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Giving them a cathedral to build

Tim Williams

“Consider the story of two stonemasons. You walk up to the first stonemason and ask, “Do you like your job?” He looks up at you and replies, “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.” You thank him for his time and walk on.

 

About thirty feet away, you walk up to a second stonemason. You ask him the same question, “Do you like your job?” He looks up and replies, “I love my job. I’m building a cathedral. Sure, I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember, and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But I’m building a cathedral.”

 

Simon Sinek, ‘Start With Why’

Giving your team a real sense of purpose is the transformation that counts

It’s fair to say that the stonemasons that began building la Sagrada Família in the photo knew they would never see it completed. But I bet that didn't really bother them. They were part of something much bigger than themselves and that’s something which creates a feeling that’s both powerful and empowering.

 

Brands recognise this power and seek to harness it when they talk of their ‘purpose’. But, all too often they never quite seem to pull this off. Have you ever met anyone who, when asked what they do, replies by reciting their employer’s corporate mission statement?

 

In my time (which almost stretches back to the perpendicular period) I’ve worked for and with many major brands, but if I’m honest, I can’t recall any one of the finely crafted, PR department-approved, ‘brand values’ that always seem to appear framed in the reception area next to the fire instructions. In fact, I’ve always suspected that any company that feels the need to state how ‘honest’, ‘customer-obsessed’ and ‘committed to equal opportunities’ they are might well have a problem with those very issues…

More to the point: how many customers have a clue what the ‘purpose’ is of the brands they use everyday?

 

But, having a genuinely clear, simple and inspiring purpose can be transformative if it captures the imagination of everyone in your organisation. With this is place, they are free to focus on the outcomes that reflect this core purpose.

 

Just imagine what can be created when people really get behind a big idea.

 

What’s yours?