Creating Movements

A simple guide for leaders on bringing your team together to fulfill a higher purpose.

Your team has a purpose beyond making profits.

The question is... how do you bring everyone on your team together to bring the purpose to life? In other words, how can you create a movement within your team?

The following is a simple framework for creating such movements.

Let’s get started.

The Fundamentals

Before a successful purpose-driven movement can start, you must have clarity of your WHY, your WHERE, and your HOW.

Simon Sinek explains this well in his TED talk How great leaders inspire action:

By WHY, I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your case?What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

Where is your team headed?

The WHERE is the future your team wants to create along with what it aspires to be.

Lastly, by HOW, I don’t mean HOW on the strategy level, but rather on a philosophical level.

HOW represents the values and beliefs that guide the way you do things. It is your way of doing things to fulfill your WHY and reach your WHERE.

A Hollywood-inspired Framework

Lights, camera, and action. These are the three essential things for the filming of a scene to start.

Similarly, there are three essential things to start a movement of change.

Understanding: your team has a deep understanding of the WHY, WHERE and HOW.

Connection: your team understands how the work they do connect to the purpose.

Action: your team has the tools to drive the decisions and actions with purpose. Your team has developed the habits to enable purposeful actions.

Understanding, connection, and action. Remember this as a simple framework for igniting a purpose-driven movement within your team.

Let’s go through them in a bit more detail.


First, build an understanding of the change your team aims to create.

It’s a noisy world. Communicate with clarity and simplicity. Present a logical and persuasive case to win their minds.

Winning their minds is only half of the story. Equally important, connect with them on an emotional level. Move them. Win their hearts.

Here’s a list of tools to help you communicate and build an understanding of the purpose behind your movement.

Basic tools:

  • Booklets
  • Cards
  • Posters
  • Films and videos

Digital Experiences:

  • Websites
  • Apps

Physical Experiences

  • Workshops
  • Events
  • Exhibits

No matter what mix of tools you choose to use, remember to win not just their minds, win their hearts.


Here is the parable of the bricklayer as told by Angela Duckworth from her book GRIT: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success:

Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” The third says, “I am building the house of God.”

Here is the famous NASA story as told by Mark Zuckerberg from his Harvard commencement address:

One of my favorite stories is when John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

In both stories the protagonists understand how the work they do everyday ladders up to the higher purpose.

It tells us that we must help our team for a connection between what they do and the higher purpose. Set up the time and space for the team to reflect and envision how their work connects to the purpose.


Now that your team has gained a deeper understanding and made the connection, it’s time to focus on bringing the purpose into action.

In the movies of Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow always looks to his compass to know where he should be headed next.

Likewise, you must equip your organization with the equivalent of a compass, a tool that guides you and makes sure your actions and decisions are consistent with your purpose.

Create a purpose compass. It could be as a simple checklist for your decisions and actions to make sure they are aligned with your purpose.

Next, cultivate habits that point everyone to the purpose. There is no point having a shiny North Star no one looks to.

Here a few ways to make celebrating your purpose and values habitual.

  • Hold annual events: designate a day in the year to celebrate your purpose and values.
  • Create annual publications: create a yearbook-like publication every year to celebrate and reflect on your purpose and values and how they came alive that year.
  • Make workshops part of your process: hold workshops before/after a project or at regular intervals for team members to think about and reflect on purpose and values.

Two takeaways here. Equip your team with a purpose compass. Build habits the orient your team to your purpose.

Purpose + People = Movements

You can design and create, and built the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality. - Walt Disney

The heart of movements is people.

Help them understand the purpose. Help them connect to the purpose. Help them put purpose in action.

This is how a movement starts.


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How REI discovered their purpose

REI’s Seven Steps to Discovering Purpose

Doesn’t it seem that stores are opening earlier and earlier every year for Black Friday? Sometimes I feel bad for those who have to work on Thanksgiving evening.

Looks like I’m not alone.

If you love the outdoors, you probably know REI (which stands for Recreational Equipment Incorporated). Since 2015, REI closes its stores for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In fact, Black Friday is a paid holiday for its employees; REI encourages its employees as well as customers to go outside on Black Friday. Here’s what the current CEO Jerry Stritzke said:

We believe that being outside makes us our best selves — healthier and happier, physically and mentally. But as a nation we’re still spending over 90 percent of our lives indoors and it’s a trend we need to tackle. I love that there is a community of people in this country who dedicate their lives to that mission, so together, we are asking America “Will you go out with us?”

