Just imagine you are sitting in a boardroom, and it’s time to introduce yourself to another organization. It would be tempting to begin your professional introduction with “I have been at the company for 15 years.” But just because it’s tempting doesn’t mean you should do it.
Thanks to nearly every job application and HR hiring manager globally, most professionals have been brainwashed to believe that their tenure is essential for opportunity and respect. In 1995, that would have been true. However, in today’s market, the best leaders don’t care about tenure; they care about growth and progress.
The best leaders don't care about tenure, they care about growth and progress.
Now before we go any further, this isn’t a green light to go job-hopping for the sake of changing companies. It’s quite the opposite because tenure by itself isn’t bad. The reality of tenure is security, comfort, familiarity. It serves us with pay increases, job promotions, and decision-making authority. It also can create a sense of belonging, community, and identity.
But there is also a dark side to tenure. When it becomes the sole goal, it leads to a slow downward spiral. It shifts us from growth to neutral. Tenure is a beautiful outcome but an ugly path to complacency.
When tenure becomes the sole goal, it leads to a slow downward spiral.
Tenure Creates Complacency
Employee tenure is defined as the length of time someone has been in their current job or with their employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average tenure for employees is 4.1 years. However, there are also many advantages and disadvantages, according to Indeed.
Little by little, tenure tends to erode our hunger, drive, and engagement if we aren’t careful. In the last few years, it turns out that we were in a little bit of a complacency bubble. Research completed by an Achievers survey in 2019 found 70.1% of employees did not consider themselves “very engaged,” but only 34% of those professionals had a plan to look for a different job. While I hesitate to use any research done before the pandemic, it was clear employees weren’t engaged, yet they were comfortable staying where they were.
Complacency is defined as feeling so satisfied with your abilities or situation that you do not need to try harder. No one, leaders included, is immune to feeling comfortable.
As you can see in the image below, our commitment will constantly be tested as time continues.
Constant Change is the Only Constant
In a constantly changing business environment, having team members who care more about their tenure than growing and progressing is a dangerous place to be. As Grace Hopper famously said, “The most dangerous phrase in language is, we have always done it this way.”
To give you a sense of just how much change is happening, look no further than an example from Tony Robbins. When Covid shut down in-person travel, a significant pivot was essential. His team quickly decided to transform their in-person experience into a virtual one. He was told by many experts this transformation would take six to nine months, but this wasn’t acceptable to Robbins. He needed it done in nine weeks, not nine months.
To make it happen, he did the opposite of what most executive leaders in big companies would do. He didn’t rely on tenure; he relied only on hungry people that believed in the mission. On a recent episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, Robbins said, “I don’t let go of someone who has the drive, desire, and hunger. If they have that, it’s a matter of coaching them on skills and finding a solution together. So when I find someone who no longer believes in the mission, I make changes quickly because the weakest link will keep us from a mission. We have to value the mission more than the individual.”
"Value the mission more than the individual."
While I have never attended one of Robbins conferences, their virtual experience is world-class by all accounts. This central pivot has allowed people from all over the world to change their lives that would have never otherwise been possible.
Tenure Doesn't Equal Leadership
Many managers who attend any of our leadership workshops believe that the idea of complacency and growth only applies to their people. But, of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because you have been a manager for some time doesn’t mean you are a leader.
What’s required is to know the fundamental skills (coaching, accountability, etc.) required to be an effective leader and practice them deliberately to get better faster.
No one can do this for you because skill development is like physical fitness; it can’t be outsourced. If you keep growing and looking for new and better ways of making progress in your role, you will feel engaged at work. When you are engaged, you will be giving your best to others. When you are growing and giving, work is fulfilling.
When you are growing and giving, work is fulfilling.
Now I don’t pretend that the tenure and people caring about length of employment will go away anytime soon. But it’s my hope that whether you lead a team or not, you first look at someone’s growth, progress, and initiative for change, before you look at their tenure.
Most importantly, the next time you are in a board room or introducing yourself to someone outside your organization, punt on the idea of leading with your tenure and instead lead with something this: “I have been in the industry a long time and remain the ultimate student of the market, there is a lot I can bring to the table.”
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Maybe it’s to increase revenue, improve profitability, or to reduce voluntary turnover. Whatever the goal is, it matters because you have taken the time and energy to define your team’s new performance goals to achieve in 2021.
Research suggests that goal-driven leaders outperform those that are not. So if you’re not a goal-setting kind of person, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach at the beginning of the year.
