Being A Purpose Led Company (Part 1)

Purpose drives success

This is the first of a three-part series on Purpose. It’s becoming increasingly clear that working from a purpose is a competitive advantage. It increases fulfillment and produces tangible good for teams and our clients. The kind of purpose that produces these results doesn’t come from a weekend off-site and a new banner declaring your purpose. Rather, purpose is a tool to be worked into the fabric of your culture. I’m going to show you a few simple shifts that will give your company a purpose driven culture.

Part One: Being For Something

Purpose, like values, mission and vision can often fall into the pitfall of being a catchy phrase that everyone likes, but no one remembers. At Storyworks, we believe that Purpose is something to be discovered, nurtured, and never rushed.

The first step towards discovering purpose is to create a culture of  “Being For”. In other words, what are you for? In today’s hypercritical culture it’s easy to express what you are against, but much more demanding to clearly express what you are for.

Here’s an example in business. Jane spends the weekend thinking about a novel solution to a problem facing the marketing department. She sits down with Ted and Bob and tells them her idea. The first thing that Bob says is, “I get where you’re going with that but it doesn’t really seem like you considered the impact on operations.” Ted says, “We tried something like that a couple of years back and it was a total failure.”

What impact does this have on Jane? Imagine that Jane is Ted and Bob’s manager. How might their critical comments impact Jane and her leadership style?

I’m sure you’ve experienced moments like this in the past in one form or another. They obviously sap energy and repress innovation. And yet they are often the norm at many companies.

Let’s step back and look at how “Being For” might change this dynamic. Imagine that Jane spent the weekend really considering what’s important about the marketing project. She has some ideas and even one that seems innovative, but she is mostly interested in aligning her team.

Jane sits down with Bob and Ted and says, “Listen guys, I’ve really been thinking about this marketing problem. I’m not sure of how we’ll ultimately solve the problem but I am sure that what’s important is that our customers know that we really care about them.” Bob and Ted agree with Jane and are excited to find a solution that fits the “purpose” of the marketing effort. Jane then presents her ideas and asks them all to consider the solutions by their ability to let the customer know that the company really cares.

By “Being For” what was important, Jane shifted the dynamic from critical to collaborative. By focusing on the purpose first rather than the solution, Jane is now in a position to lead a conversation that may go well beyond her original thinking.

Let’s add a little deeper distinction here as well. Let’s say that the marketing objective had a well-defined brief. The team knew what needed to be achieved in the market. The difference was that the brief was tactical, something like: Let the parents of school aged children know of our new educational product X. Whereas Jane’s declared purpose was to let those customers know that they cared. The difference is monumental when it comes to execution. This is an example of how purpose driven companies have a powerful advantage.

3 Tips on “Being For”

Here’s how you can start a “Being For” culture in your company:

  1. Be for something rather than being against something. When you notice that you, or conversations you are having, are drifting away from being collaborative, declare what you are for in the conversation and/or ask others what they are for.
  2. Use “Being For” language. It might feel awkward at first but start saying things like, “What I’m for in this situation is…” Use the exact language until your colleagues and team pickup on the phrase and start using it themselves.
  3. Reflect back “Being For” when it shows up. When you hear someone say something that is purposeful, reflect it back to them. You could say, “In what you just said, I could really hear what you (we) are for in this situation. Let me see if I have it right, your saying we’re for…”

Working on “Being For” is a powerful step towards being a purpose driven company.  Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 in our series on purpose.