These topics just get bigger and bigger. We’ve moved from culture to purpose, you don’t get much bigger than purpose! As a refresh, see below for the eight critical areas and behaviours which I think a leader needs to focus on if they want to be successful in the 21st century.

  1. Build
    and reinforce the right culture (promoting gritty and growth mindsets)
  2. Have a purpose and be authentic
  3. Aim for
  4. Reinforce
    an open communication policy (internal & external)
  5. Practice
    active listening (be curious and empathetic)
  6. Do not be
    the smartest person in the room
  7. Support
    and promote the team over the individual
  8. Have a
    plan and take action

This article is going to be ab it ugly, by ugly I mean I’ve written it quickly, it isn’t pretty, however, it is not going to be any less valuable due to it’s ugliness (beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all).

Key Takeaways:

  1. Your
    purpose must be about helping, improving or changing something other than
  2. You
    can develop a purpose over time – most people don’t wake up one morning
    with a clear purpose, you need to work on it
  3. Your
    purpose doesn’t have to be saving the world
  4. You
    can bring some of your purpose into the workplace through ‘role crafting’
  5. As an
    organisation, if you have a clear purpose and communicate it well, then
    you will attract the right employees, the right suppliers and the right
    customers. It’s that bloody simple
  6. Your
    goals must be aligned with your purpose, and you can manage and
    prioritise your activities around how aligned and effective they are in
    helping you achieve that purpose

A definition:

According to the dictionary:

  • the
    reason for which something is done or created or for which something
  • a
    person’s sense of resolve or determination.

OK good, these make sense and when I’m talking about purpose I’ll add that your purpose must be external to yourself. Your purpose must be about helping, improving or changing something other than yourself.

An example:

I will use myself as an example – my purpose is in a small way help reduce anxiety, depression and suicide rates by helping people improve their performance, find a little bit of their own purpose, and in doing so become more effective and hopefully a little bit happier.

I didn’t always have this purpose, although I think it’s been inside me since my early twenties and has only just broken free…

OK, so maybe I shouldn’t have used that picture? I told you this article was going to be a bit ugly… Thankfully, my purpose isn’t ugly, it’s powerful, powerful to me at least and that is one of the main points of having a purpose – it motivates you!

My purpose is developing – a critical takeaway is knowing that you can develop a purpose – and I don’t go to bed at night or wake up every morning dreaming of my purpose. However, it motivates me, helps me keep focus (a big challenge today), and when I consider a work project in the back of my mind I am conscious as to whether that project contributes to my purpose. Rightly or wrongly I believe most of what I do contributes to my purpose, which makes me happy…

What having a purpose has allowed me to do is become more passionate about my work, find more focus, improve my productivity, become more authentic and happier at work.

Will my purpose help me be more successful and fulfilled? Damn right it will.

How do you find your purpose?

I’m not a psychologist, and I haven’t been a performance coach for very long, however, I think finding your purpose can be a journey. And if you are too focused on the result it will take you longer to progress.

Contrary to widespread belief 9 out of 10 highly successful people – who have great purpose – did not wake up one morning and with a bolt of lightning suddenly find their purpose! Most of the time, it doesn’t just happen like that – a lot of people develop their purpose over many years (I have).

Obviously, you are going to be interested in your purpose, it will have meaning to you and be important (for you). You can have more than one purpose, you might have a personal purpose and a professional purpose.

Your purpose doesn’t have to be saving the world either. It could be centred on your immediate family or your local community. Your purpose could be to improve your knowledge in a certain area so that you can then use that knowledge to help your colleagues or your local community…

Finding purpose isn’t always easy, and if you’re like me you will need some help. I recommend you search for ‘performance coaching’ models online to test the waters first. Then engage a coach. Most coaches use a variation of the GROW Model. Created by Sir John Whitmore, along with a few others, in the 1980’s and since then this model has been borrowed, broken and put back together by 10,000’s of coaches around the world.

Your purpose in the workplace:

As above, interest and purpose are related and when you say it out loud it kind of seems obvious that someone who is interested in their work is going to perform better than someone who isn’t. Right? And if your intuition is a bit off on this point, then please contact me and I can show you the evidence-based studies which prove this fact.

When I was leading sales teams if I had to choose between two candidates, and one was not as smart but had more purpose, was interested in their role and passionate about the business more than the other candidate then I would choose them above and beyond the smarter candidate 100% of the time.

If you can bring some of your purpose to work, then you will perform better. However, that doesn’t mean you need to go work for a Non-For-Profit or quit your day job and become a street performer.

One way you can bring more purpose into your work is by ‘role crafting’. Dan Cable a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, and the author of ‘Alive at work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do.”talks about how to use ‘role crafting’ to help bring some of your purpose, your interest into the office – listen to an interview with Dan below:

HBR IdeaCast – make-work-engaging-again

And if your company’s purpose, culture and value system misaligned from your personal values and purpose then I suggest you start looking for another job! This is a nice segue into organisational purpose…

Organisational purpose:

This one should be obvious, and the more I research and study this topic, the more proof I find that validates my – and many smarter people than myself – view that having a clear organisational purpose, a vision or whatever you want to call it, and living and breathing it, contributes enormously to having an engaged and motivated team.

An engaged and motivated team will outperform a disengaged and demotivated team over 90% of the time.

One of the earliest pod casts I listened to on purpose is by Daniel Pink, he is one of the most influential business thinkers in the world today. Along with thanking Dan Pink, and other thought leaders in this space, we have the Millennials to thank for the shift in organisational behaviour from many companies who have realised just how important it is to live, breathe and promote your purpose in the workplace.

If you haven’t seen Dan Pink’s TED talk or watched this 11-minute long animated video of his theory on what drives motivation, then I strongly recommend you watch it:

You Tube RSA Animate – Daniel Pink what drives motivation

As an organisation, if you have a clear purpose and communicate it well, then you will attract the right employees, the right suppliers and the right customers. It’s that bloody simple.

Wake up we’re almost there, one last thing…

Purpose and Goal Theory:

Organisations have goals and more often than not they’ll have a goal model including high-level, mid-level and low-level goals.

Underneath the low-level goals an organisation will have critical activities, which the employees need to complete to help achieve the organisational goals. Each critical activity, low and mid-level goal is part of a cause and effect matrix, which if managed and monitored correctly will help an organisation achieve its high-level goals. These goals must be aligned with your organisational purpose.

An organisation can manage and prioritise resources and activities around how aligned and effective they are in helping the organisation achieve its purpose.

I think that’s enough on purpose. Thanks as always for listening and feel free to share, comment or contact me with any thoughts or questions that you have.



DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other person, organisation, employer or company. The author is a consultant and coach focused on improving performance. I draw on 25 years corporate experience, a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and a Masters of Business Administration.