Practice With Purpose


This is a quote I have heard time and time again from my days as a professional golfer, but increasingly I am witnessing how applicable this mantra is in the business environment.

In the sporting arena it means having a goal or objective that you wish to achieve in that session, and ensuring that each repetition is 100% committed to achieving that goal, whether it is a change in technique, a routine to engrain focus and commitment or building good habit’s so that performance is possible under pressure.

Practice without any purpose is just repetition. In many cases this can have a detrimental effect, as poor technique, or routine is actually being ingrained rather than eradicated.

The same is true in business. Many businesses are operating without defining their purpose or not understanding it. Every business should have a purpose, and by this I don’t mean shareholder returns. That is the by product of understanding and delivering your purpose. Steve Jobs described this as the “why”. People buy into your why! Customers, employees, suppliers, supporters all buy into our why or our purpose. That’s because people have values and we are far more comfortable engaging with people who share those values.

The purpose becomes even more important to understand and communicate internally if we are to get the best performance and engagement levels from our workforce. With a well-defined purpose we have a united effort and a clear understanding of our common cause. This leads to people going that extra mile, putting in the hours required, driving change, bringing creativity and celebrating success. Ever wondered why the most successful brands attract the best talent? What’s made them successful in the first place is their purpose and people want to contribute to achieving that purpose. This is because they share in those values or that vision.

Without a purpose, confusion and frustration reigns. Leadership sees a lack of progress, so starts to exert pressure. Engagement levels drop because employees get frustrated with negative feedback, despite their efforts. A blame culture starts thus a silo mentality ensues. In the worst cases employees back away from what’s required becoming compliant but disengaged and ultimately retention suffers as experienced and valued employees choose to leave.

The natural temptation from leadership is “fix what’s broken” so action plans are created detailing the remedies required. Focus shifts from what were perceived to be the strategic objectives, and these start to suffer too. This is where the confusion really manifests itself, as initiatives are started but not completed, priorities change, and the business is now reacting all the time making it task oriented and transactional. Internal messaging lacks clarity and mixed messaging becomes the norm. In the worst cases this creates resistance to change, customer focus suffers and ultimately reflects in financial performances.

This is all obvious stuff, right?

In too many instances businesses think they have well defined strategic priorities and improvement priorities. They are implementing continuous improvement cultures and tools to drive efficiencies or reduce costs. They have detailed action plans with due dates and owners, monitored by metrics and KPI’s which are discussed at monthly management meetings. They have a performance management process and hold people accountable to deliverables. This will surely deliver the financial objectives, won’t it?

I’m afraid not. Until a decision is made on what type of business you want to be and your purpose for being, how can you possibly decide on the strategies, resources, investment, capabilities and actions required to achieve it?

Even more importantly if you have already made the decision, ensure that is well communicated. Say it, say it, and say it again. After you’ve said it make sure you live it!

When you have a well-defined, communicated purpose, people will gravitate towards you. You can build the resources and capabilities required on a backbone of a committed & engaged workforce who share your values. Customers will become more loyal and will champion your business. Suppliers will value your business and the position you occupy in your market. Shareholders/investors will be more attracted to you and will seek to collaborate.

Finally, you will be well positioned to build pre-eminence, brand strength and market share.

The natural by-product of this is financial performance and shareholder return!

Practice with purpose and witness the impact it creates.