When a new task lands in your inbox, the first thing we usually consider is ‘can I fit this in?’ We’re all busy, our to-do list is not getting any shorter, so of course we naturally focus on managing our workloads and our energy.
But this approach can have all sorts of unintended consequences. It means you get distracted by new and fun things, it becomes harder to balance the urgent with the important, and you’re less likely to notice that you’re drifting. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens – you’re only human.
The challenge if you are a Founder or leader however is even greater – not only because of your responsibility to set the tone and direction, but also because it can be lonely without someone helping you shape your to-do list. You need a really strong compass, something that informs and defines what you should spend your precious time on … a purpose.
A business’s purpose
Many people assume the purpose of a business is to make money. That’s unsurprising really – we hear that message repeated all the time, and it’s reinforced by almost every business stereotype. But it’s not just that the profit motive is kinda boring, or that it’s an inherited and unexamined assumption, or that it’s motivated by false or manufactured scarcity… it’s also just a poor way to run a business.
It turns out that businesses with a true purpose – something leaders, employees, and customers all feel and understand – have better long term performance and return more value to shareholders. Analysis by BrightHouse and Boston Consulting Group found that purpose-driven companies grew 10% faster than the market, and saw their value increase by more than double compared to the average in the same amount of time.
BUT… as their analysis makes clear… “that correlation exists, however, only if a company’s purpose is deeply embedded and not superficial.”
In other words, it’s not enough to have your purpose written down and gathering dust on a shelf – you have to be purpose-LED.
A golden thread
Being purpose-led is when your purpose underpins everything you do for your business. Every offer you develop, every client interaction, every sale, every social media post – your purpose becomes a golden thread that runs throughout everything you do.
So when new tasks land in your inbox, you can discard something if it doesn’t help you fulfil your purpose, or prioritise it if it’s going to be more impactful toward that purpose. If your purpose is what is driving your daily actions and decisions like this, then you’ll be more likely to see successful business performance.
This can change your attitude to your work. Your to-do list is no longer a swamp to wade through, or escape from, but instead is your reminder of the tasks that mean something to you; that give you energy.
Some Founders intuitively understand their purpose and, crucially, how that translates into a business that has customers or shareholders. For some though, it can take a bit of exploration and reflection to put words to that drive that makes them tick – and then a little more still to know what it would mean to deliver that purpose in the real world.
The effort is worth it though. It makes discussions with your team, your suppliers, even your investors much more productive and focused on something bigger than short-term sales targets or margins. Those targets and margins aren’t irrelevant, but now they are in service of something greater.
The trick then becomes not letting yourself be distracted by something that sounds important, but is actually unhelpful. Metrics and performance measures are a good example – we often focus on things that are easier to measure (like sales numbers or social media followers), and not on measures that tell us if we’re fulfilling our purpose or not.
What you celebrate can influence your actions and behaviour as much as what you measure. Think about the impact of paying a team commission based on how well they help solve their customers’ problems, instead of how much they sell. The perspective of your whole team, and the experience of your customers, would be radically different – and maintaining the success would be easier over the longer term.
Making your purpose the thing that is driving your daily actions and decisions is the key here. That’s the difference between simply having a purpose, and being purpose-led.
If you want to know more about how embedded purpose is within your company, why not join the Lift-Off programme? Find out more here.
Or if you’d like to talk about your company and understand more about the programme, book a virtual coffee with Julie here.