y now, you probably have heard the story of the man sweeping floors at N.A.S.A. If we back up a little, we are all mesmerized by how American President John F. Kennedy galvanized his nation around an impossible dream of going to the moon. Great movies based on true stories and otherwise have come out of the NASA story, but for me, there is just one that triggers goose flesh every time I hear it.
It is reported that JFK himself was touring NASA headquarters in 1961 and met a janitor. Upon introducing himself to the janitor, he asked the man “what do you do here?” Now, that, in my estimation is one of the most dreaded questions in today’s culture. We tend to think that we get our identify from what we “do”. That is why we love job titles and hate “joblessness”. Anyway, this is what the Janitor replied:
Sir, I am sending a man on the moon!
What an answer! What does that tell you about the organization that this man worked for?
Can that be said of the organization that you are leading? Today, many organizations are peddling what is called the “vision”of the company every once in a while (mostly when they do strategic planning). However, in the daily activities and in the psyche and spirit of the employees, there lacks the force and energy of purpose. In other words, very few employees have the DNA of the organizations.
[ictt-tweet-inline]Purpose has a way of guaranteeing you results on autopilot.[/ictt-tweet-inline] Ever heard this saying?
Blood is thicker than water?
Why is that?
It is simply because there is a common unbreakable and unshakable bond that unites that said family. I dare say that that bond is infinitely linked to purpose. [ictt-tweet-inline]Each family has a purpose to preserve and nurture its members so that they can deploy their full potential…[/ictt-tweet-inline]but I digress
[ictt-tweet-inline]A corporation can be a family if you want it, but the thing that will cause that to happen is a rallying purpose![/ictt-tweet-inline]
[ictt-tweet-inline]Remember, no family exists outside of purpose. When purpose is lost, families and organizations are broken.[/ictt-tweet-inline]
It is therefore critical to inculcate a sense and culture of purpose in any organization. We often must always ask ourselves why we exist and review our actions and projects to see if they do support that purpose. We ought to align each employee’s aspiration to the greater good and purpose of the organization.
How to Institute a Culture of Purpose in the Organization
Purpose obviously means that we go out of the way and make the world a better place for others…and then of course we get paid for it. The problem with many organizations is that they have it the other way round…they think that they get paid and then they make the world a better place.
To institute a culture of purpose,
the client and his pain must be our key and main focus.
The client and his comfort should be our greatest ambition.
The client and his problem solved should be our greatest celebration.
That is the fuel for purpose.
I am talking about the leadership of the organization. Employees will do what they see the organization do. For the most part, if a leader works hard, it rubs off of the employees. Sometimes, the leader does not have to lay ground rules for excellence, maturity, timeliness, hard work and ethics. All he has to do is to embody these traits and the employees will get the cue. What we have though is that leaders in organizations expect employees to have these things in them yet the leaders don’t have it in them. Leaders wrongly expect employees to join fully packaged. There is no perfect employee out there, quit wasting your time in countless interviews. Walk the talk.
We wrongly conduct interviews looking for people of competence instead of those who have the propensity to gel into the DNA of the organization. We then end up being training grounds for people who will not give what we want. We invest in them and they leave (which is perfectly normal to me). However, what we ought to look for are people of purpose…at the heart level, not at the head level. I have conducted interviews countless times and it is the simplest thing to ascertain the head and heart of an interviewee. Needless to say, this is one of the most frustrating faces in Human Resource. However, once you have found the right people, invest the best in them and give them what they are worth. Once they lock into the vision and purpose of the organization, you are about to soar!
Purpose is not something that comes arbitrarily in the organization. That is why we need to have mechanisms that nurture it. I am not talking about goals, targets and all these hard aspects of the projects we are doing. I am talking about stories. When is the last time the organization heard a story of how a life has been impacted by what you do? When is the last time the employees saw the smiles that the organization has put on people’s faces. That’s what it’s all about. Unfortunately we have board meetings where we spend much time talking about bottom lines and targets…that has its firm place…but what if we flipped it? What if we focused on getting these powerful stories that we are creating and showed it to everyone in the organization? That is one way of nurturing purpose.
The culture of purpose will not exist in a vacuum. It has to be intended, planned and executed and then tracked to make sure that it works. The physical environment in which we work must radiate the purpose for which we are working. Look at how Google work space radiates innovation. Look at how an Apple Store looks like.
On matters related to structure, reporting, communication, systems and service level agreements, you must have a written code. It is incredible that some organizations do not have these thought out, documented and shared with the employees. However, in matters related to things such as passion, attitude, excellence, finesse, compassion, endeavor and fervor, the way to have them is to model the code. In other words, we incorporate in our psyche what we see modeled and celebrated.
There we have it.