We recently heard the news that Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, had given away his $3 billion-dollar stake in the successful outdoor clothing enterprise to a creatively-designed trust and nonprofit organization focused on combating climate change. Patagonia’s mission is: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” In a world where there’s a lot of talk about doing good, Mr. Chouinard & Company have stepped into living their values in a legitimately astounding way.
As the future unfolds daily before our eyes, we are increasingly witnessing both consumers and employees gravitating toward organizations whose values align with their own. We are no longer content to simply go through the motions, unconsciously contributing our life force, skills, and hard-earned income to companies who are not impacting the world and humanity in meaningful ways. Rather, we are more often pausing to be curious, to do the research, to make informed choices.
(For a deeper dive into some gobsmacking statistics, take a look at this page from Business of Purpose.)
So what does it mean to be a purpose-driven organization?
Thoughtful, clearly-articulated, and effectively-communicated mission, vision, and values are crucial. These are the organization’s north star, guiding principles, the filter through which decisions should be made and actions taken. Sadly, all too often, leadership teams go through the steps to carefully craft these statements, post them on the website, and hang them on the wall. But they’re not dynamic, living passions that drive behaviors at all levels of the organization. Ask yourself:
Can you recite your mission statement and organizational values from memory? Can your employees? Your customers?
And how are you leading from these values?
People want to know what an organization stands for and see those values in action. We are seeking shared meaning; we want to partner and collaborate in community toward shared goals. This can give us a reason to keep going, transition, and persevere through difficult times. It can lift us up above the challenges and petty dynamics of day-to-day operations by helping us keep perspective about what’s really important. When we’re focused on the larger context of making the world a better place and being servant leaders, it’s easier to let the little stuff go.
To keep this perspective, it’s also important for folks in all roles and positions throughout the company to stay close to the customer, the end user, the people you exist to serve. Whether that’s a hospital patient, a community member, an internal colleague who relies on our team, or a consumer of our product, somewhere there is another human being who is ultimately interfacing with our efforts. Especially if we work at home or sit in a sea of cubicles day after day, we can drift off and lose touch with that humanity–with our WHY, the real reason we are even doing our work. Staying in touch with our “customers”, however we think about and define them, can restore our connection and engagement with our work.
As a member of a purpose-driven and aligned team we get to experience accomplishment in a context larger than just ourselves. One’s individual contribution is amplified by the collective strengths and gifts of the group.
This sense of helping, serving, and contributing something of meaning to the world even activates our neurobiological reward system, creating a virtuous cycle of genuine positivity and healthful happiness. It feels good to do good. We get that life-affirming, replenishing surge of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins.
And this benefit flows to value at the bottom line. Shared purpose propels engagement, enthusiasm, contribution, and loyalty. It deepens trust and relationships among team members. It attracts customers and consumers who identify with, believe in, and support what you stand for—who want to align themselves with your mission and purpose.
So, we invite you to take a stand for what you believe in, invite the people who share your passion to connect, and watch the impact unfold.
We would love to help you discover your purpose, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.