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Strategic Alignment. Operationalizing Your Purpose. (#88)

The Confident Leader

In the late 90s we took a risk. We founded an Internet startup. We had discovered a genre of music that was not well represented in the burgeoning online retail market. Would our mission for startup succeed?

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
— Antoine de Saint Exupéry (French writer and aviator)

This Week’s Edition

New ideas sound wonderful on the whiteboard. So how do you delineate good ideas from great ideas, those perfectly suited for your team?

Clarify Your Thinking

In 1998, was the dominant retail music store claiming massive market share selling music CDs, but our genre was not offered. So, we launched our tiny retail music site with a clear mission to make the underrepresented genre’s whole catalog available to a huge underserved online audience. 

Our first strategy: Buy access to the entire library of songs in the genre from a wholesale “one-stop” distributor. It was a good start but costly to maintain given online pricing pressure. 

We searched for additional strategic ways to fulfill our mission: easy access to the entire catalog for the best value. It drove every move we made.

  • Replacing the one-stop distributor by going direct to the major labels

  • Partnering with independent labels to grow our library of titles

  • Acquiring a warehouse business to ensure fulfillment accuracy and delivery speed

Those strategies were the tangible embodiment of our mission, allowing us to operationalize our purpose.  It generated momentum. 

However, we experienced plenty of leadership doubt along the way: 

  • Would people buy the music online?

  • Would our site traffic grow in line with our forecast?

  • Would our acquisitions drive the results we wanted?

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Lack of purpose is debilitating. Pursuing strategic initiatives without a purpose or a why is like running a marathon on a hamster wheel, never really getting anywhere.  Purpose-driven strategies lead to a place of fulfillment.

A team laboring through strategies without a clear why creates:

  • Complacency in the team (satisfied with the status quo)

  • Coasting on past performances (no new initiative)

  • Short-term thinking (decision for today)

  • Leadership indifference (why bother)

This can impact a business negatively by being:

  • Highly reactive (whack-a-mole)

  • Less efficient (no overarching goal)

  • Less unified (just doin’ my own thing)

  • More brittle (less durable over time)

A purposeful strategy generates proactive, efficient, unified durable businesses. When determining which strategies to pursue use your purpose as a filter for decision making:

Step 1: Write down the purpose for your organization, its why.

Step 2: Evaluate all current strategic initiatives relative to your purpose.

Step 3: Determine which strategies fit your purpose (and which don’t).

Step 4: Ideate on new strategies that are aligned with your purpose.

There were plenty of unknowns in our little start up that caused us to question our leadership decisions, but we never doubted our mission. Our purpose for starting the business led us to selling the business and joining a much larger organization allowing us to expand the fulfillment of our purpose.


Boost Your Performance

Even if you had a clear purpose before the pandemic, it’s time to renew your vows with your intrinsic motivation. Dust off your why. Update it if necessary, re-enroll your team, go forth and conquer.  Distinguish yourself among your competitors when recruiting (and retaining) your team. Be clear about your purpose…they will be too!

What’s Your Opinion?

What strategy most embodies your purpose? Share with me at:

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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