There is so much to celebrate from the recent Olympics and Paralympics there’s not enough space in this magazine, let alone the column. Something amazing happened and I sense it may be years for us to fully understand the impact and repercussions. But taking just one strand…
Seb Coe’s interviews, particularly in the final few days, revealed a pattern. The letter P. He spoke again and again about Passion, People, Performance, Partnership, Pride…and Purpose. A great memory technique for interviews. And a great model for success. It struck us that every organisation and venture – commercial, NGO, public body – could find a formula for success here. But what makes the difference between the organisations that are creating a brighter future and those that are increasingly vilified? The shift in Purpose – to something bigger, beyond self, beyond now, something like the ‘inspire a generation’. That changes everything.
We brought this up with Tom Rippin. Tom heads up the appropriately named On Purpose. It’s a leadership development programme for the next generation of social enterprise leaders, and is all about harnessing the power of business for social and environmental good. Young committed potential high fliers get fortnightly mentoring from business professionals, and quarterly coaching, in addition to training and lots of real on-the-job experience. Tom is well placed to comment on the impact of purpose. He notices “It’s the difference between the good and not-so-good companies. When people think of Apple they think first of beautifully designed objects that work brilliantly, not about them making money.” (Apple is now the biggest company in the world).
This ‘seeing beyond’ engages and motivates. And this desire to do something beyond is actually shifting organisations. As Tom says “There are various pressures on organisations for sustainability and social good – regulatory, taxes, and consumer led (though there’s often a difference between what consumers say and how they behave at the till). Employees are the softer pressure point. I’m seeing lots of organisations doing more socially responsible things – and in each one there’s an employee or group of employees pushing to make it happen.” Change from the inside. Because people want to make good things happen. People want meaning in their work.
The classic professional midlife crisis is often a call for meaning ‘What is it all about?’. As Darius Norell of The Spring Project (a social enterprise that brings together job seekers, recruiters and empty spaces to provide world class training), is known to ask “If you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, when do you want to have it?” For most people, it’s early; discover what you’re about and get on with it.
And so to us coaches and mentors. If ever there is a profession to help individuals, and organisations, discover their sense of purpose it’s us. It’s the conversations with us where the unsayable can be said, the unquestionable questioned. And most profoundly for those working with leaders; that wonderful, awful question “What are you leading for?” After all, if we are helping to develop leaders with no sense of purpose beyond ‘more’, what is the legacy we are helping to create?
This is a powerful alternative to anything that can come across as telling, preaching and berating.
All rights reserved. © This article originally appeared in Coaching at Work, Vol 7, Issue 6, 2012
Image courtesy of David Kovalenko on Unsplash.com