The word “purpose” gets tossed around often in the executive and organizational development world. In a previous post, “Why Purpose Matters”, I discuss the importance of purpose. However, as I continue to work with clients, I can see that they are failing to grasp the importance of having people that “Act with Purpose” on their teams. If you watch, you can really see the difference.
For some, purpose can be bold and transformative, aiming to solve the world’s biggest problems. If you are one of these leaders, you may launch impactful organizations such as City Year, Tesla, and SKS Microfinance. These purposes are really exciting because they are missions to change the world in some way. Alternatively, your purpose can be to change your industry or to fill an unmet need, like Airbnb.com, Amazon, Google, PayPal, or Facebook. Then again, you may look at these examples and say, “My company can never be that exciting.” My challenge to you is that you can still make your difference, even if it is not earth-shaking. It is important that you find that purpose. It is only with purpose that anything of consequence happens, and that purpose is what compels you and others to excel, gives work more meaning, and brings people together to want to serve others at extraordinary levels.
Have you ever noticed that when you act with purpose you perform with more energy and enthusiasm? You are willing to give more effort to something that really matters to you! Compare that energy and effort to something that may be important but does not pull at your heart. Worse, consider what your commitment is to an endeavor that has not captured either your mind or heart. You just go through the motions. Too often I find that most of the employees in companies are not engaged because they lack this kind of investment. Their leaders have failed to instill purpose.
You know you are acting with purpose when succeeding is not about the revenue or the profit. The sense of achievement is much greater than that. The purpose inspires your actions. It is compelling enough to get people to work around obstacles. They expect to encounter those obstacles and only see them as challenges to be conquered. When the purpose is important to someone they are inspired to volunteer for extra work. They volunteer to take on challenges and to solve problems. You know that purpose is missing when all of the company’s problems and challenges are being pushed up to the leadership team.
Anyone can hire employees and get minimum performance out of them. You do this by hiring them and paying them a fair wage to do something they are good at doing and enjoy doing. While I do not have empirical data, I believe this gets you 25% of what the average employee is willing to the employer. When you have the right culture, that gets you another 25% of their effort. Given the right culture, with the right hire, instilling purpose will enable a company to get 100% commitment and investment from a team member.
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