Leading With Purpose

There has been a lot written about the power of business having a purpose and how with a compelling purpose business can become a force for good, and yet many leaders I speak with really don’t fully comprehend what purpose is and why more than ever it is a pre-requisite for business survival.

Simply put the different between a vision (or mission) and purpose is emotion.  Vision and mission statements are logical, they talk to the head part of the business.  Purpose is emotional and talks to the heart of the business.  So whilst vision or mission articulates goals and tactics for achieving those goals, purpose defines the essence of the business – why it exists, who it exists for and how it makes the a difference in the world.

And continuing using the metaphor of head and heart, whilst the head gets things done (20th century leadership) it is the heart that is essential to pump blood around the body, and so enable the head to operate.  This is increasingly why we are seeing a paradigm shift in leadership and purposeful leaders know that the old control and command structures are not going to appeal and be successful in the more collaborative 21st century where people are seeking more purpose and contribution from their work.

A Purpose Driven Business

Many might argue that it is a waste of time defining the company’s purpose because operating results have been fine up to now, and this is just another fad that is taking us away from delivering results.  The problem is that the evidence is compelling as to why becoming a purpose driven business is essential for 21st century success.  The benefits are not only commercial but also include improving the culture and the well-being of team members

Just some of the benefits include:

  1. Customers Want It – 73% of consumers have stated they would change brands if a different brand of similar quality supported good causes
  2. Buyers Reward You – 80% of the general population would rather pay more for products and services produced ethically
  3. Employee Well-being – 88% of team members say they feel more fulfilled working for a business that is making a difference
  4. Increased Productivity – when team members are inspired by a compelling purpose they generate 225% more productivity than team members who are merely satisfied with their role
  5. Improved Retention and Employee Loyalty – team members who find their work rewarding and impactful report being 2.8 times more likely to stay with a company
  6. Easier Recruitment – 93% of employees want to work at a company that cares for them as an individual.
  7. Increased Revenue and Growth – in the past 3 years 85% of purpose driven companies showed positive growth whilst 42% of non-purpose led companies showed a drop in revenue.

Changing Company Culture

So why wouldn’t a company want to become purpose led and help contribute to the triple bottom line of people, performance, planet? Because it’s tough.  Creating a purpose driven culture demands time and resources. This is not some quick fix that can be rolled out and forgotten.  Purpose needs to become imbued into the DNA of the company and impact everything that the business does. It’s not just some fancy words on the wall, but rather it demands a culture shift that helps foster an environment where people’s hidden potential can be unlocked. It helps team members understand why they work for the business and clearly articulates for them the contribution that they make. And of course for the purpose to survive the company must adopt behaviors that align with that purpose.

It is the leaders role to activate the purpose within the business and galvanize the team members to come along. Through their behaviors day in and out they help inspire and motivate the team and when they do the result is a highly engaged and productive workforce.  Team member well-being improves as they feel more valued in the business and also because they understand the context in which the business is operating and how they contribute to this.

Creating a purpose driven culture really is a win-win for both the business results and the many business stakeholders, but implementing this is not for the feint of heart, and should not be undertaken without a solid commitment to see it through.

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