I’d like to share with you about how REI’s leadership team clarified and discovered their purpose. Straight from REI’s former CEO Sally Jewell, she describes how they discovered their purpose:

We spent time as a large leadership group, 150 people asking, “Why does REI exist?” Then we asked ourselves five times, “Why is that important?” And two more questions: “What would happen if REI went away?” and then, “Why do I devote my creative energies to this organization?” We took those couple hundred sheets and came up with one core purpose: to inspire, educate, and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. While we make money be being an outfitter, what we really do is inspire people to do things they aspire to do — educate them so they can try something that they’ve been uncomfortable trying before. And if we do that well, it works its way into their everyday lives and they begin to give back, and that’s the stewardship component.

Whew. That’s quite a dense and powerful quote. Let’s unpack it.

REI’s Purpose Discovery Process

  • Gather your team.
  • Ask: Why do you exist?
  • Ask “Why is that important?” five times.
  • Ask: What would happen if you went away?
  • Ask: Why do you devote your creative energies to your organization?
  • Gather everyone’s answers.
  • Review and internalize the results to craft your purpose statement.

There you have it - seven steps to discovering purpose.

What quip stands for

Launched in 2015 Quip designs and sells electric toothbrushes. What separates them from traditional competitors is their offering of a comprehensive subscription service. (Their commercial from last year is a great introduction to who they are.)

Where competitors in this space focus on the product itself, the electric toothbrush and brush heads, Quip focuses on building a habit. By embracing this angle, Quip not only provides a toothbrush focused on getting you to brush daily, but also sends you new brush heads as well as toothpaste when needed. And to further motivate you to brush, all this is fused with elegant Apple-esque design.

Quip’s Golden Circle

Here’s what I pieced from their website and blog about what they do and why they do it.

Their WHY:

Some oral care brands prioritize affordability, sustainability, or gimmicky gadgets, but unfortunately a focus on a complete oral health routine often seems to be forgotten.

quip was created to make great oral care more enjoyable, accessible and simple for everyone.

Their WHAT:

our primary focus is to simplify oral health, using honest dental tips, accessibly designed products and affordable services.

we deliver products, advice and services that guide good habits for life (their mission)

Having a holistic view

In an article about Quip from Fast Company, “According to the American Dental Association, about 50% of people don’t brush their teeth twice a day, and 75% do not replace their toothbrushes as often as they should. The Center for Disease Control points out that 40% of people don’t visit the dentist every year, and even less than that go at the recommended six-month mark.”

Quip’s service helps people get in a habit of brushing their teeth as well as replacing the brushes when necessary. However, that is not where Quip stops. To combat the problem of people not visiting the dentist, they have a platform to encourage and remind you to visit your dentist every six months.

This leads to a key takeaway. By adopting a holistic approach in what they do and how they communicate, it builds their credibility and authenticity in actually caring about people’s oral health. Think about it, would you believe a company that focuses on making electric toothbrush, or electric toothbrush company that doing all it can to help you build a habit and also remind you to go to the dentist?

Turning personal hygiene products into a lifestyle brand

Their design-centered products and services are backed up with their solution are their social media marketing efforts. Quip is adept in harnessing Instagram. As Inc. explains, “Quip’s own Instagram page intersperses images of the toothbrushes in such bathrooms with ones that have nary a bristle in sight — but that perfectly fit the minimalist aesthetic and include brief brand mentions, cheeky brushing references, and handy dental advice.”

For reference here’s a list of the main articles that served as the basis of this issue’s contents.

Other Purpose-related News

Purpose isn’t just for big enterprises. Over on my blog I cover how a pizza place with two locations discovered their purpose.

Lastly, here are two articles I’d like to share with you this week.

How a 7th-grader’s strike against climate change exploded into a movement - The Washington Post
The first is a story of a 7th-grader creating a climate change movement.

Millennials are skipping the corner office: Here’s what they want instead | Ladders
The second is about what millennial professionals crave from their careers. (Hint: it has something to do with purpose.)

How Google’s sales team discovered their purpose

This is the story of how a sales team of Google searched for their purpose. Before moving on though, let me explain why I selected this case study.

The company mission statement myth

There is this myth that if my company has a purpose statement or a mission statement, my team doesn’t need a purpose.

