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Does not having an active and visible business mission and vision a barrier to growing your business and your people?

John Nelligan


Mission or Purpose with a vision powers everything in your business. The most important thing a business leader can do is to set direction and communicate it in ways that connect and compel its stakeholders. It is important to stakeholders such as staff, customers, the wider community and shareholders that a business has a purpose and a vision.

Nothing commands attention and commitment quite like the right purpose and vision.

Unfortunately, mission statements are often long on statement, short on mission. For that reason, instead of mission I prefer the words purpose and vision. They’re more specific and focused.

It’s not business – it’s personal

Most organizations meet employees’ basic needs and expectations. The right purpose and vision meet deeper needs such as a sense of belonging, of being connected, and of doing the kind of work that stimulates creativity. Employees, inspired by seeing a clear direction forward, can better align their full energies and resources to achieving progress towards the vision

How then do we formulate purpose and vision in ways that motivate people to achieve beyond what they thought possible?

Start with ‘Why?’

Purpose answers the question “Why.” Purpose is a statement of the difference or impact you’re trying to make in the service you provide, other than making money. As one astute observer put it: Money can buy you a dog, but you have to earn the wag of its tail. Purpose answers the question: Why should I devote my creative energies to this organization and not another?

Human beings perform better in the context of higher purpose and meaning. The right purpose releases energy and provides focus and relevance to a brand and to everyone who represents it. Start with an idea that makes a real difference in the lives of your stakeholders: Disney’s purpose is to make people happy. And if you’ve ever had a Disney resort experience you can feel that purpose present in everything they do.

Pressure test it

There are a number of questions to help businesses find the right purpose: Here’s a small sample:

Is it short, sharply focused and easy to remember?

Does it mean something important to almost everybody in the organization?

Would it help you decide the things worth pursuing?


“Purpose isn’t everything, but it trumps everything else except vision.”


Then ask ‘Where?’

A sense of purpose alone is not enough. Vision answers the question “Where? Vision is a shared picture of the future (picture on a jigsaw box) – guiding people toward a far-reaching yet attainable future, perhaps three to five years out. While purpose can be abstract, vision should be bold, vivid and concrete.


Consider trying to make a 10.000 piece jigsaw puzzle with your people without a picture of what you are trying to build? Easy? Well you will struggle but show the picture of what you want to build to the people and they will know what you are trying to build. Using their skills you allocate parts to each person rather like in business.


Consider the concreteness of John F. Kennedy’s sixties declaration of “… the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” There’s nothing ambiguous about “man” or “moon” or “decade.” All that’s left to do is to get busy, or get out of the way.

Test your vision

Does it provide a catalyst for action? Is it something that forces you out of a comfortable routine? Does it have emotional resonance? Can employees’ actions align with the vision?

If you don’t think your vision has the power to gain attention and compel action and alignment – fire it, and hire a new one. Bring in a facilitator to help steer the process so that people think farther than their own projects. The goal is to get them to see something to make them feel something, so they can do something out of the ordinary.


Be the change

Alignment – everybody pulling in the same direction – is critical to the success of any vision and purpose. The where of vision drives the how of behaviour. Vision becomes the lens through which decisions, operations, and customer experiences are determined. When your people see first-hand how purpose and vision translate to decisions, actions, and customer experience, they become true believers. Customers soon follow.

Just as a strong brand makes selling easier, a strong purpose and vision help attract people – employees and customers – to your cause.

Establishing the right behaviours is another important topic which can be explored in greater detail in another viewpoint, this will cover the important area of Values which sets the culture and standards of your business.


Tim Cornes

Business Doctor

Mob: 07582 240393