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If you’re trying to stimulate breakthrough performance and commitment, you’d better have a purpose that’s worth it.  If you offer potential team members a bland, vague mission, you’ve already failed.  Stop now.  You have no chance.

As Daniel Pink pointed out in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, humans are hard-wired with three core needs:

  • Autonomy
  • (Pursuit of) Mastery
  • Purpose larger than oneself

Incremental improvement (yawn) is what we all have to do every day.  It’s not much of a rallying cry to exhort the troops to “Reduce re-work by 3%!”  ”Yes!  I definitely want in on that!  Sign me up!”  Not.

Contrast that with Steve Jobs’ famous pitch to recruit John Sculley, who at the time was CEO of PepsiCo, to Apple:  

“Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

People want to change the world, or at least do something memorable.  They want to be part of something that matters because it makes a difference.  They want to go to the moon, not to the copy center. They want to be proud of what they do.

Our bold, audacious goal was simple:  

Help every person within our sphere at this client earn the greatest annual review in the history of that company.

Pretty ambitious, eh?  But simple, even noble.  The best news is that it’s a mission that you don’t have to hide from your client.  Might those clients even be motivated to, say, help you with that mission?  Think Jerry Maguire here: “Help me to help you.”

In that light, the typical fuzzy team mission, e.g., “deepening the client relationship” is meaningless Pablum.  If we manage to pull this off and help a bunch of people get fantastic annual reviews, I’m not at all concerned about that relationship’s rating.

The other advantage of a mission that’s all about the client’s benefit and not at all about the firm’s is that the principle of reciprocity virtually assures that the client will make sure things work out well for us, too.

Reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. People categorize an action as kind by viewing its consequences and also by the person’s fundamental intentions. Reciprocity is considered as a strong determining factor of human behavior…With reciprocity, a small favor can produce a sense of obligation to a larger return favor. This feeling of obligation allows an action to be reciprocated with another action. Because there is a sense of future obligation with reciprocity it can help to develop and continue relationships with people. Reciprocity works because from a young age people are taught to return favors and to disregard this teaching will lead to the social stigma of being an ingrate.

For one person, e.g., the “relationship partner,” delivering on this ambitious mission is impossible.  But for a motivated team, it’s merely challenging.  And challenging, as Pink shows, is the attraction.

Mike O'Horo

Would you like to find out how to develop client teams that actually work, and that clients love to support? Drop me a line or call me and we can discuss it.