“CEOs report that up to 75% of their organizational change efforts do not yield the promised results.” (Margaret J. Wheatley)

Wow! No wonder our projects fail. When I speak to leaders about strategic planning, I usually get a response like, “Been there; tried that.” I hear, “It takes time and involves a team — which means politics and beating people up to get them to do what they promised.”

Yet, it is possible to have projects succeed. We did send a man to the moon! How is it done? Dave Logan and his coauthors, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, in their book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization conducted a 10 year study of over 24,000 people and found out not only is it possible, but companies are succeeding in getting buy-in. Zappos, Amgen, IDEO, the Gallup Organization, NASCAR and Griffin Hospital are a few of the companies that are successful.

So, how do they do it? They do it by inspiring their teams through sharing core values and aligning the team on a noble cause. As Logan says, this “sounds touchy feeling and like something that comes out of the Human Resources Department; yet this is what happens in the most successful companies in their industries.”

A core value is “a principle without which life wouldn’t be worth living.” The authors give the following example: “Even scientific organizations, which often claim to be dispassionate and value free, share core values: ‘enriching human knowledge’ and advancing science.”

A noble cause is bigger than what one person can do alone, no matter how many people are offering support; it requires people’s best efforts and passions. The difference between core values and a noble cause is “core values are what we stand in and a noble cause is what we shoot for.”

For projects and companies to succeed, they need the engagement of the team. As human beings, we are motivated to greatness when we believe in the cause. In his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Portfolio Hardcover 2009), Simon Sinek says, “Great leaders are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.”

Leaders inspire people with a noble cause. Sinek says, “Any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why.” A noble cause answers the question of why we do it. The biggest mistake I see is when leaders tell us that we should do it to achieve a revenue or profit goal. Why is not money or profit — those are results. Why does your organization exist? Why is the project important? This gets to the heart of a noble cause.
You may be skeptical or even cynical that this could work, but it does. I see it when the leaders I work with get it — not as a way to manipulate people, but when they truly see who they really are and why they are doing what they do.

My core values are contribution, care and growth, calling forth a world where all people can experience dignity, respect and joy in the workplace.

What is your noble cause?

Here are some examples of noble causes:
• “Building a better world though the power of design.”
• “We renew life.” Amgen
• “Everybody’s got win.” NASCAR
• “We are about organizing federal employees to ensure that each federal employee is treated with dignity and respect.” National Treasury Employees Union
• “A world of play and interconnection for everyone.” Explorati
• “Creating opportunities for all athletes.” Special Olympics
• “To make information available to everybody in the world.” Google
• "To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind." Apple
• “Delivering happiness to customers, employees and vendors.” Zappos
• “Increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of CEOs.” Vistage International

Mark is the Chairman of a New York City think tank composed of CEOs focused on “outperforming” their competition. He is with Vistage International, the world’s leading chief executive organization.He applies his 30 years of experience as an accomplished CEO & corporate manager towards increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of CEOs. Mark holds a MBA from the University of Phoenix and is a graduate of the Coaching and Organizational Learning Program through George Mason University. He can be reached at (212) 867-5849 or mark.taylor@vistage.com.