Archives September 2016

Your Workers Don’t Give A Rat’s Patootie About Your Precious Mission Statement – 4 Questions To Give People Something To Believe In

Boards and executive teams everywhere spend an unbelievable amount of time and energy on developing their company’s mission statement.

To be fair, this is important work as it helps to focus the organization but, in my experience, high-level mission statements do nothing to motivate frontline staff.

In fact, the Gallup organization found that only 20% of U.S. workers feel proud of or engaged by their company’s mission statement.

Most companies promote their mission by putting up posters, give out mouse pads and coffee cups. If that doesn’t work, they push managers to explain their precious mission differently so that it will finally sink in. They believe that once those darn employees finally get it life will be all sunshine & roses and profits will climb.

Sorry to tell you that this is not going to happen.

Why? Leaders think big & are future-focused, and workers are focused on very intimate, personal and local issues.

read about reaching leadership nirvana

Focus locally

When I ask workers what matters to them, they say what matters most is their ability to support their families, have good-paying jobs and hope to have a better life for their kids — and do what they can for their community.


When you have invested so much energy into that lofty mission statement, the idea of a local mission may not make sense. Because a corporate mission is supposed to give employees something big and important to believe in and work for: but employees connect to what they do every day; their team and the community in which they work.

I could list similar examples from around the world. But when I was a leader of a large NGO we had two mission statements, the official one – World Peace – and the local one – Every person who needs help will get it – and that was the one that inspires passion.

You must understand that the mission that matters most to your workers is the local one.

You’ll find it’s almost always about keeping the doors open and the community healthy.

My recommendation is to ask your workers what’s important to them:

  • What does it take to operate in their location?
  • What does the plant mean to the local community?
  • What would be lost if it went away?
  • Ask your workers to imagine the company closing; what would they do to keep the doors open and deliver on their mission?

Talk about the questions and the answers on the shop or office floor, and invite every worker to respond. Listen carefully to what they say, and craft their local missions.

read more about how to talk to your people

Then start doing those things — now before they don’t give a rat’s patootie about anything.

The Shocking Truth – You Can’t Standup To Authority {Get a Ethical Decision Making Checklist}

Stanley Milgram carried out one of the most famous psychology studies in 1963.[1] He focused on seeing how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person. 


40 Volunteers were introduced to an instructor in a lab coat, played by an actor, and another actor who was strapped into an electric chair.

The volunteers were told they were testing the person in the chair by having him to recall words from a list. Each time the person in the chair made a mistake the volunteer was instructed to administer an electric shock, increasing the level of shock each time a mistake was made from a slight shock to a life-threatening shock.

Two-thirds of volunteers administered increasing levels of electricity to a deadly 450 volts and everyone continued to at least 300 volts

Milgram concluded that ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. 

Read more about moral courage

The experiment lives on in common culture as a damnation of our ability to inflict pain and acquiesce to authority.

The rest of the story:

Few are aware that the experiment had a variation where the volunteers witnessed other participants (also actors) refused to obey.

In the presence of others who disobeyed the authority figure the levels of obedience to inflict harm of the volunteers fell to 10%.

The point?

We all like to think we are strong enough to stop bad things happening when we see it.

But are we?

When was the last time you saw something wrong happening and didn’t say anything; didn’t refuse; didn’t set an example for others to find the courage to say no.

We all can be complicit, but leaders have the responsibility to set an example.

Be a leader, even when it is hard.