TED talk

Another great design by Danae McDermott

To write a better Mission Statement, have a better mission.

Planning is invaluable, but plans are useless.

Planning is invaluable, but plans are useless.

For the last year we’ve been discussing our Mission and who we want to be as a team. What’s the imprint of our collective souls and what words do we want to live by, faithfully? It’s not an easy question and it’s taken us the better part of a year, with regular meetings, to arrive at this:

In everything we do we seek to simplify the complicated. Because nothing is faster, we trust our teammates and clients freely and implicitly, and we treat them that way. Doing so builds a safe environment where communication is free-flowing, open, and honest.

Through this environment we continually work to innovate our operational systems to ensure the best possible user experience (UX), from first tour through graduation. Knights Circle creates an exceptional Student Housing experience by focusing on people, and a ceaseless desire to make their lives easier.

A few thoughts relating to our mission statement and how we went into the process of creating it:

It’s focused: We wanted something that wasn’t too long or too all encompassing – if you have five priorities, you have no priorities. We wanted to focus on systems because we all could and everyone had skin in that game. From the bottom up, our organization has an interest in making sure our systems work properly every time. Our clients’ satisfaction is directly wrapped up in our systems, as are our front line team members. If things work right, you’re generally happy with the service – both inside and outside the operation.

It’s not permanent:  I think too often people tend to assume that a mission statement needs to be god speaking for all time. Not so. It’s a living document, much closer to a constitution – this is how we’re assembled and for what purpose. If we no longer feel as though this speaks to our highest purpose, and there’s another revelation that we want to enshrine, then change it we will. The good news is we don’t need anything as unwieldy as a continental congress to do it.

It advises action: A mission statement that can’t help guide your choice in actions isn’t worth the time it takes to read it. If we’re going to say that we trust everyone implicitly, what’s that look like in action? Are there things we’re doing now that suggest we don’t trust people? For example, some managers have required doctor’s notes for absent employees who’ve called out for appointments. Requiring the note says fully “look, we don’t really believe you and we want to see proof – we don’t trust you and we have to protect ourselves from you.” That’s not at all the message we want to send, so we stop doing it. The same with our clients – if they want to switch rooms due to an unsolvable roommate dispute, requiring the jumping through of hoops for documentation in order to offer it, it says “We don’t believe you and we don’t trust you. You’re trying to get over on us and we’re not going to have it.” That was never the intention of course, but that’s the resulting feeling to the client.

 It’s honest: How many times have you looked at a company’s stated mission only to shake your head? The soaring platitudes are exhausting and immediately erode whatever trust you may have had. If an organization can’t be honest with themselves, how can they be honest (consistently, institutionally) with anyone else? We wanted to say something we all believed in and that we all wanted to live by. The best parts of US is our ability to work together and our shared desire to provide a great experience. We were honest with each other that while we’re pretty damn good at this thing, we’re not perfect and we’d like to get closer to that. Breaking it down we realized focusing our energies on perfecting our systems would have a ripple effect positively touching every other aspect of our business; Happier clients, happier Team, and more success.

Another great design by Danae McDermott

Another great design by Danae McDermott

We started with Why: A giant hat tip to Mr. Simon Sinek for his inspirational TED talk. If you’re not familiar, I can’t implore you enough to check out his work (Talks, books, consulting services, etc…) as he’s directly responsible for how we chose to approach this formulation. In short, Sinek advises that great organizations start with Why they do things, then How, then What. Most though do it the other way around and this gets it all wrong, eliminating any of the inspiration and identity that could be had between the client and the company. For an example, ours is as follows:

WHY: We hate needless complication. We like things to work seamlessly. We think we can simplify things better than anyone else because we understand WHY they ultimately should be that way.

HOW: Because we trust each other, and our clients, we’re able to be honest about our business and our shortcomings in our systems. We strive to fix our systems to eliminate institutional defects.

WHAT: An exceptional student housing experience. This starts with everything working the way it should. The exceptional part is that we’re also exceedingly nice and warm, happy people who love what they do and each other. Since we work in a system that values people and making things work, we’ve got lots of goodwill in our hearts to treat you like a rock star and to go out of our way for you. We’re not scared of you, or hiding from you – we want to delight you.

We think this should be a good overall statement for this coming year and I’m impressed with how the team has taken to it with enthusiasm. I’m confident that a year from now, we’ll be writing a different version that recognizes our shifting focus while retaining our core Why, and that’s how it should be. Involvement breeds commitment, and that’s one thing we have plenty of.

What’s your mission? How did you get there? Does it still serve you and your team?

Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation TED talk

This is an absolute classic and one that has helped me decide what kind of work I most enjoy doing. The three keys towards fulfilling, cognitive work, are (summarized briefly):
*Autonomy – Do you control a majority of your time at work and what you’re working on?
*Mastery – Are you doing something you can get better at?
*Purpose – Do you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself?

These have been guide posts for me for the last three years since I first saw Mr. Pink spell out what I’d long suspected. My quarterly bonus of thousands of dollars as a Regional Manager wasn’t nearly as motivating to me as was the joy of helping one of my Managers succeed, or creating some new metric/model/marketing platform that would help propel our success. Sure, I love money, but I love my team and the thrill of winning a lot more. Especially when I get to create and collaborate in order to get there.

Give this a view and really check your current motivations for why you do what you do. Are you propelled by your bonus potential, or possessed by your passion?

“Riddle of the Gun” or, the Best Article I’ve Ever Read

Author Sam Harris has done what I didn’t think possible – he’s articulated a dispassionate and rational summation of the “gun situation” in the U.S.

Totally.

Image from Sam Harris'

What to do about 300 million of these and a strong 2nd amendment?

Mr. Harris is neither cheer leader or adversary of guns and explores the questions surrounding such a complicated issue with clear eyes and full weight given to all arguments.

Do yourself a favor and read this article entitled “Riddle of the Gun” regardless of how much you think you know about the issue. I can promise you, there is a wealth of information you’ve never heard before, or at least not in this way.

As a disclaimer, I’m not a member of the NRA and I don’t own a gun personally. Additionally, I’m a parent of two small children that mean the world to me and I can’t begin to imagine the anguish of the parents of Newtown, CT and would love more than anything to insure such a thing never happens again.

I don’t think that “this isn’t the time for debate” as every moment is time for debate when it comes to things of great importance in our lives. Especially today, the debate will be raging and I don’t think you’re going to find a better, more even-handed take than the Mr. Harris’ post on the subject.

Please read it and feel free to let me know your thoughts on the subject and I’d love to let you know mine. We all want the same things in the end: for our children to be safe, for less blood to be shed, and for a strong feeling of security. What we disagree with at the moment, is how to get there.

In the meantime, here’s a video of Harris speaking at a TED talk about moral relativism. This guy is brilliant.

Sam Harris – “Science can Show What’s Right”