Most people think purpose is about a compelling statement that explains why you exist as an organisation. I disagree.
A sense of purpose comes from not only a meaningful reason to be, it is also about the culture in which to thrive; the goals we need to achieve and the resolve, energy, commitment and drive to achieve the impossible.
Sadly, a large percentage of managers say that defining and embedding purpose is one of the things they are weakest at doing, and their employees agree.
Special research conducted for my latest book, People with Purpose, by online polling company YouGov, points to what you need to do to inspire super performance from your team.
YouGov polled 1,880 managers and 2,200 employees across a range of commercial sectors, public sector and charity organisations. Here are the top eight behaviours YouGov identified that motivate your people by giving them a greater sense of purpose.
1. Bring the Outside in
Employees want to know how what they do makes a difference to the people they serve. The best leaders are either regularly bringing customers in to talk with their people, or they are constantly communicating about customer experiences and expectations.
2. Show That You Understand Employee Perspectives
Many managers fail to acknowledge how people are feeling, because they feel that if they do so, they validate those feelings and will be compelled to reverse decisions that may not be liked. Empathising does not mean agreeing, and empathy is everything.
3. Show Commitment to the Organisation’s Purpose
Employees want a purpose that is more than just simply about making a profit. They want to feel they are making a difference in the world. Managers who don’t reinforce this, disconnect them from a purpose that otherwise might be hugely inspiring.
4. Define and Review Goals That Align With the Organisation’s Purpose
Show employees how what they are doing contributes to the organisation’s purpose. Setting goals that clearly align with the corporate goals is vital for employees to feel connected and part of something that makes them proud. (By the way, the more often those goals are reviewed, the higher the performance.)
5. Give Your People a Damn Good Listening to
Managers who are good listeners are often the most inspiring leaders. People feel much more respected and valued when they feel heard.
Listening leaders pick up great ideas from their staff, welcome bad news in order to take corrective action, and guide and steer opinions because they are better informed about how people are feeling.
6. Live the Values of the Organisation, Consistently
Your culture is one of your most important assets. The values that define how you behave are crucial to create a sense of belonging, predictability, and freedom for your staff.
People who know the purpose and values of the organisation are able to make decisions without the boss being there. Leaders who are inconsistent about the values sew confusion and doubt and inefficiency into their teams.
7. Be Honest and Sincere
Of course you are honest, and of course you are sincere. Some 94% of the managers we surveyed said they were. The only problem is that only two thirds of staff believe their managers are honest, with a third actively disagreeing.
Doing what you say you will do, living the values, doing what you expect others to do – these all go to how employees perceive you and you may unwittingly be failing in some or all of these areas.
8. Make Your Employees Feel Important and Appreciated.
How you make people feel will determine your success. Neuroscience shows that people who are made to feel worthy, who are respected, cared for and nurtured, are far more likely to be super performers, to go the extra mile and to be loyal and committed employees.
Managers who inadvertently disrespect their staff, or who deliberately or accidentally make them feel threatened or unworthy, quickly demotivate their staff and lose the performance edge so crucial to success.
In the YouGov research, 93% of managers said that they cared about the people they lead. Only 50% of employees agreed. A lot of bosses are failing in this regard. Are you one of them?