When I misbehaved as a young lad, my mother was the one who almost always reprimanded me. After lecturing me on the rights and wrongs, she’d ask, “Did you do that on purpose, son?” and then hand out the punishment. My actions were almost always spontaneous episodes of teenage stupidity—not premeditated acts of dissent. While I was definitely a rebellious teenager, my mother’s inquisition always made me think about my actions, and to this day, “Are you doing that on purpose?” is a question I ask myself regularly about my impact on others.
Purpose and people are the new frontier.
For most businesses today, the most valuable asset they manage is their people—and employee engagement and satisfaction are strategic imperatives that every leadership team should understand. People who turn up to work each day and aren’t actively using their talents to pursue or connect to their purpose don’t operate at their full potential. People who find their reason for being, who uncover their purpose and connect with it passionately, become more engaged and significantly more effective at work and in life because of a clear sense of fulfillment. Helping your employees discover and define their purpose represents a significant opportunity to improve “people” engagement and, therefore, overall business performance.
Companies that find their purpose are no different when they define or rediscover their reason for being. Working closely with executive teams at large corporations to reposition and refresh their brands, we encounter many who ask for our guidance to explore and define their purpose. This is not just vision and mission work, it is deep strategic work that can impact every facet of a business, both inside and outside of a company.
How is purpose different from vision?
There has been a lot written around purpose, the role we play in the world, the reason we exist and the need for our lives to have meaning. Finding purpose is the central question we all seek to answer at a key point in our lives. Like people trying to find their way, companies seeking to reinvigorate their business and find a relevant and compelling position must step back and answer the central question of why they exist in the world. Oftentimes executive teams try to answer this question by laying out a vision statement around how they see the future.
A vision statement for many is aspirational; it’s a description of what the company wants to achieve and is not intended to be literal. Whereas, a purpose statement clearly articulates the reason a company exists in the world, the role it plays, offering a clear and accurate description of the core business.
Companies with a greater purpose.
It feels like just yesterday when purpose-driven companies like Newman’s Own and Patagonia were few and far between. Today, they are sprouting up in almost every business category, and challenging the current ways of doing business.
Chobani’s purpose is to “make universal wellness happen sooner… totally and deeply committed to playing an active role in transforming our food system for the betterment of our planet, our people and our communities”. And for twelve years this purpose has been expressed and executed strategically across every facet of their business.
“The Chobani Way” is the brand’s commitment to the highest standards for lawful, honest, and ethical conduct in all business dealings. This commitment is reflected in everything that it does—from its purpose-driven business decisions, to philanthropic efforts and the way that employees and partners are treated. Consistent with Chobani’s commitment to provide Better food for more people; the brand follows the highest standards for lawful, honest, and ethical conduct in all business dealings ensuring its products are produced and manufactured with ingredients and materials sourced from suppliers that are socially and ethically responsible.
Paving a path on purpose.
The Chobani brand is also helping small companies challenge the food industry, improve broken systems, and make an impact through their Chobani Food Incubator. Hamdi Ulukaya launched the Incubator in 2016 with the intention of helping companies take on broken food systems to carry out their goal of bringing better food to more people. In addition to investment, the Incubator gives startups access to a network of experts to scale up operations and achieve significant growth.
Chobani’s reason for being (their purpose) is expressed in every functional area of their business, and the difference shows in every metric of business performance.
The benefits and effects of leading on purpose.
Leaders we work with are seeking to understand how their brands play a more meaningful role in the world and how to improve their overall business performance. If you sit on the C-Suite of any major corporation today, don’t run past the question of purpose as a serious opportunity to impact your business and the people you serve.
When your company has a clear purpose, you plan with that connected purpose, mapping your strategy clearly to your reason for being as a business and the role you play in the world. When objectives have a purpose, and are clearly communicated, everyone on the team is on the same page and understands what to do and why they are doing it. If you define your purpose, plan with it in mind, and measure your actions and performance against it, you increase engagement, inspire and fuel performance and do your most rewarding and satisfying work. And, if in doubt, always remember what my mum said, “Are you doing that on purpose?”.