However, as a leadership consultant and coach, the vast majority of leaders I work with don’t struggle with the idea of setting goals. Whether they learned “setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible to the visible” from Tony Robbins, or they have seen the positive impact of goal-setting in their career, convincing them isn’t the problem.
The issue arises when they only think of one kind of goal, performance goals.
Two Kinds of Goals
The vast majority of leaders are measured in their company by performance metrics (E.g., revenue targets, profitability, customer satisfaction, or on-time delivery.) While these are key metrics to measure and set correlating goals around, there is another kind of goal leaders must consider, what I call Impact Goals.
An impact goal is having a strong effect on others as the desired result.
It’s impact goals where the difference between a manager and a leader becomes clear. For most managers, measuring themselves or their team based on the positive impact they have on others is minimal. There might be times or seasons where they consider it more than others, but rarely do they think about their lasting legacy.
Managers measure themselves based on performance alone. Leaders measure themselves based on performance plus impact.
Leaders think and act differently. Not only do they set clear performance goals, but they also think about their legacy and the long-term impact they want to have on other people.
What’s the difference between Performance vs. Impact Goals?
How to Set Impact Goals
There are a million and one goal-setting techniques out there. Instead of sharing the one we teach in Building the Best, there is a good chance you already have one that works for you. So take your formula and add a column titled “Impact.” Start by identifying the positive impact you want to have on others this year by writing down a measurable number.
Take Martha as an example. She is a regional manager at a large hotel organization. She has 10 General Managers underneath her and thousands of employees underneath her General Managers. This year she set some ambitious performance goals for her region, but she also set an ambitious impact goal for herself and her General Managers.
Impact Goal: Advance the careers of 50 team members to higher-paying positions by the end of 2021.
By Martha setting both performance and impact goals, her team will work hard to make both the numbers and the development of people.
Why Impact Goals Are Important
To provide context on why impact goals are essential, I want to turn your attention to marathon running. What I have learned is when most people run their first marathon, they go along pretty well for the first 10 to 20 miles. Then they hit a wall, both mentally and physically. The first thing they ask themselves at this wall is, “I don’t know If I can finish.” But then they ask themselves the ultimate question, “why does it matter if I finish?”
If a runner isn’t connected to the positive impact of finishing the race, they will give up or settle for what they accomplished (which would be mile 18, where most people give up.)
Our impact on other people most inspires us.
What I have found is our impact on other people most inspires us. You work harder, more effectively, and more productively when you know that your efforts positively impact someone else.
Since it’s the end of the year and the start of a new year, I hope you set performance goals and impact goals.
The best part is not only will you make a more significant difference in other people’s lives, but you will be teaching your team the value of achieving things that go beyond performance.
Perseverance is a good thing. It is a value that drives us towards success and achievement helping us to overcome challenges along the way.
But it has the potential to trap us in mental prisons. Understand this and you’ll be able to spot where perseverance and determination can trip you up…
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
There is a misconception that we make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.
The reality is that our decisions are tainted by the emotional investments that we accumulate. As we invest more into something, it becomes harder to walk away from it.
This describes something that economists refer to as the ‘sunk cost fallacy’. A sunk cost is something that can never be regained and the fallacy is that despite us never being able to regain it, we continue to ‘throw good money after bad.’
It is this type of trap that keeps us fighting wars that we cannot win.
Politicians cannot walk away from conflicts unless they can point to a clear outcome and prove that they somehow improved the situation. The human and financial cost must be ‘for something’ or it ends up being in vain. The problems come when these costs mount but a clear goal becomes harder to achieve. We get stuck, looking for something, anything to prove that ‘it was all worth it.’
It is this type of thinking that traps people in relationships that do not work for them. If you’ve been with someone for ten years, it can be difficult to just walk away. There is a sunk cost based on your time and emotional investment. Often people will view it as risky to walk away, even if they know that the other person simply isn’t right for them.
Avoiding Risk vs. Seeking Reward
In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, he explains how human evolution has hardwired us to avoid risk.
All decision-making involves some form of uncertainty about the future. We have to balance the risk and the reward in our minds before taking action. We like to think that we balance the scales evenly but the reality is that we are more anti-losing than we are pro-gaining.
We favour ‘avoiding loss’ rather than ‘seeking gain’.
This is hardwired into us by our evolution. Organisms that placed a higher priority on avoiding threats than on maximising opportunities tended to survive. This instinct was rewarded by survival and then passed on through the gene pool. The cumulative impact of this behaviour is that loss aversion is still a very powerful driver of human behaviour.
