Paradox Of Purpose

by Michael de la Guerra in

I led a research initiative for the agency I've spent the last four years with, which looked at the motivating factors of 400+ businesses when purchasing one of our most popular done-for-you products: a Vivid Vision document.

While I can't disclose all the key findings until they're released publicly, one stat that was left on the cutting room floor was of great interest to me:

Only 8-16% of businesses who paid several thousands of dollars for us to help them clarify their company vision mentioned creating a sense of "purpose" as a motivating factor. 

Many did say their intention was to "inspire" their team, or to create alignment around a shared goal. 

But "purpose" was seldom referenced. 

Why does this matter? Because this highly cited global study of 540 organizations revealed that only:

  • 28% of employees feel fully connected to the company's purpose
  • 39% can see the value they create
  • 22% agree their job allows them to fully leverage their strengths

It's no surprise to me that the #1 issue most of the businesses needed help with when working with Conscious Copy was aligning their team with the company vision.  

In fact, 96% of business owners or CEOs stated team alignment as a motivating factor.

And knowing the scientific correlation between a team member's connection to the company purpose and an increase in their productivity (up to a 171% increase in some instances), I strived to instill a sense of purpose in every Vivid Vision I personally wrote. 

I don't always nail it on the first draft, but when I nail it, I nail it: The CEO of a bank said he delivered the excerpt I wrote to the board, and they walked out of the meeting a completely different organization.

Still, throughout the Vivid Vision editing process, many companies often have me delete large portions of the document meant to anchor in that emotional purpose (not to mention just completely butchering above average writing for unimaginative jargon, but I digress). One even edited the writing so much that the final draft retained about 25% of my work, then shared it with his team only to hear crickets.

There are several reasons businesses do this, chief among them is that many people see what I write and believe they can do a better job.

Boo-hoo. Poor me.

While I'd never start telling a manufacturing or software company how to do their jobs, they certainly feel very strongly about telling me how to do mine.

Such is the life of a freelance writer.

But there's also an underlying motive I've picked up on after several years: many leaders don't actually want to create a purpose for their team to be inspired by.

They simply want to say, "This is where we're going, just FYI." 

And honestly, that's just bad communication.

I mean, c'mon, Marketing & Influence 101: meet the customer where they're at, and communicate with them using their own language. Right?

You want an aligned team to be inspired about where you're going, and to feel a sense of ownership?

Why should they?

I ended my last romantic relationship because the other person wouldn't commit. Yet she wanted me to show up for her in ways only a committed partner would. 

She wanted the emotional benefit without the emotional commitment. 

And that's how many of these businesses approach the communication of their vision. They want the aligned and inspired team, but aren't willing to give them the purpose needed to incite such passion. 

If you want your people to take ownership, then give them something to own.

It's that simple. 

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