As a leader, you may have discovered that when your team is aligned around a common purpose, you get the best results. But what does this mean? The key is to understand that people yearn to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of something that matters, something significant and meaningful—because they want to feel like their life has meaning and significance.
When we are focused on ourselves, and create a “me-centered universe,” then we feel like it’s us against the world. We create our own goals and objectives and feel a temporary sense of accomplishment as we check things off our to-do list or attain accolades and trappings of success. But in the end, the adrenaline wears off, as if it were a fix from our most recent accomplishment, leaving us desperately unfulfilled and on the treadmill for the next fix. However, when we can connect to something outside ourselves, we will be motivated on behalf of the “cause” and do whatever we can to move that cause forward.
The CEO and senior management may identify the purpose of the organization as its mission statement. But mission is not purpose. In our consulting work, we frequently start with the senior leadership team to understand why the company exists. This reason is at the core of the purpose for the organization. Even though the annual report may read as though the purpose of the organization is to increase shareholder value, we see that as an outcome owing from the purpose rather than the purpose itself.
For example, we once had clients who ran an automotive retail organization. When we first asked them what the purpose for their business was, they predictably said, “to sell cars.” So, we explored their culture, how they approached customer service, and how they interacted with employees and vendors. Below the surface of all these facets was a common belief that “every person is worthy!” When the leadership team gained this clarity and was able to articulate their purpose, they could begin to align personally and professionally around actions they could take to make that happen. These changes led the company on an eighteen-month record-breaking revenue and profitability streak, ending in the successful sale of the company. Their record-breaking car sales were the result of aligning with their purpose—not because they were focused on the bottom line.
Purpose can also show up as a departmental need. Each department needs to be clear about what its purpose is, to explore exactly what concept under the umbrella of the corporate purpose relates specifically to its function. Purpose can also show up on committees or task forces, pulled together to investigate a particular challenge or opportunity. Purpose can come from community initiatives that speak about how the organization’s purpose is meant to carry out its sense of community responsibility.
These are all points of connection and alignment to something greater than yourself that will invoke your deepest sense of desire and, just as important, fulfillment in the accomplishment. When you feel that you have done something meaningful, you know
how different the sense of joy and fulfillment feels. When you clean out your closet, you can be happy to check that task off your list. When you take your clothes and donate them to a local charity and see the faces of the men and women who benefit, you feel a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to make a difference.
Every vocational role has the opportunity to be part of and connect to something that is greater than the role itself. And every role has the capacity to generate incremental power (or value) by being part of something greater—this is the magic of synergy. The source of that untapped power comes from an authentic connection to ourselves and other members of the team.
An individual is part of a larger team, yet sometimes can feel as if he or she is operating in a silo, disengaged from contributing to and receiving value from colleagues. This aloneness perpetuates from and among the team members and is strengthened by a lack of authenticity and connection. All parties yearn for authentic connection—both to their own passion and the shared vision of the team.
Fulfillment will create loyalty and a long-term commitment, more than just working for a paycheck. Passionate and shared fulfillment makes you want to get up in the morning, get to work, and do something meaningful—to bring the best of yourself to work that day. You may not know how, but you sure want to do something with this inspiration and power that you feel inside.
Adapted from The Power of Vulnerability: How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press) by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester. Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.
Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester are the authors of The Power of Vulnerability: How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press). As partners at Shift 180, they coach business leaders and their teams to unlock their full potential. To learn more, visit: www.shift180.com