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The benefits of brevity and clarity

There’s an old saying that the more you say the less people hear. This is so true when it comes to discovering and articulating your vision, mission and values or what I call your organisation’s aspiration, purpose and values. You can’t have 59 important points to make. You can’t have 45 or even 11 critical values for people to adopt. You can’t have 33 or even seven things that distinguish your company from its competitors.

Clarity is achieved when you discover and clearly articulate the one thing that differentiates your organisation, or your two or three specialisations, or those four to six core values that are essential for you to achieve success.

I say discover because the process to achieve clarity is often a discovery process. It involves having an open mind to different perspectives and ways of looking at things. It’s a great process to go through. I’ve been involved in and have facilitated many such processes and it can be very uplifting but also exhausting for all involved. It is actually hard work but the investment is worth it. It can take an entire leadership team at least half a day to agree on the most appropriate few words or so to describe their organisation’s aspiration or purpose.

Taking the journey of discovery together with your leadership team has the added benefit that they will be engaged and therefore far more likely to buy in to the result as they were also involved in developing your organisation’s aspiration and/or purpose. There are also many ways that you can involve all your employees no matter how many you have in the discovery process to ensure they all buy in too.

I’ve been privileged to help several organisations recently discover their aspiration, purpose and values. One very memorable experience occurred when I was conducting a workshop where the participants were broken into small table groups of five or six each. They were all working on the organisation’s purpose using an iterative approach and this was one of the final sessions. Most table groups had come up with long winded sentences that were good descriptions of lots of things the organisation did. One person stood up and described the purpose in just four short words – there was absolute silence for a few seconds and then it dawned on everyone almost in unison that this person had absolutely nailed it!

The other great benefit of brevity is that the words are normally much easier for all the staff and other stakeholders to remember. Employees are bombarded with hundreds of internal and external messages daily. They deserve clarity of their organisation’s long-term aims so they can act with boldness and confidence and work towards a common goal that is in everyone’s interest.

I have just finished writing a book on this topic with my co-author Rodney Howard. The book to be titled, “Why Purpose Matters: and How it Can Transform Your Organisation”, will be launched in the first half of 2017.

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