Skills to Create Culture (Part 3/3)

Building Safety, Sharing Vulnerability, Establishing Purpose

In the first two parts of this series[1], we looked at Building Safety and Sharing Vulnerability. Now we’ll look at Establishing Purpose, the third of three culture-building skills defined by Daniel Coyle in his book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Group.

Establishing Purpose

It’s great to have a sense of community that makes us safe and willing to share vulnerabilities. But then the question remains, why are we here? We want to know that we’re fulfilling some sense of purpose, making a meaningful difference.Establishing Purpose

Motivation involves channeling our attention to get us from where we are to where we’re going. To be fully motivated we need to be clear on both our starting point and our destination

But just stating the facts, here’s where we are and here’s what we want to achieve, isn’t enough to fully engage human motivation. Nothing modifies our perceptions and motivations as powerfully as stories.

The Power of the Story

Stories engage us intellectually and emotionally to create mental models that drive our behavior. They change our perceptions and motivations, individually and in groups.

Coyle reports on psychological experiments using mental contrasting to significantly improve on achieving goals. Try it for yourself:

  1. Reflect on a realistic goal you would like to achieve. Picture a future where you’ve achieved it. (Tell yourself a story about that future.)
  2. Picture the obstacles between you and that goal as vividly as you can.

That’s it! The narrative you create in the first step gives you a perception of what’s possible and motivates you toward it. The second step grounds it in reality so you can see what it takes to move toward it. You’ve created the two critical components of motivation: Here’s where you’re at and Here’s where you want to go. As an example, in one study of adolescents preparing for the PSAT, those who used this method completed 60 percent more practice questions than the control group.

Give your organization a clear, consistent story of the future you’re trying to create together. Envision the obstacles together. Now you’re prepared to start the journey from point A to point B.

The Power of Repetition

But like we brought out when we explored Building Safety in the first article of this series, one-off events don’t reprogram our thinking the way a constant stream of reinforcement does. If you’re not tired of telling the story, you haven’t told it enough.

Coyle cites Inc. magazine’s results when they asked executives at six hundred companies how many employees could name the company’s top three priorities. The executives predicted 64%. When they asked the employees, only 2% could do it. Those priorities weren’t repeated enough to have an impact.

Clarity of purpose, expressed in a compelling story, repeatedly repeated repetitiously. Watch your team’s motivation rise!

[1] Skills to Create Culture (Part 1/3): Building Safety.

Skills to Create Culture (Part 2/3): Sharing Vulnerability. © 2022 enLumen Leadership Services

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