An area I've recently been placing a lot of thought and strategic focus on is purpose.
One reason for my focus in this area, aside from it being a subject that's very near and dear to me, is that our company goals are quite ambitious this year. Among all of the drive, change, growth, collaboration, and hard work taking place to meet these goals, I know that it's equally important to not lose sight of why we're doing it.
When I was growing up, my dad was a career United States Navy Officer. For his career and his coworkers, every significant event—from change of commands to National holidays to retirements—there were speeches and conversations about purpose over and over and over. People sharing why they were proud to support the United States of America, why they were willing to sacrifice, and why they turned down more money to stay and support the organization of the US Navy. For the first eighteen years of my life, I attended many of these ceremonies and witnessed the deep connection people had with the purpose, and it stays with me to this day. In those people gatherings, there were no discussions of budget or scaling or growth. It was about the people and about the purpose. Sharing victories, failures, lessons.
A recent article from HBR really hit home with me. It highlights the need for organizations to discover an authentic sense of purpose and calls out the potential costs of hypocrisy:
"When a company announces its purpose and values but the words don't govern the behavior of senior leadership, they ring hollow. Everyone recognizes the hypocrisy, and employees become more cynical. The process does harm...if your purpose is authentic, people know, because it drives every decision and you do things other companies would not...often an organization discovers its purpose and values when things are going badly—and [its] true nature is revealed by what its leaders do in difficult times."
As leaders, where we place our focus during challenging times matters, whether it's in the aftermath of failure or in the striving toward success. Purpose gives us and everyone we work with meaning beyond the circumstances that surround us as we move through our daily lives, and this is what sustains an entire organization, its culture, and its longevity. It is in fact the soul of the company. You may not be able to see it or touch it, but it's there. You feel it.
One of my favorite quotes by American novelist Annie Dillard is, "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." We have to be connected to this why, including the emotions around it, or else we're just going through the motions. I don't believe "just going through the motions" is satisfying to anyone. And honestly, sometimes, we don't really realize we are going through the motions until a sudden result occurs.
It's our connection with purpose that allows our daily actions to tap into our own soul, the soul of the company, and what it truly means to be human.
In order to truly live out these ideas and take action as a department, I recently launched a new initiative called My Fierce Purpose. What this series entails is inviting a Fierce client to join our bi-weekly sales and marketing meetings via video to provide insight into their experience with Fierce and highlight authentic connections with self and others.
The intention of My Fierce Purpose is to connect us all with the change we are creating in the world, and I wanted to find a way to really have a call to action so our employees can reflect and solidify what their Fierce purpose is while also being inspired and challenged by others.
Our first My Fierce Purpose guest was Gary Wang, Leadership Development Specialist at Coast Capital, a beloved client of ours who has achieved monumental success with our programs. With Gary's permission, I wanted to share a part of his testimonial with you:
"The beauty of Fierce is that it encourages people to embrace individuality and authenticity through storytelling and real-life situations. Fierce helps individuals connect with themselves and each other through facilitative, explorative, and nonjudgmental conversation—something people can hold and remember for a lifetime."
If you're interested in facilitating a similar activity in your company, here are some potential questions to ask your clients that will tap into purpose and get to the heart of how your work impacts others:
- Introduce yourself, your role, and how you got introduced to (your company).
- What does (your company) mean to you? What's your favorite concept or aspect?
- What result are you most proud of or your favorite story?
- A question or two from the audience.
You can add questions for further exploration to really dig into why your clients and employees connect with your brand/product/company. When someone shares a personal story about how the programs have impacted their life and their relationships, the connection to why and the purpose of what we do is inevitable.
And that's powerful.
Inviting clients to the conversation to share their story is one way to actionably introduce purpose into the conversation. If you want a few more ways to help your team tap into purpose, one of my previous blogs here can be an additional resource.
Another powerful step you can take in your organization is connecting with this concept of "smart plus heart." Right now we have strategies and goals and tons of projects as we're scaling the business, and I think because of that, there's a need for really connecting to your heart as much as your head.
When I entered into my corporate career, and especially when I became a people leader, I have carried through the idea that when you treat people as whole beings, when you nurture their heads and hearts, and you create meaning together, there is really nothing too big to accomplish.
My call to action for leaders is to first tap into your own purpose with the organization. And then, do not wait. Start having conversations about purpose now so that you can begin tapping into where the magic lies—inside the soul of your organization.