Best practices

What Embracing Shared Purpose Can Do To Benefit Your Organization

Based on the writings of Mark Bonchek on HBR.

Purpose is what drives us forward – both in personal and professional plans. So how come so many companies fail to factor in its importance? Organizations spend money on branding and developing their mission and vision, but only a handful can tell you their values.

And here lies the problem. If they are unable to do that, how can they motivate and direct their employees? When workers fail to see a purpose in the overall mission of a company’s plan, they lose focus and perspective. As a result, their performance suffers and so does the company.

This is where companies turn to “purpose” and “authenticity” as a way to engage both their consumers and employees. It is easier said than done, but if you get it right you reap great benefits.

Sometimes, establishing the shared purpose of a company is as simple as having your values and mission aligned: have what your product or service reflect who you are, have what you stand for guide what you create, and have your value to the community enhance the value to customers and shareholders.

This gives a sense of direction for all employees, who “feel” their work matters in a big-picture type of context.

Purpose is a powerful driving force of daily behavior, because it fuels and guides us to accomplish whatever tasks and goals we’ve set for ourselves or are given by superiors. But how we get to purpose is critical if we want it to be truly shared.

There is nothing more powerful than purpose in directing the collaboration of workers across multiple channels within an organization. Ironically, most managers still focus excessively on fostering collaboration through technology and training. But what if there was a more efficient way to frame the challenges, and inspire people to come together and tackle them?

How To Cultivate Purpose

The main goal of all successful leaders is aligning value with purpose in the field of corporate social responsibility. The reason for this lies in the level of engagement of both consumers and employees.

In today’s dynamic market the boundaries between creators and users are not as well-defined as they used to be.

In fact, customers are no longer just consumers; they’re co-creators. They have shifted from a passive role of an audience to the active members of a community.

This desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves dictates their interest in engaging on a more personal level with your company’s shared purpose. The need to share a purpose is a powerful catalyst for the development of marketing campaigns that connect to audiences more organically.

Understanding the power of shared purpose begins with taking a look at the mission statements of leading companies. That doesn’t mean that mission statements are the same as a company’s purpose, but they illustrate the point.

Looking at a few successful brands like Adidas and Nike is remarkably representative of the differences between their corporate purpose and objectives:

Adidas: The Adidas Group has a clear goal of being the global leader in the sporting goods industry. It achieves this building on its consumers’ shared passion for sports and an active lifestyle.

Nike: Competitor Nike’s goal focuses on bringing inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. The brand defines an athlete as every person with a body.

Notice how each of these statements evokes a different response. People will connect more with one of the other, and base their shopping decisions on the brand they gravitate towards. It’s interesting to see how Adidas puts the emphasis on value, but Nike goes further by addressing people’s sense of who they are.

Another good example of such a difference can be seen in the campaigns of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts: The brand is committed to serving the freshest, most delicious ready-to-eat coffee and donuts in modern, well-merchandised stores.

Starbucks: The brand’s mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Dunkin Donuts’ purpose is clearly directed towards its customers, and it delivers on this purpose exceedingly well. The different with Starbucks’ purpose is that is achieved with its customers.

Ultimately, this results in a higher level of engagement, as evidenced by the growing rate of Starbucks coffee shops globally.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a mission statement always reflects the company’s true purpose. But in these cases, they are fairly accurate representations of the company’s approach to its target market, its engagement with customers, and its perception as a “trustworthy” brand.

Once you understand how purpose works and have studied the successful examples of some of the brands mentioned above, it’s time to recognize that there are different kinds of purpose. Purpose can be about a mission, but it can also be about values and there is a huge difference.

You may find all this information a bit overwhelming at first. The ultimate goal is aligning your values and mission: have what you do reflect who you are, have what you stand for guide what you make, and have your value to the community enhance your value to customers and shareholders.

When you go about creating your own shared purpose, these are the questions that you need to answer:

a) How can you work together with your customers?
b) What is a natural expression of who you are and what you stand for?
c) How will you connect making money with how you contribute to the world?
Corporate Success through Values and Purpose

The “Values and Vision” approach to purpose covers vision and values. At the same time, the mission covers value too. However, the current market dynamics require that people have something to participate in, belong to, engage with, co-create, or share with others.

This aligns the commercial side of the business with social responsibility. In other words – this is the shared purpose.

As you formulate your shared purpose, you should base this on who you already are. You probably already have a loyal customer base – turn to them for help in finding out how they connect with your brand. Listen to what they say about your company and service/product.

People are driven by the clear definition of the goals and an overarching purpose; and this applies to both consumers and workers. When they see how their collaboration benefits a larger cause – they are more committed and engaged.

But bear in mind that collaboration can only be effective if your goals are evident: What problem are you trying to solve together? What can you do to solve this collectively?

Getting people to collaborate begins with answering a simple question: what is the driving purpose that motivates the team? Different people are driven by varied incentives and it’s your job as a leader to pinpoint, foster and channel their motivation into a shared purpose.

If you manage to do that, you will be well on your way to fostering collaboration among the people in your company.

Leadership, Common Purpose and Shared Values

Companies where employees have a common purpose are easy to recognize – their employees are happy, have high energy and morale, and speak the same organizational language. Common purpose defines the quality of leadership that impacts a company’s culture and spirit – its soul, if you will. This drives success beyond financial statements.

In a way, common purpose is about consistency and following in the footsteps of former managers to put a high priority on people, values and brand. Employees need to understand the brand and values to know where they stand within the organization.

It’s the shared purpose that creates a ‘we’ within a company – this same ‘we’ becomes the engine that propels the business forward.

The most common mistake companies make is that they simply develop company values and purpose but don’t use them in decision making. Unfortunately, if they only exist on paper or on a website, they will do little to enforce a shared culture, a sense of “we”, in the stakeholders at all levels of the organization.

Business owners need to know how to read their company’s emotional tone. This includes building trust through listening, creating opportunities, showing compassion and caring, demonstrating their own commitment to the shared purpose.

It’s all about giving employees the authority to do their job while inspiring them to achieve more.

Represent it and Live it

Creating a common-purpose organization means putting your organization’s goals at the center of the community. A smart incentive system coupled with a clear understanding of your community’s roles and a well-defined shared purpose can transform entire organizations from within, to make them more agile, successful and competitive in today’s market.

As you bring your shared purpose to life, don’t try and force your company into being what it’s not. Look for what it already is.

Remember, a shared purpose is about a promise to your customers that you can deliver. It’s not something you are going to do to them, or for them, but do with them. It’s a shared journey with a common goal. Enjoy it, learn from it, grow with it.

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