When I first started my own business, I delivered a number of talks at events that were put on by industry bodies. When the event was free to attend, turnout was usually 50% of the numbers that signed up. When the attendees had to pay, even if it was as little as £20, the attendance ratios shot up to around 70%. When I spoke to the organisers they said that the money didn’t generate a great deal of revenue, they charged because they wanted to create a commitment to attend. They were deliberately using ‘loss aversion’ to drive up attendance of their events.
It seems strange but when you realise our decision-making is driven by emotion, not logic, you can start to see why they chose to charge. Loss aversion is a powerful driver of human behaviour.
Can we use Loss Aversion to our Advantage?
In short, yes, I believe we can. If you understand this human bias, you can use it to influence others such as in the example above.
But you can also use it to drive yourself to persevere through difficult challenges.
I joined Royal Marines Officer Training in 2005. I am not going to talk about the entire 15 months worth of training in this article but I want to give you a sense for the type of people that get through the selection process. The number of people that applies varies annually but there are probably several hundred that walk into a recruitment centre saying that they want to join the Corps as Officers. Physical fitness, Leadership Potential, Medical and Academic tests whittle the numbers down over a six-day selection process. The top 60 that pass and get the highest scores join the Young Officer Batch in September every year. Around 30 finish the course.
It’s hard to generalise about the type of people that join. The organisation is truly an egalitarian elite – anyone can join provided you meet the standards. This means that we have a mix of graduates and non-graduates, public and state educated, working class and upper class lads.
But joining and ‘passing out’ are two different things. To pass the course you must be determined and you must be able to endure suffering. Why you join doesn’t really matter, it is why you stay that counts.
The point I am making here is that it was f**king hard to get in and even harder to get through it.
And I can safely say that I struggled through nearly all of it, from start to finish. I was rubbish in training. Slow to adapt and pick things up, I think every mistake or shortcut I took was noticed by the Training Team. I survived rather than thrived in training.
What got me through it prevented me from giving up was an exploitation of the sunk cost fallacy.
I rationalised that if I gave up in the first 20-30% of an activity, an exercise or even the whole course, I could not say that I had given it everything I had. I hadn’t done enough.
Once I had passed that 20-30% point in my head, I thought ‘if I give up now, everything I have done up until this point will be a waste of time, so I might as well finish it.’
This proved to be a good mental model that I used to get me through training and I suspect other people that were successful used similar techniques.
The sunk cost fallacy can drive us to persevere and endure suffering. It can help us to achieve great things that we never thought possible by delaying gratification.
Many people who achieve great success will exploit this mental model in some form or another to get where they want to go.
This works well provided it is CONSCIOUS and we are aware of what we are doing.
The challenge comes when the sunk cost fallacy drives our behaviour subconsciously. It has the potential to put us on autopilot without us even realising it.
I believe that this type of loss aversion is responsible for more human behaviour than we realise and it is one of the major factors that prevents us from embracing change.
Southern Rail Strikes – Loss Aversion and Skills Redundancy
The Southern Rail Train strikes are evidence of this type of thinking. Trains can be run almost entirely without people. The Singapore metro system and the DLR are examples that prove it can work. But that’s hard to accept that a job that you’ve been doing for 20 years can be done better by a machine and that is at the crux of this issue. Train drivers and conductors are just the first to suffer the unfortunate experience of ‘skills redundancy’.
Automation has suddenly made their skills irrelevant. That’s painful to accept when you’ve invested time in learning how to do something.
Pilots, Taxi and Truck Drivers will be next…
As I look at my seven month old son and wonder what he will do for a living, I honestly do not believe that he will have the opportunity to be a commercial pilot.
The cost of training a person to fly a plane is high – however you chose to measure it. And humans are not necessarily better at doing it than machines. The RAF will be the first to feel this.
Why train someone to be a fighter pilot when a drone can do the same job cheaper and with less risk?
Why would anyone want to put an individual’s life at risk and fly over enemy territory when I can get a machine to do it?
This applies even if we change the context from the air to the land.
Why would I want a person to defuse a bomb when I can get a machine to do it?
The risk equation changes when you take an individual’s life out of the picture.
If we don’t need fighter pilots, can we really justify needing commercial pilots? There will become a point where people will get comfortable with a machine driving or flying them. Once that happens, it will be pilots and drivers who go on strike – the train drivers will have lost that battle by then.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy creates Mental Prisons
The sunk cost fallacy drives us as individuals but it can also lead us to create prisons for ourselves.
