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MCLEOD: How to create a culture of purpose

Lisa McLeod

Lisa McLeod

We have a gap. A gap between what makes organizations successful and the way leaders traditionally manage business.

A 2013 Deloitte survey revealed that:

“Organizations that focus beyond profit and instill a strong sense of purpose among their employees are more likely to find long-term success.”

Yet the same survey also revealed that the majority of employees (68 percent) believe that leaders are not doing enough to create a sense of purpose.

Cultivating a sense of purpose is critical, whether you run a nonprofit, a school, a business, a department, or a family. Yet well-intended leaders often miss the mark. In my experience it’s not because leaders don’t want to have purpose and meaning, it’s because they don’t know how to express it.

If want to create an environment of purpose and passion, here are three things you can do right now:

1. Flip your language

Old school leaders talk about profit, quotas, market share, test results, etc. While these quantitative metrics are critical, they don’t ignite emotional engagement.

That’s because they’re internally focused on what the company wants to accomplish. Leaders can foster a greater sense of purpose by amplifying the impact they have on customers or the people they serve.

For example, when working with a senior pharma executive, I helped him change the way he announced their sales objectives. Instead of saying, “Our goal is to sell a million units,” he started saying, “Our purpose is to bring health and hope into the lives of 10,000 patients.” He then revealed powerful video testimonials from current patients about how the company’s products had changed their lives.

What was once a sales target became a noble calling. His team was on fire to help these patients. They went the extra mile and sales took a giant leap. It’s doubtful that his employees would have felt the same passion if the objective had simply been to grow earnings.

2. Find your noble purpose

It’s not enough to simply say your company makes a difference. The best leaders make purpose part of their organizational DNA.

When we work with business clients we help them create a Noble Sales Purpose.™ For example, one of our clients makes construction software. Their Noble Sales Purpose is “We help people build a better world.” Their team takes pride in the fact that they help buildings come out of the ground, safer, faster, more eco-friendly and cost-effective. While other companies sell software, their team is helping to build a better world. Who do you think gets a better response from customers?

For a school or family, your Noble Purpose might be, “We create future leaders.”

3. Get emotional

Traditional thinking dictates that emotions don’t belong in the workplace. This is total bunk. When was the last time you heard a customer say, “I wish your employees weren’t so motivated and happy.”?

You create passionate customers by having passionate employees. Schools with passionate teachers create passionate students, and so forth. If you want to ignite positive emotions from others, you have to start from within.

Deloitte’s study validates the truism we’ve seen in our work with clients; people want an emotional connection with their work. In fact, I’ll take it a step further; people are desperate to be part of something bigger than themselves.

People want to make money. They also want to make a difference. Creating a culture of passion and purpose is how you do both.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of several books, including “Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud.”