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How to Lead with Purpose

Direction comes from what we do, but motivation comes from why we do it.

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BY Lee Colan - 09 May 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Cheryl Johnson is Chief Human Resources Officer for ECHO Global Logistics and has been a client at two different companies, Fossil and ULTA Beauty. During one of our original discussions years ago, we talked about how creating a compelling purpose can ignite a personal passion to go the extra mile. Cheryl was reflecting on one of her first jobs as a dishwasher in a hospital. Interestingly, she didn't see her job as that of only a dishwasher.

Most people might wallow in the mundane task of washing dishes, but Cheryl's boss knew how to lead on purpose. He painted a picture of something much more significant. On the first day of work, her boss told Cheryl her job was "to help ensure a clean, healthy environment so patients could heal as fast as possible and go home to their families." Wouldn't you be more passionate about washing dishes if that was your purpose?

Without a compelling purpose, we are just putting in time. Our minds might be engaged, but our hearts are not. The work world offers great opportunities for people to connect with a bigger purpose. If you want your team to give discretionary effort, give them something to be passionate about. When you get your team inspired about a purpose, their hearts will follow.

Your organization's purpose may not be immediately apparent. When leading on purpose you want to uncover why you exist, but the natural tendency is to express what you do.

For instance, one of our clients distributes building products to home builders. Their purpose did not seem very exciting to their leadership team or to the employees.

Yet a deeper look revealed that this company was a key link in the distribution chain of getting raw building products to sites where homes were being built for first-time home buyers. In essence, this company realized that they helped make the American dream (of home ownership) a reality. This new, deeper sense of purpose was really worth working toward.

Defining or refining your team's compelling purpose enables you to lead on purpose.

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