Focus on the Why vs. the How.
For decades we have been focused on growth and growth mindset, which is important for self-growth, which then also has a positive impact on work. This creates a duality between self and work. However, the pandemic has made a lot of people realize that they need purpose in their lives and their work. Growth is no longer the driving force for businesses and individuals, and instead, businesses must provide a space for employees to discover, cultivate, and apply purpose. Purpose Mindset introduces the trinity between self, work, and community. All three are needed to have a positive impact.
A McKinsey study in 2021 titled, “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave,” shows that two-thirds of U.S.-based employees surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. In the same study, there is a disconnect between company leadership and rank and file workers—85% of executives and upper management believe that they can live their purpose in their day-to-day work, whereas 15% of frontline managers and employees are unsure or disagree that they can live their purpose in their day-to-day work. This disconnect is concerning and important to overcome.
In my book, Purpose Mindset: How Microsoft Inspires Employees and Alumni to Change the World, I show why it is important to provide a space for employees to build that muscle of discovering purpose. Having a purpose mindset is an important driver. Purpose is not about just gifting money or offering time off for volunteer activities. It is crucial to increase opportunities that allow employees to find personal meaning in their day-to-day work. When the work is aligned with the company’s purpose, that sense of fulfillment ultimately benefits the company, too. I lay out five principles that drive an individual to develop a purpose mindset that companies should pay attention to:
“As a global community, we have become reasonably adept at DESCRIBING THE NEED FOR CHANGE ‘out there’ in the world … But we are not so good at talking about THE CHANGE THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN WITHIN US.“
❶ Discovering Strengths—working from strengths and building on them to create greater possibilities.
❷ Working from Abundance—accessing a variety of innovative resources, from people to equipment and space, at previously unthinkable scales.
❸ Extending the Common Good—moving from doing things efficiently to having an impact on broad community progress.
❹ Igniting Movements—focusing on building a movement, not an organization, that leads to societal change.
❺ Embracing Empathy and Compassion—centering on the ‘we’ rather than the ‘me.’
As a global community, we have become reasonably adept at describing the need for change ‘out there’ in the world, such as promoting social justice and combating climate change. But we are not so good at talking about the change that needs to happen within us. What shifts in our beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions are necessary to bring out the best in ourselves and to do good? Since I wrote Purpose Mindset, we have been conducting Purpose Mindset workshops with businesses, governments, nonprofits, and academic organizations around the world to help individuals identify their strengths, values, and craft a personal purpose statement, and finally, find alignment to their work. The goal is not to have complete alignment but to find the connections and strengthen those connections so that in times of stress these connections hold, and we realize how we are using our strengths, values, and purpose. Over 3,000 individuals have gone through our workshops from over 70 countries. These are CEOs, government leaders, academic deans, and students, representing the diversity of work environments. What we have found is that once they craft their individual purpose statement, there is an aha! moment. It is when an inner light is switched on. We are also crafting organizational and team purpose statements to build that alignment.
Purpose is that light—as individuals we must switch it on. As employers, we must provide that space where employees can cultivate their purpose and create better work experiences and a more purposeful environment for everyone.