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Five Ways to Generate Purpose

September 1, 2023

In every organisation, purpose exists, whether consciously engaged with or not. The challenge lies in aligning individual purposes within the organisation and harnessing that collective power.

Understanding the difference between mission, vision, values, and purpose is essential. While mission, vision, and values describe what we do, where we're heading, and what we believe, purpose articulates why we should care about making our collective efforts a success. It transcends transactional aspects and connects our rational perspectives with underlying values.

Five ways to generate purpose are:

1. Selection and on-boarding of new entrants into the organisation

Recruit for attitude, train for skills. The process of embedding purpose begins with recruitment. Selecting individuals who understand and value the organisation's purpose is crucial. Your on-boarding process is critical because the way new employees begin their relationship with the organisation must reflect and reinforce the organisation's core values. Any conflict between stated and experienced values can create cynicism and doubt.

2. Fostering collectivity

Fostering collectivity within an organisation is a multifaceted approach that goes beyond individual roles and responsibilities. It's about creating a cohesive environment where everyone is encouraged to look at the bigger picture and understand how their individual contributions align with the overall organisational goals.

In many organisations, employees are often focused on their specific tasks and responsibilities. While this specialisation is essential for efficiency, it can sometimes lead to a siloed approach where the broader organisational purpose is lost. Leadership must actively work to break down these barriers and encourage employees to look beyond their immediate roles. Regular cross-departmental meetings, team-building activities, and open communication channels can foster a sense of unity and shared purpose.

Embedding purpose requires understanding the bigger picture - how individual efforts contribute to the organisation's broader goals. This involves transparent communication from leadership about the organisation's mission, vision, and values, and how each role fits into this larger framework. Training programmes, workshops, and regular feedback sessions can help employees see the connection between their daily tasks and the organisation's overarching purpose. By nurturing a culture that values collaboration and shared goals, organisations can create a more engaged and purpose-driven workforce.

3. Providing meaningful work

The concept of meaningful work is central to embedding purpose within an organisation. It's not just about completing tasks but aligning individual roles with the broader value system of the organisation. Meaningful work is work that resonates with an individual's values and beliefs. It's about creating a connection between what an employee does every day and what they believe in. This alignment fosters a sense of ownership and commitment, making the work inherently purposeful. Leaders must understand their employees' values and find ways to align them with the organisation's purpose. This might involve creating opportunities for employees to work on projects that resonate with their personal values or providing flexibility to pursue passions that align with the organisation's goals.

Connecting individual work to the collective purpose of the organisation is a complex but vital process. It requires a deep understanding of how each role contributes to the overall mission and a willingness to communicate this connection clearly. This might include focusing on shared experiences that highlight the impact of individual contributions, articulating the broader organisational impact of specific roles, or even redefining success metrics to emphasise value over mere output. Regular dialogues, transparent communication, and a culture that celebrates individual contributions to the collective success can strengthen the application of organisational purpose in practice.

4. Building strong social bonds and relationships

Strong social bonds within the workplace are more than just a catalyst for a pleasant working environment; they are a fundamental building block for embedding purpose.

A purpose-led workplace that fosters strong relationships among employees enhances overall performance. It creates a sense of camaraderie and trust, allowing for more effective collaboration and innovation. The sense of closeness and allegiance that strong social bonds create serves as the "social glue" that binds the team together.

This circular relationship between purpose and social bonds not only strengthens the team but also reinforces the organisation's purpose, creating a conscious understanding of its relevance and leading to greater impact on outcomes.

5. Intentional facilitation of change

Change is an inevitable part of organisational life, and how it is managed can significantly affect the embedding of purpose.

Leaders must maintain a sense of intentionality aligned with the organisation's purpose, even in the face of constant change. This requires a proactive approach, anticipating changes, and planning responses that keep the organisational purpose at the forefront. Change should not be a departure from the organisation's core values and purpose but rather an evolution that carries those principles forward. By grounding the process of change in the culture, perspectives, and intent of the organisation, leaders ensure that the

sense of purpose is not only sustained but also becomes a guiding force in the change journey.


Commitment to a purpose should not be rigidly enforced, nor should it be so vague that it becomes unmanageable. It is leadership decisions and practices that will determine if an organisation’s purpose becomes embedded. By following the five ways to generate purpose, leaders can ensure that it is not just a word but a living, breathing part of the organisation's culture.

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