7 Story Types that Make Purpose Inspiring & Real For Your People

An executive of a large company recently confided to me that they were having trouble making their purpose ‘real’ for their people. In other words, the return on their comprehensive purpose transformation process is nowhere near its potential. This is a common problem, so how do companies gain greater traction with their purpose?

Apart from crafting a great purpose statement, the implementation plan needs a well rounded internal communications strategy, and drawing on these 7 story types will help:

1. THE ORIGIN STORY

This is the story that people need to hear over and over again so they know it off by heart. It’s the simple explanation of why your organisation has the purpose that it has.

If you drew heavily upon the founder’s journey then so be it – that’s a key part of the story; but if you didn’t, explain why your purpose statement is what it is. It could be, for example, related to your alignment with the sustainable development goals, key attributes of your company, a project that gave you unexpected insights, a rapid shift in customer needs or a moment of truth in adversity.

2. THE EXPERIENTIAL STORY

Imagine if every employee could relate a personal and positive story that came from living your corporate purpose? These stories have currency because they come from the heart. Don’t be shy in tracking them down and encouraging everyone to find and tell their own. The caveat here is that they must be genuine!

3. THE INTEGRATION STORY

People aren’t inspired by a purpose statement on its own – just ask some of Facebook’s current and former employees. Stories of how purpose is integrated into everyday policies, processes and practices reinforces a purpose-driven culture. For example, I know of a property company CEO who had certain social outcomes hard-coded into his KPIs by the board.

4. THE HUMILITY STORY

The social, economic and environmental factors you deal with in delivering your purpose can be very complex or messy, and implementation may not always run as smoothly as you would like. Communicating what happened, the learning from it and how it informed your response going forward demonstrates humility, and conditions your people for the realities of purpose-driven change.

5. THE INNOVATION STORY

Purpose is a goldmine for innovation and competitive advantage. Reframing its purpose as “a better world for pets” saw Mars Petcare innovate and expand beyond products into service offerings.

Medical products company, Becton Dickinson, observed needle stick injuries for health workers rising and invested billions in developing, scaling up and distributing needle-less injection systems. Today, this line of business accounts for about a quarter of its revenues. These types of innovation stories bring profit, performance and purpose together in an inspiring way!

6. THE STRATEGY STORY

Purpose can prevent you from making poor investment decisions too. The CEO of Grosvenor Estate noted that clarity of purpose led them to some specific investments they may not otherwise have made and, more importantly, played a role in wisely avoiding others.

Unpacking strategic decisions that have been guided by your purpose are informative, especially for your leadership group.

7. THE COLLABORATION STORY

The collaboration story details how your people and teams came together internally or with external partners to help deliver an aspect of your corporate purpose. It’s likely that you’ll need to work with new types of partners in new ways – which isn’t easy – and requires a deft hand.

Again, your people need to know these things.

MAKING IT REAL

Implementing corporate purpose has many dimensions and a range of story types help to educate, inform and role model the behaviours you seek. Purpose is an ongoing journey rather than a one or three year project, so it’s worth getting into the rhythm of these more nuanced forms of communication and storytelling. Inspiring and empowering people with your purpose is one of the greatest opportunities you’ll ever have and making it real with the right types of stories will bring it to life.

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Phil Preston is a purpose speaker, strategist and founder of The Business Purpose Project. He is also the author of Connecting Profit with Purpose and co-host of Corporate Conversations on Purpose.

Email: ceo@businesspurposeproject.com

Banner image courtesy of unsplash.com

Do Companies Know How Gen Z Thinks About Purpose?

Gen Zs and Millennials are similar in terms of their entrepreneurial spirit, however they approach purpose differently, which has flow on effects for companies seeking to attract and retain the best young talent. And their approach is very different again to the Gen Xs and Baby Boomers that have gone before them.

This is the key insight Lynne Filderman and I gained from interviewing Ben Smithee in our upcoming episode of Corporate Conversations on Purpose. Ben’s company, The Smithee Group, is all about generational success and integrity, and helping businesses create something bigger than themselves. It’s what Ben and his team live by too.

We are seeing a big shift in mindset with respect to purpose. Older generations tend to have a mindset of making money and then giving some back compared to Gen Zs who want purpose to be central to their being – core to their job roles, their career and their lives.

Ben believes in and is committed to generational success, and his firm can play a role in helping his staff pursue their personal purpose through their work with him.

He notes that, although Millennials are focused on delivering social benefits through their work, Gen Zs are taking this to a higher level again. Yes, they want to be comfortable, but they want positive social impacts to flow from their core work. We can think of this as a quest for personal, professional and organisational coherence.

Ben’s agency works with these generational dynamics every day so he knows what he’s talking about. The question we wanted to explore further was: what does this subtle shift mean for the companies seeking to employ and retain them?

He sees this forcing a wave of alignment in large companies, where purpose is the North Star that underpins every product, policy, process and platform that the company creates. And this starts with brand, in Ben’s words:

“Brand is the only thing that separates you from the sea of sameness.”

