Legacy. n. A tangible or intangible thing handed down; a long lasting effect of an event or process. We often talk of ‘legacy’ as something we view in hindsight, being the outcome of accumulated past events… More
Since posting my last blog I have been fortunate to talk to a number of leaders who inspire purpose within their own organisations and actively engage social purpose based partnerships.
These leaders recognise the value of maintaining a strategically aligned relationship with targeted not-for-profits.
I’ll go into greater depth over the coming posts about the shared value that both the commercial and not-for-profits gain from aligned relationships. However an interesting consistency in each of the conversations with these leaders struck me that I hadn’t considered previously, that I will return to shortly.
I have to go in to a bit of business case spiel here, bear with me.
While there is overwhelming evidence of companies that embrace a sense of purpose consistently outperform their competition, the leaders I spoke to were not initially motivated to initiate social partnerships with an expectation that there would be an immediate direct bottom line benefit.
They are acutely aware that their customers, stakeholders and employees have an expectation that their company must be a good corporate citizen, contribute to the society they operate within and demonstrate not talk values. Their motivation to partner with a not-for-profit that has a sensible strategic alignment with their business’s culture and objectives is pragmatic and sensitive leadership. With a modern workforce that demands a greater sense of contribution in their roles beyond just profit (65% of the millennial workforce declare they would actively seek out employers who satisfy this demand) then that leadership sensitivity is well founded. The pragmatic outcome is greater staff retention, improved acquisition potential and commitment.
Similarly instilling a culture within an organization that is acutely aware of and attached to their society has many positive benefits. A workforce that views their world in an empathetic and caring manner encourages people centric thinking, innovation, creativity and a far keener knowledge of consumer expectations.
Further intangible but nonetheless real benefits to having an organization that sees itself as a citizen within it’s community, is improved customer loyalty, brand value and reputation, stakeholder engagement and new business opportunities.
Thus endeth the business case lesson, I promise!
What struck me in my conversations was that while the leaders talked of the ‘business case’ impact, the motivation that their employees felt from social purpose engagement, the positive impact of the combined empathy that the human connection had instilled into the organisation, what the leaders gradually let slip was what it meant to them.
They talked of the impact of listening to or working with people, kids, and families whose battles and strength in life far outweighed their day-to-day management issues. They were visibly affected by the positive impact of courage, stamina and will. They were motivated by the sense of good that there is in people and those supporting not-for-profits that have no where near the resources these leaders are used to yet achieve amazing results. These social purpose relationships clearly had not only a humanising impact on them and how they related to their people but also an inspiring one to be better leaders themselves.
I have been fortunate to witness many of these stories and understand the impact of the relationships between the corporate sector and not-for-profits and believe absolutely that if managed properly the WIN-WIN is huge and multifaceted. Don’t under value the mutual contribution that great partnerships can achieve through their individual strengths. That’s why I started Purpose Built, to help facilitate these relationships.
In an intimate moment between them, the grandfather with the wisdom of a long life passes on to his grandson words learnt through a life of learning…’be true to yourself”.
The grandson looks around in bewilderment and asks…..”be true to myself…but who am I?”
The question of who is my authentic Self, is with us through our lives. We seek our authentic self at times of introspection, others seek our true identity also whether, our workplace, our friends and partners. In a time where our ‘Self’ can be both influenced and manifested in so many ways with social media personas, a business presence, societal demands and so on, what Self is true?
In our quest to seek some Purpose in our lives it is reasonable and right to consider the alignment with that Self, to create authenticity in what must be one of the most important functions we have in our lives.
As we travel through the labyrinth of experiences and teachings, good, bad and otherwise our learning’s influences our character and piece by piece create the unique creatures we are.
Depending on your religious or spiritual beliefs, many also embrace the concept that we are born with ‘history’ and this too is an important influence and to some the core of our Self.
Arguably the influences of our Self, begins before we are born as we inherit ancestral and genealogical traits from our forebears that trickle into our character. We are reared and live in different cultural environments where behavioural norms of one can be quite different to another.
I suspected before I touched on the subject of ‘authenticity’, that I was taking a bite out of a very large apple. Creating a Purpose that aligns sensibly with ‘who we truly are’ whether for a business or individual is critical for it’s sustainability and real impact. So this will be a conversation I will continue into the future as well.
We are told that to understand ourselves fully we must look within and while I respect this self analysis, I wondered isn’t this introspection looking at our Self through the rear vision mirror. Where we are today is an accumulation of all our past learning, but does it stop at this point?
Self is not static and in fact it evolves by continual learning throughout our lives. Again whether for an individual or a business it is from ‘learning’ from every experience that continually evolves who we are.
