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What does it mean to be Powered by Purpose? In a recent article about the early days of his company, Virgin, Richard Branson commented, “The most satisfying aspect of starting a business is creating something that’s going to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
Branson is talking about purpose – a key element that, if authentically embraced throughout an organization, can influence everything from revenue to employee engagement to customer loyalty to attracting and retaining top talent.
Has your organization defined its purpose? Not its vision, not its mission, but its purpose? What is the difference? That’s a topic debated and defined for decades. Here are several current thought leaders’ insights to help your organization define its purpose. And while you’re at it, consider your own personal purpose, and how well it aligns with your organization’s.
Andy Stanley, leadership communicator and best-selling author: “A lot of speakers,authors and leaders use the words mission, vision and purpose interchangeably,” Andy said in his backstage interview at Leadercast Live 2016. “But they really are distinct, and the distinction is really important. “Purpose is super-broad; I think it was Patrick Lencioni who first said that when you think about the purpose of an organization, just be shy of [the statement] ‘To make the world a better place.’ You can’t just make the world a better place—there’s got to be something distinctive in terms of your business.”
Andy adds that the first step in defining your purpose is to remember that it is never completed. “Your purpose never goes away; it’s something that’s never fully accomplished. So purpose is super-broad.” Then how does purpose differ from vision and mission? Andy explains, “Vision is actually a macro-goal, but it’s not a 12-month goal or an18-month goal. [Vision] is something that is much bigger than that. “And then mission is simply the blocking and tackling. This is what we do along the way.” Mission is how an organization supports its vision and purpose.
Andy’s advice when beginning to define your organizational or personal purpose? “Words matter, language matters, reputation matters.”
Cheryl Bachelder,CEO of Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen: “Purpose begins with deciding who you serve.” In her Leadercast video, she walks us through her team’s process: “We had decided we are a franchisor. Our franchise owners invest in the business model and create success. So we decided to serve them first and foremost.” That hones the focus, doesn’t it? If the Popeye’s leadership team needs to prioritize among several initiatives, they choose first the one that supports their purpose: serving the franchise owners.
Melissa Gordon, president and founder of EchelonCommunicate, breaks it down into three questions. “I had been doing a lot of mission-vision workshops and they would always get to this point where there would be this debate about which is the mission and which is the vision and which is the long-term and which is the aspirational … and we coined some new terminology and we made it really simple. “Where are you going? How will you get there? Why do you want to be there?”
Question one, Where are we going? That’s destination, and it relates to vision. Question two, How will we get there? That’s strategy, and it relates to mission. And question three, Why do we want to be there? That’s purpose.
Melissa explains how organizations build on these questions to define their purpose. “Destination is a place, it feels tangible … [Mission is] what we’re committed to and how we’re going to get there … Everything is powered by purpose.” And when an organization creates “a shared purpose,” says Melissa, “and when they articulate that shared purpose, then everyone gets to be a part of it.”
At Leadercast, our purpose is to help people of all industries, roles, backgrounds, cultures, organizations, and aspirations become the best leaders they can be: Leaders Worth Following. Yes, like Andy and Patrick said, our purpose statement is just shy of “To make the world a better place.”
One of the ways we strive to keep our purpose at the forefront of our day-to-day mission is to share stories from our community; people who write to tell us how Leadercast has made a difference in their lives. We’ve heard from young leaders who have been inspired to change their college majors; entrepreneurs who lean on the hundreds of Leadercast insights to better lead their employees; to senior leaders who have left their long-time careers to start companies or non-profits that more fully aligned with who they are and what they’ve dreamed of accomplishing. These are the people Leadercast serves, and they are our true purpose. And as much as they tell us that Leadercast inspires them, they are the inspiration that drives our team every day.
We’d love to hear your purpose – personal, organizational, community and/or family! Post on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, and we may use your story in our upcoming social shares and “Tribe Bites.” We humbly appreciate hearing from you.