Friday, 20 March 2015

Who holds the power of purpose?

In a recent piece for HR magazine, Cary Cooper says “a sense of purpose has to be ingrained within each member of staff” by “smart leaders” who interact with staff. He concludes by proclaiming that HR directors “need to remember that connecting with employees is the soul of effective engagement”.

There is obvious truth in all of this, but there are also several dangers. Not least in assuming that this type of connection can be forged from the top.
Ultimately, whether we connect with our company’s vision, and develop a sense of shared purpose, is up to us. No leader has the power to create that connection for us. Even the most charismatic individual cannot “ingrain” common purpose within a group of people, and it’s dangerous (and overstating things) to claim that he or she can. It’s up to each of us to make our own connection with it and to imbibe that purpose as our own.

“Smart leaders” (to use Professor Cooper’s phrase) recognise this and create the right conditions for us each to take the final step ourselves. Sure, they set out their stall for the ‘direction of travel’. They ensure there is regular sharing of information about the business and its progress.  And they act as role models for the dialogue that allows individuals to check understanding, ask questions and raise concerns.
However, they go beyond these steps by inviting and supporting us to really get involved in our organisations. They give us opportunities to shape the working world around us, through our ideas, feedback and energy. They nurture a culture that enables us to help create, interpret and propagate the purpose that has evolved has a result.   

Now, more than ever, common purpose evolves from participation in our organisations. Leaders who recognise this will be rewarded with employees who really share common goals and radiate them to colleagues, customers and the communities around them.