This series is about purpose-driven organizations. In this first part, Paula Nordhauzen from Energized.org discusses the benefits of a clear and inspiring purpose with Tim Kelley from the True Purpose Institute. The second article will be about how to accept the challenge of redesigning from money-driven to purpose-driven and last but not least an article about purpose in self-organizing companies.
Did you make a conscious decision to work for a purpose-driven company?
About Tim Kelley
Tim Kelley is the Founder and Visionary Leader of the True Purpose® Institute.
He is a global change agent who works with top leaders in many fields and countries to transform human institutions and evolve society. He helps executives, politicians, and organizations to become potent and capable creators of change. Tim’s methodology, True Purpose, has been featured internationally in magazines, newspapers and on television.
Tim is working with politicians and business leaders in the Middle East to find the higher purpose of Israel and resolve the conflicts there. He has commanded military organizations, including an amphibious assault craft unit, and is a retired Naval Reserve officer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from MIT.
Since Tim is also a Certified Holacracy Coach, we – at Energized.org – have known Tim for years and asked him to facilitate the Purpose Quest in January 2020. During this training, 20 change agents and business leaders worked on their personal purpose statements.
Business purpose starts with life purpose
Tim, you don’t believe in having several purposes. Like one for work, one for personal life, and one for your organization. Although we seem to think about purpose in a work context first.
No, I do not. The problem with work purposes is you don’t get the benefit of purpose from a work-only purpose. The purpose of the purpose is to motivate.
The problem with the work purpose is that you’re only as motivated about it as you are about the work. In my view, a better way to look at it is to focus on an individual’s purpose and ask yourself ‘Why am I here on this planet at all?’
The answer to which will provide the individual a lot of motivation, and then the follow-up question is ‘and how do I express that purpose in a work context?’ Because now I’m taking the motivation of the purpose and channeling it into my work. And I think that’s much more effective than ignoring the life purpose and just trying to focus on the work from a motivational standpoint.
I had a big debate about this with the CEO of Kimberly-Clark in Israel. He had had all of his employees create purposes. That made me very excited. He started telling me examples of them, like ‘create world-class marketing’ or something like this. I said, ‘These purposes are all about work. That’s nice, but not truly motivational for the person energizing the work.’ Bob McDonald, the CEO of Procter and Gamble was talking about how important it is for employees to know their own individual life purpose and to seek to connect that purpose to the organization’s purpose a decade ago.
The problem with work purposes is you don’t get the benefit of purpose from a work-only purpose. The purpose of the purpose is to motivate.
It’s not that helpful to say ‘all of my employees should be motivated to do their jobs.’ You don’t get everything you want from life all the time. But if you find the life purposes of employees first, and help them apply that life purpose to their role in the organization, or find the connection between their life purpose and the purpose of the organization, that will create motivation that wasn’t there already. Which to me is the point: getting motivation that is not there yet.
Engagement and motivation, that’s what we all want in life and work. Don’t people already have a faint idea of what their motivation is?
If you do the 100-meter dash and you’re training for the Olympics, a lot of attention goes into what state do you need to be in to maximize your performance? You don’t get to choose which day it is. Somebody else is picking that day. On that one day, four years from now, at such an or other time in the afternoon, you have to be at your peak. So athletes spend a lot of time focused on ‘how do I get myself into a maximum performance state when I need to be in it?’ They study that. But interestingly, in business, people don’t seem to care about motivation and being in a high-performance state. You don’t care whether your executives are in a high-performance state. You don’t care whether your employees are in a high-performance state. Are you sure you don’t care whether they’re in a high-performance state?
Remember what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to produce more, better, faster than our competitor is. So, it matters whether these people are in a high-performance state!
So I’ll give you my favorite purpose statistic. Gallup has been measuring employee engagement for years. The US is close to 30 percent, which is really good compared to most countries.
It varies from country to country, but global employee engagement last time they measured it, I believe, was 13 percent. Of every 100 employees, 13 actually care about their jobs. Which is not a great number. And there’s been a huge amount of effort spent on tweaking compensation and employee branding and all kinds of stuff to try to raise that number. And it’s hardly moved at all. And I mean, billions and billions of dollars being spent trying to push that number up with very little effect.
Korn Ferry measured employee engagement of companies that are purpose-driven, and the number they got was 90 percent, which is an insane number. if your company has 13 percent employee engagement and my company has 90 percent employee engagement, I don’t care what your strategic plan is. I am going to eat your lunch. You are doomed.
So there is something that actually moves the needle in a hugely substantial way. And still, adoption is relatively slow.
Requirements to really get the motivational benefit of purpose
Many organizations have purpose or mission statements that don’t provide motivation.
The reason they don’t provide motivation is that the purpose is not inspiring. The organization has to have a purpose and that purpose has to be a higher purpose.
1. A higher purpose
So a higher purpose is inspiring. People get excited about it, they like it, and they want to participate in making it true. And the people who really understand this are the ones who run nonprofits and NGOs; they get it. And the reason they get it is because they get people to give them money, time, and effort to help them make the purpose true. And so the purpose has to be a fairly high-grade purpose in order for it to be strongly motivating enough that people will come and work for free or just write checks. So how many for-profit companies do you know where people write donation checks to the company and get no services in return?
