“Purpose isn’t everything, but it trumps everything else.” – Roy Spence, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For
In 2015, a business coaching client asked me to design and facilitate a session with their entire company during their annual retreat in Kauai to help them solve what was a very good (or a potentially really bad) problem.
This successful technology company needed to be prepared for responding to a great problem most companies only wish they had:
That was the good problem.
The bad problem? They lacked one very important building block in their company in order to achieve sustainable success, clear direction and growth: A clear, shared and inspiring Purpose Statement.
The owners of the company were in tune with their individual core values, knew their team and their market enough to know they could achieve lofty goals and make a huge impact on the industry for their partners and customers. For a consultant, this was a PLUS because they were already ahead of the game.
This wasn’t their first rodeo, and the co-founders know that in order to move forward everyone on the team needed to be aligned and ready for the ride. Because if they weren’t, and it got rough, they could lose their best talent and ruin the trust of their partners, and excellent reputation they worked so hard to create.
Individually and collectively, the team first needed to identify, verbalize, connect with their core values. Then some serious brainstorming needed to happen, which was framed by answering four key questions (more on that later).
Finally, to begin to craft the Purpose Statement, they needed to get BIG and answers needed to come from everyone in the room: “What difference do we make and for whom?”
Many of you may say, “Yes, but isn’t that the same as a Vision or a Mission Statement?” No, it’s different.
A Purpose is our strong WHY we get up in the morning. A purpose is inspiring. A Purpose includes everyone who works at the company. A Purpose connects individuals and core values of people and the culture of the organization. EVERYONE knows the purpose and knows how their role and unique talent they bring to their work everyday is a necessary for the company’s achievement of the Purpose.
A Purpose is never achieved, is not measurable and NOT attached to the bottom line. A Purpose is not “how we do things” or our strategy. WARNING: A Purpose is not for the faint of heart because you WILL be called to act on your Purpose (and everyone is watching).
Ultimately, everyone in the company is accountable for making decisions that are aligned with the Purpose, including which work we do, how we hire and fire people, and how we allocate our resources.
A company’s sustainable success today goes beyond the bottom line and a by having a clear, inspirational purpose you attract and keep great talent, and repel and easily de-select people who aren’t in alignment with your company’s Purpose. Because if your people aren’t on board, you may not survive your own success.
Purpose-driven companies thrive through challenges, good and bad. And, by the way, the most financially successful and thriving companies are driven first by a strong, clear Purpose. Bottom line is important or they wouldn’t survive, but it’s not at the top of the list.
Some examples of excellent, clear Purpose Statements:
Merck: To gain victory against disease and help mankind
Disney: To use our imaginations to bring happiness to millions
Johnson & Johnson: To alleviate pain and suffering
Merck, Disney and Johnson & Johnson, as well as my client, realized the process of identifying and crafting a compelling, inspiring, clear and meaningful Purpose Statement isn’t for the faint of heart and doesn’t happen in a half-day leadership workshop. It is a process, and not an event. It starts from the bottom up, the top down and is inspired by the strong WHY?’s of the founders, the team members who make it happen, core values and most of all the BIG DIFFERENCE they make and for whom.
Not only did this company successfully develop their clear Purpose Statement, they used it to guide their business decisions which, according to one of the partners, ultimately positioned the company to be acquired by Google.
Most importantly, the process of discovering their Purpose was inspiring, fun, engaging and they found that doing so connected people at a whole new level, one they need to be at in order to thrive through their next growth opportunity.
Is your company ready for your next “good problem?”
Share your favorite (or your own company’s) Purpose Statement below. How does it speak to you and align with your Purpose?