Finding a Business Purpose

The more I speak with people working hard in organizations, the less I see a “9 to 5” mentality. As work evolves in the 21st century, separating our professional and personal lives proves to be an artificial divide. Your personal purpose influences your work purpose, and vice versa. A company’s purpose starts with its leaders and works its way through the organization. It shows up in products, services, and employee and customer experiences. An inspirational purpose often lies hidden within an organization. The following suggestions will help you identify and articulate key elements: Revisit your organization’s heritage (past history). Review successes. At what does the business excel? Start asking “why?” What won’t your organization do? Review false starts and failures. Talk to employees. Talk to top leaders. Talk to high performers. Talk to customers. Follow your heart. Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your calling. ~ Aristotle A purpose is informed by the world’s needs. When you build an organization with a concrete purpose in mind – one that fills a real need in the marketplace – performance will follow. Ask the following questions: Why does your organization do what it does? Why is this important to the people you serve? Why does your organization’s existence matter? What is its functional benefit to customers and constituents? What is the emotional benefit to them? What is the ultimate value to your customer? What are you deeply passionate about? At what can you excel? What drives your economic engine? Mission statements used to have a purpose. The purpose was to force management to make hard...

Energy and Creative Flow

Having a purpose provides context for all of one’s efforts, and it’s a chief criterion for “flow” – the energy state that occurs when one’s mind, body and entire being are committed to the task at hand. Flow turns mundane work into completely absorbing experiences, allowing us to push the limits of skills and talents. Flow and commitment also create healthier, happier employees, while driving innovative thinking. To tap into full engagement, leaders must clearly identify and articulate what truly matters to the company: Why are we in business? What difference do we want to make in the world? What’s our most important purpose? On some level, everyone wants to live a purposeful life, yet we are distracted by societal pressures to achieve wealth and prestige. There are indications, however, that this is changing. Just as GNP fails to reflect the well-being and satisfaction of a country’s citizens, a person’s net worth actually has little to do with personal fulfillment. It is difficult to impossible to truly inspire the creators of customer happiness – the employees – with the ethic of profit maximization? It is my experience that employees can get very excited and inspired by a business that has an important business purpose. ~ John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market Leadership starts on a personal level and permeates one’s function in a company, community and society. While countless books address the importance of finding personal purpose, how does it play out within an organizational context? How do you link your personal purpose and values to those of your company? It may seem that parts of your job...

Is Your Work Fulfilling?

In a company without purpose, people have only a vague idea of what they’re supposed to do. There’s always activity and busyness, but it’s often frenetic, disorganized and focused solely on short-term goals. There’s a lack of direction and commitment to purpose. Top executives erroneously look to the competition when making decisions, rather than making up their own minds about what really matters. This lack of clarity leads to poor business decisions and failed product launches. Employees who work without purpose experience the consequences. “Across organizations, nearly every survey suggests that the vast majority of employees don’t feel fully engaged at work, valued for their contributions, or freed and trusted to do what they do best,” reports Tony Schwartz in a recent HBR.org blog post. “Instead, they feel weighed down by multiple demands and distractions, and they often don’t derive much meaning or satisfaction from their work. That’s a tragedy for millions of people and a huge lost opportunity for organizations.” Lack of Full Engagement Put simply, satisfied and engaged employees perform better. In a Towers Watson study of roughly 90,000 employees across 18 countries, companies with the most engaged employees reported a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share. Companies whose employees had the lowest level of engagement had a 32% decline in operating income and an 11% drop in earnings. People enjoy being engaged in meaningful work . Humans, by nature, are a passionate species, and most of us seek out stimulating experiences. Companies that recognize this and actively cultivate and communicate a worthwhile corporate purpose become employers of choice. A major...

Why Are You Here? Connecting to What Truly Matters

Knowing why you’re here, and who you want to be, isn’t a part-time job. The challenge is to live out what you stand for, intentionally, in every moment. ~ Tony Schwartz, author Far from being touchy-feely concepts touted by motivational speakers, purpose and values have been identified as key drivers of high-performing organizations. In Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras reveal that purpose- and values-driven organizations outperformed the general market and comparison companies by 15:1 and 6:1, respectively. In Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett found that firms with shared-values based cultures enjoyed 400% higher revenues, 700% greater job growth, 1,200% higher stock prices and significantly faster profit performance, as compared to companies in similar industries. In Firms of Endearment, marketing professor Rajendra Sisodia and his coauthors explain how companies that put employees’ and customers’ needs ahead of shareholders’ desires outperform conventional competitors in stock-market performance by 8:1. Leaders who have a clearly articulated purpose and are driven to make a difference can inspire people to overcome insurmountable odds, writes Roy M. Spence Jr. in It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. “Life is short, so live it out doing something that you care about,” he writes. “Try to make a difference the best way you can. There’s an enormous satisfaction in seeing the cultural transformation that happens when an organization is turned on to purpose.” This author makes some very good points backed up with real examples of some of the most effective companies in the world. In the work I do with people in organizations, so often...

Understanding the Five Roles of Leadership

Are there universally shared leadership characteristics? Experts estimate that 50 to 85 percent of leadership characteristics are found in all effective leaders. The missing variables are personal situations and internal influences (drive, ambition, etc.). You can improve your leadership abilities by focusing on the main characteristics that define those who succeed at leading others. (Read my previous post here.) The Leadership Code’s five-rule framework represents 60 to 70 percent of fundamentally effective leadership. While there may be variances in strategy, vision and individual job requirements, the rules are designed as a foundation for effective leadership across all industries. Most people are naturally predisposed to excel in one or two of the five leadership roles: Strategist Executor Talent manager Human-capital developer Personal proficiency Some are big-picture strategists and future-oriented, while others love getting things done or engaging people for high performance. If you’re in a more senior role, you’ll need to branch out from your predisposed areas of excellence. You’ll be required to master all of the first four roles or surround yourself with people who can fill in the gaps for you. The last role, personal proficiency, is the foundation for improving skills in the first four roles. Personal proficiency will help you become a more rounded leader. It is the only one that cannot be delegated, although having an executive coach [link] can help you develop more rapidly. At the heart of leadership effectiveness is the ability to continually learn and enhance your personal effectiveness. You are not solely defined by what you do or know. In fact, there’s a lot you don’t know about yourself because everyone...