A high proportion of people do not like what they do for a living. They spend 40-60hrs of their week ‘surviving’. Sometimes this is because they dislike that job but more often than not, it’s due to the influence of the people that they have to work for – their leaders – that make their jobs so unpleasant.
Despite this, they keep telling themselves that ‘it’s a good job, and they’re lucky to have it’. They keep going because they ‘don’t want to let other people down’. They ‘cannot afford to quit’ because their cost of living has risen to match their salary or they ‘can’t leave yet’ as they’ve only been there for six months.
These thoughts trap people into unhealthy patterns of behaviour.
This way of thinking forces people to work late and on weekends sacrificing time with their children and partners – time they can never get back.
Now there are times when you will need to push the peddle to the floor and work hard, sometimes even over a weekend. I accept that.
What I cannot accept is that this is necessary for three weekends out of four or that working from 8-11pm should become the new normal. This is unsustainable. It is the equivalent of trying to run the marathon at a sprinting pace. At some point, you will have to stop or something will break. We are not machines, despite what we might think, and we do have limits. We might not drop dead and collapse when we reach breaking point – although that does happen.
What actually happens is a slow decline in effectiveness.
You become good at smashing through tasks and getting things done but less good at challenging whether they should be done or searching for smarter ways of achieving the same result.
You maximise on efficiency whilst sacrificing effectiveness.
So how do you know when our decision-making is being affected by the sunk cost fallacy? How do we break out of the cycle?
The first thing you have to do is stop and reflect. Ask some questions.
Where am I now?
How long have I been working like this?
What is the impact on my health and the important relationships in my life?
Is the situation going to change – or am I going to have to?
If you had £100k and a gun to your head and you were being forced to place a bet, would you put the money on the situation changing or staying the same? That will give you the answer. You are being forced to think objectively – not hope.
Not many bosses are likely to have the balls to tell you to work less, you’re making them look good so many of them will try and reinforce this type of behaviour, unaware of the impact it may have on you in the long-term.
So if the situation isn’t going to change, you have to change your approach.
How am I going to behave differently?
Do I need to put up some boundaries or set some decision-points ahead of me?
If this situation has been unmanageable and you feel like you have been surviving – put in place some structures to help you regain control. Boundaries can help you regain control over the current situation. Decision-points force you into taking action.
Boundaries might be time-based. Make commitment to get home on time. If that’s not feasible every night, make a commitment to do something you enjoy for 2-3 nights a week. Get home early and read your children a story. Go swimming one evening. Do something for you.
Boundaries might be tech-based. Turn off your phone in the evenings and on weekends. Create a space where you cannot be interrupted. There is no such thing as an urgent email. If there was, I could email the fire department and tell them that my house was burning down.
Create decision points in the future. For example:
‘If this situation has not changed by (insert a date in the future), I will…. leave, renegotiate my contract, take a week to reflect on my options.’
Decision points are basically ‘if these conditions exist, I will do x, y, z’. They allow you to rationally consider the options in front of you and force you to chose a different path. It also makes it easier for a partner or close friend to hold you to account. If you’ve told them about this decision-point, they can follow up with you and ask what you did. If the answer is ‘nothing’, they can challenge you.
The quality of our lives are determined by the quality of our questions.
It might be helpful to think about where you want to be in the long-term and work back from there.
In episode 214 of the Tim Ferriss podcast, Debbie Millman talks about creating a remarkable life. She gets her students to write an essay in the first person on where they are in 5-10-20 years time.
Where are they sat?
What do they do for a living?
Where do they live?
Are they married – to the same person/someone different?
What are their plans going to be for this weekend?
Where did they go on their last holiday?
The clearer the picture, the clearer the end-state. You can now start to work towards this goal because you’ve clarified it. This can be a difficult thing to do because it will expose some of the sunk costs you’ve made. That relationship you know isn’t ever going to work or that promotion that will never materialize.
By clarifying the future, it makes it easier to make changes because you’re actively pursuing something you want.
If you don’t control where you are going and make proactive plans to get there, someone else will do it for you.
Like a ship without a course, you will go where the wind, current and tide take you rather than setting a course and sailing towards a clear destination.
You cannot spot the difference between an opportunity and a distraction if you do not have an end-state in mind. An opportunity can be defined as something that helps you get where you want to go. A distraction can be defined as anything else.
Creating a Remarkable Career
Let’s take one element – creating a remarkable and rewarding career. We spend 40+ hours a week working – why wouldn’t we invest some time in thinking about this in more depth?
