Mission Isn’t Important. It’s Everything!

Excerpted with the permission of the authors from Chapter Five of Power Questions:

Years of helping to solve problems has taught me that when you listen effectively and empathetically, it shows you care. And until people believe you care, they won’t fully engage with you.

I am sitting with Rick Haber, who is CEO at Life Health.  It’s a $2 billion health care corporation.  This is our regular monthly coaching meeting.

Life Health is a large not-for-profit medical center.  The only other hospital in the area is St. Frances.  It is a much smaller hospital, located in the wealthiest area of the city.

“I’m making an intensive drive to take over St. Frances,” Haber tells me.  “They have the largest cardiac program in the region and several dozen top heart specialists.  I need to have them in my camp.  It’s the one area where we have a void.  I’ll take over the whole hospital if I need to.”

“I can see where you’re coming from, Rick,” I reply.  “You’re an ambitious guy.  Because of your drive and persistence, Life Health has become the market leader in this town. Can you remind me,” I ask him,  “What is the mission of Life Health?”

“That’s easy.  I talk to my staff about it all the time.  ‘To offer the most effective program in vital health maintenance and illness prevention and to deliver the most caring and responsive treatments available at the lowest cost possible.’”

I pause and am silent. I let it sink in. I ask Rick, “How would this takeover further your mission statement? Your core purpose?”

“Well,” Rick begins. Then he pauses.

“Well, I just saw an opportunity that I could move in on. You know, I’m a pretty aggressive guy.” My ears perk up. Whenever I hear the word “just,” an alarm goes off. (I’m reminded that Harry Emerson Fosdick said that a person wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.)

“Tell me, Rick, where in that Mission Statement does it indicate that hijacking the cardiac care of St. Frances Hospital is what your mission is all about?  You’re going to kill them. They’ll end up getting dismantled when it’s over.”

“What are you saying?” he asks.

“I’m not saying, I’m asking” I tell him.

Then I stop talking.  I am quiet.  It is a World Series Silence—like what happens when the visiting team has scored eight runs in the first inning.

I say it again: “Rick, I’m asking what your mission is and how this idea will further it. Is it consistent with what you stand for?”

He doesn’t have to answer—I can see it in his face. Rick knows that taking over the cardiac program from St. Frances has nothing to do with meeting Life Health’s mission.  He knows that even without the cardiac program, they’d still be the dominant force in the marketplace.”

“Rick,” I add, “we both know that bigger isn’t better—better is better.”

Mission is everything. It is your true North. When someone is making a big move—a significant decision—check to see if it is consistent with who they are. Ask: “How will this further your mission and goals?”

Great Excerpt, so:

  • What might you be planning to do that you need to ask, “How will this further our mission and goals?”
  • What might you be doing now that you need to ask, “How does this further our mission and goals?”
  • Who else should you ask, “How will this further your mission and goals?”

Would you like to know more about Power Questions?  Here is a really well done video overview Power Questions by Andrew Sobel:


Jerold Panas & Andrew Sobel


Authors of Power Questions: Jerold Panas & Andrew Sobel – Jerold Panas (1928-2018) was the world’s leading consultant in philanthropy and the CEO of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, the largest consulting firm in the world for advising nonprofit organizations on fundraising. Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on building long-term client and other professional relationships. He can be reached at Andrew Sobel.



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