Constructing With Integrity – Zig Zag Principle #20

July 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

As I’ve come to understand and apply the concepts of beacons in the fog and catalyzing statements, I’ve watched to see if others who have achieved significant success follow the same pattern.  Alan Layton is an associate of mine who was central to helping Utah-based Layton Construction grow from a family business to a major commercial construction corporation.  As I asked him about how the company grew, Alan shared a very telling story.

Back in the late 1980s, Alan was attending a conference with several of his key executives. The speaker asked the question, “Who has a mission statement for their company?”  Alan raised his hand, but the speaker didn’t ask what Alan’s mission statement was.  Instead, he asked if any of Alan’s executive staff were in attendance.  When Alan responded that they were, the speaker asked the executives, “What is your company’s mission statement?”  These individuals stuttered and stammered and could not recite it. Alan told me he was embarrassed while the members of his staff were very apologetic.  He then wrestled with what he could use to clarify the company’s purpose and unify his executives around it.  He settled on the phrase:

    Constructing with Integrity

Alan went on to explain in detail what that mantra meant:

    1. What We Produce: Build using the highest level of quality and not cut corners.  Use the best materials and the best methodologies available to construct with integrity.

    2.  How We Deal With People: Behave ethically and treat all people equally and with respect.  Construct relationships with integrity

    3.  The Organization We Build: Remove posturing and politics and build our organization and interactions with each other with respect.  Construct the organization with integrity.

These simple three words—Constructing with Integrity—became the North Star, the guiding beacon, for Layton Construction.  What grew out of this beacon were Layton Construction’s catalyzing statements.  And, as Alan told me, “Everyone understood what we stood for, and it was very rewarding.”

Some time later, at a company function, someone took a camera around and began asking team members what Constructing with Integrity meant to them.  Here are a few of the statements from that day:

    “It means I can live the same way on the job as when I am at home with my wife.”

    “It means I don’t ever have to apologize to anyone for what we do.”

Catalyzing statements go way beyond articulating a goal. They emotionally charge us and align us. They emotionally motivate us to seek and believe and move forward.

A good example of the power found in a broad goal with a catalyzing statement is Bill Gates.  In the early days of Microsoft, he would boldly declare, “We’re going to become the largest software company in the world!”  That sounded great, but at that time nobody even knew what software was!  Was Gates referring to a pair of snuggly, warm pajamas?  No one could really wrap their heads around what he was saying.  Then one day he made the statement, “I picture a world where there is a personal computer in every home and on every desktop.”  That was something people understood, and it became Microsoft’s catalyzing statement.  The rest, of course, is history. And, just like John F. Kennedy, Alan Layton, or Bill Gates, your catalyzing statement needs to be something you use as your emotional fuel that can rally the troops.

Several years ago I was in Japan, and I had the opportunity to visit a company in Tokyo called Fujita. From the moment I entered this company’s headquarters, I knew it was unique. The tone, the conduct of the staff, and the presentation of the boardroom were simply different. It was very clear that everyone was focused and clearly on a mission.  At the end of our meeting I could not help but probe a bit, so I asked the individual I was meeting with to explain more about the company, its founder, and its history.  His answer was immediate and brief—and it told me everything I was looking for.  He simply said, “Fujita’s vision is to bring American culture to Japan”.

Now that is a powerful, huge, audacious, and crazy goal.  “Bring American culture to Japan!”

Fujita’s daily activities include selling hamburgers, movies, clothing, and other products, most of which are imported.  But those things are simply vehicles in support of Fujita’s catalyzing statement.  And that catalyzing statement has resulted in Fujita bringing McDonald’s, BlockBuster, and Toys R Us to Japan.

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