«It’s Not What You sell, It’s What You staNd For Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven By Purpose Roy M. Spence, Jr. with Haley Rushing WHAT ...»
Whole Foods Market team members are driven by the fundamental purpose of that organization—to provide choices for nurturing the body, the community, and the planet. They want to change the way the world eats. They want to live by the Declaration of Interdependence— their paradigm-shifting business model that ensures that all stakeholders are served by the existence of Whole Foods Market. That’s what creates the commitment day in and day out regardless of the company’s stock price on any given day. And, paradoxically, that’s 30 IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SELL, IT’S WHAT YOU STAND FOR what ultimately creates comp store sales growth, revenue per square foot, and gross margin and profit margin that are hands-down superior to anyone else in the industry.
Certainly, we’ve witnessed some companies that enjoy skyrocketing performance levels over a period of time and use that performance to energize and motivate their employees. But those same companies find themselves in a cultural crisis whenever the performance lapses or reaches a momentary plateau. Companies that try to motivate their employees purely through stock market performance are likely to find a corporate culture where the collective self-esteem rises and falls with the stock price. When the price is down, there’s nothing to provide the energy, vitality, and motivation for employees. When employees are driven by a worthy purpose, it’s much more likely to create a consistent level of commitment to the work at hand.
Ranked by Forbes as one of the top five executive coaches in the world, Richard Leider7 has dedicated his life to helping individuals lead purposeful lives. He’s spent a lot of time talking with elderly people as they reflect back on their lives. He’s asked them what would
they do differently if they could live their lives over again. Answer:
They would have discovered and been clear about their purpose earlier in life.
Fortunately, people are no longer waiting until the end of their life to start thinking about the difference they want to make in the world.
Increasingly, people are exploring and seeking meaning and purpose in their personal lives. Bookstore shelves are now fully stocked with books about finding your personal purpose. But the reality is the vast majority of your time is consumed by your work life.
What Is a Purpose and Why Should You Want One? 31 You wake up every morning and go to work. You leave your family, your dog, and your goldfish. Personal passions get put on hold.
Whether you’re a CEO or a secretary, the majority of your time, energy, and talent will be spent in the service of your work. So why not make it worthwhile? When you feel you’re making a difference, you feel good about what you’re doing. When you feel you’re not making a difference, you want to go back to bed.
No longer do people—especially the next generation of young people—want to artificially divide their lives into their “real” life and their “work” life. A life of purpose is not something you can squeeze in on the weekends; it has to be something that infiltrates all aspects of your life. If work is devoid of any real meaning or purpose, it’s going to be a real challenge to live a life of purpose.
And, on some level, everyone wants to live a life of purpose. Studs Terkel first wrote about the American worker’s struggle to earn a living and also create a life and a legacy over thirty years ago in his classic book, Working: “It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as for cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying...” A Southwest Airlines ramp agent shared a wonderful story about the meaning he was able to find in his work because of the larger purpose of Southwest Airlines. (Ramp agents are engaged in highly demanding work—among other things, they load heavy bags on planes in extreme weather conditions all year round, often on weekends and through the holidays.) This particular ramp agent had a wife, three children, and a Golden Retriever at home. He told me that when his kids start complaining that “Daddy has to work on Thanksgiving again,” he gathers them around and tells them: “If Daddy didn’t go to work, many families wouldn’t be able to fly around the country and be with their loved ones. Without Daddy doing his job, little kids all across the country wouldn’t get to see their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, or any of their cousins. Daddy has to go to work to make sure everyone can be with their families.” Now you tell me—would you rather go to work to deliver that 32 IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SELL, IT’S WHAT YOU STAND FOR kind of freedom or go to work to load bags on a plane? That’s how purpose infiltrates an organization and transforms lives of toil into lives of purpose.
George Bernard Shaw probably described this yearning for meaningful work best in this famous passage often invoked to describe a
life well lived:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
What if every organization lived by that passage? How much more joy might there be if people felt that their talents were being used “for a purpose recognized... as a mighty one”? By building your organization to serve a real need in the marketplace, organizations can help play a significant role in fulfilling the individual quest for a purposeful life.
Recent research into happiness demonstrates that the happiest people aren’t those with the most money but those with a sense of purpose—a sense that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.
At least some of this has to derive from work. The purpose of a business, then, must be explicit and go beyond boosting the share price or fulfilling some bland mission statement. People want to believe that they’re part of something meaningful. The sense of purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose or revolutionary, merely credible and anchored in values.
—Margaret Heffernan, Another Day, Another Mountain to Climb, fastcompany.com (March 2005) What Is a Purpose and Why Should You Want One? 33
Purpose drives everything. It will drive all major decision making and become the determining factor in how you allocate resources, hire employees, plan for the future, and judge your success.
Purpose is a path to high performance. It fulfills a deep-seated need that people have and will drive preference for your company.
Purpose fosters visionary ideas and meaningful innovation. It provides the motivation and direction necessary to create meaningful innovation.
Purpose moves mountains. It can rally the troops to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
Purpose will hold you steady in a turbulent marketplace. It will see you through when times get tough and the road seems unclear.
Purpose injects your brand with a healthy dose of reality. It is not something you can fake. It’s genuine. It’s real. And it’s something that your customers honestly appreciate about you.
Purpose recruits passionate people. It will make your organization more attractive to value-based, passionate people.
Purpose brings energy and vitality to the work at hand. It provides meaningful and sustainable motivation for employees.
Purpose contributes to a life well lived. Work is no longer a 9-to-5 job to be endured but a meaningful source of fulfillment and satisfaction.