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Purpose – What is the point?

The purpose of purpose

There is a lot of evidence that concludes that having clarity of purpose is a key ingredient for a successful and happy life. At the very least, having a clear purpose enables you to recognise a distraction when you see one. Yet setting a purpose for your life, your organisation, your function or your team is far from easy. In essence it is asking one of the toughest questions you ever get asked in your life;

What do you want to be when you grow up?

At one level this is pretty easy to answer, ask any seven year old! They usually have a stock answer for this question; train driver, pilot, video gamer, vlogger, professional sportsman etc. They have learned how to deflect the unwanted attention from the reality that they really have no idea what the answer is or should be. They are not alone.

When I ask many senior leaders what is the purpose of their organisation, function or team, I get their equivalent answer; to make money; serve customers; deliver products & services; meet stakeholder expectations; etc. They too have learned that any strap-line that sounds plausible will do.

Developing clarity of purpose is difficult and requires careful thought and wisdom. A well-crafted purpose statement has to pass several criteria, it should:

  • Say why we exist
  • Explain why this matters
  • Talk to the head and the heart
  • Give confidence to those that need it
  • Attract talent to your organisation
  • Give clarity at those moments of truth, when strategic decisions have to be taken and direction is needed and the stakes are high.

The fridge magnet mentality that prevails in many organisations will simply not suffice. Seemingly ‘motivational’ statements that declare you should ‘live a life worth living’; ‘provide outstanding customer service;’ ‘Deliver exceptional stakeholder value’; etc. Are pretty worthless, they make great posters, but what is the point of such statements and how do they actually effect day to day decision making?

One of the most useful aspects of a well-crafted purpose statements is to help with day to day decision making. Ten years ago I wrote about the exploits of the GB rowing team who set out to win the Olympic Gold – see my blog: https://senseiuke.com/how-to-win-tapping-the-power-of-discretionary-effort/ They crafted a crystal clear question that helped them decide how to win the gold medal, ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’  This became the litmus test for all of their actions. If the answer was yes then they did it, if no then they did not.

At the Change Maker Group we have a clear and compelling purpose which is ‘To create 1 Million Change Makers’. This too determines the assignments we deliver and the way in which we carry out our work.

For my businesses too I have carefully crafted clear purpose statements. My consultancy Sensei UKE has purpose statement that reads; ‘To engage human performance to deliver strategic results’  This ensures my coaching, consultancy and facilitation work with leaders focuses on closing the gap between their current performance and their aspirations and potential.

My adult dance class business Strictly Starters has ‘Dance with your heart and your feet will follow’ testimony to the fact our classes are all about enjoying the experience of learning together and we focus on having great fun, with great music and learning the art of dance in a friendly social environment. In our classes technical capability is taught but is secondary to the enjoyment of couples learning a new skill together.

It is difficult to create a clear and compelling purpose statement and to do so requires a mind-set that is open, humble and creative. Doing so is the very essence of Strategic and Leadership work. Good luck and shout if you think I can help. https://senseiuke.com/contact-us/