Why Actionable Inspiration Trumps Even the Best Strategy

During the Industrial Age, it was commonplace for a corporation to spend hours carefully crafting a mission statement. Then an expensive frame would be placed around that all-encompassing, inspiring paragraph and it would hang in the front lobby for the world to see.

The trouble: those mission statements were what the corporations wanted the outside world to think they were. Too often, that statement – no matter how many buzzwords it borrowed – bore little resemblance to reality. Even the newest employees, in a matter of hours, knew better.

Inspiring? Not Even Close

In the Social Age, we’ve risen above the traditional mission statement. We understand words alone can’t help us sell what we want to be. Our actions must align with our purpose. And we know even the best strategy will be devoid of impact without effective communication of that purpose.

But that’s just the starting point. That is our “transparent” moment, where how we describe our intentions matches what we really do – and how we do it. This doesn’t make us special; it makes us minimally acceptable.

While autocratic, command-and-control leaders struggle with this new reality, social leaders understand they must do more. They must lead by example first. And, for others to follow, they must provide “actionable inspiration.”

Actionable Inspiration

Defining Actionable Inspiration

With the leaders and organizations we work with at Switch & Shift and YouTern, this is a core element of our culture. We use it when designing a new consulting strategy, launching a new product – and even when deciding if content or a social media post will be of true value to the communities we serve.

And here’s the key: We use both words together, almost never apart. After all, anyone can bark actionable orders and expect them to be carried out. And almost anyone can deliver a Tony Robbins-style message that temporarily inspires.

But to consistently provide “actionable inspiration” – to point a team in the right direction while simultaneously inspiring them to accomplish a common mission – is the epitome of social leadership.

We get the right people in the right room at right time. We introduce the challenge. And we get out of the way.

That is how, in the Social Age, we build a team capable of not just completing a task, but living our culture and breathing our purpose.

This is how actionable inspiration trumps even the best strategy. After all, any fool can build a plan. But only a fool will follow a plan they don’t believe in.

Culture is Non-Negotiable

For these nimble teams to function effectively across multiple disciplines, culture can’t be a buzzword; it must be – in scalable, repeatable fashion – a core metric watched over by all stakeholders.

No, a good company culture doesn’t mean everyone gets along all the time – work isn’t a Disney movie where birds sit on our shoulders and whistle happy tunes. It does mean, though, that everyone feels respected and is willing to work together toward a common goal. They believe in the mission to the point that most are actively engaged; they are inspired to take action and do their part.

That is the kind of culture you want at your organization. That is how you’ll recruit and retain top talent for your team. And that is how you find other leaders – from the C-Suite all the way down to an ambitious intern – willing to provide actionable inspiration rather than just shouting out autocratic orders.

Deliberate Creation of an Optimistic Workplace

In workplaces that thrive on actionable inspiration and an engaging culture, we can count on the forming of a rather predictable mindset: optimism.

So the next step, of course, is to build the rest of your team around this optimistic culture.

First, look inside your current operations. Specifically, identify those who are thriving within your culture now. In each role, what skill sets – soft, technical, and professional – and personality types perform the absolute best?

Who genuinely loves getting out of bed every day to come to work? Who enthusiastically mentors other team members and leads, regardless of the title on his or her business card? What type of person not only does the job well but serves as ambassador of your brand? Who lives your culture and breathes your purpose?

Figure that out – and then hire more of them. Lots more. Hire away from those who are not doing well: the drama queens, divas and trolls who may not be willing to go all in. With deliberate intent, help your team evolve by hiring not only to the culture in place now, but to the optimistic workplace you want your organization to be known for 10 years from now.

From a core of actionable inspiration, we build a sustainable culture. From that culture, we create an optimistic workplace. From within an optimistic workplace, we inspire every team member to take action.

And from within this workplace circle of life, we live our culture and breathe our purpose. We beat strategy – even the best strategy – nearly every time. No mission statement required.

Mark Babbitt is the co-author of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive. He’s also the CEO of YouTern, an award-winning social community for young professionals, and President of Switch and Shift, which advocates social leadership and the deliberate creation of an optimistic workplace.

An in-demand facilitator, mentor and speaker, Mark was recently named to Inc.’s “100 Great Leaderships Speakers” and to Business News Daily’s “Top Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter.” Mark contributes to HBR, Inc., Huffington Post and many other publications. Mark is the father of five; he and his wife call Seattle home.