A well-defined purpose is fundamental to success

John M McKee discusses a critical tool for success that's not used as often as it should be in most organizations.

 "This is surprising. I have an MBA from one of the top schools and was previously in a business development role with one of the largest consulting firms in the world. I think I'm a fairly smart guy. I have a lot of real world experience. So why am I calling a coach for help?"

The speaker was a client who has decided to start his own business. He is indeed a very smart guy. As the head of his department in a very large multinational banking organization, he has a lot of background. He has worked successfully with many organizations nationwide. And consequently, he surprised himself when he decided it was time to reach out to me.

He was stuck and needed some outside perspective. While creating his business plan, he'd started losing momentum. Seemingly "simple" questions he was asking himself about his new business were stumping him. When he asked himself about his "target market," he stalled. While attempting to determine his strategic plan, pricing strategy, and marketing concepts, he found he couldn't move forward. Although he'd helped other companies and other departments internally with this type of work, for some reason he was not able to clearly define his business plan. He asked, "What's holding me back?"

So we spent a fair amount of time discussing the details of his plan, the "whys" behind his decision to set up his own business, and the timing of his decision. But the answer came when I asked him to tell me about his new company's purpose -- What was the reason for this company to even exist? Why should it succeed? Those questions helped us move forward. Since then he's created what he believes to be a very solid business plan for his new company.

I believe that having a well-defined purpose is fundamental to optimal success, for both individuals and organizations of any size. And, while I accept that many individuals can be successful without defining their purpose, they won't become as successful as they would otherwise. In the case of organizations, the lack of a well-defined and widely embraced purpose will shorten their life spans and limit their ultimate success.

Companies often misunderstand the differences between a mission and a purpose. Anyone who has ever read a mission statement at the local fast food place knows how hollow these statements can be, but a statement of purpose can be directional. It will help ensure the organization has the best talent. It will drive decisions surrounding budgets, marketing, and other key factors surrounding success.

One of the better books on this subject was written by the guy who helped create Purpose Statements for some very successful organizations, including Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, and BMW. The book, by Roy M, Spence Jr., is an easy read -- it's also available as an audio book for those who prefer to put their commuting time to good use.

The rationale for defining a purpose is just as valid for individuals: If you haven't defined your purpose, it's very likely you are not as successful as you may otherwise become. I always tell my clients that a good personal Purpose Statement will guide them during times of duress. It will help them make the best decisions affecting their career, their personal life, and their financial issues. According to our research, only about 15 percent of the population takes the time to create this and tie it to those other factors common to all successful plans.

My questions for those who don't take the time to define their purpose and plan are: "Are you fully satisfied with your life so far? Is it likely to change at this stage? Is leaving your future in the hands of a corporation or other people a smart decision today?

Here's to your future.


Leadership Coach