Lead With Purpose
What is purpose? Purpose shapes vision. Vision is what shines in the distance and serves as a guiding light. Vision is the process of becoming. Becoming what you want to be when you grow up, or in the case of an organisation what you want to be able to do.
For any organisation to be able to achieve their vision, they must first set their values. Values are what hold people together. They embody the beliefs by which people in the organization choose to abide. Take a hospital. Its values define the respect that employees must manifest toward patients as well as toward each other. Words like dignity, ethics, and respect are prevalent. Values, when they are implemented, become measures by which people hold each other accountable. The end of this chapter contains a guide to defining purpose. Taken together, vision, mission, and values underscore the culture, the glue of an organization. While the concept of culture is broad and deep, when it comes to purpose, we can be very direct and to the point. Quite simply, culture is what the employees perceive as reality inside their organizations. It can be open, tolerant, and flexible, or it can be closed, intolerant, and rigid. Culture does not depend on purpose, but it is greatly influenced by it. Open cultures nurture purpose as if it were mutable and alive; closed cultures regard it as defined and inorganic. (Baldoni 2011)
How does a manager make purpose relevant?
Simply put, you have to link it to the work your employees are doing!
For some organizations, such as the bakery just mentioned, this is easy. Make the dough, bake the goods, sell to customers, and watch them come back for more. Okay, how do you make purpose relevant if you are the distribution manager for a pipe supply company? You work with spreadsheets and you field phone calls from internal and external customers. How do you discuss purpose? You explain to your employees that logistics are the linchpin of the pipe supply operation. If distribution does not gather and warehouse pipe products from the factory or other sources, you have nothing to sell. If you cannot identify and ship products in a timely fashion, customers cannot buy. How you iterate this is critical to purpose. Expression of purpose may begin with words— chiefly, explanations of what the organization does and why it does it. But words go only so far.
Purpose, if it is to be sustainable, must be linked to organizational culture and values
. That is vital. Here are some ways to reinforce this connection. “Purpose comes down to having clear-cut, definite goals,” says Pat Williams, bestselling leadership author. “They are powerful motivating forces. Those goals have to be out in front of the organization. They’ve got to be written down [as well as] reminded and reviewed.” Regarding the Orlando Magic, the NBA team where Williams serves as a senior vice-president, “We talk about two things all the time: winning a championship and keeping every seat full. No one in the organization can miss that.” Putting people first, says Michelle Rhee, onetime chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school district, “is about creating a culture that constantly recognizes people for the work they’re doing.” That requires the involvement of a leader who “ensures that people’s voices are heard.” Purpose in education is a straightforward proposition for Rhee. It stems from doing “what’s right and good for kids.” It was a mantra she took personally and one that she preached throughout the community. That kind of clarity is something that every leader in any field should strive to drive throughout their organization. Reducing purpose to a simple statement is not easy, but it can be a valuable tool in clarifying intention for employees. While working in another job prior to running the D.C. school district, Rhee learned that creating the right culture depends on doing the little things that matter to people— for example, being accessible to the CEO. It is important, says Rhee, that people have a voice with the leader at the top. “I think oftentimes it’s the smaller things that feel more personalized that make people feel valued and recognized.” When serving as chancellor of the school district, Rhee made a habit of reaching out regularly to all levels of the organization. She would personally call a principal or a teacher and thank the individual for the good work he or she was doing. (Baldoni 2011)
Dangers of having no purpose
Purpose may seem elusive, and it may be tempting to abandon the concept altogether, but consider the alternative: lack of purpose. This leads to organizational listlessness. People may be doing their individual jobs appropriately, but soon each will come to the realization that individual contributions are good, but not great. What is necessary is to get people to pull together for the common cause. “I don’t think you can hit purpose enough as a senior leader,” says George Reed, a retired Army colonel who consults in the corporate sector. “It is one of those things that can be under communicated by an order of magnitude. You cannot oversell, over pronounce ‘Here’s why we’re here.’” If the purpose is not communicated, Reed believes, it will be lost in the “urgencies of the day” that cause people to forget their original intentions and their passion. “The senior leader who bangs that drum, who serves as the symbolic voice of the organization … reminds their people that what they’re doing is important.” Leadership and management are skills worth learning - click here for more info about this course