Building A Purpose-Driven Culture
3 Must-Have’s to make Your Purpose-Culture work
When we work with executives, we do like to speak about the Big Pink Elephant in the room. For many, it is not comfortable. But then — after things are finally out in the open — people say: “We run around all day long. Speaking about this is like an oasis where all the BS stops.”
So many of our clients are yearning for a better — a more purpose-driven and fulfilling way to do business. And for their organizations, they are searching for ways to change their corporate culture.
Problem is that, despite the best efforts, most culture-change efforts don’t work. Why? Because changing a culture means to change people’s mindsets. And that’s not easy to accomplish.
Here are 3 things that we have found essential when creating a purpose-driven culture with our clients:
- A Purpose-Culture consists of 2 components: a purpose and a culture (I know that was a stretch, wasn’t it?). Simple as it sounds, many execs don’t seem to understand that both are necessary components. To make the purpose-culture juicy, the purpose must go beyond the goals of the self or the organization.
The purpose must be about something higher than ourselves: to serve humanity, the environment, or the community.
The culture, on the other hand, describes a) the game a team decides to play, and b) the “Rules of the Game”. So often we see teams starting to work together without being clear whether they play soccer or basketball together. Some people just want to get rich, others want to make a difference. Those are fundamentally different games. And the Rules of the Game: many organizations define those in their values, but then do not play by them. “We communicate with openness and transparency”, the plaque in the lobby spells, and when you take the elevator to the top, you feel the senior leaders withholding information, politicizing, or even backstabbing each other.
It’s like a soccer game: you just can’t take the ball into your hands and run for the goal. But in organizations, many top leaders get away with doing exactly that. How credible is the culture for employees if the boss gets away with breaking the rules?
- A Purpose-Culture starts with yourself. We recently spoke to a global corporation that initiated a culture change project across the entire organization. Did it work: nope. Why? Because the top leaders didn’t change. Before you spend much time on developing a culture (and you will need to spend MUCH time until it’s done), think about whether you are actually ready for it. Can you actually “live and breathe” the culture and the purpose you want to integrate into the organization? What happens when stuff hits the fan? Are you still able to stick to the defined “Rules of the Game” and the “Higher Purpose”, or do you fall back into pushing people to deliver results?
If you are not ready, please don’t expect your people to do it for you. The buck stops with you. That’s why building a culture requires “leadership”, not “management”.
- Let your people define your Purpose-Culture. A VP at a global organization didn’t pay attention to this one. He was so gung-ho building a culture that he proclaimed the new purpose, the values, and how the new culture will look like. I have to admit, it was a truly inspiring presentation. However, after the presentation, people crossed their arms, sat back, and said: “Let’s see what he’ll do. Let’s wait a bit to see whether we can believe him.”
He established his culture, not their culture. If you want your people to take ownership, they need to create the culture. As a leader, you become a servant for your people and the culture of your team: you become a Servant Leader.
Maybe this makes it a little more transparent why so many culture change projects fail. Check in with yourself: would you be willing to become a servant leader? Would you let your people define the culture? Would you abandon much of the goal setting as the primary incentive and subordinate your work to a higher purpose?
If you aren’t ready to do so, my recommendation is this: don’t waste your time trying to build a Purpose-Culture.
However, if you are ready, you will find that you can create a work environment that’s unlike anything else. Where not only your people flourish, but you yourself will access a completely different level of fulfillment and satisfaction. And you will find that — as a result — your organization will start to thrive and expand beyond what was possible, before.