This week’s article is by Nell Derick Debevoise, Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp that offers purposeful leadership development content and programming to accelerate the movement of business as a force for good. It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Going First: Courage to Lead Purposefully and Inspire Action that aired on Tuesday, January 4th, 2022.
The way we work is broken. Workplace trends show that employees are resigning in greater volume than ever, jobs are being created at a slower rate than any of the prior 7 months, and employee wellbeing is flatlining at best. The seeds of employee distrust were planted well before Covid-19 and now they become a problem that no employer can ignore.
Employees used to spend years or entire careers at one company with blind loyalty to the corporate mission. Today employees are looking to belong to a greater purpose and aren’t afraid to jump from job to job until they find one that resonates.
Creating a People-First Workplace
Not only the way we work has changed, but also the work to be done. Technology and globalization mean that employees are doing the work that only people can do, like collaborating, innovating, and empathizing. Employees can only perform these higher-level tasks when they are operating with healthy minds, bodies and spirits.
Gone are the days where employees can be treated as cogs in a wheel, incentivized to produce as much output as possible. Trends in the business landscape met with the simultaneous crises of the 2020’s have shifted power from employers to employees. Employees demand a meaningful work experience. They want to know why they’re doing what they’re being asked to do.
How can companies bring back the magic that makes employees care about their work? Connect them to the purpose of what they’re doing. It is one of the greatest human joys to achieve something larger than ourselves, working in a team towards a common goal.
Living – and working – purposefully means connecting your choices and behavior to something important in the world that you want to achieve. Purpose provides a reason to get you out of bed every morning beyond your own wellbeing or wealth. Companies need to focus on providing purpose as much as other benefits.
Celebrate Purpose in Your Organization
It’s time to throw a party, but this is a different type of party. Free beer and kombucha and promises of Summer Fridays are table stakes. Now employers must empower people to be fulfilled, by guiding them to recognize why the work matters to them as individuals, and the impact it has on people and planet around them.
It’s time to throw a purpose party. According to Marc Spencer, CEO of Summer Search, “A life of purpose is a life of joy! When you understand how your life has meaning, it brings joy, clarity, awareness of aspirations.” A purpose party is the first step to getting below the surface with your employees. It doesn’t take months of planning or a catering budget. It only takes conversations that go deeper than the day-to-day activities of your business.
Like most 2020s parties, set up a zoom link and start a new type of conversation. Choose your favorite party chat opener, like “Can I ask you a weird question?” or “This might sound random, but bear with me.”
And then dive in. Try this, “My best days are when…” Or “I am excited to come to work on Mondays because…”. Ask employees to answer those same questions. Listen, and ask more. It might be awkward at first, but creating the space for these conversations is the first step.
While throwing a purpose party scratches the surface of conversation, it’s important to make this a recurring event. Continue these conversations and questions in other meetings as openers or part of a weekly check-in. It only takes a few catalysts engaging in these types of conversations to help grow the movement. Encourage your party guests to host their own purpose parties with other colleagues around the firm.
It doesn’t take long for positive things to catch fire. As Lorie Yañez, Head of DEI at MassMutual, commented, “We’re at a tipping point. With 50% of leaders at advanced levels of cultural competence, those of us championing an inclusive approach don’t feel alone anymore.” By making purpose a topic of conversation in your immediate circle, you can reach that tipping point.
Start these conversations and watch the benefits accrue. Purpose is the most powerful, and most authentic, motivator out there. Sandi Kronic, CEO at Happy Dirt, says “When I’m in my purpose, it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing anything for anyone else!”
Bring Purpose to your Workplace Today
A purpose party doesn’t need to be a big event. Bringing intentional conversation to your workplace can start with one-on-one conversations or team meetings. Make time to discuss why you do what you do to help everyone remember what brought them each to this work. Engaging employees on their purpose will help them contribute to outcomes that are only achievable when everyone comes together. And that is motivating!
Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.
About the Author
Nell Derick Debevoise is a thought partner to purpose-driven leaders, as well as speaker, author, and Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital. Debevoise guidance helps CEOs and CHROs expand their impact, grow their businesses, and build powerful legacies. She has lived and worked on 4 continents, and collaborated across sectors with Japanese executives, Palestinian community leaders, French high school students, and Mozambique education ministry officials among others. Debevoise also studied leadership, innovation, and intercultural dialog at Harvard, Cambridge, University di Roma, and Columbia and London Business Schools. In 2011, she moved to New York and founded Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp that offers purposeful leadership development content and programming to accelerate the movement of business as a force for good. Debevoise is a Senior Contributor for Forbes, and her first book, Going First: Find the Courage to Lead Purposefully and Inspire Action (available early 2022) is an International Best Seller.