I was with a group of senior leaders last week, running a Leadership workshop.  They work for a fast moving entrepreneurial IT company in California, and are going from strength to strength.  Hence the need to build some leadership muscle.

I started the day by asking them to introduce themselves, and to tell us what their PURPOSE is.  I didn’t explain the word, just left them to interpret it for themselves.

In the majority of cases (there was one notable exception), they told us WHAT they are responsible for as a means of explaining their Purpose. They gave us a brief summary of their job description, in other words.  Ask anyone in the room to repeat this on behalf of someone else, and they would all have failed.  In one ear, out of the other.

But there was one exception.  This was the Chief Finance officer:

“My job is to make Finance easy”, he said.

Got it.  Succinct, easy to remember, and most importantly it addresses the question of WHY his job exists.  A memorable and uplifting statement of Purpose, behind which his whole team is able to unite and work towards a common goal.

This simple exercise helped to diagnose the culture of that organisation.  These people are working flat out doing stuff, but have slightly have lost sight of why they do it.  And if senior leaders have lost sight of it, for sure their teams will  be beavering away wondering at times what it’s all about.

One of the key functions of a leader is to articulate a purpose for the team so that they understand where they are heading, and why they do what they do.  People look to their leaders for guidance, inspiration and direction, and to help them make some sense of the madness which is their daily job.

When a leader gets sucked into the detail and doesn’t get round to providing the WHY for people, they can be become disengaged.  Only 30% of the American workforce is Actively Engaged according to Gallup, as I mentioned in my Blog a few weeks ago.  This absence of Purpose will be a major factor, I’d say.

How would you get on giving an impromptu response to the question “What’s your Purpose?”  Might you need to sit down and have a quiet think about that one?  And once you’ve got a coherent answer, who else needs to know about it?

Don’t let yourself be pulled along be events without being very clear on WHY you do it and WHERE you are heading.

This TED talk by Simon Sinek is well worth watching to bring the subject to life.  He nails it.  I hope it gets you thinking.

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