Why purpose and values matter more in times of change

Soldiers on night patrol

When we are living through a time of uncertainty and change we are bound to need new skills.

It makes sense to learn these skills from people who are experts at dealing with situations that are more difficult than the ones we face.

One best practice example for how to accomplish specific, measurable outcomes in highly uncertain (even hostile) environments comes from special forces operating behind enemy lines. These teams know that no plan survives initial contact with the enemy. But they still manage to achieve their objectives, by defining two things.

First, as well as being clear on what their primary target is (to “capture the hill” or whatever) they also make sure that every team member understands the wider purpose of their mission: what it is intended to achieve as part of the wider campaign. Then, when events turn out differently from what was expected, the team can adapt to carry out other actions to achieve the same aims.

Second, each unit is also given rules of engagement. These define what actions (such as returning fire) are allowed and not allowed under different circumstances. This keeps the unit focused on its highest priorities and maximises the chances of success.

For us, “purpose” is our life purpose and “rules of engagement” are our values. Knowing our life purpose tells us what is a priority for us and what we can ignore. Knowing our values defines how we behave as we work to achieve our objectives. Chapter 5 contains tools for defining both of these.

By being clear on our purpose and values, we give ourselves the focus and the flexibility to be able to continue to achieve the results we seek, no matter what might happen around us.

And in a time of change this becomes more important than ever.

Adapted from Chapter 5 of Inner Leadership.

Photo By The U.S. Army via StockPholio.net

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