It’s been a while since we wrote an article at Meta. If I’m honest, I’ve been seeking inspiration, waiting to find something new to write about that could inspire and delight, as there is such a prevalence of doom and gloom out there at the moment!
Part of the purpose of these articles has always been to be a little ray of positivity, to inspire and remind us all of the important things of life and work, so that’s why today I’m going to be talking about PURPOSE and why it matters.
I have been incredibly fortunate over my time at Meta to have worked with some amazing organisations. I have been particularly blessed recently to have worked with organisations whose purpose shines through in everything they do, from Crisis the homelessness charity, to Barnardo’s, to a senior leadership team within Leicestershire NHS and, most recently, NACCOM – a charity which supports charities that help to find safe accommodation for refugees.
With Barnardo’s, the NHS and NACCOM, we are currently working with their leadership teams on long-term, in-depth leadership and team development programmes, where we explore what it means to be an excellent team and help to upskill the leaders with tools that will enable them to perform at their best and, therefore, fulfil their purpose to an even greater degree. What has struck me in working with such organisations is the dedication, the passion and the spirit of the teams I am working with. There is wonderful diversity, true inclusion, and an amazing determination to deliver their (very different) offerings in often very challenging, under-funded and under-resourced circumstances. They have inspired me, and I have to say that I have completely fallen in love with them all!
During our leadership and team development programmes, we always explore what PURPOSE really means and how important it is to be able to explore and ultimately articulate your purpose.
As you know, at Meta we love the etymology of words and so here goes:
PURPOSE means: ‘the reason why something is done, is created or exists’ and it comes from Latin word: ‘propositus’ which means ‘to put or set forth’. (This is the same root word from which we get the word ‘propose’, as in to ‘propose’ to someone, to get engaged.’)
Purpose is that which gives us meaning: the ‘raison d’être’ of what we do and why we do it.
Purpose isn’t the ‘stuff’ of what we do, it’s why we do what we do and, if we don’t have purpose at work, then we just have plans to be actioned and endless lists of tasks that have no greater meaning, other than being something that needs to be done.
Let’s face it, that’s not very inspiring. It’s not very motivational.
We can all find purpose, no matter what work we do, and when we do find that purpose, that reason for doing what we do, it helps inspire and motivate us to give of our best and, frankly, it helps us to enjoy what we do that much more!
I can hear the ‘doubting Thomas’ reading this, saying:
“Yeah Jo, all very nice. If you’re working in the public sector or in the third sector, where you can actually see that what you are doing makes a difference to an individual, a community, or a marginalised group. Then it’s easy to find purpose. But what if you’re working for a big corporate? What if the organisation seems to only be about making money and saving costs?”
OK Thomas, appreciate the article feedback, I’m on this.. Listen, we have done this exercise with lots of corporate organisations and leadership teams too! Turns out one can find purpose in almost any field of work.
Take the gas sales managers we worked with some 15 years ago. These guys (and yes, they were all guys) were hardened salesmen out there flogging gas wherever they could. Their world was full of sales targets and getting the most for the organisation – they struggled to see how they could find purpose in what they did, other than making money, for themselves and the organisation, which can never be a sole purpose for why we do what we do. You see, this is the interesting thing about purpose: there always has to be more than just making money – for example ‘providing for my family, ensuring that we have a quality of life’ (as well as making the money). Money alone isn’t real purpose.
What was fascinating though, was when we began to explore the topic of purpose. Gas, as it turns out, is often used in rural communities where perhaps other energies are not available, so the gas was actually a lifeline to the community. And in fact, one of the sales managers said the gas he supplied heated a rural swimming pool, so could he say that he ‘helped children learn to swim’ in that pool? Well, one could argue that without the pool being heated there certainly wouldn’t have been as many children learning to swim’. His eyes lit up – he had found his purpose.
We all have different purposes, different reasons for doing what we do. They don’t have to be so altruistic, but once we’ve found purpose it can really re-engage and motivate us.
Recently, during the pandemic, I was talking with a director at a leading high street bank. This director was trying to understand why his frontline entry-level telephonists were de-motivated about coming into work during the pandemic. I did explain that perhaps part of the reason was (a) they weren’t being paid the same amount as him, but more importantly (in my opinion) (b) they weren’t being shown how purposeful their work was!
Now, most of those staff were millennials or generation Z. And one of the really fascinating things, especially with the young talent in generation Z, is that they want to do work that makes a difference, work for a company that has values, and they want to ultimately have a real purpose to their work. They’re not interested (well, not as interested as my generation, generation X) in renumeration, perks, or career progression. They want to feel valued, appreciated for what they do, and feel that the work they do is purposeful. That’s what motivates them and inspires them to give of their best. So, if your staff has a young demographic, one of the best ways to engage and motivate them, and ultimately to be rewarded with their loyalty, is to clearly articulate and explore their work’s purpose with them.
Going back to that senior director of a high street bank, his telephonists were actually helping those people who were calling with their financial difficulties during the pandemic, and the simple shift from ‘working for a bank to make money’ to ‘helping people to relieve the stress and worry of their financial situation’ was a great motivational reframe for the good work they were doing.
You see, when we find our purpose, we find our meaning. We ignite the passion and drive that we all hold inside of us. We all want to do a good job, we all want to give of our best, and purpose is the key that helps us unlock that potential within us all.
As leaders, especially senior leaders in organisations, purpose has another err… purpose! When we are clear on our purpose, we can always refer back to it when we are unclear of what business direction to take, or when we are not sure whether we are ‘on track’ or veering ‘off track’.
If you have a big strategic decision to make or are in the throes, as many of you will be soon, of planning and budgeting for the year ahead, then it’s important to be clear on why you are doing something. Does it match with your purpose or not? If you’re not clear on your purpose or your purpose is muddied by the need to make profit and reduce costs, then it’s easy to lose your way.
Look at the big social media companies or search engine companies (you know the ones I mean). One could argue that they started off with clear intentions, clear purpose, but along the way business decisions and the lure of bigger and bigger profits led them to a different, less-purposeful place.
Purpose should always be our compass. It sets our direction and gives meaning to our work and journey. Without a compass, we’re likely to get a bit lost along the way – and that’s why we start with PURPOSE.
Here’s a little exercise we do during our leadership and team development programmes, I thought I’d share it with you all – it will help you to get more clarity on your purpose.
AN EXERCISE TO HELP YOU FIND YOUR PURPOSE:
EX.1 – What are you here for? What is your purpose?
Why do you, your team or your organisation (use whichever is most appropriate to your position of influence) do what you do? What are you here for? What.. is your purpose?
Think about why you do what you do – think from multiple perspectives:
- for yourself, your family
- the team/directorate you work in
- the organisation as a whole
- for the customers you have or partners you work for/with
- the communities you work in (and serve, if you do)
Remember, it’s what you’re here for, it should re-ignite your passion. And please note your purpose is NOT a ‘mission statement’ so business jargon is banned in this exercise – this is one for internal rather than external eyes!
At Meta, be it helping a team to re-find their purpose, or help a leader re-find the passion for what they do, help an organisation develop a strategy in keeping with their purpose, or indeed just helping an individual to re-connect with their life purpose, I am so lucky in that every day and every week I can reflect and see the purpose in all that I do.
If you’d like help finding a little more purpose in your work or your home-life, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, it’s part of MY PURPOSE to help you find yours!
Have a wonderful month reconnecting with your purpose.
In peace and love,