[Spark Thinking] What’s your company’s raison d’être?

Spark Thinking contains reflections on leadership and high performance cultures.

Perhaps you have heard the fable of the two bricklayers working alongside one another at a building site. A man walks by and asks one of them what they are doing.

The first bricklayer replies, “I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do is slap this crummy mortar on these crummy bricks and pile them up in a crummy line.”

The other bricklayer smiles, proudly proclaiming, “I’m helping to build the new cathedral.”

How many of your employees are focusing on “the what” they are doing instead of “the why” they are doing it? It’s difficult to feel passionate about something when we are missing the meaning behind what we are doing and why we are here.

By knowing your company’s raison d’être (reason for existing), you will be better positioned to attract good employees, customers, and stakeholders that are aligned with your vision and that are working towards a common future.

Why Knowing the Purpose Matters

Defining purpose in work, life, and business is not about the daily tasks, it’s about the reason for the tasks in the first place – the why, not the what. Discovering purpose allows a person to create the vision behind the tasks, and knowing that vision can dramatically change results. For example, a chef’s purpose is not to cook food – that’s a task. One reason for this task could be to help people enjoy life by having a good time with loved ones around a meal they didn’t have to prepare (or clean up) themselves. Another reason could be to spark people’s imaginations with innovative dishes.

People who are fulfilled at work know how the work they do supports the company’s vision, values, and goals whether it’s their own company or someone else’s.

When a company hasn’t clearly defined a purpose for its employees, it can cause problems. For instance:

  • Employees are unsure of what the priorities are;
  • Employees can feel they are working for a pay check and not for something that has meaning;
  • People may feel like they are working on pet projects that will disappear as soon as leadership changes;
  • Especially high performing employees can become disengaged and leave the company.

When your employees know the company’s purpose and the purpose of their role, it:

  • Gives meaning to everything they do.
  • Guides them through tough times and difficult decisions.
  • Motivates them even (or especially) when they encounter failure or rejection.
  • Helps them remain committed to the company, reducing employee turnover.

[Spark Action] Define a Clear Vision

Spark Action – the steps you can take to implement the thinking and ideas contained in this newsletter.

The first step in defining purpose is to have a clear vision at the top. Then that vision can be trickled down throughout the different levels of the organization.

One of the programs I offer, the N.E.W.S.TM Organizational Navigation program, provides a framework for defining the company’s mission. This two-day workshop gives leaders the tools to steer the organization through crossroads while maintaining a stable corporate environment.

During the workshop, leaders focus on defining the company’s uniqueness/specialty using the “Greatness Model”. This model, which has been adapted from Jim Collins‘ Good to Great, walks participants through three key questions:

1. What is the company passionate about?

Identify the real reason why the company exists. Is it because of a gap in the market? Is it because of a vision of a better future? Is it because the leaders want to provide an innovative approach to a product or service?

2. What are the company’s core competencies and intelligence?

This question is typically easier for leaders to answer. In short, what are the company’s strengths?

3. What are the needs of the company’s customers?

What needs is the company already fulfilling for its customers? What needs are not being fulfilled?

Once you’ve worked through the three questions above, the next step is to find the sweet spot. What is the overlap between the three questions? This is where the company and its employees are likely to find the most fulfillment.

It’s not (necessarily) about the money.

Instead of focusing on a monetary goal, try setting goals that “add value” – a goal that improves the quality of people’s lives or of the earth. Whether you’re a bricklayer, a CEO, a coach, or a solopreneur, it’s ultimately through helping others that we all achieve our purpose. Money is then a natural consequence.

Author’s content used under license, © 2015 Claire Communications

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