Let me ask you a big question: Do you know what your organization’s purpose is? How about your purpose in your job? What’s important? Often when I’m working in large organizations, there seems to be confusion about what truly matters.

Knowing why you’re here, and who you want to be, isn’t a part-time job. The challenge is to live out what you stand for, intentionally, in every moment. ~ Tony Schwartz, author

Far from being touchy-feely concepts touted by motivational speakers, purpose and values have been identified as key drivers of high-performing organizations.

  • In Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras reveal that purpose- and values-driven organizations outperformed the general market and comparison companies by 15:1 and 6:1, respectively.
  • In Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett found that firms with shared-values–based cultures enjoyed 400% higher revenues, 700% greater job growth, 1,200% higher stock prices and significantly faster profit performance, as compared to companies in similar industries.
  • In Firms of Endearment, marketing professor Rajendra Sisodia and his coauthors explain how companies that put employees’ and customers’ needs ahead of shareholders’ desires outperform conventional competitors in stock-market performance by 8:1.

Leaders who have a clearly articulated purpose and are driven to make a difference can inspire people to overcome insurmountable odds, writes Roy M. Spence Jr. in It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For:

“Life is short, so live it out doing something that you care about,” he writes. “Try to make a difference the best way you can. There’s an enormous satisfaction in seeing the cultural transformation that happens when an organization is turned on to purpose.”

In the work I do with people in organizations, so often I find that there’s confusion over what’s really important.

While a well-designed strategy and its effective implementation are required for business success, neither inspires followers to maintain engagement during troubled times. Purpose must tap into people’s hearts and help them give their best when the chips are down.

Don’t ever take a job— join a crusade! Find a cause that you can believe in and give yourself to it completely. ~ Colleen Barrett, president emerita of Southwest Airlines

It’s up to leaders to find that spark that can light up the hearts and minds of employees at all levels. And, it’s also up to each of us to find that inner purpose that’s the guiding light for our energy. Coaching can help find it if you haven’t already identified and articulated it for yourself.

I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here or on LinkedIn.