What's Your Calling? How the Mission Shapes the Culture of Your New Tribe
We honor military service for its selfless quality, but is it really? To be sure, the military life can be a hard one. Anyone who has been to combat knows that the sacrifices are real. All that said, you volunteered. You answered the call. Hell, we all did, and given the choice, most of us would do it again. We see past the hardship and actually consider our service a privilege. It was deeper than the uniform. It wasn't just a job. It was our life. It may have been a selfless endeavor, but it satisfied an intrinsic drive to find purpose and meaning. It brought us closer to understanding our why.
When the mission of the organization connects with an individual's sense of purpose, the work becomes more than just a job. It becomes an expression of personal inspiration. When the members of an organization are connected to a purpose, it creates a shared sense of belonging that speaks to the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs that shape the culture of that organization.
If leaders provide the WHO, then the core mission provides the WHY for the organization. In the earlier articles of this series, I've outlined how you can better understand culture (Part 1), and I've discussed how leaders are the most important determinant to that organization's culture (Part 2). Now, in Part 3 of this five part series, I'll explore how the deeper reason why an organization exists shapes the culture and offer some questions that might help you discover the right tribe in life beyond the military.
The Mission Brings 'Like-Hearted' People Together
I've often heard service members and veterans described as 'like-minded' people, but I believe a more accurate characterization is that we are 'like-hearted' people. We were moved to serve, and we didn't do it alone. We were joined by thousands of other men and women who were also inspired to serve. The mission of service connected with each of us. As your career progressed, you probably noticed how the things you thought were important were often the same things your colleagues found important. It wasn't that your hearts were necessarily in the right place but that they always seemed to be in the same place. When each person's unique purpose aligns with the collective mission of the group, you create culture of connected, inspired people who believe in what they are doing.
All business exists to make money, but money probably isn't the reason why you volunteered for service. When money becomes a key factor in our decision for what happens next, should we be surprised when it doesn't take us to where we really want to be in life beyond the military?
When we start looking for jobs after the military, we focus so intently on what an organization does that we sometimes miss the reason why that organization exists in the first place. A strong mission statement communicates the value an organization brings to the rest of society. It provides a means for you to express your purpose. When it connects you to a mission, it connects you to the people of that organization. After all, they are just like you - like-hearted people searching for an opportunity to make a difference.
How Organizations Get Disconnected From Their Core Mission
Most businesses get started with a strong vision for how they want to change the world. Given that most successful entrepreneurial ventures (including the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Google) take years to become truly profitable, a strong belief and connection to the mission is essential to survival. Entrepreneurs have to trust their intuition and rely on that passion to turn a small business into a larger, more successful one. This is why you hear so many large companies searching for ways to infuse the entrepreneurial spirit back into their workforce. They want to recapture the culture of passion, creativity, and commitment. They want that direct connection to the mission - the why - that inspired their success in the first place.
When organizations get separated from the shared sense of purpose, people tend to look inward. They focus on their own needs. Instead of competing in the marketplace, employees compete against each other. After all, if you aren't in the game to help the team succeed, the least you can do is cater to your own success. You squabble for incentives. You abstract the intrinsic qualities of the people into monetary metrics. You focus on revenue at the expense of things like impact, inspiration, or the very reason why the organization was created in the first place. You exist only to make money, and in the end, the "organization" exists in name only. It becomes a cluster of individuals gathered together by happenstance in a perpetual struggle for individual survival. The culture - in a word - becomes toxic.
Nobody 'wants' to create a toxic culture, but one of the ways it happens is when an organization gets disconnected from the true reason why they exist.
How Connected Are the People to the Mission?
The first step in finding an organization with the right 'why' comes from finding your own 'why.' Before you can align with an organization's purpose, you have to know your own. In your search for a new tribe, you may find some organizational mission statements that connect with you. Your challenge through the networking and interview process is to find out just how connected the workforce is to that inspirational vision. Here are three questions to help uncover whether the culture is built upon a meaningful vision in your search for the next tribe in life beyond the military:
Question 1: What inspires you to come to work everyday? When you ask this question, pay attention to the non-verbal cues. Do they seem caught off-guard by the question or can they quickly transition into a discussion about the deeper meaning of their work? You may find that some employees don't even know the core mission of their organization. Be mindful of how you might have answered this question as a leader in the military. Understanding how connected the workforce is to the reason why the organization exists could be quite revealing as to whether or not the culture is connected to a purpose that you find meaningful.
Question 2: How do the quarterly objectives support the broader mission of the organization? How you do anything is how you do everything. Money is important to any business, but if the top objectives for the quarter talk about everything except the core mission of the company, then that core mission is simply not a priority. For example, a hospital might trumpet high-quality, patient centered care, but if they only ever discuss monetary instruments in their corporate meetings, don't be surprised if the patients of that hospital don't feel like the priority. How the organization sets priorities will reveal the true mission - and consequently the culture - of that organization.
Question 3: What about the mission of the organization connects with you personally? This question reveals how a potential colleague's purpose aligns with that of the organization. It reveals the presence of 'like-hearted' people in the organization. Given that you recognize your own purpose in life beyond the military, it allows you to see who fits in the organization so that you can make a determination as to whether or not you might fit there as well.
Honor Your Calling to Find Your Tribe
Mark Twain tells us that finding our why is the second most important day of our lives. When you connect with like-hearted people who come together to express that purpose in a meaningful way for the benefit of society, you have a tribe. There is a greater power in community, so find an organizational mission that aligns with your WHY. That's the easy part. Your challenge in the transition and reintegration process is finding out what is truly shaping the culture of the organization: Is it the core mission, or is it something else? When "something else" shapes the culture of that organization, perhaps you need to look somewhere else to find the right fit. When you find the organization that is committed to a calling that honors your own, you may have found your new tribe in life beyond the military.