Six Steps to Uncovering Your Transformational Purpose
The rise of purpose driven companies, as we’ve been exploring, represents the future of business and a powerful force that’s reshaping the world for the better.
Business holds one of the keys to creating social and environmental change. It’s a powerful and pervasive force, perhaps the only one capable of creating solutions with the speed, and on scale that’s grand enough to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
While it may not seem so, the era where business grows while creating environmental and social problems is coming to a close. The companies that operate this way are mostly surviving because of their monopolies, or because they have the power to manipulate regulators and markets. They represent an outdated paradigm.
What we now know to be true is that social good, when done right is a key differentiator which drives business performance and results.
What this means for you is that as a business leader, creating a triple win scenario (good for business, good for employees and good for society) is at your fingertips. By uncovering your transformational purpose, you’ll be on your way to creating the thriving company that’s going to grow and help shape a better world.
So far, over the first two articles in this series on “Turning Purpose Into Profit”, we’ve established:
We’ve also covered the three things you need to know before being able to embark on a purpose led journey:
With all these building blocks in place, the first stage of transitioning your business to a purpose led model is to uncover your company’s reason for existence, it’s compelling purpose statement.
Six Steps to Uncovering your Purpose
- Who to engage
- What’s the purpose about
- Uncover key themes
- Other compelling purpose statements
- Your compelling purpose
- Test and launch
Step One: Who to Engage
A key part of defining an organisations purpose is creating engagement from the people.
Purpose is a fundamental driver of human performance. People want to know the significance of what they’re doing and what part they have to play in making it happen. The stronger their connection to purpose, the more engaged they’re likely to be.
It’s key to conduct a series of workshops that really encourages participation from everyone. Due to the number of people involved, you’ll break your workshops into smaller groups of 3 or 4 people to conduct breakout sessions.
Step Two: What’s the Purpose About
The purpose of the purpose statement is twofold:
- It summarises to the inside and outside world what the reason for your existence as a company is.
- It acts as a statement that your employees, customers and others are highly engaged by and compelled towards.
Purpose vs. Vision & Mission
The purpose statement be short, compelling and memorable whereas the vision represents an aspirational, time bound future state – where you want to be in e.g. 5 years’ time.
A company mission describes what business you are in (and not in) both now and projecting into the future. A consulting firm might define its mission by the type of work it does, the clients it caters to, and the level of service it provides.
Step Three: Key Themes
The idea here is not to write the purpose statement outright. Do not wordsmith!
Instead uncover the core themes that could form part of your purpose. Remember the distinction between purpose and vision. The purpose themes are the reasons why you exist or want to exist as a business.
This stage is about brainstorming so note down on the general ideas that come up. As there’s likely to be many people in the room, it’s best to break the session up into small working groups of 3 or 4 people and for all the groups to contemplate the same questions and then to collate and summarise the ideas as a group.
Here are some key questions to help uncover the themes of your purpose (remembering that your purpose is designed to articulate why you exist as an organisation)
Once you have all the ideas on the table, come together as a team and group them. Now try to narrow down the selection to just one, two or maybe three big ideas. Also consider the compelling purpose statements of some other companies to help shape your discussion (see step 4)
Step Four: Other Compelling Statements
To aid the brainstorm, consider some examples of other purpose driven companies who are led by purpose:
Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Whole Foods Market: Helping support the health, wellbeing and healing of people, customers, team members and organisations in general – and the planet.
Google: To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Zappos: To provide the best customer service possible and to inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, community, vendors and shareholders in a long-term, sustainable way.
Nash Billimoria: Help shape a more abundant future by focusing business on the opportunity for growth through purpose.
Keep in mind it may take several sessions together as a team to really hone in on the core themes of your company’s purpose. This is a key process and perhaps the most fundamental question you can ask as a business so don’t rush it. You are building engagement and connection to the company by doing this.
Step Five: Your Compelling Purpose
First of all, appreciate that all of this will not be complete in one single workshop. In many instances when I’ve worked on this with clients, nailing down the final purpose statement can take months. In the end, your statement should be:
Brainstorming the themes and crafting a purpose are two different things. Now that you have some themes that the team all buy in to, the next step is to draft some possible statements for review by the team. Ideally, you will ask someone who is a copywriter or a member of the team who’s good at copy-writing to do this task. Then, once some options have been captured, present them back to the team.
Step Five: Test and Launch
In this final stage, trial your purpose statement for a few weeks to be sure it continues to resonate. Once the statement has been seen by everyone and you’ve had a chance to review and discuss it in the context of your purpose themes, send a communication to everyone launching the trial period with a fixed end date, maybe one month or so in the future.
Create a few posters around the office, test it out with friends, advisors, clients and discuss it in groups as much as possible. Test it against your core activities and verify that it’s a clear expression of your reason for existence and that it’s compelling. Capture any comments or changes that come up (on the posters) and at the end, make any final revisions and launch your purpose statement.
Lastly, it’s key to emphasise that defining a purpose will be the first step along a journey. This is a commitment that you’re making to re-align your business to an important cause, to breathe new life into it.
Once the purpose statement has been uncovered, it should influence every aspect of company life from important strategic decisions to the type of people you hire to your interactions with each other and your clients. It should become living and breathing – more on this in my next article.
Now that you’ve defined your company purpose, it’s time to come up with the clear actions that will make it a reality, to turn it into something that’s living and breathing. In the next article, I’ll cover all of this with you.
If you found this article helpful, then you’re going to love the free guide I’ve created for you:
“Turn Purpose into Profit: Three Moves to Attract and Convert Your Ideal Clients”
Just head over to www.nashbillimoria.com/turn-purpose-into-profit and download your free copy now.
I really look forward to adding more value to your lives and businesses.