The problem with company-wide purpose statements is that these statements need to accommodate for everyone across the enterprise. When you spread your net that wide, naturally, these statements are going to be abstract. Don’t get me wrong. Company purpose statements are necessary. They inspire us. They give us a sense of direction. However, when it comes to day-to-day stuff, they cannot provide the clarity you need. Company purpose statements simply cannot be relevant at at micro level of a team.

Let me give you an example.

Google’s mission statement is:

to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

As Lisa Earle McLeod explains in her book, Selling with Noble Purpose:

Google’s mission is real and powerful. Yet it still needs to be translated for sales - particularly for the B2B salespeople who sell advertising to major corporations such as Home Depot and Nordstrom.

Before the sales team defined their purpose, even top sales performers were frustrated with one saying:

I’m passionate about our mission statement, but it’s easy to think of myself as just the money person — the one who delivers the sales so everyone else can achieve the mission.

Realizing this dissatisfaction, this sales team at Google reinterpreted their mission statement. They translated it into a purpose statement focusing on the individual business customer:

To help organize our clients’ information and make it universally accessible and useful.

This slight tweak creates clarity by focusing the sales team from the world’s information to the individual client’s. The team members now have clarity on the difference they make for each customer everyday.

How the Google sales team discovered their purpose

In her book, Lisa explains the process she uses with clients including Google. Here’s a summary.

A three-part process

The purpose creation purpose of Lisa has three parts:

  • How do you make a difference to your customers?
  • How are you different from competitors?
  • On your best day, what do you love about your job?

After exploring these three questions, look for keywords and key themes which are concrete and compelling to you. Refer to these as you brainstorm and write down variations of your purpose statement.

Sit on it

Before selecting the final statement, sit on it for a week. When you revisit your ideas, ask others for feedback to get another perspective. Finally, look at your ideas and find the ones that excite and inspire your team. If you’d like to learn more about her methods, do check out her book, Selling with Noble Purpose.


Purpose of Disneyland

The purpose story of Disneyland goes like this. In 1955 Van Arsdale France founded the University of Disneyland with the job of developing a training program.

Van believed that his goal was, in his own words, “to get everyone [they] hired to share in an intangible dream, and not just working for a paycheck.” He pitched what would become the purpose of Walt and Roy Disney. He recounted the experience:

And here were top executives, all of them right there, and I had to get up and say “And now our theme: the purpose of Disneyland is to create happiness for others.” And you see, the beautiful thing about saying, “We’re going to create happiness” was then I could say, “Look, you may park cars, clean up the place, sweep the place, work graveyard and everything else, but whatever you do is contributing to creating happiness for others.”

This story is from a blog post over at the Disney Institute Blog and it’s an insightful read about the difference between mission and purpose.

How Disneyland came about

Yes. Disneyland was once just an idea. In this post from Disney Institute’s blog, here’s how Walt Disney came up with the idea:

When Walt’s daughters were young he would take them out on Saturday afternoons to do fun things together – to visit merry-go-rounds and amusement parks. Walt would sit on a bench nearby while he watched his daughters ride the attractions. As he sat there, he noticed that the other parents had nothing to do either and were anxious to get home. This sparked an idea – what if he created an amusement park where the entire family could have fun together?

And a witty quote from Walt himself on how he wanted to change the game:

When I started on Disneyland, my wife used to say, ‘But why do you want to build an amusement park? They’re so dirty.’ I told her that was just the point — mine wouldn’t be.

Pitch-documents to raise money for Disneyland

The original Disneyland pitch-documents are available over at Boing Boing. Lots of interesting, fun, and inspiring stuff in there. I especially love how it introduces the Disneyland story:

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge.

Walt Disney’s vision of Disneyland

Finally, let’s end our discussion of Disneyland with one of my favorite quotes about Walt Disney’s vision:

Disneyland will never be completed, as long as there is imagination left in the world.

How Chick-fil-A discovered their purpose

In fall 2015 at the corner of 37th and Sixth Avenue in New York, a long line formed halfway down the block. If you’d lined up, you’d be greeted by a young employee with an iPad at the entrance.

Nope, it was not the launch of a new iPhone at an Apple Store. It was the first Chick-fil-A restaurant opening in Manhattan.

Previously I did a purpose discovery case study for pizza and what better way to follow up with a company that makes delicious chicken sandwiches!

You probably have heard great things about Chick-fil-A. As a great company as they are, Chick-fil-A did not have a purpose statement when they were founded. They clarified and discovered it during tough times.