The endstate doesn’t need to be crystal clear from day one – that is unrealistic. Start small and spend a small amount of time each day working on this as a ‘side project’. No time for side projects? Create boundaries that will give you time.
Start by doing some self-analysis.
What are you good at?
What do you like doing?
What excites you?
Create a hypothesis about where you want to be in 10 years time.
Find someone who is in that job on LinkedIn.
Connect with them.
Ask them for a coffee.
Show them your self-analysis and ask ‘do people like me do well in your sector?’
If they do, great, you have some clarity on that direction and potentially a mentor to help guide you there.
If they don’t, then you’ve probably closed a door. Knowing what you don’t want to do is part of working out what you do want to do. This is time well spent. Repeat the above until the end-state becomes clear.
Practice what you Preach
In one of my jobs, I took our graduates through this process. I wanted them to take ownership of their careers. But when I took myself through the process, I realised I was not on the right path. It was time to make a change. I have since started my own business and have been going for over 18 months. It’s going well but it is very much feast or famine. I am lucky to have a very supportive wife who has been an absolute rock throughout!
But I have put in a decision-point for the end of the year.
If I cannot create a stable sales pipeline by that point then I will walk away from it. I don’t take a lot of leave and I am working exceptionally hard to build something of value but I know that I am asking a lot from both myself and my family. It is a bit like being back in Young Officer training… but without a stable salary or an end date.
There are many paths to ‘success’.
I enjoy developing leaders. If I can’t do that independently, I will just find a job where I can contribute towards the success of someone else’s organisation. I just need to ‘stay in the leadership development game’ whether that is working for myself or someone else, it doesn’t really matter provided I keep building on my leadership development experience either by leading others or helping to develop leaders.
When you think like this, it becomes liberating because you realise there is no downside. If I fail to make it work this time, there is nothing that says I won’t succeed in the future.
Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.
Doc Brown – Back to the Future: Part III
Beware of the Perseverance Value
Our ability to persevere is noble and should be celebrated. It creates the conditions for us to achieve great things – often against the odds.
But it also has the ability to trap us in a prison we built ourselves.
It causes us to continue relationships that aren’t working, buy things that we don’t need and finish the meal when we are full.
Knowing when to quit is a skill – and I definitely haven’t got it mastered.
I am driven by the values of determination and perseverance which puts me at great risk of the sunk cost fallacy.
But realising that – hopefully means I can watch out for it – and make sure it doesn’t put me on autopilot to a place I don’t want to go.
Thank you for reading to the end. It appears I really can’t write a short blog article! If you’ve enjoyed this, please feel free to share it – even if it gets one person out of a mental prison, it will be worth it. Thanks. Rod
I had just finished a 3 day work trip from North Carolina to Oregon that included a round trip flight across country, 8 hours in a car between Portland and Bend, and firsthand inspiration from people like Charity Water CEO, Scott Harrison. But the most impactful thing happened after a sleepless redeye flight back to North Carolina. All I wanted from the Uber driver was a comfortable (and silent) 20-minute ride home.
What I Got Was Way Better.
The minute I opened the door, Donald flashed a smile that no human had ever flashed at 6AM. He immediately expressed his love of life, commitment to serve to others, and confidence. (improve your confidence from our youtube video) Before we had even reached the highway, I knew the conversation needed notes, so I pulled out my phone, opened Evernote and began asking questions.
I quickly realized that I was essentially riding with the Tony Robbins of Uber Drivers. He was insightful, funny, inspiring, thought provoking and had leadership lessons for days.
Donald told me an awesome story about a great leader he worked for in New York for 20 years named, Joe Pure. Joe had just passed away and was a holocaust survivor who migrated to the United States in the 1940’s. He brought a kindness and compassion from his prior experience in Germany into his business life which included starting multiple successful businesses and mentoring thousands of employees. Donald relayed what he learned from Joe with such clarity and purpose it had to be shared with you.
You aren’t as good as you think. You don’t have it all figured out. Stay focused. Do better.
Joe lived by this mantra everyday of his life and passed this on to his employees. He didn’t take one day on this earth for granted because of his prior experiences. Joe knew if he and his team focused on learning, doing the right things everyday, and doing them better than the day before, the results would add up.
Hold yourself to a ridiculously high standard.
Joe knew he was the example that all his employees watched. So if his actions and standards weren’t at the highest possible level, he couldn’t expect it from his people. He had standards that exceeded what society thought was attainable. He didn’t care what outsiders thought, He cared whether he reached his own standard. Some of the things focused on were: the time he committed to being at work, how present he was in every human interaction, and the morals and values he lived by.
