Emerging Tech

Does your organization have a purpose? Do you?

Despite their best efforts many companies and individuals are failing today. In this article, executive and business coach John M McKee makes the case that what they may need to survive is something to believe in.
Many of the great failures of businesses and individuals that we've seen over the past year may have been avoided if those involved had taken the time to define their purpose.

Much has been written about the benefits of having a purpose. But, most people and organizations don't have one. This is a big mistake. It's costing individuals, families, companies, and the country.

Almost everybody knows the term. And most people say that they understand the point behind it. However, years after it rose to prominence in books for both business and personal development, it's still very under-utilized. We see the consequences each night on the news.

But even with all that evidence of failure; most people and organizations resist changing past approaches. I don't get it. Isn't that the definition of insanity - "to continue doing the same things which have failed in the past but with an expectation of success this time?" What does it take some people to modify their approach?

Recently I was asked by the CEO of a large, consumer - focused organization to comment on a draft version of their 3-year strategic plan. I found it to be thoughtful and ambitious. I wasn't surprised. I know this man is a savvy business guy. He possesses a clear understanding of tactics and changes that could move this already-huge organization forward.

However, the document left me a bit cold. Full of numbers and terminology, it read like something out of a 1995 MBA program. It didn't embrace me, or pull me in. I couldn't see it causing an emotional bond in those who'd be charged with its rollout. In short, it was very similar to most company strategic plans - detailed, supported with facts, and very clear in many areas. But not very engaging. It's the same with many individual clients who come to Business Success Coach.net: While they may have plans for their finances, career, and even marriage and kids; they don't have a clue about what really fires them up. Although they may be "successful", they're not "satisfied" with their lives. Nobody had helped them to define their purpose in life. But once they figured it out, many changed their lives significantly. They got pumped-up. Did things they'd never attempted before. Here's some of what I consider to be good definers of purpose whether it's for organization or individual - it's what you stand for, it's what makes you passionate, fires you up, makes you look forward to working hard and not ever getting worn down. When we are doing things purposefully, we are at our best. It energizes and invigorates. People with a purpose are always able to do more than others. Organizations with a purpose always achieve results which are better than similar companies. According to a recent study we have at our coaching practice, 34% of Americans are losing sleep because they are worried about keeping their job. And yet, when I go into organizations, or talk to people about their jobs, it's clear that many are unmotivated, wasting time, or treading water. Even though these same people could help lift the company's results; they are not. If your company has defined its purpose, you are more likely to have a motivated organization. One that is prepared to give more to its success. I saw this first hand when I was one of the original senior executives at DIRECTV in the early 90s. At the time DIRECTV was a department within a large organization, in turn owned by General Motors. Even before the service was available to consumers, the company’s founder, Eddy Hartenstein, had already instilled a strong sense of purpose. People who joined with us noted, very soon, after that the entire organization had a genuine sense of direction. They often commented (with surprise) that there were common goals that were embraced by everyone, regardless of department. Employees and managers frequently commented that they were working harder than they had in other jobs; but they felt that the hard work and demands were “worth it”. They knew that they were a part of something special. Although other ventures in the same sector had failed, everyone had a sense that DIRECTV was different. Everyone wanted to do what was required to help it succeed. The company became a huge success by any indicator. It overcame issues which would have cratered most others.

Many of today's corporate failures may have succeeded if they had employees and managers who cared deeply about the firm's purpose. It's not about financial goals first. It's about having a purpose that will motivate everyone to deliver awesome financial results as a consequence.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

7 comments
OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

I'll have no truck with any psychobabbler who 'tells' me that if I follow his methods I'll achieve better results. Mainly because these characters that write the books have only ever DONE that - write books. I'd be more likely to believe someone in a conversation if they were seen to have got their hands dirty by actually doing a job, not just tapping a few thoughts out that other folk then pay for to read.

kenr
kenr

It is interesting isn't it that the survey response to "Can having a Purpose improve performance?" is "We can accomplish more when we're fired up". IMNSHO having a clear purpose enables people to focus, and you have to focus to achieve above mediocrity. It also means that those who should be rewarded or punished are identifiable, which also encourages excellence. Passion or "fired up" is the least important outcome of focus. That said any strategic document needs to be readily read by its target audience. Too many facts and figures can impede that objective.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

This works but it seems "too easy" to some people.

minmor
minmor

When I worked as a Brewery Systems Support Analyst at Miller Brewing, the informal mission statement that really drove the whole plant was "produce the most beer possible within specs." The official mission statement was so long and dry, I never remembered it. (and yes, I got 2 cases of beer a month)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Maybe having a purpose makes getting results easier, but defining that purpose is the hard part. I guess I've never been passionate enough about anything for that to act as a driving force. I have always made my bosses aware that long range planning is one of my weak points; I'm an implementer, not a strategist. I'm happy enough in both my work and personal lives so it doesn't bother me, and somehow I've never been asked the "Where do you see yourself in five years?" interview question.

santeewelding
santeewelding

You make it easier for me to respond to a piece that uses a placeholder -- "purpose" -- as though a slam-dunk given. When I interview myself as to self, I've come to answer the question with, "Beats the hell out of me. I make it up as I go along." "Self" is also used that way. Grocery clerks hate me: "How are you?" "Beats me..."