Purpose, is it just for NFPs and social enterprise?

Organisations focused on hitting performance measures for profit alone may reap bottom line benefits for a while, but they’re a ticking time bomb. Profit and performance matter, however organisations without a sense of purpose don’t stand for much; and as the saying goes, ‘Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything’. 


Purpose is a vital ingredient in the recipe for success, without it organisations lose clients, disengage employees and deplete their trust bank. With disruption on the doorstep most days, purpose is one of the keys to survival.

The social licence to operate has taken centre stage. Organisations are carrying obligations beyond turning a profit or providing a service. Environmental and social impacts are now of equal importance. If customers don’t understand or are not aligned with a company’s values, they’ll take their business elsewhere. In extreme cases there’ll be boycotts and call-out culture to deal with.  

Glance at the comments on any social media feed and you’ll see people measuring leaders’ and organisational performance against their actions and few escape scrutiny. Organisations recently hung out to dry in Australia alone include AMP, Rio Tinto, Crown, private schools, and the aged care and banking sectors. Our elected representatives are taking flak and Toyota’s poor treatment of a long-standing employee made headline news around the globe.

What happens internally is just as important. If employees don’t feel a sense of shared purpose they’re more likely to be disengaged, seek employment elsewhere or share their disenchantment along with the company’s dirty laundry. 

A recent McKinsey survey of more than 1,000 US employees reveals that while 82 percent of employees believe in the importance of purpose, only 42 per cent reported that their daily work was connected to purpose. If trust is the glue that holds an organisation together, purpose is the spark that ignites  innovation, reinvention and learning.


    1. Respect your people: consult widely and collect stakeholder perspectives (both internal and external). Make sure you do something with the information.
    2. Focus: get clear on what your organisation does, the value it delivers and create a sense of shared purpose.
    3. Lead by engagement especially during change: pace change and allow people to catch up with the change-makers. Connect your people to the purpose or the ‘why’. Involve them and they’ll co-create the change alongside you.
    4. Communicate purpose relentlessly: keep your organisation’s purpose top of mind and take every opportunity to communicate the ‘why’. Never underestimate the power of a conversation.
    5. Build trust: stand by your purpose and don’t fall into the ‘say–do’ gap. What you do must reflect what you say. Stating what you stand for, backing it up with the right actions and demonstrating the values you live by builds trust in your leadership and your brand.
    6. Keep up with the news: everyday will bring inspiration in the form of companies doing it right and offer timely reminders of what happens when things go pear shaped.

At Fire Up, we’re all about helping your organisation adapt to an ever-changing world. We help you to hone in and harness your true power, core beliefs and spread the message across the board both internally and externally. When you live with a purpose and act accordingly, the message translates and inspires. Are you driven by purpose?


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