During my 25-year career in human resources management and consulting I’ve accepted some fundamental truths. The most fundamental of these is great companies start with a “why.” This question of “why” is relevant from the organizational vision down to the individual position level.
Why do we exist?
Why do we do what we do the way we do it?
Why would anyone choose our products or services over those of our competitors?
Why would the organization pay anyone to perform this role within the industry? Market? Company?
The question of “why” demands management to consider their true purpose expressed by a mission and vision. The mission defines our purpose in the present tense.... “We do [WHAT and HOW] for [WHOM – our customer] because of [WHY].” This is the essence of why a company exists...its soul. If every manager (and ideally every employee) in the organization can’t answer these questions for the organization and for their own role, they cannot possibly operate in an aligned and cohesive manner toward superior results. If your customers don’t understand why you exist they likely won’t buy your products or services regardless of how many good salespeople you have.
The question of “why” also drives the aspirations of an organization’s envisioned future. Many small companies begin with a clear why (Vision) that employees and customers fully understand and believe in. Simon Sinek stated in his famous Ted Talk “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it,” citing the unfunded and ignored efforts of the Wright brothers, the success of Apple and the visioning power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to start an entire movement as relevant examples. But as organizations grow, get acquired or merge into larger entities, the very purpose that drove their success in the beginning can get lost along the way to a disastrous end.
When the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive really bad things happen.
The first sign of the loss of purpose is uninspired workplaces and employees. This quickly turns into poor customer service, lame products and services and even unethical behavior. This is an all-too familiar dynamic in modern workplaces across the country today. After decades of collecting data from thousands of engagement surveys, Gallup reports that only 30% of the American workforce is truly engaged. Another 50% is neither engaged nor disengaged but are merely going through the motions in their daily jobs. And then there is another 20% of the current workforce actively disengaged; meaning they are actively working against the efforts of their organizations, undermining success and recruiting others to join them. Deloitte found that for every 1% increase in engagement there is a 0.6% increase in revenue. Therefore, if an organization generating $500 million in annual revenue increases engagement by 1%, the organization will yield an additional $3 million dollars. Engagement matters. Inspiring employees and managers matters. Engaged customers come directly from engaged employees. Engaged employees come from engaged, great managers.
We are purpose maximizers not profit maximizers. Science from the 1960’s until now continues to reveal that employees want to be able to grow through mastering new challenges in roles that allow them to be as self-directed as possible for their skill level.
You are invited to learn how to answer your "why" by attending UNF’s Invitational Leadership Development Program.
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