Creating A Sticky Purpose

How do you discover your raison d’etre - your reason for being?

And, even if you manage, what does it mean for your work?

We are living in a world where understanding and expressing your purpose is a critical part of personal branding, employer branding, culture and strategy.

I call it systemic storytelling, telling the story of the whole system. Not just the story of one man, but the story of the wider system they are a part of.

I recently worked with a new CEO to see if we could discover his Purpose and translate that to the business. For the sake of convenience, I’ve broken the process down to three stages.

  1. Listen

  2. Create

  3. Connect

LISTEN - What is the system saying?

This is all about listening to the system and the individual voices. I use three approaches.

  1. Interview. I sit with key people from the CEO to business managers and other C-Levels. What is said? What is not said? There are three questions I always ask: What do you want to suffer for What are you uniquely positioned to do? What get you really excited at work? This is part of the process includes desk-top research

  2. Lego Serious Play. This allows the voice of the system to expressed through physical objects (Lego). It allows for some of the deeper passions and truth to be expressed. It also enables me to see how different means, view and passions relate within the three-dimensional space.

  3. Deep Democracy. This is a form of constellation that also ensure every voice in the system is heard. Different people take on and express different voices or characters in the system.

CREATE - Connecting all the dots

Like film making, you connect your material then start to build it together in a way that resonates with the audience. I write a story - four or five pages that is unique to the system and unique to the CEO. A collage of ambition, heritage, personal passion, corporate responsibility and market positioning.

The long-form narrative is then condensed in to a 3 second positioning and a 30 second short form version.

It’s an artistic sketch - an interpretation of everything that has been seen, heard and experienced. Like presenting a portrait to the sitter for the first time, it reflects something of their personality. Another artist might take the same base and produce something very different.

CONNECT - Bringing it to life

The final narrative has to be brought to life across the organisation. I like to run short, low-key workshops where individuals and teams have a chance to explore their own purpose - effectively going through a lite version of what was done with the CEO.

Why bother? Why not just hand over to comms and role out the cascade? Well, thats important but the magic happens when I can connect My Purpose with Your Purpose. I can carry on being an employee or I can be part of the new purpose. The two are very different: the latter being far more productive, happier and profitable.

The mistake many organisations make is to create a Purpose and then hand it to the, albeit, brilliant Comms team. We expect people to care when they don’t even know what their purpose is or what their teams purpose is. But once you start connecting individual purpose, to a shared purpose to a greater purpose, then a genuine movement begins. People form tribes, tribes form communities, communities from cities and cities form whole countries.