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In a recent conversation about his business, someone said to me that, “my purpose is to sell my business for a profit in 10 years.” Nothing wrong with that, yet through our conversation his REAL purpose was revealed. What he really loves, he said, is tinkering with other people’s stuff and helping them get the most out of their assets. Now that’s a purpose to hang your hat on.
Use these three rules of thumb to intentionally make purpose part of doing business every day:

  1. Communicate your purpose
    Every organization has a story to tell and the most powerful stories usually involve people who begin with a dream, encounter challenges and crises and learn from them. Stories become a part of the glue that unifies an organization, helping followers remain true to their purpose and values as well as celebrate the evolution of the organization.As a leader, the most important story you tell is probably your own. In The Leader’s Voice by Ron Crossland and Boyd Clarke, leaders are encouraged to “make sure the words are yours. Push them from the very bottom of your soul. The performance will take care of itself.” Storytelling is a great way to communicate your business’s purpose AND make sure you are telling your own story, not someone else’s.
  2. Shift the leadership focus from a person to a purpose
    A client recently shared with me that her business had reached a plateau. Although they have been successful, she realized that she’s not even sure if her employees and volunteers really get what the business is all about. They do what she asks, but it seems like work has turned into something they check off their to-do list at the end of the day.My client is very passionate about her organization’s purpose to serve some of the neediest people in our area. What if she could reinvigorate her team with that passion and get them as devoted to the purpose as she is?

    When your team can say, “I know why we do what we do and I believe in it” a shift takes place where they no longer work for you, they work for the purpose. This makes them partners in your shared work and gives everyone a compass to follow.

  3. Be flexible with your purpose
    Incoming CEO of IBM Ginni Rometty recently commented that her predecessor “taught us, above all, that we must never stop reinventing IBM.” Even the biggest of the big like IBM realize that businesses must evolve with the times. Make it part of the annual review of your business to examine the purpose and ensure that you, your employees and your strategy are aligned. Is the purpose you had defined still right for today? Is it still why you do what you do? If not, get out the sandpaper and smooth off the rough edges.

Having a purpose gives EVERYONE in your organization a place to hang their hat. It is an awesome thing when everyone in your organization can say, “I understand what we’re doing,” “I believe in what we’re doing” and “I know why we are doing it.” When everyone can make these declarations (and mean them), that means you have created a line of sight between your business’ purpose and every person, job and role. Without this clear line of sight, you are left to deal with a disengaged and directionless workforce.

Do you want to re-energize your workplace and get everyone oriented around the same purpose? Join me for my teleseminar on November 17 to be sure you’re not making this one costly mistake.

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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