You have to be a listener, not a talker
Donald told me, “Joe never was the type that said, ‘I am the boss, listen to me.’ He would proactively ask my thoughts and give real attention to my answers to know I was being heard. It doesn’t mean his decision always aligned to my opinion but to know I had a voice in the business was motivating.”
You have to have a heart to help other people
Joe not only proactively seeked out opportunities for his employees to grow their skills and abilities, he often recommended his employees to others. One time, Donald overheard him telling a friend, “Donald is so talented, if he ever wanted to start his own business, I would help him with finances and time.” Remember true leaders don’t have followers, they create more leaders. Joe is an amazing example of someone that would lose his top talent to help them reach a higher level.
Give more than you want to receive
Joe sought out opportunities to give experiences, knowledge, and gifts to his employees. He wasn’t driven by money, and spared no expense to see a person’s face light up when they achieved something new, or opened a gift. He knew in his heart that the reward in life was knowing that the principles and lessons he taught his employees would live on well past his time on this earth.
Since the chance of you getting in Donald’s Uber car is low, I hope you can take some of these lessons that Joe Pure lived out to become a better professional. There are also amazing lessons in Tony Robbins new documentary on Netflix titled “I Am Not Your Guru.”
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A couple of months ago, I was sat in a meeting with someone who was looking to recruit people to their growing organization. We were talking about the type of people they were looking for and the fact that a service based business is heavily dependent upon the quality of its people.
We started to talk about ex-military candidates – at which point someone said ‘we want to attract them because they follow orders and do what they’re told…’
Once I had ‘corrected the individual’ on the fact that former servicemen don’t simply follow orders, I was left reflecting on the myth that still exists – that servicemen follow orders doing what they are told without challenge or pausing to think about the consequences of their actions.
It doesn’t work like that
People need a reason to do something – they need a purpose to support their actions. If they don’t have that, then they will never truly commit to doing something whole-heartedly. When the ‘going gets tough’ their enthusiasm and engagement will crumble…
Lessons from the Holocaust
Victor Frankl discovered this concept during the holocaust. A brilliant psychotherapist, he was imprisoned in Auschwitz by the Nazis during the second World War. Frankl details his account in the book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ which Tony Robbins describes as arguably ‘the most important book ever written’.
Frankl explains that there is no universal meaning to life. Each individual has to find their own meaning – their own purpose for which to live. Without that, we struggle to find direction or commit ourselves in pursuit of a goal that is worthwhile.
During his four years in Auschwitz, Frankl was one of the few prisoners with medical training so he was placed in charge of the sick. He was able to predict with worrying accuracy when someone would die based on the moment they lost the will to live. He describes how cigarettes were used as an internal currency in the camp. The moment that someone started to smoke all of their cigarettes was the ‘beginning of the end’ for them.
They’d lost their will to live – they’d lost their purpose – smoking the cigarettes was one of the first behaviours that was symptomatic of that loss.
Frankl survived the war and created logotherapy (logos = meaning) – the central concept being that a person needs a purpose, a reason to live.
Simon Sinek built on this concept with his TEDx Talk using the Wright Brothers and Apple as examples to explain his point.
So how does this relate to the military?
How does the military ensure that it has a sense of purpose in everything it does?
It is written into our doctrine – our standard way of doing things. Every mission is required to have what is called ‘a unifying purpose’. A mission statement must include the phrase ‘in order to’…
It is our mission to recapture this vessel in order to secure the safe release of the hostages.
It is our mission to conduct a patrol of the local area in order to reassure the local population.
It is our mission to provide a block to the south of Musa-Qala in order to prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching the town.
When you are taught how to write orders, you are taught that soldiers and marines need a purpose – a reason to do what you ask of them.
They’re no different from anyone else in that respect, they need to know why they are doing something – they don’t just do it because someone tells them to. They don’t do it because they are just following orders. When people simply follow orders, it usually leads to bad things happening because they don’t stop to think if it is the right thing to do.
Having a purpose is vital, both at an individual and at a team level. The military make sure that they provide a purpose in every mission statement – it wouldn’t be a mission statement without an ‘in order to’. This approach has been standardised across NATO because it is universal – it crosses cultural boundaries addressing the need we all have for a purpose behind our actions.
A Sense of Purpose is one of the Foundations of a High Performing Team
High Performing Teams are the reflection of Great Leadership
Maintaining the purpose as a central principle is vital to ensuring that when the going gets tough, people have a reason to keep going.