Does Your Organization Have a Soul?

The last time I blogged about adaptive capacity, I wrote about the importance of holistic thinking and the five elements that make up an organization—purpose, strategy, structure, culture, and talent. Today, I want to focus in on the first of those five elements: purpose.

Juan Carlos Eichholz refers to purpose as the “soul” of the organization; in other words, the driving force that gives it meaning beyond just profit. Purpose is an increasingly important factor in whether or not an organization will succeed, particularly with millennials demanding more from their jobs than just a paycheck. Today, talented, innovative employees expect to feel psychologically and emotionally fulfilled by their work.

Eichholz sums up what companies that don’t supply this sense of purpose to their employees tend to look like: “An organization without a purpose will not be able to attract people who work with purpose. It will look like an industrial type of organization, focused exclusively on performing tasks in an efficient way, treating people as mere executors of corporate plans rather than unleashing their full potential. By contrast, an organization with purpose will go beyond the task, understanding that its main asset is people who work with purpose and seek to make a difference.”

Would you want to work for a company that treats you like one more cog in the machine? Probably not, and if you ever have worked for such a company, you probably left because you felt underappreciated and unchallenged. Organizations without purpose can’t compete in today’s marketplace because they don’t retain the talent they need to innovate and adapt.

If you’re in a leadership position in an organization that lacks purpose, here are some questions Eichholz suggests you should consider:

  • What difference does your organization make in the world?
  • What is your organization doing to try to attract employees who seek out purpose and meaning in their work?
  • What is your organization’s legacy, and what would you like it to look like in 10 years?
  • How is your organization connected to a larger community?
  • What is the story behind your organization?

These aren’t easy questions to answer. But if you take the time to think critically about your organization’s purpose (or lack thereof), you may find that some areas are stronger or weaker than others.

If you’re struggling to find your organization’s purpose, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me via my website, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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