Creating a Collective Transformational Purpose Statement

The Five-Step Implementation Pathway clearly outlines the foundational actions to becoming an InSideOut School. One of those steps that requires buy-in and consensus from all participants is the creation of a Collective Transformational Purpose Statement. Whether you are working with a team, the athletic department or the entire school community, the key to a strong collective purpose statement is a collaborative process. There needs to be buy-in from all stakeholders or it really is a fruitless exercise. A second critical component to any collective exercise such as this is the outcome must be something all can remember—only then will it have staying power. Finally, a strong statement needs a team who is intentional in their actions to model and teach to their vision.

One of the first questions in this process is, “Yeah, but how can I get buy-in?” There are a few proven strategies to build consensus and the first is to start with the leaders or the “believers” and build from there. When developing our Core Values as a school, we sought volunteers who were most interested in a leadership role and who had a passion for this process. We ended up with a fantastic group of diverse thinkers who represented the many different ideas of our larger staff. The charge of this group was to collect and review data in order to streamline the ideas of all the different groups. The simplest way to do this was through the dot activity where each person from the group was able to physically place a sticker next to the Core Values that were most important to them. This activity is a very visual way to show which values have risen to the top and creates buy-in right from the start. Our process was a multi-level one as we attempted to combine and group similar ideas, answer questions about the value’s true meaning and definition and also pair the list down to a manageable number.

Once the Core Values have been agreed upon, it’s time to put those values into a statement. This is where it is absolutely critical that it is short, meaningful, and something that sticks. A short statement, an acrostic poem using a word, the name of the school or organization or a nickname. Almost every company and school district has some sort of mission statement. Many have taken several hours of committee work with much time invested into editing and wordsmithing as each and every word is analyzed over and over. The unfortunate part is just a short time after publishing, not even the committee members can remember it nor can they remember the true meaning behind it. It really becomes a document that sits in a binder on a shelf, rather than something that is lived out each and every day. Coming up with something people can remember and repeat will allow everyone to rally around a common purpose.

Most importantly of the implementation steps is having leaders who model their purpose and are very intentional about creating space to directly instruct their team on the importance. If the leaders don’t hold themselves accountable to the greater purpose, than how can it be expected of all team members? One of the simplest ways to guarantee it happens is to be sure you make time to teach, coach, recognize and celebrate around your purpose in all lesson/practice/meeting plans and agendas. If you don’t plan for it and expect it will happen naturally, you will definitely be disappointed. One of the comebacks I often hear is, “I don’t have time to do that sort of stuff during practice/class/meetings” and my response is simple…you do not have time NOT to!

Finally, all Collective Transformational Purpose Statements need revisiting at least once a year in order to maintain buy-in as stakeholders change in all professions at a rapid rate. Once in place, the exercise likely will not take as long as you are simply reviewing where you are and adjusting for where you may want to go in the future.