It’s no longer a debate. Purpose-driven = improved performance. Whether you read my last post (link to prior post), reviewed recent studies or read the Economics of Higher Purpose, you should know that Purpose can decrease moral hazard, lower costs, and drive sustainable top and bottom line growth. The underlying drivers, the economics of Purpose if you will, aren’t fads. They’re simply science.
So What? Now what? How do you activate, embed and align behind Purpose to drive sustainable results? Over 20 years, I’ve operated, executed and driven outstanding results as a Purpose-driven owner/President, Consultant and Fortune 500 Manager. What I’m sharing here are key philosophical underpinnings that allowed me to drive success in each situation - and can you help do the same. In the workshops I do, we flesh out even more practical and specific ideas to make Purpose practical and drive results from it.
Design it In. Purpose needs to be Integrated, not separate: People often see Purpose as something separate from Strategy, Goals and Objectives. It isn’t. It’s the driver of those activities. Those organizations that embed Purpose in everything they do, particularly their planning and control cycles, achieve remarkably better results. Purpose isn’t a project, it’s the underpinning of how you do business. Purpose isn’t soft and ethereal. It’s something that can be planned and controlled just as you do goals and objectives. In the organizations I’ve worked with, a key way of doing this is making each person explain how his or her goals and objectives tie to the organization’s Purpose.
Live it by building it in to Decision Making, Planning and Control Cycles. Purpose creates different investment criteria and investment time horizons. It creates new ways to evaluate opportunities and people. But, it only does it if you live it, believe it and see value in the journey. If you do, you’ll build your Purpose in to your planning and control cycles, your goals and objectives and your performance reviews. Perhaps you’ll give bonuses based on Purpose. The most successful organizations I’ve worked with make part of the executive’s bonus contingent upon achieving the organization’s Purpose. They measure Purpose and include those measurements in regular executive meetings and insure all employees have a portion of their annual review based on alignment with the organization’s Purpose.
Make Purpose Visible. Purpose isn’t a once a year activity. If you’ve designed it in to your decision making as well as planning and control cycles, you’ve made a great start. Go further - build it in to everything you do. Measure it. Create a Net Purpose score. Treat Purpose just like you would any other major driver of your business. Talk about it. Have one person at each staff meeting talk about what the organization means to you. As the CEO or Senior Leader, take Purpose GEMBA walks and ask four key questions: Do you know the organization’s Purpose? Do you know how your job helps the organization achieve it? What’s your (the employee’s) Purpose? How can the organization help you achieve it? The most successful ones make Purpose visible through employee engagement sessions. They insure Purpose is talked about at every staff meeting. They make sure it is in planning and control cycles. They utilize omni-channel communication strategies to insure it remains at the heart of all communications.
Make Communications Visceral. Make them Personal. Part of the impact of Purpose-driven leadership comes from its ability to tap in to emotions. The neocortex is responsible for processing facts and figures and driving our rationale decision making, but it doesn’t drive behavior. Behavior is driven by the limbic brain. The limbic brain is driven by feelings and emotions. So if you want to drive behavior, don’t forget that feelings and emotions matter. You don’t need to be a “cheerleader,” or inauthentic to your leadership style to make this work. You need to do two things well. Care and connect. If you care about the people you work with you’ll naturally drive feelings and emotions that drive behavior. If you help employees connect with their Purpose and the organization’s Purpose, you’ll do what articles in the Harvard Business Review and studies from leading behavioral scientists have concluded is fundamentally one of the most important things you can do to drive performance. Remember the Gemba walks I mentioned earlier? They’re a great way to do both. Sharing a personal story of what’s important to you? They can be spine tingle inducing for your employees who didn’t know you before. Sharing your vision for what happens when you achieve the organization’s purpose and helping them touch and feel the outcomes? Motivating!
Purpose isn’t soft or ethereal. It’s specific, tangible and drives superior performance. Looking for even more information on these principles? I talked about them at a keynote address, which I’ve broken in to two minute increments. Or, this HBR article has a slew of specific ideas that drive outcomes - I can vouch for them from firsthand experience. Looking for more? Try 6 Ways to Embed Purpose as a Drive of Value. Or, feel free to reach out. I’ve got a bushel basket full of practices, both my own and those others have shared with me.
Performance through Purpose isn’t a mystery. It’s a journey that’s exceptionally rewarding.
The voice and stories from this blog originate from the collective wisdom and experiences not just of our team, but with those we were fortunate to learn from.