Recently, there has been a lot of focus on organizational purpose and explaining the “why.” It is believed that knowing your purpose will inspire you to action since we are “feeling” people with “thinking” abilities. Purpose appeals to our emotions.
My company’s purpose is to create value and improve lives through sustainable and responsible mining. That speaks to me on several levels. But what happens when employees do not understand the purpose or even worse—cannot envision or relate to it? How do we make that purpose shared?
As leaders, it is our responsibility, indeed our goal, to influence our people, so they want to “go above and beyond” to fulfill that shared purpose—to take ownership of business performance. Therefore, we must find new ways to connect with our employees and translate our situation, vision, goals, values, etc. to them in such a way that resonates with their own frames of reference.
In today’s environment, leaders sometimes will walk on eggshells for fear of triggering the wrong behavior in their employees. Fostering constructive behaviors—ours and theirs—is thus truly critical. Behaviors are most often value-based. Among other things, people value respect, trust, honesty, fairness, dignity, courage, and the queen of all values—love. Therefore, to influence individual behaviors, we must first understand our people and their values.
Intricately linked to what most of us value, are compensation, intellectual stimulation, and the ability to give to family and society. When communicating and translating purpose, each person needs to know what’s in it for them and how they can contribute to its success. To skillfully unveil this purpose and facilitate the adoption of it, we should consider three factors: transparency, motivation, and accountability.
Be transparent. Employees need to understand the state of the business. While each employee has different spheres of control, it requires effective teamwork to realize goals. Everyone plays a role in the success of an organization, and it is vital to make those connections clear and purposeful. Over the last several months, I have emphasized the importance of worker productivity and why having competent people in all roles is the key to excelling in our business. To my surprise, many individuals were uncomfortable with explicitly expressing that idea and didn’t think it was good to be so direct. Make it comfortable by making it less taboo.
Use different forms of motivation to achieve desired behaviors. Don’t assume the same ideas or goals motivate everyone. Figure out what really matters and what each employee values. In cases where employees are motivated by compensation, be sure to understand what type of compensation is most important. For example, is it wages, time-off, or shares in the company? Sometimes, highlighting what it will take for continued employment or for the business to remain viable is necessary and positive.
Hold yourself and others accountable to your expectations. Although the purpose and vision statements may vary with each company, in general, the objective is always to create value, be the best, and make a real difference. Everyone should be held accountable for advancing these goals within their own areas of responsibility, with no exceptions. At times, accountability requires making courageous decisions about whether someone fits within the team.
The next time you think about creating a shared purpose—and the ownership to drive positive results—think about what’s in it for others; for your employees. Sometimes, it’s just being gainfully employed and contributing.