Finding purpose at work

Arrow with words Sense of Purpose breaking brick wall. Concept 3D illustration.In an article in the Wall Street Journal, “I Don’t Have a Job. I Have a Higher Calling,” published on February 24, 2015 the author talks about the importance of purpose. I applaud the focus of this post on the importance of purpose in an organization. In our more than 15 years of discovering what makes top performers true stars, we have learned that they are all purpose driven. Top performers, even in functions that are widely perceived to be driven by financial incentives, like sales, are always motivated primarily by trying to achieve a greater social good. In addition, we have had great success in helping others achieve top performance by giving them the opportunity to understand, align with and contribute to achieving a purpose. But there are two challenges, highlighted by the negative comments about executives and purpose and supported by many of the comments on the WSJ article. Why are people resistant to purpose and how do you get organizational alignment? Part of the resistance to supporting a purpose is justified cynicism about executive commitment to the purpose. There is a long history of executives using purpose and similar grand notions, as manipulation of their organization without real commitment. In too many organizations, purpose is just one more “fad of the week” that executives promote with speeches and videos, but which is not seen in their actions. So the first requirement for developing a purpose driven organization is true, long-term commitment of the executive team to living the purpose themselves. The second reason for resistance is that proliferating purpose-driven attitudes and behaviors throughout an organization, particularly a large one, is challenging. Traditional methods of creating alignment – the aforementioned speeches and videos as well as training classes – just don’t work very well for something as important as passionate commitment to a purpose. Fortunately, research on the neuroscience of learning shows that developing a truly collective purpose derived from the star performers, and presenting it in a way that gives everyone an opportunity to contribute to the purpose causes a strong positive neural response. If workers reflect on their personal alignment with the stars’ purpose, write their own version of the purpose and share it in a social learning setting, almost everyone will come to embrace the purpose as their own. If this is coupled with a clear “path to mastery” for developing the attitudes and skills needed to achieve the purpose, workers also see a way to achieve the purpose making it easier to embrace it. Because this methodology based on empirical science, it is an incredibly reliable and consistent way to create a purpose-driven organization. Looking at this from the perspectives of the cynics, do you really want to spend so much of your life doing something that is not particularly rewarding? From the organization’s perspective, do you really want people around who only “do their job?” New science shows that, if executives really mean what they say about purpose, there is a reliable and effective methodology for creating a purpose-driven culture, which is a great place to work for everyone. Source: The Wall Street Journal]]>

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