The Purpose Effect

"The Purpose Effect is a three-way relationship between an individual’s personal sense of purpose in life, the organization’s purpose and a person’s purpose in their role at work."

- The Purpose Effect, page 4

We spend too much of our life at work to not be able to have a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment from it. In The Purpose Effect by Dan Pontefract, we look at the fundamental element of purpose in creating meaningful work experiences that engage employees, and the tangible and measurable benefits when purpose exists.

This book builds from Pontefract’s first book Flat Army, which emphasized the role of leaders in building great workplace cultures. In The Purpose Effect, Pontefract explores the shared ownership of great work, both with organizations that must commit to building roles and experiences that provide a purpose-based experience, and individuals who need to do the work in understanding and connecting to their purpose.

When key factors are aligned, there are benefits to purpose-filled work that make it worthwhile.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Pursuit of A Higher Calling

"The Purpose Effect results in a higher calling, where individuals and organizations seek to improve society to benefit all stakeholders."
- The Purpose Effect, page 7

Certainly, there’s evidence that purpose drives engagement. Deloitte’s research in this area shows, “in those organizations where individuals felt a high level of purpose, 73 percent of the workforce indicated they were fully engaged whereas in organizations devoid of purpose, only 23 percent felt the same.”

More importantly though, where stronger engagement that is anchored in purpose exists, stronger individual and organizational outcomes will occur. As Pontefract notes, “the authenticity that is rooted in such clarity of purpose in work motivates team members to greater effort and contributions.” When we believe we are working for deeper, more meaningful outcomes, we are willing to put in much more effort. Having worked in and with purpose-driven organizations, I know this feeling is unparalleled and drives a different level of output.

We can’t ignore the benefits of purpose to ourselves, our organizations and the communities we serve. We just need to figure out how to get more of it.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Get To The Sweet Spot

"The more alignment there is – the more a team member believes in the organization’s purpose and its relationship to their personal purpose alongside the role they occupy – the greater likelihood there is for an individual to reach the purpose mindset and thus the sweet spot. If this happens on a continuous basis, both the organization and the team member will have created The Purpose Effect."
- The Purpose Effect, page 134

It’s the alignment of key factors of purpose that get us to the level of feeling a deeper sense of purpose, a higher calling. Pontefract calls this “the sweet spot”, where purpose is realized in the alignment of three factors:

Personal purpose: “What motivates someone in life; their ‘why’ … values, experience and beliefs inform personal decisions and actions”

Organizational purpose: “Why the organization exists … principles, ethics and culture inform its ways of operating”

Role purpose: “Why a role exists in the organization … an organization establishes a variety of roles to support its mission.”

When individuals understand their own purpose and feel a sense of purpose in their role and overall in their organization, that alignment is the sweet spot that drives benefits from The Purpose Effect.

From a company perspective, Pontefract defines the work towards purpose that organizations need to perform as “Good DEEDS”, which includes:

  • Delight your customers
  • Engage your team members
  • Ethical within society
  • Deliver fair practices
  • Serve all stakeholders

However, despite a company’s best efforts to deliver Good DEEDS, poor leadership can get in the way of achieving The Purpose Effect.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Leadership Is Key To Achieving Purpose

"…if a leader does not choose to create a trusting environment – one where team members might achieve purpose in their role and a sense of value while working – it is possible cognitive dissonance will overpower and the three categories of purpose might never align."
- The Purpose Effect, page 71

Many companies struggle with a disconnect between the “message from the top” and what people experience day-to-day. The same risk exists with the pursuit of purpose-focused work. Despite the best efforts to pursue purpose within an organization, there can be a difference between what employees hear about purpose and what they experience.

Pontefract points to issues with leadership as a key impact that can prevent the Purpose Effect from being realized. Failing to provide fair pay practices, politics and power struggles, and unfair performance management practices such as stack ranking are just a few examples of the ways leaders can impact an employee’s interest and ability to pursue their best work. When those issues exist, purpose and a drive for a higher level of performance never have a chance.

It’s great to have this book to add to the conversation about deeper ways to improve the poor levels of employee engagement that exist in organizations today. Too often, we only hear about the “corporate ROI” from working to improve engagement, and fail to talk about the personal impact to people from working in environments that force them to leave their passion and values at the door. With The Purpose Effect, we can add a new dynamic to move the conversation forward about the shared ownership for engagement.

In case you think you’d be leading too far ahead of the curve in implementing purpose where you work, the range of examples included in this book, from IKEA to Johnsonville Sausage, prove every company can create purpose-filled work experiences for their employees, and in turn, realize significant benefits for individuals, the organization and their customers.

That’s a sweet spot to be in, if you’re willing to do the work to get there.

Do you have a connection to purpose in your work? Tell us more in the comments below

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Alyssa Burkus

ABOUT Alyssa Burkus

As a consultant, I work with entrepreneurs and senior leaders through periods of significant change in their organizations, by delivering strategies, new programs, and coaching to build the workplace foundation they need to shift their company to new levels...
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