purpose_signThere is no doubt a proliferation of marginally useful and confusing leadership terminology that requires a specific definition before it can become meaningful. In a post on HBR, Graham Kenny is the latest to take a stab at defining the term purpose. The deeper point here, however, is the importance of “purpose” to organizations, regardless of the definition. Dan Pink writes about purpose as a primary motivator. Over the last 15 years we have worked extensively with star performers in organizations and they are always motivated by a compelling purpose, which is critical to any organization. I would go beyond Kenny’s post to address two issues: How do you build a good purpose statement and how do you get others to embrace it as their own? We have developed a simple methodology for accomplishing both results. For building a purpose statement, we assemble 6-8 of the organization’s true star performers (who are only occasionally executives) and ask them why they love their work. They brainstorm a list of all of the reasons, then process the list down to a statement that is 280 characters long (including spaces). This forces the stars to determine what matters, which usually is about creating some sort of compelling, social good, otherwise known as a purpose. As to getting everyone to embrace the purpose, we use the newest neuroscience of learning to create intense engagement. We have the organization present this purpose statement to others in the organization in a way that stimulates positive brain chemistry and suppresses resistance to change. As a result, everyone in the organization believes that they personally invented the purpose statement and in turn embrace it as their own. When everyone aligns with a compelling purpose, lots of good can come from it, including soaring performance.]]>

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