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The Purpose Revolution

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Discover the Purpose Advantage!

Customers, employees, and investors are no longer satisfied with companies providing good products, good prospects, and good profits—they want them to do some social good, too. These “purpose-driven” companies do better on nearly every traditional metric: greater customer loyalty, higher retention, more innovation, and a healthier bottom line. But a nice mission statement and donations to charity won't make your company stand out. Using scores of real-world examples and practical exercises, John Izzo and Jeff Vanderwielen help leaders find a truly authentic purpose, one that is a natural fit for them and their organization. They describe concrete actions leaders can take to ensure that employees own it, customers and recruits connect with it, and every corporate action and activity reflects it.

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Chapter 1: The Purpose Advantage

ePub

THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT THAT COMPANIES FOCUSED MORE DEEPLY on purpose and social good will be positive for their employees and for society at large. But does purpose create a meaningful competitive advantage for your enterprise? Few may disagree with the direction of the trends discussed in this book, but many may doubt whether it is the kind of game-changing force—the revolution—that we believe it to be. If you’re thinking along these lines or asking yourself similar questions, we understand—you’re not alone.

Many of the CEOs and leaders we interviewed, whose companies are already reaping significant benefit from a focus on purpose, suggested that most leaders still don’t get how important this movement has already become. Inge Thulin, president, CEO, and chairman of 3M, for example, told us that “an enterprise not focused on sustainability for their own products and those of their customers will not exist in 50 years.” Sustainability of course is bigger than just environment, though “being green” consistently tops the societal concerns of talent and consumers alike; it’s about that aspirational focus on making things better.

 

Chapter 2: First, Find Your Purpose

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THE FIRST STEP THAT EVERY LEADER, ORGANIZATION, AND COMPANY must take to thrive in the age of social good is to clearly find and name your purpose. Once you have named it, your job is to move it to center stage. By that we mean you must live the purpose you profess: having a purpose is not enough if it is not what truly drives your business. If companies want to close the purpose gap, their leaders can’t be afraid to be open and honest about their approach to purpose. They should feel free to claim a moral mandate—a justification for and pride in the purpose-oriented actions that not only positively influence company performance but also have a meaningful impact on the world.

We need to get over whatever fear we have of saying that we care about the present and future good of our customers as well as society and actively move purpose to the center of our business. Companies need to start by discovering the real purpose behind their work and activating it throughout the organization.

 

Chapter 3: Brand Purpose from the Inside Out

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IN 2016 OUR COMPANY, IZZO ASSOCIATES, SURVEYED 3,000 LEADERS at all levels in businesses that spanned a variety of sectors, asking them what concerns were discussed the most among their senior leadership. Of all the topics of focus on a leader’s radar, we wanted to know which ones consistently topped the list. The number one answer we received from companies both small and large was “improving the image of our brand with customers.” This response should come as little surprise given the highly competitive marketplace that most companies find themselves in today, but there is more than competition driving this relentless focus on brand reputation.

One of the most important shifts in business over the past 30 years is the much larger share of company value attributable to goodwill. Goodwill is the established reputation of a business regarded as a quantifiable asset that represents the excess of the “fair market” value of the company’s tangible assets (often referred to as book value). In other words, how consumers see our brand is often a larger portion of the company’s value than its physical assets. Given the exponential growth of global consumers who now want to buy from socially responsible businesses, it’s fair to say that a company’s reputation is worth its weight in gold.

 

Chapter 4: Why Most Leaders and Companies Are Failing at Purpose

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A GOOD FRIEND OF OURS, ALAN, HAS SPENT HIS ENTIRE CAREER working in the energy industry, mostly overseeing oil-drilling sites. We remember when he first signed on with a large company after years of working for smaller outfits. He was excited by their slogan, beyond petroleum, but even more impressed by the day-to-day way the company seemed to take safety and the environment seriously. The idea that an oil company could lead the effort toward a new energy future intrigued him. With pride Alan told us that for the first time in years he felt like he had found a company he truly wanted to work for. The company was British Petroleum, known to most everyone as simply BP, and it has since joined the ranks of companies whose names have become synonymous not for purpose and higher mission but for failing to put purpose at the center of the business. Alan left BP a year after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, his initial optimism unfortunately long gone.

 

Chapter 5: Every Leader Must Have a Purpose

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JOHN REPLOGLE IS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SOCIAL MISSION BOARD and the former CEO of Seventh Generation, one of the companies leading the purpose revolution. When Replogle was 35 years old, he was president of Guinness Bass Import Company and managing director of Guinness Great Britain. He was a successful executive who felt like he had “life on a string.” His work and life had meaning for him, and it didn’t particularly feel like anything was missing. While serving in that role, he began working with a mentor, who encouraged him to write a personal mission statement. He wasn’t getting much traction on it until one day when he was rushing off in the car with his young children in the backseat; he was thinking about that assignment when he glimpsed his children’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

“I looked at them and realized that everything I had done in my career to that point was for me, and I felt I hadn’t done anything to make the world they would live in a better place.” He said he started to cry as he realized that making money was simply not enough. Months later he left Guinness to take a job at Unilever and eventually the CEO position at Seventh Generation. “I knew a change was needed,” he told us. “I wanted my work to serve a higher aim.” In that moment this leader discovered his true purpose. To lead a purpose-driven culture, everything starts with us as leaders asking the kinds of questions Replogle asked himself that day.

