Purpose vs. Mission

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….

PB Disneyland

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!’

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