This is the first of a two part series for leaders on defining your organization’s purpose and vision.
Why Defining Your Company Purpose Matters
Purpose is the springboard for your company’s aspirational vision. Vision galvanizes people and inspires them to strive for achievements that seem beyond what’s possible. As a leader how do you uncover and articulate the company purpose? Here’s a quick primer to help you.
What is Purpose?
Purpose speaks to what you, as the leader and/or founder, aspire to contribute and how you want to affect the world around you. It’s something about which you care deeply. (See Ken Blanchard and Jesse Lyn Stoner.) Your purpose infuses the company purpose. Purpose tells people why they’re doing what they do.
Uncovering Your Purpose
If you’re not clear about your purpose, or haven’t quite figured out how to articulate it in a way that sticks, use the methods described below. Each is followed by an example of the leader’s purpose and how it informs the company purpose.
Picture your last day of work. Imagine you’re looking back on achievements that will outlast you. You’re feeling really good about what you see and you know others will continue to move it forward. Describe what you see and the purpose it serves.
Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, wants to “affect the future in a positive way”. (His” Why”) Musk doesn’t have to work for the $$$$$$$, having received $165 million when PayPal, his former company, was sold to e-bay.
At Tesla, Musk is focused on developing automobile engines that run on clean fuel and making the cars affordable. (How he’ll achieve his purpose. What he’ll contribute.)
Musk, Tesla investors and employees intend to play a role in addressing climate change. (A more focused version of his own and the company’s “Why”)
The company purpose underlies Tesla’s aspirational vision.
VANQUISH THE INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE
Tesla’s goals, strategies and actions support this vision.
Sometimes purpose shows up in critical life experiences that help form your identity and what you care about. What are your formative experiences? Who and what influenced you? How do these circumstances shape and define your purpose?
Chuck Schwab’s Critical Identity Story
Chuck, founder and CEO of Charles Schwab, grew up in the post-depression era. His parents had to use government food rations to barter for goods and services they couldn’t afford. But they valued and strove for financial independence, not wealth, independence. Chuck contributed by becoming one of the first Avon delivery kids. Later he founded his first entrepreneurial venture, recruiting several friends to collect returnable bottles left behind at sporting events. These values and early life lessons helped to define Chuck’s purpose.
After college, in the era prior to deregulation, Chuck began studying the financial markets. He concluded that high brokers’ fees prevented average Americans from investing in the stock market. This, in turn, limited their options for achieving financial independence. Schwab wanted to change that by
DEMOCRATIZING WALL STREET
Chuck founded a company to achieve this purpose. The company’s vision, goals and strategies were aligned and set the guidelines for what employees would do, and not do, to democratize Wall Street.
Purpose > Vision > Goals > Strategy > Actions
What’s Your Purpose?
Uncovering purpose isn’t as easy as it sounds. It helps to work with someone who:
Asks the right questions
Sees the flash of gold in what you say
Digs deeper to uncover the most valuable nuggets, then
Holds them up for your reflection.
I’m that person.
Contact me about a 90-minute session devoted to your purpose.