Not everyone is affected to it and neither most are but it is consistent enough to stand out. One such so far-so successful executive confessed to being quite disenchanted with his work when discussed about his personal vision. The meaning of his work today was merely something that held his style – hefty house loans, children education, club memberships etc. You may well wonder so what? So what is wrong of people work for something else than what’s important to their career e.g. supporting their style? And truly there is nothing wrong when people make such choices. At some point in our lives we all make similar choices that may become the purpose of our work life. The trouble begins only when the choice comes to a head with what the work place demands of us.
A compelling purpose fills us with meaning, energy persistence and zeal for life. Conversely, when we lack a life purpose, life becomes clouded with depression, anxiety lack of focus and distractibility.
Now, if you are leading an organization that is made up of mostly checked out executives try pushing that pedal on growth or significant change of any sort and you will know. And if you are such a leader, how can you inspire your team to align around a compelling organization purpose?
An energy company in a similar situation the company was acquired recently, the new owners wanted to see an integrated company with the global parent. The new CEO was shocked at the apathy of the top team towards revenues, profits, vision etc. The company ranked very poor on most metrics amongst all the assets owned by the parent company. However, there was no compelling reason in this company to change though the company was always making profits according to the CEO despite the way they were. And the way they were was very disturbing. Some of the next line leaders spent most of their time on the stock market; some others were on sabbatical and some were ghost managing their spouses businesses. Talk about checked out executives.
What helped the CEO pull together the team? He chose to appeal to the pride in the collective. He repeatedly asked one question to the team that if they could take this organization to the next level what it would look like. He wasn’t surprised by the responses he got – some were sullen others indifferent but few leaders were very enthused by this question. Slowly they converted preached practiced and signed on the non-converted signing at least to support the newer plans to be rolled out. Small success led to more people getting convinced about this way of working leading to more successes. The initial converts became evangelists of the newer way working across the organization. The CEO quickly re-organized the set up giving space to energetic, evangelists to act. He even had let go of couple of passive – aggressive unwilling participants as they were found subverting the efforts of change. And in the space of two years, they figured in the top quartile on various metrics amongst all assets owned by the parent company.
Looking back, the CEO felt that what clinched the change agenda was when he was able to show the new vision as compelling enough for people to be energized by it enough to let go to be their own personal agenda and in turn giving full fledged support to the new one. Creating a meaningful and compelling purpose perhaps is the most important role of the leader in any organization – you do not miss much whether compelling purpose is there or not there. But if it is, the magic is palpable to all.