Leaders: “Because” or “Be the Cause?”

Be the Cause

My first graduate qualification was in Communication Studies and it was consistently lectured that communication should be clear and concise.

This concept pre-dates the 140-character Twitter-style update. But it utilises this same understanding:

Attention needs to be grabbed and then retained if you’re to make a lasting impact with the intention of affecting future behaviour.

So it is with reluctance in homage to my communications background that I take the single word ‘because’ and section it into three words: ‘Be the Cause

On Journalism and Business Practices

Good businesses follow the construct of good news stories.

The recipe for success is this formula:

  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • When
  • How
  • Who

Focussing on the “Why” (as this is the cornerstone of great businesses and the other questions are ‘operational / management issues’ and therefore not necessarily concerned with the act of leadership):

Often ‘leaders’ ask people to do things……because.

Sometimes this is followed by a statement or statements designed to instil fear in the heart of the target or with the hope it will ‘inspire’ (you cannot motivate anyone, motivation comes from within, it is intrinsic.  Extrinsic influence designed to affect someone is inspiration), coerce or somehow result in desired action.

A simple paradigm shift will spare you the manipulation and avoid mediocrity.  It is not a quick fix but it is always effective.

Don’t use “Because”, use “Be the Cause”

People want purpose.  They don’t want reasons and they certainly don’t want excuses.  They can’t really be motivated by money or driven by desire if you want the right outcomes (see global financial meltdown for evidence!)

They want to understand what their efforts are contributing.  They want to be part of something bigger and meaningful.  Once they understand what it is your organisation is trying to achieve (the WHY), they will give discretionary effort because they believe in ‘the cause’.

This isn’t a mission statement or vision pinned to the corridor walls of HQ – this is the essence of every activity you undertake minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day and year by year.

You need to ask them to ‘be the cause’ not act because……..

Be True to the Cause

Hard Questions:

Are sales figures down?  Are competitors creeping in to your market share?

Easy Answers:

Change your market!  Change your target.

In fact, change pretty much anything so long as it doesn’t change your cause.

Core Values

But know this: If you change your core values, they were never real values; they were just fancy marketing tools and gimmicks.

Think of any long-standing organisation and question how many times they’ve changed their core values.  They may have diversified or innovated but their core values have remained constant.

Many banks and lenders changed their core values to capitalise on the huge profits to be made from irresponsible lending and dubious business transactions.  In 2008 and the preceding years, many great institutions fell.  Those who remain never changed their core values.

They were clear, they wished to ‘be true to the cause’ that founded them; and they were right to do so.

Constant AND Changing?

This is often seen as an oxymoron but it’s not.  Your values are constant and your product / service offering is changing through a natural process of evolution.  You are not changing your ’cause’ even if you stop doing one thing and start doing another.  You can change the ‘what’ without ever changing the ‘why’.

Remember – people work best for ‘the cause’ and customers will remain because they also believe in ‘the cause’.

It’s Never Too Late

If you’re off course, it’s time to get back on now.

Take the 1st opportunity you have to revisit your core values.  Understand what your own core values are and whether you are truly living YOUR leadership.

If there’s conflict, it’s time to move on.  You probably wouldn’t compromise on price; salary; benefits and other contractual obligations so why compromise on your ‘cause’?

By living your ‘cause’, you and your business will attract like-minded people, your ‘cause’ will become part of the offering to customers and clients; colleagues and investors alike.

A lot of people talk about ‘value add’ to your products and services, I recommend you start thinking about ‘adding values’ to your offering.

It’s what we do

Quite simply, ‘be the cause’ is the pro-active living of your own personal and organisational values.

Inspire!

**********

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———————–
Colin Millar is Director at Cloud Management Systems

He is an Official Ambassador of the Chartered Management Institute 
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Skype: colin_b_millar

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2 Responses

  1. Excellent post! It is so critical to ensure that people see the “meaningfulness” in their role. It is motivating and has been proven to increase people’s ability to perform. “Start talking about the values you are offering” – genius! All companies should take this advice.

  2. Hi Anil,

    Thanks very much for the feedback, hugely appreciated!

    It’s a shame that more organisations don’t examine their core values as, like individuals, this is what makes them so unique.

    Everyone’s busy trying to identify a niche and USP when they already have one at the very heart of what they’re doing (if they’re doing more than just seeking to make money).

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