“The real joy in life comes from finding your true purpose and aligning it with what you do every single day”-– Tony Robbins
‘Purpose’ separates those who are simply living from those who are truly living. You would have often heard authors, entrepreneurs and life coaches credit their success to knowing their “purpose” in life. According to them, having a purpose helped them align their work, be more productive and channel their energy towards one thing they wanted to achieve.
The idea of having a purpose is the same for organizations. Whether it’s people or companies, a strong sense of purpose keeps us afloat. Purpose helps answer questions like- What am I doing? Why am I in this place? Is this the right place for me? Am I doing enough?
For an organization, having a purpose serves two benefits-
- It gives the organization reasons to exist. Whether it’s to solve a problem or innovate in a particular way, a purpose helps define why you’re in this field and what you want to achieve.
- It sets the context for its people who can decide and analyze how they can align their individual purpose with organization’s.
But this is the tricky part. It’s not easy to connect everyone on the team with the organization’s purpose. The reason is people are often driven by the myth that a company’s ONLY purpose is to achieve profits. For them, purpose statements are nothing more than a farce.
We can’t really blame them. It’s all a part of a more complex framework that runs organizations. When CXOs or the executive team sit down to discuss the purpose, they often treat it as creatively crafted platitudes which will, on its own, guide everyone to do the right thing. They fail to connect the purpose of the organization with their people.
And when there is no connection, people remember only the ‘transactional’ part of their job– do more hard work, accomplish the targets which are set in numbers, and earn a handsome bonus/promotion in the next cycle. This misalignment with the purpose causes them to chase numbers/profits with no meaning or innovative thinking to achieve the actual purpose of existence.
Many organizations hit the creative block at this stage. They fail to motivate, engage and inspire their people to think out of the box. In this blog, I wanted to talk about how creating a compelling purpose and connecting it with people in your organization can help you get out of that mechanical process.
Come up with a meaningful purpose
If your purpose is just a fancy corporate jargon, people would not be able to connect with it. They would know that it’s just another management jargon.
Organizations come into existence to make a dent in the universe. If not, their existence runs into a potential risk of diminishing faster than ice when put out in the hot sun. So create a purpose that helps your employees understand the value of existence, the reason for forming the company and the difference you want to make while being in existence. This will help the people see themselves playing a role in achieving the purpose of existence.
Reiterate the purpose frequently
Once you have a purpose statement, reiterate it in every onboarding session, board meeting, leadership sessions and every small celebration. It not only serves as a reminder, rather it also helps new people on the team understand why this purpose statement is important.
Another reason to reiterate the purpose frequently is because repeating it over and over again helps everyone see how the purpose statement is linked to the decision-making at an organizational level.
For example– at Quovantis, we always want to do exciting work that solves an interesting problem and has a positive impact in the world. This means at times, we’ve to say no to work that doesn’t match with our purpose. At times, the work looks like a valuable revenue generator but doesn’t create a jump-on-the-idea kind of a feeling in us. So we reject it and move forward. It also helps the team members understand why we said no to a seemingly good opportunity.
Inspire managers to become torchbearers of your purpose
Just like we need commanders to lead troops in war, the same way we need managers to motivate and inspire the teams to keep going. Managers who lead a group of people are like the front-runners/flag bearers of the organization. People look up to them for guidance because they always know the ‘big picture’.
Therefore, aligning managers with the purpose is crucial if you want everyone in the organization to follow suit. When managers know the ‘why’ behind the purpose statement, they become the torchbearers of an organization’s values and they go on to imbibe the same culture within their team.
Not only this, they also lead with curiosity and help the team practice it in their work. So, for instance, if your purpose is to deliver quality work to your clients, aligned managers help ensure that no project is delivered if it doesn’t meet quality guidelines.
Connect organizational and individual purpose
Creating a purpose-driven organization doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in the company will feel aligned to it. What an individual seeks can be very different from what an organization seeks. And that’s why it’s important to arrive at a middle ground where both- organizational and individual- purposes coexist.
As an organization, you need to give everyone the space and tools to help them realize their purpose, discover their intrinsic motivators and align it with organizational purpose.
For example– if you’re a mobile engagement solution company that engages patients in conversations related to their health, you must talk to everyone in your team about how they wish to make a positive impact on these people. Sit down and interview every individual in your organization why they feel connected to this idea and why they want to help make a shift in how people manage their own health. After you’ve heard them individually, take help from your management team to identify, refine, and formulate a purpose statement that fulfills their aspirations as well as organizational goals.
Appreciate people who think creatively to achieve the purpose
Mike Rowe wrote a very interesting blog post about the impact of clearly defining purpose.
He was in the hallway of his hotel room when he saw a man named Corey fixing something in the ceiling. Out of curiosity he asked him what he was doing. Corey answered–
“Well Mike, here’s the problem. My pipe has a crack in it, and now my hot water is leaking into my laundry room. I’ve got to turn off my water, replace my old pipe, and get my new one installed before my customers notice there’s a problem.”
Mike found his choice of pronouns quite interesting and said– “I like the way you talk about your work. It’s not, ‘the’ hot water, it’s ‘MY’ hot water. It’s not, ‘the’ laundry room, it’s ‘MY’ laundry room. It’s not ‘a’ new pipe, it’s ‘MY’ new pipe. Most people don’t talk like that about their work. Most people don’t own it.”
Corey shrugged and said, “This is not ‘a’ job; this is ‘MY’ job. I’m glad to have it, and I take pride in everything I do.”
There are going to be very few people who would truly align with your purpose. And when they do, you wouldn’t want to miss appreciating their efforts. Not only will it amplify your message, but it will also motivate others on the team to go above and beyond what’s expected from them.
I hope these suggestions help you define a compelling purpose for your organization. I wish to see more suggestions from all of you who are reading this blog, so that if there’s something I’ve missed, we can learn from each other. Let’s collectively create better teams that are not just profit-driven, rather purpose-driven.