Business Leaders, Are You Winking In The Dark?

We’ve all met them. Some dynamic and charismatic, others quiet and reflective – all with an unwavering sense of what they’re meant to do in the world. These are the people who naturally and intuitively lead from a place of purpose and, by virtue of what they say and what they do, have the ability to ignite that same fire in others. Think Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Rosa Parks and so many others.

And, if we’re lucky, we may get to experience this type of purpose-driven leadership first-hand once in our working lives.

Is that because the other 99% of us lack a sense of purpose or meaning in our work?

Heck, no.

In fact, the majority of the business leaders we’ve worked with over the years have an incredible passion for what they hope to achieve. Passion and focus are two key drivers behind their success in the first place. If that were enough, you’d think the world was full of highly engaged, passionate teams of people achieving great things.

Why, then is only 34% of the global workforce engaged at work?

This complex issue costs industry billions of dollars globally each year and has many contributing factors. Here’s the thing though – you can’t begin to solve any of them until you first establish why you do what you do in the first place and why that matters to the world – not just individually, but organizationally.

As human beings we are wired for 2 things – connection and meaning. Inherent in our DNA is the need to 1) connect with others and 2) contribute to the greater good. Our survival as a species depends on it.

These two things exist in all of us. Organizations are nothing more than a collection of people working toward defined outcomes. It should follow then for us to naturally come together within organizations with common sense of purpose and a connection to the greater good. But we don’t. And the reason usually boils down to one or more of the following barriers.

THREE common barriers to unlocking the drive inside organizations

The Unshared Purpose: Purpose remains locked inside individuals because:

  • They are totally disconnected to what matters to them personally
  • They believe it’s a personal value not a professional one
  • They have aligned their personal purpose with their work purpose but see the value in sharing that with others
  • They have no idea what the purpose of the organization is beyond making profit

The Confusing Purpose: Organizational purpose is not well defined or understood

  • Senior level leaders intuitively understand purpose and believe others do the same. This is particularly true of entrepreneurs who align themselves personally with their organization. It can be difficult to see that others don’t see it the way they do.
  • Purpose is limited to outward communication and not internalized by teams or individuals. Identifying and articulating purpose is the first 10% of the work. Its success relies on everyone in an organization internalizing what it means to them personally and in their roles.
  • A limited group of senior leaders dig in, do the work, understand why what they do matters to the world. They ‘get it’ and assume others do too, which results in them communicating AT people vs connecting WITH people.

The Inconsequential Purpose: Organizational purpose falls short of identifying the greater human impact of the work

  • Purpose is defined by what you do and how you do it vs why you do it
  • Purpose is connected to profits

In each of these cases, purpose lives inside individuals and organizations and it’s waiting to come out. We need to challenge our assumptions about the business we’re in and why that matters to the world. Once we do that, we need to do the work to help each person identify what matters to him/her and how that aligns with the organization and the greater good.

This is an exercise in strategy, communication and connection. Identify and bring words to meaning that matters and relating to it on an individual and highly personal level. Completing any of this work on its own without following it through to the end is futile. It’s like winking at a girl in the dark, nothing happens.

We can help you find out where you are on this spectrum and build the program to unlock the collective potential of your team.

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