Excellence University Blog

Creating an “Excellence Tree”: 6 Steps Toward “Mission Activation”

by Dr. Brian Higley

November 2nd, 2008

To return to the original Mission Activation article, click here.

Here are what we have found to be the six most important components of Mission Activation.  Since we believe that Mission Activation is so similar to the process of growing a strong tree, we often refer to the process of Mission Activation as growing an “Excellence Tree.”

1. “Check The Soil”: Assess current levels of (and potential for) Mission Activation. In order to activate a mission statement, it is often helpful to first get a sense of how many of the Mission Activation components listed below are working for (or against) teams and individuals.  There are many ways to assess the soil — some more valid than others.  We’ve found that the best way to assess current Mission Activation potential is by having team members to take part in a confidential online Mission Activation assessment, such as the WATER Assessment (for more on the acronym WATER, click here).  For individuals who are not a part of a team or group, we assess the soil on an more individual basis via the Self-Mastery Assessment.

2. “Plant Your Tree”: Strongly align daily activity with the mission. Consistent clarification of the most important initiatives, strategies or visions related to the Mission (what we at our firm call “Primary Objectives”) is another strong step toward Mission Activation.  Because it can be so easy to get confused about what to do during frenzied times (which are more and more frequent nowadays, it seems), Mission Activation demands that this clarification happen on a regular basis throughout the entire year.  In fact, we’ve found that regular clarification and prioritization is a strong antidote to frenzied times; the more clear everyone is about how they can contribute to the activation of their missions in the most important ways, the less frenzied they are!

It has been our experience that the planting of an Excellence Tree consists of four important phases.  When these phases are properly addressed, the Excellence Tree has been firmly planted in the soil through specific goals and objectives that are “rooted” in the mission:

  • Identification of clear, “Mission-aligned” Primary Objectives
  • Prioritization of these Primary Objectives
  • Creation and prioritization of “Objective-aligned” SMART Goals
  • Distribution of these prioritized SMART Goals to the “right people”

Click here for some brief descriptions of each “Plant Your Tree” phase listed above.

3. “Identify & Pull Weeds”: Identify barriers to Mission Activation and quickly create “SMART Solutions” to overcome them. Weeds often grow near plants and can serve to compromise the growth of that plant by stealing nutrients from it.  Similarly, barriers to SMART Goal achievement inevitably emerge after goals are “planted.”  After developing and distributing mission-aligned SMART Goals to the right people, it is essential to quickly identify and address these barriers regularly and efficiently — before they steal too much time, energy, and money (three “nutrients” that are essential to Mission Activation).  “SMART Solutions” are SMART Goals that help overcome barriers to achieving Primary Objectives.  SMART Solutions allow leaders to quickly pull mission-strangling weeds rather than waiting until the end of the quarter — or, even worse, the year — to do so.  Failure to identify these barriers and develop and track SMART Solutions can quickly deactivate a mission by draining valuable resources from your Excellence Tree.  For information on how we help our clients identify and pull their weeds, click here.

4. “Prune Your Tree”: Break mission-deactivating silos by tracking (and rewarding) consensus and cooperation. The first three steps above usually help team members begin working toward a more Activated Mission on an individual level.  However, team members also often depend on others to help them complete many of their SMART Goals in quality ways.  Unfortunately, “silos” often appear on the path to Mission Activation — individuals or groups that, for a variety of reasons, actually work against each other.   An Activated Mission demands that these silos be consistently identified and broken down.  We’ve found that there are three critical steps in the process of silo-busting:

  • coming to a common definition of “quality teamwork”
  • implementing processes that increase the probability that people will work together to deliver quality teamwork on a consistent basis
  • consistently (not just a few times) clarifying how everyone benefits from quality teamwork

All of these steps help to “prune” silos from your Excellence Tree.  On the other hand, one of the best ways to actually strengthen silos is to encourage the belief that others’ success is not in one’s best interests — and many, many reward systems are set up to promote this silo-strengthening belief.  This can lead to some very dark times on the journey toward Mission Activation, which brings us to our next component: “Providing Adequate Sunlight.”

5. “Provide Adequate Sunlight”: Implement a Mission Activation-friendly reward system (a system that truly increases and maintains mission-aligned activity). After working hard to align a team with its mission statement, we have found that all of this time and effort can go to waste without a consistently effective reward system.  Effectively rewarding Mission Activation is an absolute must in high performance teams, both to encourage success and to retain talented and effective employees.  To do this well, I believe it is necessary to return to the original (and so often misinterpreted) definition of an “effective reward (or, reinforcement)”: something that actually increases desired behaviors after it is given distribute.  In today’s world, too many “reward systems” are not living up to that definition!

In fact, many reward systems actually reward behaviors that we would least like to see: low motivation, finger-pointing, confusion, frenzied activity, etc.  How do we know these reward systems do this?  The simple answer is: because these behaviors are so common!  According to some of the best leaders and behavioral scientists, you can tell what your system rewards by watching what behaviors occur most frequently.  The behaviors that happen most often are the behaviors that are most powerfully rewarded (even if you do not notice what is being rewarded — we do not have to be conscious of what we are rewarding in order to be rewarding it).  Identifying and implementing effective rewards that are customized to powerfully impact every individual’s behavior on a regular basis is a necessity for Mission Activation.  We have found that when leaders are not seeing enough of the the mission-aligned behaviors that they desire in their team members (e.g., goal-achievement, cooperation, enthusiasm, etc.), an ineffective reward system is often a major reason for this.

6. “Create Gardeners”: Train others to help plant the tree,  pull weeds, prune, and provide their own sunlight to the Excellence Tree throughout the entire year. Most people we know say that they have some people in their lives who seem “lazy” or “unmotivated” — no matter what they try to do to motivate them.  Although it seems true that some people are simply not interested in Mission Activation, we’ve found that this all-to-common problem can more often be explained by the fact that so many people have never been trained in the art and science of personal effectiveness.  Personally effective people are much more likely to be able to contribute to a mission in consistently powerful and meaningful ways.  We’ve found that regular training focused on the following skill sets often helps individuals to take accountability for their own contributions to Mission Activation:

  1. Self-Mastery: the ability to strongly influence one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (including staying focused on what is most important, motivating oneself, and creating the time needed to get things done in quality ways).
  2. Interpersonal Expertise: the ability to create uplifting, energizing relations with others (including communicating effectively with others, negotiating in win-win ways, and resolving conflict quickly and effectively).
  3. Mission Connection: the ability to identify one’s areas of passion and excellence and use these areas to positively impact Mission Activation (in themselves and others).

For some more information on how our firm helps “Create Gardeners,” click here.

To return to the original Mission Activation article, click here.

Article Filed under: 2. Mission Activation Tips

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Excellence Tree Journal &hellip  |  September 24th, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    […] For some brief descriptions of each step and some pointers on how to implement them, click here. […]

  • 2. Excellence Tree Journal &hellip  |  November 21st, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    […] To return to the 6 steps toward Mission Activation, click here. […]

  • 3. Excellence Tree Journal &&hellip  |  February 28th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    […] Click here for some brief descriptions of each Mission Activation step listed above – and some pointers on how to implement them to Activate your Mission. […]

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