This month’s print edition of HBR makes mention of a new study supporting ‘the purpose-profit’ connection (p32). The study looks at the relationship between strong purpose and public company financial performance. I believe the insights apply to all organizations – That is, any organization with a strong purpose will see increased performance. The study finds there is a strong link between PURPOSE and PERFORMANCE (or, in my adjusted language, IMPACT). Researchers make a distinction in two types of high purpose organizations. The first is what it calls ‘high camaraderie’ where everyone simply has a sense that they are doing something great, TOGETHER. The second type of purpose is ‘high clarity’ from management. This is noted as the type where managers excel at translating purpose into action. The statistically significant performance bump was only found with organizations that have ‘purpose clarity.’
As a leader, think not just about PURPOSE, but ‘PURPOSE CLARITY.’ To help you with this, I would bridge some of the findings of the research with some of the For Impact teaching. Think about PURPOSE as an anchor for your STORY. And, by story, I don’t mean a narrative with a beginning-middle-end. I mean how you FRAME the organization. A GREAT STORY…
Some of the writing in the research study further supports thinking about placing PURPOSE inside of STORY. “The company’s primary purpose – the real one, which isn’t necessarily the one written in the official documents or etched in the wall plaques – [that] guides its actions and decisions.”
———————– Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Prat, Andrea and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance (June 30, 2016). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840005
I was re-reading some passages from Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive. He has a chapter on CONTRIBUTION – I hope some of these nuggets speak to you like they continue to speak to me:
“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.” (Note: Peter Drucker lived from 1909-2005. His writing and thoughts on management were visionary and clear and his observations from the 1970’s still represent some of the best thinking on ‘management’ I can find. I’ve left quotations as they were originally printed but wanted to recognize that his writing is very ‘male dominant’.)
“Commitment to contribution is commitment to responsible effectiveness. Without it, a man shortchanges himself, deprives his organization, and cheats the people he works with.”
“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.” He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”
“To ask, “What can I contribute?” is to look for the unused potential in the job. And what is considered excellent performance in a good many positions is often but a pale shadow of the job’s full potential of contribution.”
And another great guiding question, “What can I and no one else do which, if done really well, would make a real difference to this company?”
It’s not just a big word. Taking a Quantum Leap is a lot like doing ‘WIND SPRINTS,’ a particular form of training that mixes INTENSE EFFORT with RECUPERATION TIME.
Jim Loehr, über-coach of world-class athletes (and now corporate leaders), makes a big deal of ‘OSCILLATION.’ Here’s a great personal mantra, from the cover of Loehr’s terrific book, The Power of Full Engagement:
“MANAGE your ENERGY, not your TIME.”
Julia Cameron also talks about it in musical terms: ‘REST,’ which is the SPACE between the NOTES. Whatever you call it, a Quantum Leap requires BLITZES, BURSTS and BACKING OFF, in order to recuperate, in order to attack.
Perhaps the best analogy for me is a boxing match (which I happen to know a little bit about.) You fight a two-minute round. Get a one minute rest. Fight a two-minute round. Get a one-minute rest. Within the round, you’re on offense and defense. You’re moving, hitting, defending, resting (while moving), etc.
Special Note: For 35 years, Colorado College has used this idea in what they call the ’BLOCK PLAN.’ One Class. 3 Weeks. Time Off. Next Class. 3 Weeks. Time Off. OSCILLATION works. Use it.
As Mario Andretti said, “If you feel like you’re still in control, you’re not going FAST enough.”
A Quantum Leap is about SPEED. MOMENTUM. MASSIVE ACTION. A SENSE OF URGENCY.
IF there is NO INTERNAL ‘SENSE OF URGENCY’ (SPEED)… there will be no EXTERNAL ‘SENSE OF URGENCY.’
Why would an investor make a decision NOW to make a really big IMPACT on your organization, when there is no sense of urgency on the organization’s part?
I know. You’re thinking that you actually need to ‘slow down,’ ‘do better planning,’ ‘get all your ducks in a row,’ etc., etc. You’re wrong.
From our For Impact Coach, Robb Pike:
One of the biggest shifts I have seen in our clients comes when they OWN a SENSE OF URGENCY. Some examples of SPEED from the field:
“Not long ago I would wait months for a prospect to respond to me. When I realized the longer I waited the less people would get help I started following up quickly and regularly. Emails, phone call, and even a text or two. Sometimes I would ask ‘Am I being too persistent?’ What I found was almost everyone would actually thank me for my persistence and commitment. A couple actually gave more because they felt our organization was more committed to our work than others just because I never stopped.”
“We work in 90 day sprints now. We move fast and focused. Two years ago we would barely make our numbers (if we did) by the end of the fiscal year. Now we are in a 90 day sprint to close NEXT fiscal year and we are still in this fiscal year.”
“I love the ‘Just Visit’ strategy. We used to spend months with research, inviting people to events, and sharing marketing materials in hopes they would want to know more. Now, if we want to talk to them we move quickly to ‘Just Visit.’ Our work is too important to wait for the perfect moment.”
If you don’t own an SENSE OF URGENCY around your IMPACT, then who will? If you know the impact of your work, you know that saving/changing/impacting lives can’t wait. If you don’t have a sense of urgency no one will.