Motivation and Mission, Vision & Values

Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, president of CEObuilder

Why aren’t more employees self-motivated? Why don’t they work like I did when I was in their shoes? Why don’t they work as if this company were their own? How can I light a fire in my employees? How do I get them past the “nine to five” mentality?

These are questions I have heard throughout my career in coaching CEOs. Clearly, if there was an easy answer, such questions wouldn’t be so pervasive. In fact, there is no one answer to these questions; every situation is sufficiently different to defy a one-size-fits-all approach. Nevertheless, part of the answer lies in the development of a shared mission (what we do), shared vision (what we will become), and shared values (what we live by) for that organization. These three elements, in combination, serve to create a shared purpose for both owners and employees.

 Let’s consider each question mentioned above:

Why aren’t more employees self-motivated? The key question here: self-motivated toward what? While they should be motivated to do their jobs in an exemplary manner, isn’t there a higher organizational purpose? Lacking such higher purpose, “it’s not my job” thinking often creeps into employee behaviors.

Why don’t they work like I did when I was in their shoes? CEOs may reminisce fondly of the early days when their own work ethic was formed. Those days were typically characterized by a strong personal purpose regarding what he or she wanted to do, become or have. This fueled their intensity and work ethic. Finding such focused producers is task one, of course, but it is only part of the story. If the employer for whom this individual works fails to set forth and build buy-in to the organization’s mission, vision and values, they miss an exceptional opportunity to build on personal purpose—and achieve even higher performance.

Why don’t they work as if this company were their own? The easy answer to this is to actually give them some ownership—and/or some form of enhanced compensation. While this may have some merit, my focus here isn’t the actual transfer of company stock or pay for performance. Rather it is to ask: Are there legitimate ways to motivate employees to work as if they had ownership? My experience has proven that where there is strong shared purpose there is, effectively, shared ownership. 

How can I light a fire in my employees?  The pilot light must be lit when the employee is hired to have any chance for building a blaze. That pilot light is the sense of personal purpose mentioned earlier—and the fuel that will bring a full-fledged fire is the company mission, vision and values.  If the company is congruent with the individual, these critical statements will ring true to the employee—and the flame already present will glow more brightly. To become an inferno, the corporate culture must provide the ongoing fuel. Corporate culture is created by the cumulative effect of the stories and defining moments which reinforce and clarify the company’s mission, vision and values. It is an essential role of each CEO to look for and respond to such defining moments with the express intention of building a compelling corporate culture.

How do I get them past the “nine to five” mentality? The deterrent to this is to define it as unacceptable from the get-go.  However, rather than do so by policy pronouncement, the best approach is to let this understanding flow naturally from regular discussion of the company’s mission, vision and values. Virtually any organization with high goals and guiding principles will require a higher level of commitment than “clock-watching” implies.

Cynicism regarding the development of company mission, vision and values statements is not unusual. Such cynicism is inevitably the result of misunderstanding of a few critical facts. First, it is essential to recognize that writing such statements must be a process—not an event. Second, this process must not be done by the owner or CEO in a vacuum. Rather, it must involve as many key stakeholders as possible to assure buy-in. Third, it must be understood that the words that constitute these statements must find their real meaning in ongoing action—on the part of both owners and employees. Finally, company leadership must recognize that while external customers are inevitably the focus of these documents, the audience for them is exclusively owners and employees. It is this audience that ultimately must be deeply motivated to fulfill the mission, vision, and values of the organization.

Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 21 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching processes.

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