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Unity of Purpose.

In his review of the new book, How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions, David Roll shares what is known about the evening before a critical World War II invasion, when General Eisenhower visited the 101st Airborne Division at Newbury, a town in the south of England:

This was the unit whose glider forces and paratroopers, Leigh-Mallory had predicted, would suffer roughly 70% and 50% casualties respectively during the invasion. A famous photo depicts a cluster of soldiers, their faces blackened with charcoal for camouflage and to protect against glare, as they gathered around Ike. Up close, he asked them their names and where they were from. “Texas, sir . . . Missouri, sir . . . Michigan, sir,” they responded with laughter and cheers as the roll call of the states went on. He spoke to them about cattle and farming, and to Wallace Strobel, the tall Michigan trooper, he asked, “How’s the fly-fishing?” Eisenhower “was always trying to talk to troops about things back home.” Why? The soldiers knew they were in for a savage fight, and Ike “wanted to remind them of what they had to live for.”

As the leader of your organization, you’re unlikely to face the same kind of threats and danger these brave soldiers faced. You’re not leading troops into literal battle, but you are leading them through a very challenging time, right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted nearly every aspect of life as we knew it and has left no industry, profession or segment of the economy untouched. Like General Eisenhower, if you’d like to lead your team successfully to the other side, focus on unity of purpose.

How often do you remind your team what you’re working towards and why you all show up in the same parking lot each morning? Is it simply to collect a paycheck? I certainly hope not.

In his book, Practical Wisdom, Barry Schwartz demonstrates how employees produce their best work and report being the most fulfilled in their careers when they have an opportunity to master new skills, secure more autonomy in how they achieve results and feel as though their job is connected to a higher sense of purpose… NOT when they make more money or earn a bonus.

We’ve successfully achieved and leveraged this phenomenon in my practices through our affiliation with Smiles Change Lives. If you haven’t read my latest book, where I show step by step how you can do the same thing in your business, I can think of no good reason why not. Put a copy of the book in the hands of each employee and start talking about the reasons why you serve your market and how you’ll make a difference in your community. Clearly define your purpose and pursue it like no other.

Moving forward, the organizations that are unified around a higher sense of purpose–seeking to serve first and make a profit second–will flourish. Everything else will be flushed out of the marketplace by consumer indifference, poor performance, extreme competition or a combination of the three. Recessions and crises have a way of bringing out the best in some and the worst in others. I count my blessings that Burleson Seminars members sit squarely in the former category and it’s an extreme honor and privilege to help you continue to do your best in pursuit of your higher sense of purpose.

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