I have a simple question for you: what is your company’s mission?
Why do you do what you do? Can you actually state it right now? It’s not always easy to define, is it?
But it’s really important since this is the thread that holds the fabric of an organization together. And when everyone who works for and with you can define it, you get alignment and you get results.
National Life Group has been around since 1848 and has been mission driven since the day we delivered our first claim check in 1850. Over the years, though, and often depending on leadership, our mission wasn’t always clear to everyone.
When I became CEO almost 10 years ago, we needed to refocus. Our vision was a long paragraph on the wall that no one could remember. We didn’t have a clear mission. And no one defined our values.
So we brought clarity to it. Our values are Do good. Be good. Make good. Just six simple words.
But as we like to say at National Life, simple is hard. It’s not always easy to state your purpose clearly and concisely. Once you do, though, the culture begins to shift and you get results.
There’s recent proof to support this. There was a study done comparing companies that were focused on fun with companies who were focused on making sure everyone knew their “why” – why the company does what it does and how employees help make that happen.
Which style do you think benefits a company more? If you think the ones with purpose clarity, you’re right. Companies that were clear about their mission have stronger financial results.
This notion is deeply ingrained in me. My role models are my father and my mother. They taught me to “respect all” not by what they said but because what they did. That’s a powerful lesson. Anyone who has kids knows that they model behavior. The same goes for employees and leaders.
Your team members will model the behavior their leaders exhibit, for better or worse.
To help a team march in the same direction, you need to not only model behavior but make your “why” clear. Everyone who works at your company should know its why. Tell them often and in many ways.
To increase engagement, we’ve made sure everyone understands our why. We did it in videos. Through social media. On our walls and in our conversations.
This not only included our employees, but our agents, our policy owners, the community. Everyone. We reminded them that we do good in many ways – from painting it on the walls of our headquarters to giving out Do Good awards and sponsoring Do Good events.
But, again, we also model what we expect. I invite folks to come and speak with me anytime. My door is always open. That’s why my office is glass, so they can see I’m available.
My expectation is that my entire executive team is accessible to anyone in the company or outside of the company, too. We all need to be open to feedback at every level so we can keep our promises.
Jackie Freiberg, a best selling author who has consulted with National Life Group for the past few years, wrote a book in 2016 called CAUSE!. She talked about companies with cultures that attract people, and National Life’s is one of them. She has said that as we became more and more mission-driven, good leaked out. Others heard about it and experienced it.
CAUSE! helped to tell our story but of course we realized we needed to reach outside our walls and tell it too.
So that’s what we did.
We do good through our LifeChanger of the Year program. This is a national campaign that recognizes school employees from throughout the country with a top prize of $10,000 that’s shared between the educator and the school. We throw a music festival on our back lawn every summer and all the money raised – more than $56,000 over three years – goes to a cancer patient fund. We pay our employees for 40 hours each year to go our and volunteer at nonprofits.
We celebrate our agents’ causes. We just created the Agent Do Good Award to recognize our agents who give back to their communities.
You might have noticed a pattern of “good” by now. It’s no coincidence. Our employees are more engaged than ever.
And when we’re all in, our results reflect it. 2016 was a record breaking year for us on so many measures – sales, assets under management, benefits paid. In other words, we did good.
You can, too. How? Here are four ways:
- Know your why and make sure everyone in your organization does, too.
- Put the right belly buttons in the right seats. The right skills need to be married to the right responsibilities.
- Be patient. It will take time.
- And measure it. Because you’re truly dedicated to driving your mission, you’ll see the results.