Updated: Jan 23, 2022
Columbo questions come from the old TV detective series that ran for more than 30 years - with Detective Columbo's beige raincoat, disheveled hair, and his seemingly scatter-brain style. His signature moment was just as he was leaving a room or a scene, he would turn back and ask the suspect one last killer question.
Often, this would catch the suspect off guard and Columbo would end up solving the case. There's no such thing as a dumb question - if the answer is worth knowing.
Columbo Question: So, Why Companies Do What They Do?
Humans are motivated by working towards a cause or a purpose outside of themselves. A purpose that they can believe in and rally around. Purpose heightens engagement, enthusiasm, and passion. This is a common state of mind for most - when people and organizations have a purpose, then it makes all the effort seem more worthwhile.
This visual, created by Studio Insights shows the relationship between people and purpose - You love it, you're great at it, the world needs it, and you get paid for it!
These translate into Mission, Passion, and then Profession, and Vocation.
With all of these things in place, a person has purpose at work.
The table below illustrates the 5 components of an organization - People, What You Do, Client perspectives, Image but they all stem from the importance of the first part of PURPOSE.
Simon Sinek's book Start with Why emphasizes the importance of “why” companies do what they do, for both employees, and customers.
Employees are more inspired to act when they understand why the company does what it does, and how what they do contributes to the why.
According to Sinek, while customers don’t buy “what you do", they buy "why you do it". He further points out that this is often where true differentiation exists.
What Gives Your Company Purpose?
Why do you get up every day, and do what you do? What gives your life meaning? These are heavy questions and get to the heart of how we view our existence.
In organizational leadership, we often speak about employee engagement and its importance to achieving our business goals, a concept that is supported by many studies.
People who embrace life with a sense of enthusiasm and passion tend to grab more attention than those that don't - even more than their technical skills. If they “get it” (embrace it, own it, internalize it) – then get out of the way because they will make things happen. Their enthusiasm will be infectious if coached and guided.
For clarity, let’s look at the dictionary definitions of a few keywords:
PURPOSE: The reason for which something is done or for which something exists.
ENGAGE: Occupy, attracts, or involve someone's interest or attention.
PASSION: Strong and barely controllable emotion.
ENTHUSIASM: Intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval.
"IF the only reason your organization exists is to create financial profit – what message does this give your employees, and your customers?"
Organizational success, which can come in many forms, is the outcome of acting on a purpose. Too often, Mission Statements tend to reveal little about why companies do what they do, or their reason for existence.
Let’s look at two examples of Mission Statements:
ABC Company Mission Statement “To positively impact the lives of our employees by delivering service excellence to our customers, and thereby improving their company environment and marketplace brand.”
Acme Company Mission Statement “To continuously deploy the most efficient processes to be the best service in our market, and thereby grow our business profitably and increase shareholder value.”
Think about these two statements from the customer's point of view - which company would you find more appealing to do business with?
How about from the employees’ point of view? Which company would you prefer to develop a career with?
ABC Company's Mission Statement focuses on their purpose, versus the Acme Company which leans toward expressing only what they do and their focus on financial results and gain. The only hint of purpose for Acme tends to focus internally on growing their business. Certainly not a terrible thing, but you would likely need to dig deeper into the company's Guiding Principles or Values to learn more.
CONSIDER: Make a list of companies that you know and visit their websites. Explore their mission statements and see if you can determine their purpose, and why they do what they do. Is it clear and concise, or is it fuzzy or vague? Is it memorable? Does the statement reach for a higher purpose, or focus only on what the company does?
REMEMBER: Your Mission Statement should be aspirational and be a virtual North Star - the guiding light for your people and your organization that leads you, and supports your strategic imperatives.
Here are four real examples for you to consider:
“To be the most hospitable company in the world – by creating heartfelt experiences for Guests, meaningful opportunities for Team Members, high value for Owners, and a positive impact in our communities.”
“We save people money so they can live better.”
“To provide authentic hospitality by making a difference in the lives of the people we touch every day.”
“To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference.”
What's your Mission Statement? And, how does it stack up?
The purpose of a company should reach for a higher objective. Perhaps most importantly, it should be simple, clear, and concise enough for people to remember.
The people of course I’m talking about are your employees who must internalize and strive for it. And your customers must see it as something that makes your company unique, and desirable.
Make your Purpose come alive
Having an effective Mission Statement that conveys a company's purpose is step one. Making it a living and tangible part of your organizational culture is an entirely different conversation, or step two. Here are some ways in how you make your Mission come alive:
SIMPLICITY: simple, clear, and concise - people don't remember long paragraphs.
PEOPLE: hire the right people who have passion, enthusiasm, and shared beliefs.
VISIBILITY: share your Mission, Vision, Values & Purpose - EVERYWHERE.
REITERATE: in every meeting, gathering, communication that you make.
ENGAGE: with everyone in your organization, regardless of position.
Your Values (or Guiding Principles)
The guiding principles of the company, often called Values, establish uncompromisable behaviors to achieve the Mission (purpose). They can be thought of as guardrails that apply to, nurture, and encourage employee behaviors as they pursue the company's Mission.
Here are some examples:
Treat Everyone with Respect
Ensure Profitable Growth
Employees will have all the tools required to Do Their Job
Pursue Excellence in Customer Service at Every Opportunity
Be Easy to Work with for both Clients and Employees
All employees will have an opportunity to Learn, Develop & Grow
Collaboration and Teamwork are an Organizational Imperative
Continuously Innovate for Improved Performance
Your own Columbo Moment?
There are no such things as dumb questions when self-reflecting and looking at not just what you do but why you do it. Sometimes the most obvious questions never get asked, and therefore never get answered.
Self-reflection is critical in the process of understanding not only where you are today but where you want to be and can be into the future.
It's natural for people to want to be part of something bigger, with purpose, for the better, for GOOD. Just making stuff, or simply providing a service for profit alone isn't sufficient for most but why you're doing it and what it means is everything in creating your North Star and heading on your journey to TRUE NORTH©
When people and clients come to your company, they should get caught in the wave that begins with your mission, flows through your culture and the service or product you deliver in the constant pursuit of excellence, solving problems, delivering great experiences, and making an impact.
Don’t underestimate the importance of PURPOSE – In a hyper-competitive world, it could be the catalyst that drives your growth.
Ed Snowden has 40+ years of experience leading strategic partnerships, retention, and growth with FORTUNE 500+ Companies. Along with Simon Elliot, Managing Partner of 4xi, Ed is the co-author of 4xi's Strategic Partnerships and Growth Academy, TRUE NORTH©.
TRUE NORTH© Strategic Partnerships & Growth Academy has been created on the foundation of decades of experience working with large organizations globally, winning better and retaining better business.
TRUE NORTH© is focused on helping sales and retention teams and is divided into 6 modules of in-person or virtual training and coaching, including:
1. TRUST: The foundation of Strategic Partnerships
2. PORTFOLIO: Assessing your current portfolio of business and/or opportunities
3. STRATEGIC ACCOUNT PLANS: Critical information into an actionable framework
4. COLLABORATIVE SOLUTIONING: The principles of solving client challenges
5. ARCHITECTURE OF PARTNERSHIP: How to set the stage for Strategic Partnership
6. GROWTH LEADERSHIP: Personal development for growth leaders
The 4xi team has decades of experience designing and implementing Strategic Partnership frameworks and strategies to help businesses win better, retain better business.
To learn more about TRUE NORTH©, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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