Why every organisation needs to define their purpose

July 19, 2018

Organisations are good at describing what they do. They’re not always quite so good at defining why they do it. However, when most of our basic needs are and what we buy is a choice –  the ‘why’ is what makes us purchase one brand over another. The ‘why’ is also what makes us want to put in the extra effort at work. Human beings are emotional creatures. We are led by reason and emotions, but we make 70% of our decisions with the emotional part of our brain. When people connect with brands, it’s based on how it makes them feel and not necessarily the features or products. This is why every organisation needs to clearly define their purpose. Employees want to know what their organisation stands for and understand why they do what they do.

Start with why.

Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk on Start with Why discusses a pattern he calls the Golden Circle. The Golden CIrcle starts with why in the middle and what on the outside. He uses the Golden Circle to illustrate why some leaders and organisations are able to inspire action. All great organisations start with why.

When an organisation tells us their ‘why’ and we believe it, then we want to be part of it. We have an emotional connection with their values because they represent what we believe in. Sinek explains the brain is made up of three sections: the neocortex, the analytical part; and the limbic brain, which compromises the two middle sections and is responsible for all our feelings. The limbic brain is where all our emotional connections take place. The necortex and not the limbic brain is responsible for language which is why we often struggle to articulate our feelings.

The limbic brain is powerful enough to drive our decision making. It’s what gives us the sensation or feeling of a decision being right or wrong. When we rely too heavily on the rational side of the brain, we start to overthink, second guess ourselves and become overwhelmed. Our limbic brains often know the right thing to do – we just sometimes struggle to articulate why. When organisations don’t tell us why they exist, we are forced to think with our rational part of the brain. We then struggle to make a decision or are left feeling uncertain. This is why every organisation needs to define their purpose.

Emotional connection drives engagement

Employees want to work for a company they believe in and have an emotional connection with where they work. A great organisation can make them feel like they belong and create loyal brand ambassadors. The more connected an employee is, the more engaged they are likely to be. They’re more likely to feel passionate about their job, be committed to their team and put discretionary effort in. They are personally invested in the success of the organisation because they care about the work that they do.

The more motivated the employee, the more productive they are likely to be contributing to overall growth. An engaged employee spends 4.5 hours/day on work, whereas disengaged employees spend 2.7 hours/day. They are also more likely to project positive behaviours, which have an impact on people around them. Engaged employees create great work cultures and organisations people want to work for.

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