Great leaders have one thing in common. They take a winning idea/product/innovation and rally people around it to create exceptional levels of success.
You can give credit to the innovations – but the roadside is littered with seemingly genius innovations that went nowhere–often because the geniuses behind the innovations could not rally people to make it into a feasible business. Based on my experience coaching and advising leaders for two decades, the ones who can successfully inspire their people to greatness, have one competency before all others: cultivating mission critical thinking.
Winning teams do not think of their work, as work. They view what they do as a mission. The difference is profound. Think of the NASA teams who put men and shuttles into space. They weren’t working for the agency –they were committed to the country, to science, to the mission of exploring new frontiers. If you think that’s the private reserve of space travel or the search for a cancer cure, look at the teams constantly driving Amazon and Facebook to turn missions into miracles.
Mission critical thinking means:
* At minimum, everyone can tell you what the mission is, off the top of their head-and they are passionate about it! I have worked with many leadership teams where the members could recite the mission, but it sounded like a sentence in an annual report. It was clear there was no passion behind it. This is not mission critical thinking. This is a team feeling a slave to the leaders ideas. And this does not create anything beyond mediocre performance.
* Everyone on the team has pride in the mission. They know why their mission matters and feel proud to be a part of achieving it. Research consistently shows that motivation and organizational results are tied to the accomplishment to something meaningful. Great leaders cultivate pride by ensuring that everyone on the team works from the premise that their mission matters to the organization, customers and the world. Does your team? If not, you will never achieve anything beyond ordinary.
* Employees hold themselves accountable to the ambition that is set. It is one thing for a leader to make speeches about vision and mission, but great teams are filled with employees who internalize the mission, make decisions based on it, collaborate in the spirit of it…this is mission critical thinking in action! The classic examples are seen in the employee ruminations of “What will Steve think?” (Apple) or “What will Jeff think?” (Amazon). These thoughts run through employees minds more than just fears, but as reminders to hold themselves accountable to the highest standards the company has. The organizational results speak for themselves.
Innovation and new ideas matter. However if there is one thing any leader needs to do to create a team that excels, a team that beats forecasts and becomes known as the disrupter, it is to cultivate mission critical thinking in all that they do.