I like to say this to CEOs. I say, ‘How come you want the NGOs and the non-profits to have all the excited, passionate people who would be willing to do the job if they didn’t get paid for it? And you want all the grumpy, disengaged employees who are constantly asking for more money? Why is that your business plan? How does that advantage you in any way?’ No, I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay your employees; you should. But the idea is, if your purpose is strong enough, they’re there to fulfill your purpose. And the fact that you pay them means that they can afford to do it full time. Which is a very different contract than the way people traditionally think about it. Traditionally, it’s ‘you do these tasks that you don’t want to do and I’ll pay you for it.’ That’s how economists model the work contract. And that’s a terrible way to model the work contract.
So the requirement is that the purpose is sufficiently inspiring, that people are excited about the purpose for its own sake. And that means that the purpose has to be about something other than benefiting the company. It has to be about making the world a better place and about contributing to others, to the environment or animals or starving children or whales or something. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, but it has to be about something beyond the scope of the company’s economic activities. And that is so hard for CEOs to grasp. They just can’t bring themselves to do it. And so they make the mission about delivering better services or pleasing their customers or something like that. And then the result is it’s a perfectly valid business mission and it’s not inspiring. And then you don’t get the benefit of everything we’re talking about.
A higher purpose is inspiring. People get excited about it, they like it, and they want to participate in making it true. And the people who really understand this are the ones who run nonprofits and NGOs; they get it. And the reason they get it is because they get people to give them money, time, and effort to help them make the purpose true.
Hold on, Tim, before you mention the other requirements. Thinking beyond the scope of the company’s economic activities implies we’re looking for something like adding social or ecological value to the planet and society. Bigger stuff than creating websites or coaching companies. And I remember from your training that your purpose is to be found beyond the boundaries of your conscious brain. But I’m Dutch and I know what kind of responses this will get, like ‘This is scary. This is not our kind of stuff. This is too spiritual or aspirational.’
It’s so interesting, Paula. The Dutch have these antibodies to anything that smells spiritual. It is more so than any place I’ve worked all over the world, more so than in Israel or China, which are incredibly secular countries, but the Dutch have been like the maximum on this one.
It doesn’t have to be spiritual. We’re looking for something inspiring. We’re not looking for something spiritual. The problem is that inspiration smells a little like spirituality. And then the antibody is getting all excited and energized.
That’s why I have to spend time dealing with fears first. The first action is to calm down the antibodies so that people can get something from outside of their conscious brain that can actually answer the question.
It’s not as much work to resolve these fears as you think; it typically takes somewhere around two to four hours.
2. Individual purposes known
So requirement number two is that the individual people participating in the company purpose project all know their own individual higher purpose in life. They can give a good, clear answer to the question, ‘Why are you here?’ Not ’Why are you here in this company?’ ‘Why are you here on this planet?’ And they can answer that question clearly and succinctly in a way that motivates them strongly. That’s requirement two.
3.Align personal purpose with the organization
And requirement three is there’s a connection between their purpose and the purpose of the organization. They’re similar enough that they can do both at the same time.
4. Align individual purpose to your own role
The fourth requirement is there’s a connection between their individual purpose and their job, their role. When they’re doing their role in the company, they’re advancing their own purpose. Once you get all those things tied together – which very rarely happens – then the people become insanely motivated. This is like the Olympic athlete version of business, right? Instead of the kids playing on the playground, it’s the Olympic athlete version. And most people and businesses are not even trying.
Your clients will fall in love with your purpose, too
Finding your higher purpose is beneficial for yourself, the company, and its employees. But how about customers? They’re important stakeholders too. What’s the benefit for them?
After you find your purpose statement as an organization, ask the question, ‘How do we communicate this to the marketplace? How do we communicate this to prospective customers or current customers?’ And that’s an important conversation because the purpose you use internally may or may not work externally. It’s one of the huge benefits of having a purpose, that if you communicate it effectively to the marketplace, then your customers will fall in love with you. And that’s so important, because if you’re competing on price, then a company comes along charging a few cents less or whatever then your customers are gone. They’re not going to stick around. But if they love you, they will. And I have many examples of this, organizations where the employees love the company so they don’t want to leave. So the turnover goes down and then the customers love the company so they don’t want to leave. Customers start loving the company. Your competitor can’t seduce them away.
Sounds great and my Marketing role gets enthusiastic too. Can you give us an example?
I love my insurance company. My insurance company only serves military people. It’s a non-profit. They’re not trying to make as much profit as possible and they have the best customer service of any company I’ve ever interacted with. Their purpose is ‘we know what it means to serve’. Meaning, ‘You serve the military; now it’s our turn to serve you.’ That’s what they’re here for; it is so strong. As someone who devoted your life to the military, you deserve first-class insurance for the rest of your life.
Every week I get a piece of mail from an insurance company saying they can save me money by switching away from this company. Now, they may be telling the truth and they may be lying. I don’t know, because I never open the envelope. I recycle them immediately.
Next step: start the quest for your own purpose
The organizational purpose often comes from the founder or CEO. But even if you’re looking for meaning in your daily job, you need to know what your own purpose is. In the next article, we’ll share more on the process of finding your life purpose and the paradigm shift from money-driven to purpose-driven organizations.
What do you need?
Let us know what comes to mind when thinking about purpose. Send an email to email@example.com