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Exploring the True Value of Organizational Purpose

Purpose-driven companies are characterized not only by their accolades and fulfillment of societal needs but also by employees who feel connected to the company's cause.

For people to find meaning in the workplace, it’s not as easy as referring them to the company mission statement on the website.

To help us navigate these discussions on purpose with our teams is Ranjay Gulati. Ranjay is the author of the book Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies, an educator and researcher passionate about unlocking organizational and individual potential. Today, Ranjay shares what a company purpose is and how it impacts company stakeholders.

Defining Organizational Purpose

Defining an organizational purpose is more than crafting a nice statement. It's not the charity work that a company does or the financial returns it delivers. 

According to William Damon, a Stanford psychologist, the word purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something meaningful to the self and the world beyond the self. However, a company's purpose is much bigger than just a mission statement touted on the company website. It's the why behind your entire operation.

An organization's deep purpose is the reason for its existence; it can rally everyone behind a grand vision or a compelling mission. To uncover an organization’s deep purpose, leadership must answer these big questions: Why do we exist? What are the markets we want to serve? What problems are we trying to solve? 

Lastly, when companies align with a purpose, they are more adept at navigating change because they clearly understand how decisions are made and their underlying reasons.

An Organizational Purpose Done Right

When an organization has clarity around its purpose and takes its purpose seriously, it starts interrogating and measuring itself against it. Then, this deep company purpose trickles into all areas of the office, including strategies, resource allocation, hiring, promotion, DEI, and measuring progress and success.

A company with a deep purpose considers its impact on the variety of stakeholders it serves and the trade-offs and choices to make in the short term.

From my conversation with Ranjay, having a purpose is long-term value creation–how to create value and for whom value is intended. In fact, Ranjay stated that a business has to be fundamentally profitable, viable, and healthy in the long run to serve its purpose.

Ranjay highlighted Etsy as an example. Etsy had good intentions embedded in its organization–promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, environmental sustainability, you name it. But it all went downhill when their how wasn’t truly aligned with their why.

So when a new CEO came in, he pinned down the plot holes and established a refreshed company purpose so they could be financially strong and viable while delivering measurable social impact for the communities and stakeholders they serve.

Connecting Purpose

We all probably know by now that an organization's success often comes down to the power of its people. But how can you sustainably succeed when your employees drag their feet to work?

This is where personal purpose comes into play. According to Mark Twain, "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figured out why you were born."

So, just like an organization must identify its purpose, we also need to help our people discover their why. When employees connect their personal purpose to what they're doing at work, they show up inspired. And when they show up to work inspired, they show up differently.

How can managers help their teams find their own purpose?

Ranjay explains that there are three attitudes towards work.

My work is a job. I do it for the money.

My work is a career. I do it to get ahead.

My work is a calling. I do it because it gives me meaning and purpose.

Most people fall into the 1st category. Our job as managers is to help our team members discover that what they do at work matters and that their work is not just a chore.

One of the ways you can do this is through "caring leadership", which Ranjay learned from Seattle Seahawks' coach, Pete Carroll. Ranjay suggests that discussing purpose is an excellent way to cultivate caring leadership in your team. Connecting with an understanding of each other's purpose deepens your connection and builds trust. You can, therefore, challenge people while also supporting them. 

When people get that needed support from their managers, they are satisfied and tend to perform better, knowing they're in a safe work environment. That's when inspiration comes in. 

And Ranjay noted that inspired workers are more than twice as productive as satisfied workers

Your Challenge

The managers' role in helping our team members discover their "personal why" and connecting it to the company's larger purpose is truly a transformative journey. But it doesn't happen overnight, nor can it be driven with bigger paychecks or additional perks. When you make the investment in purpose, you foster a safer workplace culture where employees feel heard, seen, and appreciated. Expect to see massive workplace shifts beyond comprehension.

Listen to my entire conversation with Ranjay Gutali  HERE  to learn more about deeper purpose.

Keep up with Ranjay

- Follow Ranjay on LinkedIn here

- Get a copy of Deep Purpose here

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