Building Shared Purpose starts from knowing Individual Purpose

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The Harvard Business Review just published an article about purpose in business.

It says two things.

First, it says that more “companies are turning to ‘purpose’ and ‘authenticity’ as a way to engage consumers and employees.”

Second, it makes the very good point that the best way to achieve this is by engaging with customers as a way to make the purpose happen. “Most leaders think of purpose as a purpose for,” Mark Bonchek writes, “but what is needed is a purpose with.

“Customers are no longer just consumers; they’re co-creators. They aren’t just passive members of an audience; they are active members of a community. They want to be a part of something; to belong; to influence; to engage. It’s not enough that they feel good about your purpose. They want it to be their purpose too. They don’t want to be at the other end of your for. They want to be right there with you. Purpose needs to be shared.”

This is absolutely right.

And the reason is because a firm’s purpose is not just another “way to engage customers and employees”. The purpose is the purpose. It is the reason the firm exists.

The purpose of a hammer is to hit a nail, even if that hammer sits in a drawer for half the year. The purpose of a rocket ship is to reach the Moon, or Mars, even when it is sitting on the launchpad. And even on the drawing board, or in the mind of its inventor, the purpose of the rocket ship was still the same, whether or not it ever came to fruition.

Your job as a leader is to bring the purpose of your organisation into fruition as best you can, in the world that happens to exist today.

The best way you can achieve that is by engaging your customers to want to build it with you.

The best way to achieve that is by engaging your employees to want to do the same.

And the best way to engage your employees is by engaging yourself: knowing what your own true inner purpose is, and why working in this specific organisation, to achieve these specific goals, is the best way for you to achieve your purpose, in the world that happens to exist today.

This is the transformation that is happening in the world right now — the transition to Purpose — and it is the reason so many companies are “turning to purpose and authenticity.”

Where it all starts is with the individual, and how well they know their own purpose.

For The Churning, finding Purpose is just one step in a larger process.

To find her or his purpose any leader needs to reflect on what they admire in other people, key lessons from their past, and to know what it will take for them to live a worthwhile life. They also need to know their own two best qualities, the key difference they are making when they feel they are living their purpose, and what an ideal world would look like to them.

Then, to put that purpose into practice, they need skills that include identifying the options for moving forward, choosing the best one, and creating a vision that will inspire customers, employees, and others to want to engage, to help to implement this aspect of the wider purpose.

This is the process of which finding purpose is part.

And the more people in an organisation know their own purpose, the more that two things will happen:

  1. They will engage to clarify and develop the purpose of the organisation, and find new ways to bring it to life
  2. They will engage to implement those different possibilities, because they know that in building the organisation, and fulfilling its purpose, they will also be building themselves, and living their purpose.

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