If you’re trying to lead without a purpose, then you shouldn’t be too surprised if it isn’t going too well; your purpose is the reason your company does what it does, and the goal that you’re trying to achieve. Think of it like your purpose in life, but much easier to discover and define. A company without a purpose is like a how-to article without a topic: you could work on it forever and never get anywhere because you aren’t working towards a clear vision and end point.
Leading with purpose means being able to answer those most important questions: why does your company exist, what is it about, and what is it trying to do? If you can’t answer, then you can’t get your employees excited about your purpose, and in turn you won’t be able to attract customers who want to share in that passion. In itself, being a leader means having an awareness of how your decisions affect others and that you can keep your employees headed towards your goal without them having to make any sacrifices; the best leaders have a purpose and share that purpose by setting an example so that they are someone people want to follow rather than needing to be dragged.
So, you have your company, and you have your employees ready and willing to share in your vision of where you want your company to be. Let’s see what you can do to find your purpose and share it with them so you create a story than can be passed down to future generations and your future replacements so your business can be the best it can be.
1. Create a Mission Statement
Your mission statement is what your company is there to do: if it didn’t exist, what hole would it leave in people’s lives? A clear mission statement shared with your employees not only helps keep you on track and remind you of your ultimate goal, but it allows everyone to know what they’re working toward. Those employees have read various articles advising them to be aware of the bigger picture; this is how you help them with that.
If everyone knows the mission, then everyone can contribute to figuring out how to get there; you’ve hired these employees because you trust them to do a good job, so trust them to have good ideas on how things might be done in new ways to better achieve your goals. Having a shared goal creates a sense of unity that can inspire people to work harder, and if they know the criteria for new ideas to match, then they may feel more confident in sharing their thoughts.
2. Share Your Vision
If you know what your vision is for the company’s future, then that’s a great first step. But if your employees don’t know it, then they can’t share in it and you can’t be surprised if you find that they lack the same passion you feel. Make sure your share you vision widely and often so everyone is focused on the same goal and everyone can recognize and celebrate the company’s wins along the way. In moments of crisis, a shared vision can provide the clarity needed to see opportunity in difficult times.
Ensuring that everyone is on the same page will also help you to that everyone is happy to be working on their goal. When it comes to hiring someone new, they will be able to be tested against the company vision and you or the interviewer, will be easily able to see whether they are someone who can share your vision. They say "a problem shared is a problem halved", and a vision shared is a vision more likely to happen.
Additionally, sharing your vision is a way of showing that you’re not afraid of being wrong: you’re discussing it with your employees so they can help you shape it and make it better. As a good leader, you shouldn’t feel a need to constantly be seen as perfect and should be prepared to listen to your employees so they can feel heard and can suggest things you might not have thought of. One of the benefits of diverse workplaces is that everyone thinks differently, and if you can learn to embrace that then you will be the forward-thinking company you want to be.
Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. You have employees for a reason: show them you trust them and keep them engaged by sharing your vision (rather than just telling them your vision) and helping them see, how they can contribute to the company’s core values. And don’t just expect them to rise to the occasion by themselves, either. Offer incentives, or give them ideas on what extra responsibilities or projects they could take on to avoid anyone feeling that they want to contribute but they’re not confident enough to share their idea, or anyone who isn’t sure they have the time to do anything extra but are reassured by you setting out the project’s goals.
A good leader leads but also knows when to share some of the responsibilities in ways that make the most of their employees’ abilities. Take another look at your employees’ resumes and see what special skills aren’t being taken advantage of; you might just have a budding photographer who would love to be in charge of your new Instagram account, or a witty writer who could draw people in on Twitter.
4. Have a Story
A mission statement might be enough for your employees, but it’s a little dry for customers and outsiders. Consider turning it into a narrative of your idea, your company, your hardships, sacrifices and victories in a way that makes you come across as someone who can be identified with and can more easily attract the jobseeker looking for a a real story, instead of a cold list of goals.
This story will be much easier to share in the future, and will become the legacy that explains the meaning behind your product or service. With the right vision, shared with the rest of your team in the right way, everyone will be able to agree that your company is a whole entity to be admired and preserved.
When trying to decide your purpose, there are three questions you should be asking yourself: what is your vision, what is your mission and what are your values? Once you have concrete answers to those questions, you can take it to your employees and turn those "my"s into "our"s so that they feel a part of the overall mission of the company. A leader is someone who knows what they want and how they’re going to get there, and it’s that belief that what they are doing matters that attracts people to them, whether it’s workers, customers or vendors.
What is your purpose? Do you share your boss’s purpose? Do you think it’s possible to lead without purpose? Let us know in the comments section below.