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The Stay on Course Playbook, Accelerating the Future of Leadership Series (Part 1): Charting Purposeful Direction

Part 1: Charting Purposeful Direction – Why personal purpose and company purpose matters!

“People are motivated when they care about what they are working on and why.” 

Ken Chenault, Former CEO of American Express

In 1987, I received one of the best Christmas gifts I could ever get. My parents bought me my first real CD player along with my first CD, Michael Jackson’s Bad album. I was so obsessed with this gift that it trumped every other gift I could have possibly received as a child. It brought me so much joy to use new technology and even more excitement to listen to music in an entirely new way. 

Music brought out the best in me, and I became interested in learning everything I could. Back then, music was my passion and even my purpose. It came easily to me, and I would pursue more and more of it over the next ten years as a singer songwriter. As I grew older, life took me away from this passion, but it has never left me. I often get frustrated that my parents and community never supported me in realizing my musical goals, but that is a story for another day. 

I tell you this story because there may be clues in your childhood memories that may lead you to better understand where your purpose and passion lie. 

Purpose and passion are personal. It goes down to the depths of who we are and where we started. What brings me purpose and passion now is helping others discover their purpose so they can have purpose-led careers that inspire others and stay on course. 

Purpose is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement either for something or about doing something.

We have changed as a society, and Covid catalyzed that change. As we shifted into crisis mode through the pandemic, we also shifted into reflection mode. We had time to think and reflect on our lives, and many of us were able to get clarity on what we like about our lives, and we also were able to get clear on what we do not like about our lives. A McKinsey study revealed that 2/3 of the people surveyed were reflecting on their purpose and reconsidering their work due to the pandemic. People realized they were unhappy and unfulfilled with work. As a result, we experienced great resignation, quiet quitting, and burnout. (McKinsey) 

According to this study, employees that get more purpose from their work provide better outcomes, making the company more profitable. 

When we work from a state of purpose, our days become fun, and our work becomes meaningful. It is why we always say that you will never work a day if you love what you do. We must reflect deeply on how we empower our leaders to operate from a place of purpose so that the people they lead can work from a place of passion and purpose. 

What can you do to further your company’s culture around purpose?

“The world of branding needs to evolve…From one that promotes soulless organizations who are the heroes of their own story — to one that champions conscious brands who cherish people, planet, and prosperity — and make their customers the hero of their story.” Rachel Savage, CEO of Brand New Story (https://brandnewstoryhq.com/)

For years I worked in Big Pharma, supporting our internal audiences and being extremely disconnected from the customers (patients) my company served. On occasion, we would hear about a patient’s journey and their success with a drug at a big town hall; we were briefly motivated and celebrated for our work. This momentary motivation was not enough to fuel me for the year. I looked for ways to motivate myself to be inspired to innovate and put myself out there to make a change.

My connection to the work we were doing on a large scale mattered. I needed to understand why we were doing what we did. I wanted more inspiration and more connection to the difference I was making. I was so far removed from the customer that I could not see how what I was producing mattered. It left me unfulfilled and I was consistently looking for work that brought more meaning to my life. 

Why Does Company Purpose Matter?

Companies should set actionable goals around creating a compelling story that reaches the customer and the employee. If ignored, companies risk employee detachment or quiet quitting leading to a decline in teamwork and productivity.

A company’s purpose can serve as the thread that intertwines the hearts of its staff to ignite accountability, fueling a passion for everyday work. Here are some ingredients to include as you think about bringing more purpose and passion into your organization.

  • Have a clear vision and mission for your organization and create programs around that vision and mission to focus on creating shared meaning with employees. 
  • Encourage people to get clear on what their personal passion and purpose are and help them connect that to the work that they do. 
  • Give employees opportunities to do more of what brings them joy at work by implementing some: project gigs, innovation incubators, job rotations, shadowing programs, Reverse Mentoring, Secondments, Passion Project Allowances, Internal Hackathons and ensure each person has a Personal Development plan that allows them to focus on what aligns to your company and their goals.  
  • Acknowledge and celebrate employees who demonstrate purpose-driven behavior and contributions to the organization. This recognition reinforces the importance of personal purpose in the workplace.

What can you do to help in your role? What can you do to help in your role?

