation relevant in a rapidly changing environment.

The beauty of this statement is that—like Sewell’s decision to be the best—it is a unifying message drives strategy, resource allocation, operational decisions, and people decisions. They still must captivate customers, provide a great working environment, and achieve financial results. But, those are all tools. The unifying goal is staying relevant every day.

3. Let people see how they fit. Every associate at the Sewell Automotive Company can quickly connect the company’s decision to be the best and obsession with service to their performance and behavior every day. Likewise, every person in my client’s organization can look at what they do and how they do it every day to determine if they were relevant to their customers’ success.

Simply communicating a bold message is not enough to focus your organization’s energy. It is merely the first step. But without it, you will never transform vision into reality.

Your team wants to do a great job. They want clarity and focus that shows them how they contribute to success. They will volunteer their commitment to a bold, memorable idea that influences every decision and action.

So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to provide that bold rallying point that will create the culture and deliver the results you want?

Author information

Randy Pennington is a business performance expert, award-winning author and speaker, and leading authority on leadership, culture, and change. Through his engaging articles, books, and presentations, Randy teaches companies and associations how to make change work within their organization; achieve positive results; effectively lead through transformation efforts; and build a strong organizational culture to safeguard success.