Nine Tricky Questions And Nine Honest Answers Regarding Purpose
A reader took the time to read “The Purpose Effect” and then asked me a few questions. I answered those questions, and have decided to post the responses in this space.
Q: Do you think “any” individual is capable of reaching the sweet spot – or is it only for the courageous, determined, hard-working and persistent of us?
Dan: I remain an optimist, so yes, the ‘sweet spot’ is open to all, and a viable option to anyone who wants it. But that’s the key. I believe there are some uninterested in the sweet spot. They are perfectly content to ‘mail it in’ or treat the role as a ‘remuneration transaction.’ Perhaps it’s a different definition of the ‘sweet spot.’ Perhaps it’s the ‘ambivalent spot.’
Q: What role does “character” and “personal circumstance” play in shaping that ability to find your personal purpose and meet with role and organisational purpose?
Dan: Each of us possesses ‘character’ and ‘personal circumstance.’ Each of us has the ability to develop what we like/dislike, who we want to be (now and in the future) and how we are going to show up each and every day, regardless of where we do it. Purpose is not cordoned off to those with more money, assets, networks, lineage or perceived positivity in life. If people self-assess to a false conclusion that their situation or character is undeserved of purpose in life (or work) they are as naïve as Gimpel the Fool.
Q: Does serendipity ever play a part in defining your personal purpose or role purpose?
Dan: I’m not sure serendipity plays a big part in defining your personal purpose (that actually takes some effort) but it sure can come into play with the overall ‘sweet spot’ equation. There are many people who have the good fortune (perhaps, we can call it happenstance) of entering into a profession, or a role or an organization where everything just seems to click. For example, there are very few realtors who set out to become realtors in their teens. Somehow, they are introduced to the profession—often by a friend or the experience of real estate itself—and it dons on them that this might make a great career. A friend of mine was an account executive in high-tech for about six years. She was miserable. Only until she went to sell her own home, did she realize how much she loved prepping the home, learning about the local real estate industry, and finding a new home. She took a realtor course, and has been loving her role, self and organization for the past eight years.
Q: How “effective” is it for an individual to achieve the “sweet spot” between organisational, role and personal purpose – if the colleagues around them have not? Could it then become an existence in a sweet spot “island”?
Dan: I have found that the ‘sweet spot’ (at least in terms of one’s role and the organization) is at times tied to employee engagement. If a team is engaged, there is a higher likelihood for the sweet spot to materialize. If the team is miserable—thus team members are disengaged or disenfranchised—due to inane leadership, absurd organizational practices/policies or poor business processes, the chance for the sweet spot rapidly diminishes. But there are anomalies of course. Many airlines, for example, have low engagement scores particularly of flight attendants. But everyone can recall that flight attendant who goes the extra mile (no pun intended), serving up smiles and cheer alongside the tea and biscuits. They clearly love what they’re doing, in spite of difficulties within the organization and team members.
Q: You connect the dots between personal, organisational and role purpose – but does it then connect the dots between the “large swathes of team members” that you speak about? Are you assuming that organisational purpose will drive those connections?
Dan: If an individual aligns their personal purpose with the organization’s defined purpose, there is indeed a greater likelihood that organizational purpose will help others drive those connections. Take for instance NASA. It has one of the highest engagement scores across any public sector organization in America. Its organizational purpose is crystal clear, and it is ultimately helping to attract, retain and develop employees with a purpose mindset in their roles while at work. Its purpose is to “reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.” If an organization is confused with its purpose (whether fixated on profit, power, etc.) employees misaligned will find it hard to connect, both to the purpose of the organization and each other.
Q: Would you not say that the ultimate beneficiary for a for-profit organisation of their employees finding the sweet spot – is the organisation itself, irrespective of the benefits the employee may feel personally or in their roles?
Dan: If an organization were myopic enough to think that they are the ultimate recipient and beneficiary of an organization replete with purpose mindset employees, I would have to say that organization has missed the plot entirely of “The Purpose Effect.”
Q: An organisation may not be able to “pay its way to the purpose effect” but do you not think that being remunerated appropriately can enhance an individual’s feeling of self-worth and so help develop that role and personal purpose?
Dan: I completely agree. Appropriate remuneration is a problem in many of today’s organizations. As Jon Husband has taught me over the years, there is an element of professional collusion that has been going on for years between organizations with respect to determining compensation bands. To pour salt on the wound, executive pay has been intricately tied to increases in shareholder return, a theory put forward by Milton Friedman in the early 1970’s. Not surprisingly, since 1974, C-Suite executive pay has risen over 300 percent whereas the average worker has only witnessed a 10 percent increase. (In today’s dollars) Case in point, proxy filings have proven that between 2007 and 2015, pharmaceutical company Mylan saw its CEO Heather Bresch’s compensation increase from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068, a 671 percent increase. How do the workers of Mylan feel about their CEO and her stratospheric pay raise?
Q: You say “Every one of us should be constantly viewing and reviewing both work and life through acts of inspection and introspection” Do you not think this inward way of looking prevents you, rather than helps you, from viewing and reviewing the needs of others around you and from truly understanding the wider picture in which you fit and which you hope to benefit?
Dan: I suppose I don’t take the words ‘inspection’ or ‘introspection’ to connote as inward only thinking. Inspection and introspection—at least to me—is both internal and external, inward and outward facing.
Q: Can your personal and role purpose combine in a place that brings meaning to you and others but does not necessarily align with the purpose of the organisation? Can you “make meaning” whilst the organisation “makes money”?
Dan: Every for-profit organization needs to “make money” in order to grow, survive or to serve the rest of its stakeholders. If someone has an issue with this side of an organization’s mission—the need to make money—they would be wise to consider working for an NGO, public sector or not-for-profit organization. And yes, TOMS shoes, for example, is a perfect example of a company that has to make money, while it continues to make meaning. LSTN and gDiapers are two others examples that I highlight in The Purpose Effect.