Updated: Jan 12
Not a mere marketing slogan but a powerful source of inspiration
In 2009, Simon Sinek delivered a groundbreaking Tedtalk that to date has garnered 9.8 million views. The title of the speech was "why great leaders inspire action" and it gave tremendous insights about what really drives human behaviour and decision making.
His talk opened the eyes of many to why some brands like Apple resonated with most people while others failed despite selling the same product or why some inventors were successful and had more passion for their projects than others.
In all his examples, having a purpose that was meaningful to the actors was the main ingredient for success. This speech and others like it have effectively inspired the marketing campaigns of many businesses in an attempt to connect and attract as many customers as possible using their purpose statements. This is almost turning purpose, mission and vision statements into marketing and brand elements of companies.
It is surprising to note that often only a very small proportion of employees have knowledge of these purpose statements or see it at work in their day to day activities. According to Inc Magazine, a US Magazine, only about 2% of the workforce of six hundred companies could actually remember what their company's purpose or priorities were. It gets even worse when we find out that the people usually closest to our customers, frontliners, are the ones who are rarely able to perceive how meaningful their day to day tasks are in relation to the overarching purpose and priorities of their company. But how effective is a purpose statement if it does not first inspire the people of the company?
Meaning and Inspiration for your people
Truly unbossed companies understand that purpose statements are more than a marketing strategy. The best leaders seek to inspire their people to excellence instead of applying command and control strategies. They are aware of the power of purpose statements in the creation of meaningful work experiences for their people.
Truly unbossed companies understand that purpose statements are more than a marketing strategy.
Purpose, mission, vision should reflect your company's heartbeat.
In recent years, studies have proven that companies that have a concrete “why” that is aligned with the aspirations of a company's people often plays a critical role in empowering teams, improving engagement and general satisfaction of employees with their work.
Today's workforce is seeking to find meaning and purpose in their work. This has become even more pronounced with the arrival of millennials and Gen Z workers who tend to be entrepreneurial, have increasing access to flexible work options and are hungry for work that will allow them to make an impact in their world.
This group finds it relatively easier now to move to join or start businesses that allow them to do work they consider meaningful. This often leads to the low retention rates that companies are currently experiencing. Companies can position themselves to attract and retain passionate people by crafting an inspiring purpose, aligned with their mission, vision and core values.
Think of the most successful companies you know of; most of them share a mission statement that is evident in their operations;
Companies can position themselves to attract and retain passionate people by crafting an inspiring purpose, aligned with their mission, vision and core values.
Apple - bringing the best user experience to customers through innovative hardware, software, and services
Microsoft - Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more
You create magic once your people's sense of purpose and that of the organisation are in sync, and can be felt in the day to day activities of the employees.
Autonomy and Initiative
Another essential reason for a well defined, aligned purpose is the issue of empowerment and autonomy. To give people meaning at work we need to be able to trust them to do their work successfully without constant prodding, detailed guidelines, and restrictive approval processes for making decisions that end up limiting their creativity and their ability to make an impact.
But how do you ensure that all of their decisions are aligned with the priorities of the business, even in the most fast changing times?
In 1975, James Burke, CEO of then Johnson and Johnson held what he referred to as the "credo challenge". It consisted of series of discussions with the people of Johnson and Johnson that ensured that they all accepted the beliefs set out in their credo which was meant to guide the operations of the company. Excerpts from this credo read,
"We believe our first responsibility is to the patients, doctors and nurses, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services."
In 1982, when about 6 people lost their lives due to the poisonings of Tylenol, a product from Johnson and Johnson, the company was able to make the best safety decisions for their customers at lightning speed.
From recalling all Tylenol products to improved safety packaging within a few weeks of the poisonings, the company was able to make a shocking comeback on the stock market and won the trust of its customers because every person in charge of making decisions knew precisely where their priorities lay as a company.
James Burke in reflection of how Johnson and Johnson survived this horrific incident shared that the credo had run that entire process. In the moment of crisis, when thousands of decisions had to be made on the fly, each employee knew that the safety of the customer was their priority. With this in mind all decisions made by the people in all of the company were consistent leading to a successful comeback.
Today, companies live in a world of perpetual change, since COVID, we have come to realise that we cannot rely on detailed plans, budgets, job descriptions and fixed work schedules and locations.
Learning from the classic credo example of Johnson and Johnson, we can improve autonomy and initiative by ensuring that each employee clearly understands the why of the company and what it means to live it out in their day to day tasks. Simply put, we need to shift towards the use of purpose and values in communicating the priorities and expected behaviour from our people rather than restrictive job descriptions , guidelines and approval processes that make companies less agile and its people less involved in the decision making process.
Connect with your people through your purpose
A survey by Imperative found that employees that are able to connect with a company's purpose are 54% more likely to work with these companies for up to 5 years and more. This is particularly impressive considering that the era of lifelong service in any one company is gradually phasing out. A well defined purpose that is shared by all your people is the bedrock for every unbossing journey because it is the glue that bonds you and your people. This is a key ingredient in creating a work environment that keeps employees smiling at work even on Monday Mornings.
Wondering if your company is unbossed, take the unbossing pulse check!