For a part of my career I worked with an amazing well-known theatre company (not on stage I might add). I would often relay to potential business partners that one of the most stimulating aspects of my time there was to observe the Director and cast recreate a story that had been told, sometimes thousands of times before, to create a relevant and enriching performance. A group of actors who invariably didn’t know each other prior, would be led through an iterative process by their Director and tap into their creative, intellectual and experiential selves to bring about these works.
This work would then be presented to a group of people, an audience, that would give immediate and critical feedback, through applause, of varying degrees of enthusiasm.
My business partners would observe this process, be challenged by a different paradigm and creative approach then interpret techniques that they could use in their own workplace. My client’s Self had gained from a unique learning from outside their regular world.
Herminia Ibarra, the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning at Insead Business School wrote in a HBR article recently;
‘the benefit of what I call outsight – the valuable external perspective we get from experimenting with new leadership behaviours – habitual patterns of thought and action fence us in. To begin thinking like leaders, we must first act: plunge ourselves into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with new ways of getting things done. Especially in times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow experience – not vice versa. Action changes who we are and what we believe is worth doing.’
I would tell business leaders the story of the theatre company because often learning’s can be found in amazing and different places, with people that are from vastly different worlds and experiences to us. It is why I have always found it so rewarding for all to create partnerships between not-for-profits and commercial organisations, each with their own unique IP.
One of the most profound if not always conscious teachers we will have in our lives will be our partners. Whether personal or business, if authentic the relationship can have a wonderful impact on our learning and thus on our Self and Purpose.
A couple of weeks ago I was very fortunate to be invited along to a day held at the Reach Foundation, as I grew to appreciate aptly named ‘The Heroes Day’. Reach is an amazing organization that supports teenagers facing a wide range of challenges in their lives. I’ll revisit Reach in later blogs, who they are and what they do and why I find Reach people inspirations in conversations about Purpose.
At the end of that day of observing the 450, Year 9 students coached to find their hero within, I took part in a conversation with some of the facilitators, who themselves have not long breached the age group those they led.
Names are not important here, but the story relayed of one great young woman there, her troubled life up to where she found a Purpose and an anchor at Reach affected me. What struck me was a word she used to describe how a person in her life, a teacher, had not allowed the confines of her ‘job description’ or normal expected lines of disconnection stop her from rescuing this troubled, beautiful young girl.
This now strong young woman spoke of how that teacher had gone beyond her ‘job description’ to drive her to school, make sure she ate, cared for her beyond the normal ‘guidelines’ required in her role to ensure she was safe, educated and had a chance at a future. This teacher operated in the words of this saved soul, in a ‘blurriness’ in the ‘rules’. Her purposeful intent, care and objective to give this young girl a chance in life was more important. This teacher clearly had a Purpose beyond the guidelines of her traditional teaching role, and it is because of that Purpose that she gave someone that ‘leg up’ that often is all they need, just a break.
I got to thinking, how often do we challenge our own ‘boundaries’ within our own personal lives and workspace to achieve our higher Purpose. Now I’m not suggesting anarchy in the work place, where there is often valid reason for structure (or is there). But ask yourselves, if the restrictions weren’t there, or weren’t quite as rigid as you think, would you pursue your Purpose further.
I wonder also whether some of our boundaries are self created, do we fear what others may think of us if we stray from the ‘expectations’ of our tribe, do we avoid perceived conflict, do we fear that our actions are seen as selfish and frankly are they a ‘comfort zone’.
So as part of our pursuit in seeking our own Purpose we must be realistic about the barriers we have or choose to be restrained by, and our honest conviction in challenging them.
The boundaries, rules, ‘the way we do things’ are often there for sensible valid and social reasons but just ask yourself if you allow a little ‘blurriness’ into your life, what might you achieve, what hero is within you that you can impact someone else’s life and in turn your own.
All these Statements!
As I discuss the benefits and strategies for creating a socially Purpose driven company with CEO’s and with people seeking their own Purpose, I am often asked what is the difference with Purpose and Mission.
I have interacted with some fabulous companies that have eloquent Vision, Mission and Values Statements. Largely they are designed to connect with their employees’ logical or cerebral sense of shared direction and wish to encourage commitment (note I didn’t say inspire….I’ll come back to that).
‘We will be the best……Our goal is to increase market share by X every year…..We will exceed our customers expectations….and so on’.
The What, Why, How?
For some time now the shift in workplaces and in our personal motivation is fed more by the ‘why’ we do things rather than just the laboriously crafted Mission Statements of ‘what’ we do, or Vision Statements of ‘where’ we want to be. We need reason.
Occasionally, I come across a company that along with their other ‘Statements’ proclaim a sense of Purpose. While not as common, nor necessarily a new concept. One of the ‘nicer’ ones I have seen as quoted in a HBR article is from Van Arsdale France from the Disney Corporation in 1955 while preparing a presentation on his company’s Purpose….