 

Chapter 6: Drive Job Purpose, Not Job Function

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THE SPANISH WORD FOR “JOB,” TRABAJO, IS A DERIVATIVE OF THE Vulgar Latin word for “torture.”1 Of course, most people don’t see their jobs as a form of cruel punishment, but the truth is that most jobs are simply too small for the human beings inhabiting them. The purpose gap for employees results from their desire to find meaning and purpose in their jobs, beyond financial reward, but realizing that their jobs are often mostly just a means to an end. When we connect to the true purpose of our work, however, it is transformed from a means to an end to an end in and of itself. How people see, understand, and experience their jobs and work has a profound impact on their commitment and performance.

Take the curious case of zookeepers. Although eight of 10 zookeepers have university degrees, their average annual salary is quite low compared with what these professionals might find in other settings, such as private-sector scientific research or teaching at a university. The typical zookeeper job description involves scrubbing enclosures, scooping waste, and spending time outside in the elements, and there’s often little room for career advancement. This is exactly why university researchers Stuart Bunderson and Jeffery Thompson have studied work satisfaction and commitment among these workers.2

 

Chapter 7: Get Hands-On Purpose

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FOR MANY YEARS JOHN WAS A REGULAR KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT THE annual Inc. 500 conferences, where the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies gathered. In the mid-1990s, shortly after Awakening Corporate Soul was published, the socially responsible business movement was just getting started in a serious way. After John’s talk one year, the CEO of an up-and-coming retailer asked him a question about an experience the CEO had had with his employees.

“We are a very socially responsible business,” the CEO told John. “We give a great deal away to charity, we have a great set of values, we care about our people, and we offer an amazing product to our customers. Last month a group of 50 employees volunteered together to work with inner-city kids. People came back buzzing and engaged like I have never seen them before. How do you think I can get that kind of energy back at the office?”

His question was important, and it’s related to an issue that we have experienced with many organizations over the years. His company was doing many of the right things: it had a purpose, it was generous, it was good to its customers and employees—and yet something was missing. As John probed more deeply, he soon discovered that most of the purpose-related activities in the company were headed up by the senior leaders. Aside from the volunteer day, the majority of the purpose-oriented work they were doing was in the form of charitable donations.

 

Chapter 8: Create a Clear Line of Sight to Purpose

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IN 2014 JOHN GAVE TWO KEYNOTE SPEECHES IN SUCCESSIVE WEEKS to two companies in the insurance and financial services industry. Both speeches were at annual meetings headlined by the companies’ CEOs, who spoke to their respective top leadership teams, numbering in the hundreds. At the first meeting, the CEO presented a seemingly endless series of slides—there were more than 30 of them, but they could likely have been boiled down to a singular message.

The CEO’s main point went something like this: The previous year the company sold more of "everything" and they "sure as hell" had better sell even more the following year. The strategy to implement this plan was unveiled with little emotion or connection to the people the company served other than its shareholders. Though customer service was mentioned here and there, there was no robust discussion of how the company’s products or services truly made a difference for anyone, let alone society. When the CEO finished, the applause from the audience was polite but hardly enthusiastic.

 

Chapter 9: How to Win Talent in the Purpose Revolution

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WHILE INTERVIEWING LEADERS ACROSS INDUSTRIES FOR THIS book, we found many recurring themes when discussing the purpose revolution and how companies and talent are seeing a new trend emerge. A story we often heard in a variety of forms revolved around not just connecting purpose with current employees but attracting new employees through purpose, as well.

Take, for example, a story told us by Kiersten Robinson, executive director of human resources, global markets, at Ford Motor Company. Robinson did a stint in HR for Ford in China. Her responsibilities included leading new-employee orientation: “As part of the program, I would routinely ask new employees in China the top three reasons why they decided to work for Ford. Inevitably, a large majority would have our company’s vision to create a better world in that top three.” Ford’s clear, concise purpose, stated loudly and boldly, had resonated throughout the world with top talent.

We heard a similar story from Joey Bergstein, the CEO of Seventh Generation. Bergstein knows firsthand the power of an authentic purpose to attract and retain the best talent. One of his top scientists, who had invented Fantastic and Formula 409 at Clorox, joined the Seventh Generation team because of the impact he knew he could make there, believing in its purpose and values. Bergstein’s head of R&D, who had had a great career at P&G and Church & Dwight, also wanted to do something more meaningful with his career, so he chose to work at Seventh Generation. “We blow others out of the water when it comes to attracting talent in our sector, and other companies try to lure our talent from the company,” he told us.

 

Chapter 10: Eight Practices for Thriving in the Age of Social Good

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THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THE PURPOSE revolution and what those winning in the revolution are doing to enable engagement and competitive advantage. We have provided prescriptive steps and advice on how to thrive in this age of social good, where to get started, and how to succeed over the long term, but you won’t reap the rewards without sincere effort, consistency, and, most of all, discipline, which we define as hardwired practices that forge a path of least resistance to change.

For example, many weight-loss programs start with house-cleaning—getting rid of all the junk food in your home and stocking only the good stuff. That way, when you reach for the midnight snack, all you have are healthy choices. By eating that healthy snack, as opposed to hopping in your car and driving to a fast-food joint, you exhibit a sense of discipline. You also show discipline when you go to the gym or pool at the same time every day, even if you’re tired. You will succeed because you’ve hardwired the practice and performed it even when you weren’t in the mood.

 

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