Discovering Unacceptable

Mission statements rarely create movement. As optimistic and inspiring as they may be, they don’t wake people out of the way things are.


Because they are optimistic! Great stories don’t start with optimism, they start with tension. They don’t start with someone finding their purpose, but when they discover a big problem.

Problems keep us attentive and engaged. You are more engaged in stories with a clear problem to address. Likewise, your team is most engaged when they have a clear problem to address.

If you’re like me, your meetings are filled with plenty of problems. In fact, there are too many! Most teams spend their time moving from one problem to another. Long term, this doesn’t create motivation and change.

You need a problem. A big problem. One worth waking up every day to work on. You need something that draws you in like Batman to Gotham City or Katniss Everdeen to volunteer as tribute.

We recently asked our team leaders to fill in the following: It is unacceptable to us that _______.

Like any discussion, the range of things that are unacceptable will be broad at first. Teams often need a facilitator to help draw out what is both unique to them and common with them. Here are a few of our team’s examples:

It is unacceptable to us that…

  • Groups and random and inconsistent.
  • Volunteers are unprepared and isolated.
  • People have to get healthy alone.

Don’t give in to the temptation to include your solution (or even to hint at it). Let the problem stand on its own. You know you have the right statement when it bothers you, is others focused, and seems really hard.

As you experiment towards innovation, you need a clear picture of what you will innovate towards. Never start with a blank whiteboard – start with a clear statement of what you must fix. Then, whiteboard ideas to fix it.

Start your team meetings by reading your statement. Then ask, “okay, what’s in the way?” You’ll discover more focus, better engagement, and fewer silo’s.

Don’t settle for a mission statement. It’s too easy for mission statements to become mediocre wall art. They’re often too nebulous to execute. They rarely lend themselves towards accountability.

When you’ve told everybody what problem you’re working on, they should be able to see if you’re making a dent. When everybody knows the problem you’re working on they also know if you’re making any progress.

If you start with problems you might just discover purpose.

If you’re looking to discover unacceptable, I can help. Text me today and let’s get started.

Next week I’ll tell you how to choose between great and unique (and how to spot the difference). Subscribe today and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.

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