Red King_Positioning

Business Purpose: What Do You Stand For?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Leaders who have a clearly articulated purpose for their business and who are driven to make a difference can inspire people to overcome insurmountable odds, according to author Roy M. Spence, Jr. in It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For.

“Life is short, so live it out doing something that you care about. Try to make a difference the best way you can,” writes Spence. “There’s an enormous satisfaction in seeing the cultural transformation that happens when an organization is turned on to purpose.”

While a well-laid out strategy and good implementation are both required for business success, neither strategy nor execution inspires followers to sustain engagement during troubled times. To light the fires of total engagement, try reminding yourself and your team why you’re here and doing what you do.

Purpose is what will tap into the hearts of people and help them give their best when the chips are down. And this applies at all levels: CEO, top managers, down to every employee.

“Purpose” isn’t necessarily about a feel-good, do-good purpose. A business purpose fills a real need in the marketplace. What difference can your business make in the lives of your customers?

In a company without a purpose, people have only a vague idea of what they’re really supposed to be doing. There’s always activity and busyness, but it’s often frenetic, disorganized, and short-term goal directed. There’s a lack of direction and commitment to What really matters.

Often top executives look to the competition to decide what to do, rather than make up their own minds about what really matters. A lack of clarity about business purpose leads to wrong business decisions and failed product launches. I see it all the time in the work I do with business executives, but employees working in an organization without purpose really experience the effects.

In a recent blog post on HBR.org, Tony Schwartz reports, “Across organizations, nearly every survey suggests that the vast majority of employees don’t feel fully engaged at work, valued for their contributions, or freed and trusted to do what they do best. Instead, they feel weighed down by multiple demands and distractions and they often don’t derive much meaning or satisfaction from their work. That’s a tragedy for millions of people and a huge lost opportunity for organizations.”

Put simply, more satisfied and engaged employees perform better. In a Towers Watson study of some 90,000 employees across eighteen countries, companies with the most engaged employees reported a 19 percent increase in operating income, and a 28 percent growth in earnings per share. Companies whose employees had the lowest level of engagement had a 32 percent decline in operating income, and an 11 percent drop in earnings.

Human beings enjoy spending their time engaged in meaningful work. We are by nature a passionate species and most of us seek out stimulating experiences. But the daily grind and stress of meeting performance goals can easily nudge out any sense of meaning and fulfillment. You’ve probably experienced this yourself, no?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how company leaders can tap into the “power of purpose,” and will include some concrete tips in my next blog post.

It’s up to us, as leaders and managers, to help supply a sense of belonging to what truly matters. Are you reminding yourself – and your team – why you’re here, why you’re doing what you do?