Purpose FAQ: Does an individual's Purpose need to be the same as the organization's Purpose? Biology helps us answer this.
One of the most frequent questions I get as I talk with CEOs, Senior Leaders and organizations is, "does an individual's Purpose need to be the same as the organization's Purpose?" I often surprise people with the simplicity and emphaticness of my response.
NO! BUT alignment matters!
In fact in most cases, when talking about anyone other than the CEO or other Senior Leaders, the individual’s Purpose typically isn't the same as the organization’s!
Huh? I thought shared Purpose was critical?
Alignment behind a shared Purpose is crucial. BUT that doesn't mean an individual's Purpose is or needs to be the Organization's Purpose or that the Organization's Purpose needs to be the individual’s purpose. However, the two do need to intersect and align in order for things to work best.
BIOLOGY Gives Us Insight
Our bodies (think of this as the organization) are made up of literally billions of cells (think of these as individuals) and many different organs and systems (think of these as Departments and Divisions). Each cell is an entity unto itself with a specific function to perform. Each organ is an entity unto itself with specific functions to perform. Each system has specific functions to perform that contribute to the whole. The aggregate function of all those cells, organs and systems, aligned behind a shared Purpose, creates a well-functioning body that leads to health and well-being. But the Purpose of each individual cell or group of cells varies dramatically. In very simplified terms, the liver’s Purpose is to filter. The heart’s Purpose is to pump blood and oxygen. The lung’s Purpose is to bring oxygen in to the blood. The cells (individuals) and organs (departments) don't have the same Purpose. But they do align behind a unifying force/Purpose: the health and well-being of the body. So, does the organization's Purpose need to be the same as the individuals’ to create an exemplary outcome? No!
Then What is Important?
1) Individuals agreeing that they share the organization's Purpose, and agreeing to work together towards it.
2) Individuals understanding how they're contributing to the shared Purpose.
3) Individuals seeing how the achievement of that shared Purpose contributes to achievement of their individual Purpose.
The Most Common Scenario
So let's take the most common scenario I see every day. An organization defines a higher calling Purpose like, "to build a better world." The individual’s Purpose is, "to earn as much as I can to insure my family is well off and financially secure." At first those two things may seem at odds. But they don't have to be. As a leader, you should see those things simply as data points for additional questions to determine alignment.
What Kinds of Questions?
1) Is the individual inspired by and willing to share the organization's Purpose when at "work."
2) Will the organization's achievement of Purpose allow the individual to achieve his or her Purpose?
If the answer to both is yes, you've achieved Alignment on the most important questions. Do you share common cause(s) and ability to contribute to them? Then it is on to specifics, which will be determined by more specific needs/questions. For example:
1) Is the organization and job structured so that the compensation allows the individual to achieve his or her Purpose? For example, is the expected compensation greater than or equal to what the individual feels is required to achieve his or her Purpose AND in line with averages in the industry? Does the organization expect that to continue moving forward?
2) Is the contribution the individual can make commensurate with the contribution to the organization in realizing its own Purpose? Is the investment in this individual appropriate for the benefit to the organization?
3) Is the path as to how the organization and individual can each achieve their Purposes well defined?
4) Despite the difference in Purpose, do the organization and individual align behind the behaviors that would lead to achievement of their Purposes? Ie. Values. Do they see a common "way of being" that leads them to believe and feel they can both achieve the company and individual Purposes?
If the answer is yes to those questions, despite the initial concern, there may be enough alignment for real success.
Purpose Matters. Shared Purpose and Alignment are Crucial!
Must an individual and organization have the same Purpose? No. But alignment behind the organization’s Purpose, Values and roadmaps to shared successes is critical.
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.