The world has lost a great leader and innovator in Steve Jobs but I am not going to add more reams of web words on the man except to say that all the quotes being published about how dropping out of college was the best thing he ever did are personally causing a great deal of trouble. You see I keep getting them thrown back to me in my campaign to influence my son to work that bit harder and stand the chance of getting into college. There is however one small but significant difference between Steve Jobs dropping out and my son doing the same. Jobs had a purpose. He knew what he wanted to do and had the skills, passion and determination to make it happen. Oh, I know he probably didn’t have it all sussed at the time and I am sure his mum was waging a similar campaign to me. But alas the vital ingredient missing in my beloved son is a purpose. Something he wants to achieve in his life that will create the motivation, determination and energy to get the skills and make a difference.
By now you are probably wondering what this has to do with business and why you are reading this blog of a meddling mother. Well it has everything to do with leadership. Most of you will know we carry out a significant amount of research into what makes the difference between the best leadership and business processes. We have done this for HR and for leaders in many organisation from retail to manufacturing, to lawyers. We have also carried out this process, we call it creating a Success Profile, in numerous companies. These Success Profiles have this one thing in common; the exceptional people or functions have a clear purpose. They know what they are there to achieve and how they can go about it. Like Steve Jobs when he dropped out of college they may not have every step mapped out but they have the outcome clear in their mind and they know they can find a way of getting there.
We find that having a purpose creates engagement, motivation and maybe most importantly improves performance by helping people prioritise what they do, guide how they do it and what to say no too. Business partners know when to say no to crazy requests from the leadership team, Leaders know when to push an initiative and when not to and sales functions know where to place their energy and which customers are going to respond to their offer. A clear purpose is a major component of exceptional performance and success.
What is also interesting is that when we are working with ‘normal’ people and functions one element we often find is missing is a clear purpose. In our Leadership workshops people really enjoy the exercises that help them begin to create their purpose but say they have never taken the time to do it before. I know we are all crazy busy but how much less effective are we without a clear direction as to what to be busy on. Without a purpose, we are just randomly doing or reacting to the whims of others. We don’t have to have such a lofty purpose as Steve Jobs; creating a learning organisation that delivers the skills needed to execute the strategy, executing payroll with 100% accuracy, creating an customer service organisation that delivers for the customer or a marketing organisation that deeply understands the customer may not change the world but they will change the experience of the people who work there and how it feels to go to work every day.
If you are a leader take some time out with the team and work out the purpose together and then notice performance improve. As an individual if you want to feel more engaged, motivated and energised spend some time getting clear about your purpose and practice saying it out loud, let it guide you in your decisions and what you do and do not work on.
Writing this has inspired me to stop nagging my son and to start asking him about what is really important to him; what energises him and when does he feel most motivated and alive? All signals that will also suggest you are living your work purpose. And if you really can’t come up with one for your current role maybe it’s time to drop out!