Updated: Jun 10, 2019
It's an absurd thing to find that after creating something and then working at it for 8 years, you still can't clearly define or articulate it. This has been my realisation after one day of work shopping and another day of soul searching. How bizarre!
In his earlier work, Simon Sinek presented his 'Golden Circle' which consisted of three concentric circles. He labelled the inner circle, the 'why', the middle was the 'what' and the outer was the 'how'. Sinek said we should start with our why. This is why we do what we do, and why people will connect with us. Sinek extends on this by aligning his Golden Circle model to brain structure. He states our 'emotional' brain is surrounded by our thinking part of the brain. He means our 'why' connects to our emotions. The interesting thing about this relationship between model and brain structure is that the 'emotional brain' does not have a language center. Language is in the outer, thinking part of the brain. We connect with our 'why' emotionally rather than logically.
For me this is some sort of conciliation for my predicament. I connect with my 'why' so instinctively and emotively that I've now learned it's hard to find the right words. I have to admit this feels a little ridiculous, but if I use Sinek's model and explanation it makes me feel a little better.
Guiding the exploration of the last couple of days has been the work by Donald Miller. Recently I read his book and really enjoyed the way he frames organisational mission and purpose into a story to create a brand. GSL is all about stories. GSL is the product of many stories. This made sense to me, but then things started to get hard!
I found myself coming back to a place of exploring mission and values. Now I have to admit, this is something that has never inspired me. I love to hear a good mission, but never have I worked in a place where the mission and values made any difference to my everyday role. I just assumed it was something big bosses did because it was something big bosses did. When we first applied to become a registered provider with various government departments, GSL's mission and values were questions on the applications, so I made some up.
Miller says for people to connect with us, we should be able to answer three basic questions:
Where are we going? Why does it matter? What’s my role? Our mission statement should answer the first two questions and our values should be able to answer the last question, in terms of how we should behave.
It made sense to me when Miller related the mission statement to a road trip. If you ask a friend to come along with you on a road trip, their answer is likely to be 'yes', followed by the question, 'to where?' The mission statement should be the answer. If people join us, we should be able to say where we are going. Not many people go along for a ride when they don't know where their going. If we are vague, we will lose people. This was a light bulb moment for me.
So then, if I ask myself 'where are we going?', I found myself realising that a mission statement is an action-oriented vision statement. So, then I had to ask myself, 'what is our vision statement?' This just put me in a complete spin ... will this pain never end!
Digging deep, I think the vision statement we may have started off with was something along the lines of: 'that children with a disability have a good start to life'. This doesn't capture why they don't have a good start to life or the additional challenges that come with being geographically isolated. I think somewhere along the line it may have morphed into something like:
That children and families living with disability feel supported by, and included in their community
And so, translating this into a mission statement becomes:
Many children and families living with disability don’t feel supported by or included in their community. We exist to change this.
What do we do in response to this mission, I hear you ask? Well, I answer confidently, we provide a range of experiences and opportunities. Yay! This is where it gets down to how our supports and services fit into our mission and vision. Finally! There is alignment.
Going back to Miller's three questions, the last one is 'what is my role?'. This relates to values, so is more a question of: 'how should I behave?' Both Miller and Sinek argue that values are something we do, so should be phrased into actions. Miller argues that if people are to remember our core values there can be no more than three. Only three?? Well this is hard! I had already accumulated a neat little list of about eight dot points in a powerpoint that I was working on for a different project. I wondered if I could second guess the wisdom of Miller's words, but then I realised I was me and he was he. If I was following his led, then that's what I should do. I pondered my eight dot points and came up with these three:
Please be mindful I am just blogging my thoughts. If the last couple of days have proven anything, it's that all of this is coming from a place of deep self-exploration and not having the right words. I'm also conscious that once upon a time GSL was mine and Rudolf's. Now it's not. Now it's everyone's and it would be immensely disrespectful to come up with mission and values without them. I was very interested to hear Miller say that in his company they create statements and values iteratively. In other words, they revise and update. I'd be happy to put this out there as a version of our implicit mission and values. The ones that led us in days gone by.
But now it's now. We are bigger and we are made up of many more people. I think it's time we play around a little. It's time we explore our beginnings and our future, so we can come up with something that is a fit for us all now. We need to know where we are going. We need a new road trip.