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Purpose: Meaning, Action, and Outcome

I will skip to Purpose rather than discuss Alignment this week. The discussion on Alignment will be easier to understand after addressing both Identity and Purpose. See previous posts for information on individual and collective Identity.

The website, http://www.scienceofpurpose.org/, provides a great summary of research regarding the benefits of Purpose for individuals and organizations. Individuals connected to their Purpose gain benefits to their careers, relationships and health. Organizations with Purpose benefit in terms of market share, profit and employee commitment. I encourage you to check out their website for more details on how impactful Purpose can be. I will likely revisit the benefits of Purpose with more detail in the future.

For now, let’s define what Higher Up Consulting means by Purpose and share a few ways it may be fostered.

What is Purpose?

Purpose is often discussed as your “why”. While this is certainly true, we believe three overlapping perspectives can help us better understand what Purpose is and how to cultivate it.

  1. Feeling Purpose/Meaning: The sense of purpose we feel from doing work we consider meaningful. It is related to the experience of flow or engagement in a task or pursuit. It is the sense of meaning we gain when our activities align with our interests, abilities, and values. At Higher Up Consulting, we believe the best place to start developing a sense of purpose is by blooming where you are planted; finding purpose in your current life or job situation. In your search for meaning, you may identify a need for a different life or job situation. Thankfully we have the ability to transplant ourselves, although it can be a difficult process.

  2. Doing something on purpose or with deliberate intent. This focuses on the choice to do something from emotional and/or rational motives. Deliberate action includes a variety of behaviors, from pulling your sister’s hair to acting in a manner consistent with your values regardless of how you feel. Our focus is on the latter.

  3. Purpose viewed as whatever it is you are trying to accomplish individually or organizationally. These outcomes include examples such as specific tactical and strategic goals as well as broader individual or organizational mission statements. These outcomes can be defined by external sources such as job requirements or expectations from others. At the individual level, it is important to find meaning in these activities. From an organizational perspective, it is important to make these expectations clear and to help members understand the connection between what they do and how it contributes to organizational and individual success.

What can you do to strengthen/leverage Purpose?

Individuals. In general, individuals can pursue purpose by reflecting on what they do, who they do it for and with, and why they do it.

  1. What you do: Seek opportunities to engage in activities and projects that utilize your interests and abilities. Identify the aspects of your work or role that you find the most engaging. Look for opportunities to do them more.

  2. Who you do it for/with: Reflect on how your current job/role benefits others. Doing good for others is a great way to reinforce our wellbeing. Take the time to examine how your efforts benefit your coworkers, business, clients, and other stakeholders.

  3. Why you do it: Explore the connection between what you do and how it relates to your/your organization’s values. This may require a little digging. What you do could be a few steps removed from the outcome that relates to your “why”. For example, there are a few steps between administering an employee survey and creating a positive employee experience.

Organizations. For organizations, Purpose can be supported with strong internal communications, integrity (behaving consistently with your values), and supporting your employees pursuit of meaningful work.

  1. Communicate: Ensure your employees understand your mission, vision and values. For example, remind employees, clients, etc. of your company’s “why” through internal and external communications.

  2. Value social good: Make societal good one of your organizational success measures. How does your existence benefit the world beyond profits or shareholder returns?

  3. Values-based decision making: Make business decisions based on your company’s values and ensure employees see the connection. Some of you may need to first formalize and/or communicate those values.

  4. Support employees’ careers: Support professional development and career paths that enable your employees to better pursue meaningful work; even if it means they leave your team or organization. The great thing is that they are less likely to leave your organization if you do this well.

Individuals and organizations connected to their Purpose experience many benefits. Even better, individuals and groups with whom they interact will often benefit as well. We will further address this topic in the future. Our next post will address Alignment between our Identity and Purpose. We would love the opportunity to help you define and reinforce your Purpose.

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