lighthouse & purpose

I have been urging our clients to better define and communicate their organisational Purpose – their company’s reason for existence – their WHY.

Many leaders who have watched the fabulous TED talk by Simon Sinek, titled, How Great Leaders Inspire Action or read his book, Start With Why, still don’t understand that an organisation’s Purpose has tremendous power to unify and engage staff, to drive the right behaviour and to orient and direct everyone’s efforts. It is clear to me that alignment is the most urgent issue in today’s fast-moving world.

The difference between those organisations that flourish and those that stumble is the level to which all staff are committed to and passionate about their Purpose – most organisations are nowhere near as aligned as they need to be and this leads to all types of organisational dysfunction – false starts, short-term decision making, silos, vested interests, wasted resources, low productivity, action taken in isolation.  A single unifying Purpose becomes the lens through which organisations evaluate all they do; it is the beacon by which we navigate challenges and; it is the filter to sift through alternative action and arrive at decisions. Without it, trust appears an impossibility within the organisation.

With this in mind, it was wonderful to read a new book this week, the Culture Code by Daniel Coyle.  In it, Coyle writes, “Be ten times as clear about your priorities as you think you should be” Sounding awfully familiar to many of my conversations with clients, Coyle explains research of 600 companies that found that while the leaders of those companies believed that they had done a good job communicating the company’s strategic objectives, only 2% of employees could name them.  As Coyle says, “this is not the exception but the rule.  Leaders are inherently biased to presume that everyone sees things as they do.”

For this reason, it is imperative to overcommunicate the organisation’s Purpose and to ensure that every single person knows how their work contributes to this Purpose – this is not repetition, this is navigation. It is about directing everyone’s efforts to the tasks that matter rather than spinning their wheels on stuff that does not make a difference; it is about anchoring all activity to your Purpose.  Without this link, organisations will continue to see lots of activity but little progress towards creating the organisation they want to be.

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