When faced with the day-to-day responsibilities of running a company, even the most experienced business leader can lose sight of the company’s mission. Over time, a company can forget its core values and remain too focused on surviving in today’s competitive environment.
Simply having a set of words on a plaque that hangs on the wall or used as a tagline on your website is meaningless unless they are brought to life and become part of the fabric of the company. And it all starts at the top.
Purpose is what drives us, and our employees, to do great work. Not only does your company need to maintain clearly identified values, but every employee must understand his or her role in supporting the mission in order to achieve the collective results. At the end of the day, your company’s raison d’être is to deliver a quality product or service, and there is a multitude of approaches you can take to be successful, while keeping your focus on the overall mission.
These four tips can help bring your company’s values to life:
1. Stand behind the mission.
It may sound like a cliché, but in order for employees to embrace the company values, they must see them in action from the company executives. Your mission needs to be at the core of all you do — from marketing to production and from customer service to your staff meetings.
As leader, your role is to walk the talk and ensure that the rest of the company follows, so that your company values are ultimately delivered in your end product or service. At our company, Nautilus, Inc., we are dedicated each day to our core objective: delivering innovative products to help people live healthier lifestyles. We have honed in on this mantra and vision, allowing it to drive every decision we make across every area of the company.
We purposefully moved from a large office where employees were dispersed to a smaller office where we took down the walls of hierarchy. As a result, collaboration has increased threefold, we’re delivering more innovative products, employee satisfaction ratings are high, and our workplace is thriving with people rallying around our mission.
2. Foster an environment that reflects the mission.
I’ve found that the most effective way to achieve a mission-centric workplace is by establishing an egalitarian culture in which you practice what you preach, no matter what your title. At our company, the executives flip the burgers at the employee picnics, dress up for Halloween and are the first to volunteer for our sponsored events.
In line with our company’s focus on health and fitness, we encourage lifelong healthy behaviors for our employees by offering special incentives and wellness programs. Our headquarters include an onsite gym that’s available for employees to use at any time during the work day. We sponsor community walking and running events, and all employees receive a “Passport” for the Road to Wellness that rewards activities with stamps that then qualify for credits to be used toward medical insurance premiums.
It’s a fact that happy and engaged employees do great things, which in turn fosters a healthy culture.
3. Implement team activities that align with the mission.
Team-building initiatives do work and are a critical aspect of successfully living your company mission. There is a host of ways to foster collaboration among your employees, which serves the dual purpose of developing both camaraderie and “mission” advocates.
In keeping with our company values, we promote activities that celebrate personal fitness goals and encourage teamwork. For the past two years, we’ve sponsored teams to participate in Tough Mudder, a 10-mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces. We play hard together by competing vigorously in our internal kick ball league, working out in our onsite gym or organizing group walks.
We also actively support our community. Each week, employees volunteer with the Meals on Wheels agency to deliver meals to the needy. And we’re partnering with the American Lung Association in support of the annual Fight For Air Climb fundraiser, including sponsoring employees who participate.
Incorporating these kinds of opportunities for engagement is a simple way to breathe life into your company mission, and is applicable whether your company employs five or 500.
4. Encourage employees to weigh in on the mission.
What I’ve learned is that consistently and clearly communicating the company vision is critical to building advocacy, as well as ensuring that everyone knows how they can contribute to its success. The keys are deploying regular, disciplined communication and having big ears so you can easily share the vision across the workforce, while soliciting feedback and ideas.
For example, each month one of our executives shares the latest news with employees via video message or voicemail. We provide multiple ways for employees to be seen and heard, through confidential surveys and also in open forums. I make it a point to host casual gatherings where I invite input on everything from our latest products to workplace issues.
Another way I encourage employee input is by getting out of my office and walking the halls every day. It helps me get a read on the health of our organization, and I inevitably learn something valuable and new. The simple act of getting to know every employee by name helps develop relationships that ultimately strengthen your company overall.
Once your company’s mission is firmly in place, these steps provide a framework to help guide you through the inevitable ups and downs and evolutions, without losing sight of your core purpose.
Just as our own wellbeing requires continuous attention and work, the same is true for maintaining and nurturing a healthy company — where the mission is the heart of the organization.