Mission is not a choice. It's dictated by others' needs. Sometimes those others give you a mission. Sometimes you have to figure it out yourself. Either way, it's a journey of discovery, not creation. As described in our new book, First-Time Leader, the questions to ask are:
• Who needs us?
• What do they need and why?
• What must we deliver to meet their needs?
Your mission flows from those. This is true whether you are onboarding into a new leadership role or just re-thinking what matters and why.
Richard and Michelle Laver's story about the development of Kate Farms Komplete Shakes is a case in point. Their daughter Kate was born with Cerebral Palsy, which made eating normal food out of the question. As Richard explained to me,
At the age of four, Kate was failing to 'thrive' and was faced with numerous difficulties. The meal replacement shake her doctors prescribed was overloaded with sugar and dairy for calorie enhancement...We were in the hospital with Kate in dire circumstances - she could not keep any weight on her and her quality of life was poor. Getting Kate out of that was our driving force.
Enough was enough.
Michelle and I decided it was time to take matters into our own hands to try and alleviate Kate's symptoms and together we tried to find the most holistic ingredients we could so that our daughter would start feeling better.
So with the help of an industry expert they blended 21 super foods including but not limited to acai, mangosteen, raspberries, black currants, green tea extract, etc., with antioxidants, high protein and vitamin rich ingredients and put together the world's first dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free ready-to-drink meal replacement shake.
It worked. Richard went on to relate that Kate "has never been to the hospital again. Within weeks of drinking Komplete, Kate's condition improved greatly and she no longer needed breathing treatment for sleep apnea, her digestion problems were a thing of the past and her mouth was once again healthy."
Many people build businesses by developing systematic ways to solve a problem shared by many others. That's exactly what Richard and Michelle did, assembling resources and then building distribution step-by-step to build a business. But at every step of the way, they've kept a picture of Kate front and center - in the company's name, on their website, in their minds and hearts.
Implications for You
Let Kate find you. Your Kate may personify a disease, an injustice, an inconvenience, or any other problem in search of a solution. Whatever it is, make sure it matters to you and to the people you're going to bring to bear to develop and eventually market that solution.
Those of you trying to pull everyone together to co-create an inspiring mission for your organization are going about the task exactly backwards. You don't get to create your mission. It already exists. Just be open to the call when it finds you.