Leading Business Problem #4: No Purpose

In our latest eBook, we call out no purpose as a leading problem in business.

The reality is that nearly every organization is inherently purposeful. The intention of the company, or the reason why it exists, is its purpose. But internal communication around this "reason for being," why it matters, and how it can be made an integral part of daily operations is too often missing.

According to the Pew Research Center, both men and women consider a high salary to be the least important aspect of a job for both men and women, whereas holding a job with purpose is the most important. And yet The Energy Project reports 50% of employees overall feel they lack a sense of meaning and significance at work.

This disconnect between what employees are needing versus what they're actually getting make no purpose a top business problem that organizations need to prioritize and address.

Organizations lacking a clearly-defined and communicated purpose are more likely to experience high turnover and disengaged, restless employees.

The Purpose of Purpose

A survey conducted by Harvard Business Review on the power of meeting employee needs found that "a higher purpose—the sense that what we do matters and serves something larger than our immediate self-interest—is a uniquely powerful source of motivation." There is a direct correlation, HBR found, between meeting employee needs including purpose and increased levels of engagement, focus, retention, and life satisfaction.

Having a sense of purpose is a fundamental human need, and meeting employee needs is essential for organizations wanting to see results across the board.

In business, monetary goals are often front and center, and with good reason. It's profit that allows companies to not only exist but also fulfill their mission. The two are not mutually exclusive. The more businesses earn, the more opportunities they have to reach people with their products or services.

Having a sense of purpose not only influences factors that drive results, but it is the sole reason why the results matter. The purpose provides the why behind what we do. Connecting to why is a necessary driver.If employees are showing up to work and completing tasks without feeling connected to the why, they won't have a reason to engage, fully apply themselves, or go the extra mile.

Anyone can search for a why in what they do, but when an organization doesn't communicate it directly, it becomes more difficult for employees to feel connected to the company and their leaders. The mission and values that have been collectively decided need to be made an integral part of day-to-day operations for everyone to feel clear about—and connected to—their purpose, both within the organization and within the world at large.

In our eBook, we recommend three Fierce programs that teach the conversations required to fuel a greater sense of purpose in your organization.

Fierce Coach

1. Produce self-generated insights. Producing self-generated insights is essential for connecting to purpose and tapping into intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is what drives us as individuals to act without the promise of an external reward. Guide your team members toward their own sense of purpose through coaching to uncover ground truths that lead to more action and engagement.

2. Ask the right questions. Asking questions can be an effective approach in many conversations, and some questions are far more effective than others. Learn how to ask the right questions to uncover not just the truth, but the deepest truths that drive behavior and cause us to feel more connected to our purpose.

3. Avoid advice-giving. It's tempting as people to give advice and impart our own wisdom and experiences on others, and we often do so with good intention. The problem is that we replace what could be another's original ideas with our own. When we avoid giving advice, we give the other person an opportunity to discover what they desire and what matters to them. This discovery can lead to a greater feeling of purpose, giving them the self-generated information they need to move forward and create positive change.

Fierce Generations

1. Increase cross-generational collaboration. Age-related silos or "cliques" can create rifts and a feeling of separation among teams and between departments. Organizations with greater levels of cross-generational collaboration understand that we are more alike than we are different, regardless of generation, and know that diverse perspectives lead to better ideals that fuel our individual and company purpose.

2. De-bunk stereotypes and bias. Every generation has its own set of stereotypes, and our personal biases often factor into what would be considered acts of exclusion in our organizations. For example, we may dismiss a concern or an idea based on the context we have about a person due to their generation. By identifying and reducing our own bias and potentially destructive stereotyping, we can focus on what matters most—the why behind our work.

3. Create more inclusion. Sometimes who we think we need to invite to the conversation isn't who should actually be there. Learn to identify who should be invited to the conversation and when, regardless of generation or tenure. More inclusion is the remedy for separation, leading to a greater sense of connectedness and purpose.

Fierce Team

1. Overcome groupthink. One of the greatest barriers to innovation is unwillingness to challenge the status quo. The Team Beach Ball Model allows teams to collaborate in a way that opens up more opportunities for fresh ideas by creating an environment where it's "psychologically safe" to share alternative perspectives. Various perspectives lead to better ideas, and better ideas make it even more possible to fulfill the company mission and make a difference.

2. Gain input on company values. Communicating values and integrating them is critical. Also critical is inviting teams to the values conversation so that company values are decided upon together rather than dictated from the top. Seeking input from everyone in the organization on what the "top values" should be communicates how much their individual perspectives are valued and provides an opportunity for everyone involved to truthfully align with these values.

3. Encourage participation at all levels. As the saying goes, united we stand, divided we fall. If one level of your organization is connected to a sense of purpose and other levels are not, it will have a negative impact on overall results. To increase participation, unity, and connection to purpose, you need an inclusive approach that invites everyone to the table to weigh in, from entry level to C-suite to the front lines.

To create more connection to purpose, leaders need to take initiative and start the conversation. Download the full eBook here for more insight into no purpose and the other leading business problems we've identified. 

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