Transformation Perspectives Series 03

How do you inspire your employees and align them towards a common goal, with a shared sense of commitment?


In the context of new acquaintances or group introductions, it is never long before someone pops the question: "So, what do you do?” Most people answer this by giving their job titles and a description of what they do, sometimes with added detail about their working environment and the importance of their position. In essence this is a contextual, content-based description which conveys an idea of the job, as well as the person’s social status. In contrast, people are much less likely to talk about their personal work-related concerns and issues. Questions like this seldom arise: What purpose does my work serve? What am I trying to achieve? How does the organization I work for make a contribution to society? When our view of our work is shaped predominantly by the question of meaning and purpose, this helps create clarity and provide guidance – not only for ourselves, but also for the people around us. However, in order to take this perspective we need not only to be aware of the purpose of our work, we need to have internalised this understanding. If a company’s purpose is firmly anchored in its purpose and values, this creates added value not only by fostering a shared understanding, but also by forging a shared alignment. This is illustrated by an anecdote about John F. Kennedy. Visiting Cape Canaveral late one night, JFK saw a man who was still cleaning the floor. When he asked him what he was doing working so late, the man replied: “I’m helping to send a man to the moon.”

When the purpose of a company’s activity is understood and supported by the employees, and when the employees’ consciously formed personal goals are aligned with the company objectives, this unleashes and channels shared energies. In contrast, instead of focusing on alignment of purpose, management often focuses solely on the performance dimension; objectives are communicated, then a lot of resources are invested in setting up structures, processes and systems in alignment with these objectives. The impact of these two dimensions on the team and on the company are clearly illustrated in the Purpose/Value -Performance Matrix. In this context, purpose is closely linked to values – this will be the subject of one of the next Transformative Perspectives article.


Graph: Purpose/Value - Performance Matrix (based on BrightHouse)


 Purpose/Value - Performance Matrix



If purpose and performance are not adequately defined respectively achieved, this has the following effect in the different scenarios: life in the fortress becomes a matter of sheer survival. Crisis management is the order of the day, and operations are dominated by short-term initiatives intended to yield quick success, often through rapid reduction of costs. In the castle in the air, the organization may have a purpose, but it fails to transform its actions and initiatives into co-ordinated, long-term commercial success. When managers are supreme rulers of their own fiefdoms, they will strive to promote their own departments, often to the detriment of other parts of the organization – paying only lip service to any theoretical alignment. However, in Camelot, the fabled court of King Arthur, leaders are not absorbed in their own personal gains. Instead, they focus on the success of the company as a whole, and on making a contribution to society.
Once a person has found his or her own sense of purpose and direction, if these can be aligned with those of the company, the result is a sense of community based on shared purpose; members of this community make a sustainable contribution because they are passionate about life, have a keener sense of their ability to shape events, and enjoy trust-based relationships.


Dr. Thomas Gartenmann

This is part of the Transformation Perspective series of