Are You Doing Things “On Purpose?”

By Scott Robinson

Remember the childhood game of Twister?   The bright-colored circles invited the physical challenge of contorting to the twists of fate, according to the spinner’s direction.  Random directions of “left sock blue” or “right hand green” challenged you to resist collapsing before the next fateful spin.

Ask yourself:  is Twister your de facto model for your organization?  True, we are all subject to forces of ever-changing globalization, regulations, and other dynamics.  But are your employees’ day-to-day communications and interactions drifting without focus on a clear purpose?

After all, you are the leader.  You are the steward of your organization’s energy.  You are called to recruit, channel, renew, focus and invest energy from your employees to serve the corporate purpose.  The idea is to imbue purpose into your employees, not only for the feel-good reasons, but for better financial results.

In 2013, Deloitte released a survey, Culture of Purpose:  A Business Imperative. The survey provided results of 1310 employees including 298 executives from for-profit businesses with 100+ employees.  The results were quite telling.  The survey showed 91% of respondents who said their company has a strong sense of purpose also said their company has a history of strong financial performance.  Likewise, 90% of the same respondents said their company performed well over the past year (2012).  Conversely, only 66% reported their company had a history of strong financial performance when the respondents did not have a strong company purpose.  Likewise, only 65% of the same respondents indicated their company had done well over the past year (2012).

But how do you keep fueling on-purpose leadership so employees engage in on-purpose tasks?

One way is the practice of examen, looking back over the past 24 hours.  Spend a few minutes just noticing and not judging.  What arises in your memory?  Was there something especially good?  Was there something unpleasant?   The practice allows you to notice things you might have otherwise overlooked.  You pay more attention to your day.  Doing so, you can better notice and then nourish those practices that feed your organization’s purpose.  Conversely, you notice what deadens and alienates from your organization’s purpose.

Limited to 5 minutes, examen avoids the paralysis of analysis.  The key is reflection without distraction, just ruminating.  For example, you might notice subtle language cues:  “I have to visit a client;” rather than “I get to visit a client.”

The next minute or two involves writing a quick journal entry.  The entry may be a few short sentences, a symbol or picture that has meaning to you.

The last part of the process is to write and commit to one action step you will take in the next 24 hours.  Like Phil Connors of Groundhog Day, one goal at a time, what would you do differently if you had to do it again?  What still needs to happen?  What distracts?

The good news is that the Deloitte survey reinforces that many activities help shape a culture of purpose.  Some of those activities include offering employee development, providing products and services with a meaningful impact for customers and more.  As the leader, you have many bites at the apple to imbue purpose.

The challenge is that non-executive employees score lower than executives when asked about purpose.  The Deloitte survey reports 64% of executives strongly agree that their organization has a strong sense of purpose.  For non-executives, only 52% report their organization has a strong sense of purpose.  Only 39% of non-executives report their organization provides a major positive impact to those it serves.  For executives, this is 50%.

The message?   If you think back to your childhood, the loser in Twister fell down while the winner chose his spots strategically, keeping in mind the purpose and therefore remaining solid.

Scott Robinson, Managing Partner, Robinson Resource Group
With over 35 years’ experience in the human capital industry, Scott is a trusted adviser to executives in the C-Suite.  After Scott founded, grew, and lead the largest full service human resources firm in the Midwest, Scott chose a transition of his own, and in 2011 he returned to his entrepreneurial roots to launch Robinson Resource Group, a premier boutique Executive Coaching and Search firm. To learn more about Robinson Resource Group, click here.
Along with being a member of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) and receiving their Registered Corporate Coach™ designation, Scott is a member of the Institute of Coaching Professional Association at McLean Hospital—a Harvard Medical School affiliate, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), The Executives’ Club of Chicago (ECC), Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and is the current Education Chairman of World President’s Organization (WPO).
Scott holds a Bachelor degree in Psychology from Illinois State University and a Master of Science degree in Psychology as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from George Williams College.
If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

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