Finding purpose in the midst of a crisis

In the early 1980s, Chick-fil-A was having a tough time. Rising interest costs slowed down their growth because it meant borrowing money costed more. On top of that, Wendy’s and McDonald’s came in the chicken market with chicken sandwiches and nuggets. As the two hamburger giants fought for market share, they bought up lots of chicken. The increased demand drove prices of chicken up, which meant Chick-fil-A’s ingredients’ cost rose as well. Things were so tough that the founder and former CEO Truett Cathy took no salary for a year.

To deal with the situation, Chick-fil-A scheduled a two-day offsite meeting with its leadership team to formulate a battle plan. They put their heads together, but eventually hit a wall. That is when Truett’s older son, Dan, shifted the conversation by asking basic and fundamental questions: “Why are we in business? Why are we here? Why are we alive?”

As Truett explains in his book, Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People (a wonderful book title!):

[Dan] really wanted us to consider the purpose of Chick-fil-A, and he believed the answers to his questions might lead us to solutions to our more immediate problems as well. So the eight of us began something of a brainstorming session, putting ideas on a blackboard as we went.

The following discussions would focus on what each team member thought was important. Eventually, they unanimously settled on two things that would become Chick-fil-A’s official Corporate Purpose:

“To glorify God by being faithful stewards of all that is entrusted to us.” and “To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The Corporate Purpose would be inscribed on a plaque and placed by the front door of their headquarters welcoming visitors and reminding its employees of their purpose even to today.

Wonderful things happened after they adopted their Corporate Purpose, but I’ll leave those stories for you to read in his book.

What we can learn from Chick-fil-A about discovering purpose

  • Go offsite. If you’re going to talk about your purpose, make sure you do it offsite. Your team will be less distracted so they can focus on discovering purpose. By stepping away from the workspace, you’ll have a fresh and more objective point of view. Plus, the change of pace helps with coming up with ideas.
  • Use tools to brainstorms. Don’t just sit around the table and discuss. Chick-fil-A’s team used a blackboard to brainstorm. So make sure you get those whiteboards and markers out. Post-its are great too.
  • Reach an unanimous agreement. Make sure everyone on the team agrees and resonates with the purpose statement. Treat it as if it you are all jury members of a trial that requires an unanimous verdict.

How Nick’s Pizza & Pub discovered their purpose

There's a misconception that purpose is only for big companies. Nick's Pizza & Pub is among the busiest independent pizza company in the US. But that's not what impressed me. It's the fact that a thousand dollar tips has shown up four different times!

The owner Nick Sarillo said this in one of his TEDx talks:

What's the amazing stuff that goes on inside those big companies like Google? We can have a world-class culture in small business too! We can either let culture just happen, which happens mostly. Or we can be explicit and create the culture we want to be a part of. That's what I decided to do. So my approach to doing this is: the first step in building trust at work is starting with purpose.

Small businesses and small teams too can harness purpose.

How Nick's Pizza & Pub discovered their purpose

When Nick wanted to to grow his company, he turned to cultivating a culture around purpose. Before his team could proceed, they needed to discover their purpose first.

In his book, Nick explains their discovery process. They organized an off-site 2-day retreat gathering select team members to put the company's purpose in writing. Here's Nick's initial thoughts about the retreat:

The idea seemed strange, even a little frightening: two long days of sitting in a circle and talking honestly about our business, even the bad stuff. There would be flip charts, creative projects with Play-Doh and markers, meditations, and, of course, that all-too-scary things: emotions.

Selecting the purpose discovery team

The team included servers, bartenders, cooks, busboys, two people from every work group, a newbie, a veteran, as well as the entire management team.

Questions to ask

At the retreat the team explored these questions:

  • What are we doing right?
  • What value are we adding?
  • What are the contributions we make to our customers?
  • What is the need we fill in the community?
  • What part of work makes us feel good?
  • What are we individually most passionate about?
  • How do we define ourselves?

Process and tools

Day 1: Use flip boards to brainstorm ideas including:

  • list of words describing what the company means to the team
  • phrases describing positive elements of the company

Day 2: Turning all the ideas into a purpose statement over several hours

  • start with a series of paragraphs
  • summarize into one-page document
  • edit down to a single sentence in the present tense

Purpose discovery is a life- and business- altering experience

Nick's Pizza & Pub is one of my favorite case studies. I hope it inspires you to do a purpose discovery session with your team. Because as Nick puts it, it's a life- and business- altering experience.