With business gurus advising that we need separate statements for our missions and visions and values, is it redundant to create a purpose statement?
Simon Sinek probably answers this question best in his exceptional 18-minute TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Simon conveys the significance of the relationship between purpose and engagement, explaining that the greatest successes (external and internal) come when people feel an emotional connection with an organization’s purpose.
The unifying purpose is most impactful when shared by employees, leaders and customers.
Your vision is what your firm aspires to be, years down the road—your lofty goals—often size, location, market position, or product mix. Your mission tells others what your business is and how you go about what you do. Your values describe your culture and how you conduct yourself.
But your purpose is bigger and it’s in the present. It probably originated in your past and resides deeply within you, inspiring you to become what you are, and do what you do. But here’s the distinction: it’s ultimately about the mark you leave in this world, thus your connection to the world around you.
Michelle developed a creative and effective process through which she brings people together to first explore their “personal whys” before even thinking about the firm’s “why.” This step is essential for their authentic, collective “why” to emerge—and the bonding that results is valuable, too. Without this step, purpose statements can feel manufactured or scripted and miss the mark, failing to resonate with others.
The result of Michelle’s two-step approach is a unique, heartfelt firm-level purpose statement that’s based in truth and surfaces naturally from the “souls” of the people who participate in this process. It’s ultimate engagement.
How "Purpose" Helps
Each firm seems to have a slightly different reason for pursuing this experience. Here are some scenarios:
Firms who merge don’t always find enough ways for cross-office partners and managers to bond through leadership. Using a process like this enables people to work together, at a high level, without bringing insecurities and turf issues. They collaborate in a powerful way, and build trust. Participants find commonalities and learn more about each other, deepening their relationships and respect for one another.
Savvy senior leaders know it’s wise to engage emerging leaders in shaping their firm’s future direction. It might be premature for up-and-comers to join the board or sign off on overall strategic direction. But inviting future leaders into the process of discovering the firm’s purpose creates a healthy blend of generational perspectives. It brings a balance of tradition and founder values, with the current business environment, and insights about what our younger people, who are new community and family leaders, most value. The synergies that emerge from so many differing mindsets creates mutual respect and appreciation that improves working relationships.
We hear all the time how “alignment” makes or breaks a firm’s success, yet thousands of firms seem to survive without alignment. But they aren’t the best places to work, and they repel the best talent. Signs of misalignment are behaviors that disrupt and undermine progress. Before dysfunction drives away good team members and customers, get those influencers—overt and covert—on the same page. In this process, historic naysayers have a chance to be heard and to see where they do agree so the firm can leverages their influence in positive ways. Having a clear and concise purpose strengthens the business, feeds planning, and reassures the team.
Purpose feeds strategy. And strategy needs true buy-in to become reality.
Are you ready to engage hearts and minds in your business purpose?