What do you do?
More often than not, after being introduced to someone and learning their name, the first question you ask (or are asked) is: “What do you do?”
Conclusive proof, as if this is necessary, that to a great extent our work defines us – or at least many of us allow it to.
On that basis then, what we do is important – not only for others to categorise and segment – but for our own self esteem.
Recent research published by McKinsey highlights yet another gap in our society – this time, one between those in senior, executive roles and the rest of the workforce. With a predicted shortage of talent across many industries being the most significant limiter on growth, many companies have a serious issue to address and one that needs sorting now or you run the risk of losing many of your best people. The bad news is this situation is about to be amplified as we open up into the “Covid-Managed-Period” – the good news is that you can do something about it.
Some years ago, frustrated by the lip service many business owners and CEOs paid to defining a clear and compelling purpose for their organisation, we developed our POST model, (Purpose, Objective, Strategy, Tactics). This was inspired by several people, in particular Stephen Covey and Alastair Campbell.
I’ve previously stated that having a defined Purpose isn’t vital for an organisation to succeed so long as it has a clear, singular Objective and a clear, singular Strategy, backed up by as many Tactics as necessary. I’m now not so sure.
A Purpose is the Why, the Reason – and that’s not profit or company value, (these are byproducts, consequences, albeit very significant ones for some people).
Thousands of organisations have spent millions trying to define their Purpose and ended up with a meaningless mission statement on the reception wall that few can recall and that serves no purpose other than to tick a box. By contrast, the companies that many people quote as exemplars, who people look up to and admire, nearly always have a Purpose that defines and guides them. This isn’t only true for big businesses such as Amazon, Apple or Google but for much smaller ones and startups too.
When we work with our members to help them identify their Purpose we ask a series of questions, including these three, to get them started.
- Who would miss you if you disappeared?
- Why, what would they miss?
- Who would they turn to instead and how easy would that be?
We discuss the answers and then, to get to the core of the issue, ask this key question:
- What do you believe in?
Not always, but more often than not, anyone who is sincere in their pursuit of doing meaningful work, of making a valuable contribution, perhaps even leaving a legacy, will find the answer to this question a great help in defining their true Purpose.
Right now, according to McKinsey’s research, two-thirds of employees surveyed said that Covid-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And nearly half said they are reconsidering the kind of work they do – Millennials were three times more likely than the others to say that they were reevaluating work.
On this basis, if your Purpose isn’t clearly communicated and if it isn’t compelling not only will you struggle to attract the best talent but you’ll also find it increasingly hard to retain those you have.
You know what to do.
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