Purpose is Everything
I think one of the most important things leaders can do is remind their team about their purpose. Where does purpose come from? Practically speaking, usually, the top leaders of an organization put their heads together and come up with a powerful statement. Then, they put some effort into communicating that purpose to their teams in a campaign.
I’ve personally experienced and participated in many iterations of these in several organizations.
The purpose of purpose
Why do leaders put so much emphasis on purpose? Purpose answers the question, “Why?” People need to know why they are doing what they are doing. There are two other requirements: First, people need to see how their work helps accomplish that purpose. Second, people need to be compelled by the inherent value or worthiness of accomplishing that purpose.
In short, this is the work, and it is work worth doing.
An example from church
I serve on the elder board of my local church, Grace Fellowship. Modern times are tough for churches. Thousands of churches close their doors every year and that rate is only increasing. While there are many factors contributing to that trend, one clear antidote is purpose.
Our church has a stated purpose: “We help people experience grace by loving and leading our cities.” Each week, our lead pastor opens his message by restating this purpose. He does this as a call and response, giving the congregation the chance to complete the sentence from memory and repetition. This puts the purpose front and center, and in the vocabulary of every congregant.
Not only has the focus on purpose helped us beat the odds of closing, but we’re actually #23 on the list of 100 fastest growing churches in America.
An example from work
A few years ago, CHS launched a campaign, announcing our purpose: “Creating connections to empower agriculture.” Senior leadership and marketing did the right things to establish this purpose in the minds of our employees and owners.
However, time has passed and people forget. They don’t mean to forget, they just do.
Last week, we got a tremendous reminder. Our marketing team produced a fantastic short video that is anchored to our purpose but also addresses new challenges of change, adaptation, and technology in our industry. If you missed it, check it out here.
It got me thinking about my role as a leader. How often do I talk about our purpose with my team? Not often enough. This isn’t just the job of the senior leaders and the marketing department. Each leader in the organization carries this duty.
Make the connection
My role as a leader is to create a direct connection between work and purpose. I thought of a few examples from my world to demonstrate how this works.
As you read these, think “creating connections to empower agriculture”
- Our infrastructure teams create network connections to assets across rural America and our vast global agriculture trading footprint.
- Our digital product teams create digital experiences that empower our customers, connecting them to our global supply chain capabilities.
- Our technology operations teams support, protect, and ensure these connections are as robust as they can be. Rather than reacting to a discrete piece of technology that is failing, we should think about the connection that we need to restore, so we can keep empowering agriculture.
- Our digital agriculture teams connect data generated from equipment in the field to specialists that turn that data into insight, which empowers agriculture.
Those four examples aren’t meant to be mini purpose statements for teams. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think the purpose stands alone and doesn’t need to be improved upon to bring it closer to home.
However, it’s important to talk about every project, product, and strategic initiative in the context of how it relates to our shared purpose. These examples show how that can work.
I’m proud to work at CHS. I’m glad we have a worthy purpose and can all contribute to achieving it. As leaders at every level, we share the burden of constantly reminding and encouraging the team.
Just like a good cup of coffee, our reminders don’t last very long. We need to keep it up. I was reminded this week, and I wanted to pass on that reminder to all of you.