Prior to 2011 when I sold my business to a publicly-traded company, I was doing meaningful work. I, along with our leadership team, worked hard, and in some cases, long hours, but we had lots of fun in the process.
At my company, our team of people truly felt we were building a cathedral and not just being paid to lay bricks for the boss, Bobby Albert.
Why? Because they felt like they were part of something great. They enjoyed being part of a championship team. And they helped create a first-class culture – a culture where our people were not just committed to the leaders, but most of all to each other.
Second Half of Life
Now as I am living out my second half of life with my new business, Values-Driven Culture, I’m doing the most meaningful work ever.
I’m very focused on the right things, and not the wrong things. I don’t waste time on anything that doesn’t fit our purpose (why we exist).
Every person can achieve meaningful work by understanding what an organizational purpose statement is and what it’s not.
In my previous blog post, I wrote that you first must be a worthy leader that your people are willing to follow. And you can only become a worthy leader if you have the trust of your people.
Next, it’s critical to understand the difference between what a purpose statement for an organization is and what it is not.
What is a purpose statement?
I like Jim Collins’ definition of a purpose for an organization (why you exist):
A purpose is… “The organization’s fundamental reasons for existence beyond just making money – a perpetual guiding star on the horizon;….”
While making money is an important result of a company’s existence, you have to go deeper and find the real reason for your being – your fundamental reasons for your existence.
A purpose statement is…
- Authentic. This is the key.
- Broad, fundamental, and enduring, and it should serve to guide and inspire the organization for years, perhaps a century or more – Inspiring people to dream of doing great things.
- Never fully achieved or completed.
- A phrase of only a few words that is easy to remember.
- Used to nurture and select senior management.
- To stir people to aspire to create something bigger and more lasting than themselves.
- Global and can be exported regardless of which country the organization does business in.
- Rock-solid and tightly fixed which powerfully drives progress and enables the organization to change and adapt without compromising its purpose.
- The corporate bonding glue where people’s fundamental human need is met – to belong to something they can feel proud of.
- The connectivity with other people – a natural outcome of sharing a common bond of beliefs and aspirations – to stand for something.
- What makes people feel compelled to try to create greatness. It is something that you care so much about that you will want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.
- A challenge for consistent behavior alignment that gives guidance and inspiration to people inside the organization as they pursue strategies, tactics, goals, and organization structures.
- As much to guide you on what activities to not pursue as it is to pursue.
What a purpose statement is NOT
A purpose statement is NOT figuring out…
- How to be wholly unique and to differentiate from your competitors.
- How to have a pretty and a worded statement for the financial community.
- A description of your product lines or customer segments.
- The “right” purpose statement (there is no “right” purpose statement).
- How to make it fit in the marketing trends and fashions of the day.
- A big program to induce radical change within the organization.
- How to focus purely on long-term shareholders wealth and profit maximization as the dominant driving force or primary objective.
“Yet, paradoxically, the visionary companies make more money than the more purely profit-driven companies.”
– Jim Collins, Built to Last
You too can have meaningful work and build a cathedral by first being a worthy leader with a worthy cause – your purpose. Once you understand what a purpose statement is (and what it’s not), you can draft a purpose statement that clearly reflects your purpose to your people, customers and suppliers.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have time for this stuff, I need my people to sell, sell, sell!” Well, you might have some good short term results with that approach, but what we’re talking about is intentional work that positions you and your organization to truly achieve lasting greatness!
Do your people work hard and have fun doing so? What do you think about the most? What do you talk about the most with your employees? Is about money? Have you considered a purpose-centered approach? Please share your thoughts <here> and share this blog post with a friend and co-worker.