He says that we live in a world where everyone can do everything, therefore you need the right people in place who are equipped to execute your business purpose on a daily basis.

We went into so many interesting aspects of purpose with Ben! You’ll find it all in our upcoming episode entitled Purpose & Generational Success: Where does purpose fit into the equation? Please drop me an email or message if you’d like notification of its release.

I also loved Ben’s comment after we concluded the formal part of our interview:

“This is the stuff that matters – it has 10 times more value than hearing me talk about how to run a digital ad campaign!”

We would agree! On behalf of Lynne and I, we thank Ben for coming on our show and thanks to our technology and media partners in Ampslide and 3BL Media for supporting us on our journey.

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Phil Preston is CEO of The Business Purpose Project, helping executives and leaders navigate the shift to the purpose economy. He is a purpose strategist, conference speaker and author of Connecting Profit with Purpose. You can contact him via phil@businesspurposeproject.com

5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Great Purpose Statement

Employees, customers and investors increasingly want to know your business purpose and be inspired by it – but how do you ensure your purpose statement is great?

Well, it’s a mix of art and science. Based on my analysis of hundreds of company purpose statements I’ve found there’s 5 things you really need to know before reviewing or creating yours.

1. Purpose and vision

Why no mention of the mission statement? I find they vary so much in their intent and form from company to company that, to be honest, we can live without them. Purpose and vision will suffice.

Your business purpose explains why you exist, the underlying reason for doing what you do. A vision statement on the other hand is the world you’d like to help create through your purpose. Some companies combine the two – which is okay.

The Australian telco, Telstra, is “building a connected future so everyone can thrive“. Building a connected future is the purpose, and everyone thriving is the vision.

Make sense?

2. Purpose is a societal benefit, not an activity

Purpose describes your benefit to society. Companies have historically talked in terms of financial goals (“we seek to maximise shareholder returns”) or activities (“we make cars”) instead of conveying a meaningful purpose (“we create sustainable transport solutions”).

Without purpose, the pursuit of profits is more prone to be at the expense of people and the planet. That type of business model has a very short use-by date.

3. Purpose is your North Star

Take purpose seriously because it is the North Star for your people and it’s what your customers expect. It drives productivity, performance and innovation.

If people see inconsistencies between your stated purpose and what you actually do or how you behave, then don’t expect to be an employer of choice. The best young talent will be excited by companies with genuine, lived purpose. Ignore them at your peril.

4. A purpose statement alone is not success

Facebook is a controversial company, drawing the wrath of regulators, users and even its own employees for the way it goes about its business.

And yet it has a great purpose statement: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together“.

The lesson here is, great statement ≠ success! You’ll need to integrate your purpose into everything you do and ensure your people understand how they are contributing to it.

5. Purpose is not a positioning statement

Because it conveys a benefit to society, it’s fine for your company to have a purpose statement similar to another – you are competing in the efficient and effective delivery of it.

Another reason for avoiding mission statements is, at their worst, they get hijacked by the marketing department and become a mash up of purpose, positioning and vision in one go.

Sigh.

Primed for purpose

Your executives, directors and leaders need to be on the same page and understand the benefits of purpose. Getting their buy-in is critical before assessing where you are at, reviewing your statement and then integrating it into your business.

Reach out if you want to know more or set up a debriefing on the topic.

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Phil Preston is the founder of The Business Purpose Project and author of Connecting Profit With Purpose. You can make contact via phil@businesspurposeproject.com

Announcing the Launch of The Business Purpose Project

I’m pleased to announce the official launch of The Business Purpose Project!

If you’re concerned about the challenges we’re facing in our world, the harsh reality is that charitable giving and responsible business practices cannot solve them on their own. So where do we turn?

We’re here to help people and organisations navigate the shift to the purpose economy – a world where businesses must learn how to create win-wins with society in order to prosper and grow.

It’s the only way we can lock in a better lives for ourselves and future generations.

Our Resources

On our website you’ll find a range of valuable resources such as our guide to Getting Purpose Ready, an online assessment tool to benchmark your organisation, several business purpose case studies or you can follow our LinkedIn Page for regular items of interest on purpose.

Corporate Conversations on Purpose

In coming weeks, I’m really excited about the first episode of Corporate Conversations on Purpose in collaboration with Lynne Filderman. We interview an expert in intergenerational success, Ben Smithee, about the purpose of Gen Zs and Millennials and how companies should respond.

If you want to receive notifications about our episodes or occasional newsletters you can contact us or subscribe from our home page.

Recent Articles

These recent articles may pique your interest:

We have a range of solutions, including purpose statement reviews, a new lens for innovation, organisational transformation, employee engagement, culture building, performance improvement, competitive advantage, stakeholder relationships, thought leadership offerings and program content.

Can You Help Us?

Please do check out our resources because they’ll help you and your people no matter what stage you are at on your purpose journey.

We’ve been head-down for months getting all this in place. Apart from talking to you, I’d love to receive introductions or connections to the right people, so the question I have is: Who in your network would benefit from this?

 

Phil Preston

The Business Purpose Project

ceo@businesspurposeproject.com

+61 408 259 633