It is London in 1671: the great city is in the middle of a construction boom, to rebuild in style after the catastrophic fire of a few short years ago.
In the middle of this, there is rising the bones of a great cathedral, designed to be the most magnificent in all the world.
One day the master architect, Christopher Wren, was touring the site to monitor progress, and observed three bricklayers on a scaffold; one crouched, one half-standing and one standing tall, working very hard and fast.
To the first bricklayer, Christopher Wren asked the question, “What are you doing?” to which the bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.”
The second bricklayer responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.”
But the third bricklayer, the most productive of the three and the future leader of the group, replied with a gleam in his eye, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral.”
The message is clear: if we want an empowered, motivated and enthusiastic team, doing great work every day …
(and in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, this isn’t a bad idea)
… then our people need to know the true purpose of their work: they need to feel motivated and committed to the job in hand as being building something great and worthwhile, rather than just ‘laying bricks’.
Yet so few business owners take the time and effort to do this.
Most businesses have only one purpose: to make money.
And most job descriptions are lamentably lame and uninspiring.
Imagine if Sir Christopher Wren wrote his business plan and job descriptions in the dull business speak of today:
The Business Plan would perhaps be: ‘To keep laying bricks as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as we can until we get something large enough to sell’.
And the job description would be: ‘You job is to lay bricks quickly, cheaply and efficiently as and where you’re told to lay them until you’re told to do something else’.
Hardly a recipe for enduring greatness and an organisation that will inspire loyalty and generate a reputation that draws new customers to it like bees round a honey pot!
So, the point of this blog is to help business owners to slow down and start thinking a bit more like Sir Christopher Wren and a bit less like a bricklayer’s foreman!
This is the principle of having a ‘Customer Focused Mission’: a higher purpose that inspires and gives meaning and purpose to the work, so people want to deliver their best and actively find ways to continually improve … and attracts new customers who want to be part of the action.
And then, by the way, the business also gets more customers, who want to buy more … and they make more money.
A great example of this would be Steve Jobs and Apple:
Steve Jobs could be considered as one of the most motivated and driven entrepreneurs of all time. Most people believe that it was his constant need for perfection that drove him to persevere through projects: this did motivate him, but only because he believed that impeccable products are the only products that should be in a consumer’s hands, but his biggest motivation was his desire to leave something behind that changed everything. He wanted to change the world and technology for the masses.
When we work with businesses, this is one of the first things we start to discuss and discover:
- What ‘cathedral’ are you trying to build?
- What’s your true inner motivation?
- How can you slow down and get these ideas out and explained clearly, so that others can not only see them but also get behind them?
After all: in any situation, what gets measured gets done: if we ask our people simply to lay bricks, the only measure is the number of bricks laid (no matter what they look like) … and so many businesses only have measures similar to ‘the number of bricks’.
But, if we have a higher purpose – a ‘Customer Focused Mission’ – then perhaps, if we slow down and clarify this, we make the effort employ ‘cathedral builders’ who desperately want to be part of something higher and more worthwhile, and we continually measure and hold people accountable to the progress of the cathedral, then we may start to build something truly great and attractive that attracts loyal, raving customers, who want to buy from you, want to buy again and again, and want to tell all their friends to do the same.
It all starts with the ‘Customer Focused Mission’.
If you’d like further help or advice on how to build a ‘Customer Focused Mission’ – and make it work for you – inside your Organisation, or examples of ‘Customer Focused Missions’ that have worked well in businesses similar to yours, simply reply ‘tell me more’ to this email, and we’ll get in touch with you.
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Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and managers in independent businesses.
Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers who have limited time and resources, and want to grow their business … all without sacrificing principles or profits.
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