In our organizations each of us play a role at all levels to enhance the culture around purpose:

  • Individuals Contributor: Take responsibility for understanding what brings purpose and passion to your work and reflect on how that connects to the company’s goal. 
  • Managers who Lead People: Take responsibility to live into your why and be the best version of yourself, be the example for the people you lead. Facilitate discussions with your direct reports to understand what brings them joy and purpose at work and look for ways to incorporate more of what they love to do daily. Work hard to look for opportunities to grow and develop your direct reports so they can pursue more and more of their purpose at work. 
  • Senior Leaders: Live your purpose at work and be curious about everyone that reports to you. If you have time, meet with people individually to learn about their skills. As you meet with stakeholders across the organization, advocate for your people so they can take part in project gigs (short job exchanges inside or outside of the department) outside their immediate role. 
  • Executive Teams: Articulate the company’s purpose in such a compelling way that it touches the hearts and minds of your staff. Create company-wide programs to inspire and encourage purpose and passion. 

Inspiring teams through purpose-driven leadership

In one of my corporate roles, I had the opportunity to engage regularly with the team’s Senior Leader. This Senior Leader had a different perspective than the rest of the team managing the day-to-day operations. I was miserable in my role, and she picked up on that. One day during our meeting, she told me, “Julie, what would make your heart sing in your career.” This was a fascinating idea that I could be moved in such a way by work that my heart would sing! I thought wow, this is it. I need to figure this thing out. 

At our next meeting, I came back with some ideas on how I may be happier in my role by doing some other activities. She helped me make a space to do some of those things, and I became much more optimistic and even excited about my job. This slight shift in how I worked made me exponentially more productive. Although I still had many responsibilities, I became more enthusiastic because this new work task tapped into my purpose and passion. This experience helped me understand what gives my life meaning and what energizes me at work. So much so that I took this to the next level and pursued more of the work I loved to do, training and coaching. The perspective of this Senior Leader was so different from my manager’s perspective, and this leader’s perspective changed everything for me. 

The McKinsey study on purpose stated that 85 percent of execs and upper management said they are living their purpose at work. Still, only 15 percent of frontline managers and frontline employees agreed. It is fascinating that higher-level leader is more confident in what brings them purpose at work. 

Aligning personal and organizational purpose

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek

If we believe in what we are doing and selling, others will also believe it, and our businesses will grow. Understanding your own personal why and being able to connect that with the work you do every day affects the bottom line of your company. Imagine what our organizations could accomplish if our employees had a sense of their personal purpose and could connect that purpose to their work. Imagine the engagement they would bring into each moment of their day. Imagine the innovation that might happen and imagine the possibilities of fun and enjoyment people would have. We would operate from a place of flow, and work would not feel like work anymore. 

If our organizations were filled with employees spending their days in flow, we could eliminate many of the wellness initiatives because our people would be on their way to healing. Now I know that is a perfect world I am describing, but the more and more we bring this sense of purpose into our everyday work, the more people will catch on and become even more inspired, which will continue to trickle down and rub off on others. We will realize inspirational leadership on a new level. 

What should we take away from this?

  • Every employee has a role to play in helping further the culture of a purpose-driven organization.
  • Knowing your purpose and passion and connecting it to your daily work will help you have more job satisfaction. 
  • Having a sense of personal purpose is good for your health and energy levels, making companies more successful. 
  • Take time during your week to share your personal purpose story. Share how you discovered your purpose and how you translated your role.
  • Bring purpose programs into your organization to help in self-discovery. We all need time and space within our organization to reflect and get clear on doing more of our purpose, passion, and work. 

I encourage you to be the author of your day and career and do it with purpose and passion. 

The “Stay on Course Playbook” series comprises six engaging articles that delve into critical aspects of leadership excellence as we embrace the Future of Leadership, AI, and new ways of working. Through practical tips, real-life examples, and actionable insights, this series provides a roadmap for leaders to strike the right balance between managing and leading, enabling them to navigate challenges, foster resilience, leverage strengths, communicate effectively, and drive high performance through collaboration. 

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Leadership Coach and Trainer at 

Julie Riga is a certified ICF coach, trainer, speaker, and author with over 20 years of experience in the Pharma Industry. With a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master's Degree in Business, Julie's expertise lies in leadership, team dynamics, and organizational development. She excels in working with matrix organizations in highly regulated industries, forging authentic connections and orchestrating diverse resources into high-functioning teams that consistently deliver breakthrough results on time and under budget.

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