Arsdale France presenting to Disney executives spoke;
‘And now our theme: the purpose of Disneyland is to create happiness for others. And you see, the beautiful thing about saying, “We’re going to create happiness’, was then I could say, “Look, you may park cars, clean up the place, sweep the place, work graveyard and everything else, but whatever you do is creating happiness for others”
So we are starting to ingrain an emotion here! Something the harder Vision and Mission Statements try hard to do but well…….’increasing market share by XX’….yawn.
The emotional impact of Purpose.
In the case of Disney, the emotion ‘happiness’ as the ‘why’ they do what they do is a far more palpable uniting yet individual driver than the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of a Vision and Mission.
So why is this ‘emotion’ thing such a big deal. If my company or my work is so cleverly focused on making the best widget or being the top dog in my industry what is it with this emotion stuff?
Funnily part of the answer sits within the ‘big end of town’. Why do nearly all major corporations now have….not just individuals, but entire departments that look after their people’s wellness and seek to positively impact communities and the environment. Why do company’s like Westpac shift their Mission Statements to focus not exclusively on their customer’s but on their people?
I know it is a resource thing, but many large companies, not all, but many get that ingraining social purpose (both internal and external) makes good business sense. Leaders get that the inspiration of social purpose can have a multiplying effect. This is a Purpose Built intent, to help those companies that don’t have those ‘departments’ embrace and leverage social Purpose.
(I’ll talk more about how Purpose Built can demonstrate a clear business case for social value and responsibility in a blog in the near future)
Depending on the study, over 65% of the millennial workforce, now demand greater social contribution and personal fulfilment in their workplace.
Another emotion…..Fullfillment! We are on a roll! So could it be that Purpose really is the emotional driver of the ‘Statements’.
So where the very important Vision and Mission Statements are cerebral drivers, Purpose is one of the heart. Good leaders get that to have a motivated, creative and committed workplace you must connect to the heart.
Where does this leave you my friend as I have spent all this time talking about companies?
It is interesting, there was some great research that came out of NorthWest University in the US recently, that found that no generation was more eager to give back or has a greater sense of reason and contribution over the other. We all seek a place in giving back or contribution. However the lesson from the Millennials is that they will stand up and demand Purpose. Do you?
And my final point….the emotion of social Purpose inspires. To quote the often and justifiably referenced Simon Sinek…..
‘There are leaders and those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire!’
Not another latest trend!
When I decided to concentrate conversations on the concept of ‘Purpose’, I was conscious of the amount of chatter currently around about this topic. We have all been through phases with ‘buzz words’ or trends such as ‘innovation’, ‘mindfulness’, ‘empowerment’ and so on. I was concerned that this ‘Purpose’ thing might be thought of as just another fad.
Now let me say from the beginning all the above practices are fabulous, if the worse they do is make us think differently then the principles are worthwhile. But they are not new and nor is Purpose, so to consider them as just a fly-by-night latest trend, would be a mistake.
The Purpose of Purpose Built…
I have worked with some amazing organisation’s both ‘for profit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ that were at their best when all their strengths were aligned with their true Purpose. Or even more socially inspiring when the strengths of ‘for profits’ and ‘not-for-profits’ collaborated. Similarly I’ve met many successful individuals who are keenly aware of why they are here and follow their own Purpose in their way.
This is where I made the decision to create Purpose Built , a company that focuses on facilitating inspiring relationships between ‘for profit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ organisations to achieve win/win social and business impact.
‘At the intersection of where your gifts, talents and abilities meet a human need, therein you discover your Purpose’.
Purpose doesn’t have an end point…..
The reason I think Purpose is so important for us all is that I believe it umbrellas all of the ‘buzz word’ practices; it is the essence of authenticity. Purpose is enriching because it is not static it allows us to grow, learn and develop constantly. Purpose is not in itself a destination. Purpose is using all your talents, skills and abilities to create a ‘way’ you live not just what you live for.
Your strengths tell a story…..
Some time ago, I read some of Marcus Buckingham’s work. He conveys that concentrating our energies on what we are innately good at, in what we enjoy, where we find our natural flow, will lead to greater success, fulfilment and happiness. If we focus on our strengths that seem to come with ease, rather than force ourselves to function through our weaknesses we create our own unique purposeful way.
Your passions, and there may be many in your life, your vision or mission if you are a leader in a company, will be met when you live or function with Purpose. Your ’flow’ will be realised as Aristotle said, ‘when your gifts talents and abilities intersect and meet a human need’.
That is why PURPOSE, and why I want to share the gifts, talents and abilities I’ve grown to realise as mine and the conversations with many other Purposeful leaders with you.