Stop Hijacking Purpose.

This morning my friend Kath sent me a link to this research report by McKinsey’s “Help your employees find purpose – or watch them leave.”

“Ah, it seems that global management consultants have finally caught up with Carolyn Tate,” Kath quipped in her email.

After reading the research, my initial reaction was one of extreme annoyance. As an independent Purpose Educator, I’ve been writing about the ideas in this research for more than 10 years. My book The Purpose Project published in 2017 is all about individual purpose and how people can bring it to work. I call it BYO Purpose.

Side note: My thinking and client work has moved beyond just organisational and individual purpose to four types of purpose; organisational, team, role and personal. Read more.

They’re finally catching up.

It seems that the big consulting firms are finally catching up with me, and now here they are taking it over and attempting to own it – as they do.

I got up from my desk, pulled on my runners and took a swift walk around the block to analyse the cause of my annoyance. 

Why, all of a sudden, has it taken the large consulting firms to make purpose mainstream?

And, why has it taken a pandemic and the risk of people quitting, for purpose to be finally taken seriously?

And what will it take for leaders to infuse purpose throughout the company instead of using it as a marketing ploy or a way to pretty-up their brand?

The CEO who didn’t get it.

Case in point. Three years ago, I was meeting with the Australian CEO of a Fortune 500 company in their offices. The company had just invested heavily in their new corporate purpose statement. Everywhere I looked, this new five-word statement (aka slogan) jumped out at me from posters plastered all over the walls. It was also front and centre on their brand new website.

“So, now that you have a new purpose, how will you bring it to life?”, I asked the CEO.

“I’m about to go on a roadshow to all our offices and sprinkle it all around,” the CEO responded smugly and in all seriousness.

I felt sick and sad. My first instinct was to tackle him to the ground. I hate it when I see purpose being used and abused like this.

I wanted to shout “You can’t just turn on the water-hose and sprinkle purpose around to cool people down and keep them productive. You must think of purpose as a deep-water spring that never runs dry. You have to find the source and invite everyone to come drink from it and contribute to its wellbeing.”

Instead, I mumbled “that’s great!” I lacked the courage to challenge him on it. Today, I feel the weight of my inaction as this CEO went about his merry way making purpose pointless, and most likely painful, for more than 5,000 employees. I truly wish I’d said what was on the tip of my tongue. Lesson learnt.

Beware of rampant purpose-washing.

I’ve written many times over the years about rampant purpose-washing and how our leaders of capitalism are commodifying and commercialising it.

It’s my mission to prevent purpose from being hijacked and industrialised. That’s why I believe purpose needs a community of independent custodians, educators and communitarians to drive it, not the captains of industry. Watch this space.

Thankfully the tide of purpose is turning. It’s one of the silver linings of this pandemic. The people are beginning to believe they have a higher purpose for their working lives and they’re not afraid to seek it.

Meaning is fast becoming the new money. Many will leave their jobs if they are denied purpose at work, but many more will stay if their leaders are willing to go deeper to the source.

This is why I do what I do. 

I help your people discover and tap into that deep-water spring. I help them articulate, communicate and activate purpose so that it’s no longer a mere slogan plastered on a wall.

If you’re keen to find out how I do this, Book a Conversation. No cost. No obligation.

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