What Is Your Organization’s Higher Purpose?

by Kelly Vandever


“What’s your company’s higher purpose?  And I don’t mean, an answer like ‘increase shareholder value’ or ‘to be the number one provider in our industry.’  I mean, what does your organization do that contributes to your customers and/or the world.”

I started asking that of participants in my management classes a few months ago after being inspired by the work of Melissa Gordon.

The answers I’ve received have been fascinating.  I think that’s an even more important question when your staff consists primarily on knowledge workers like programmers and other technology professionals.


I remember asking that question myself when I was a manager for a wireless telecom provider.  We were testing billing software.  So what.  I thought.  It’s not like we’re curing cancer.

Then I thought of all the messages people receive over the phone.

It’s your Dad…he’s sick.

 It’s a boy!

 Sorry, I’m running late but I’ll be there soon.

As I thought of the ways that we use our phones to connect with the people we love, the people we work with, with a new acquaintance, it became clearer that we were doing was more than carrying out our jobs.  We were doing something that made it possible for people to have these important conversations.

That’s what I talked to my people about.  We weren’t just testing software.  We were enabling communications.


How Important Is a Vacuum Cleaner?

Vacuum cleaners are important.  They pick up after our messes.  Yes.

But if you want an example of going beyond just the purpose of a product, look at part of what Bissell has made their mission.  They’re committed to helping get pets adopted.  If it’s easier to clean up after a pet, more people will be likely to adopt.

So not only are they thinking about the higher purpose of providing great cleaning innovation… they’re working to save the lives of shelter pets.  How’s that for a higher purpose?!

Hear for yourself as Cathy Bissell talks about the Bissell Pet Foundation in the clip below.


Set the Vision

As a leader in a technology organization, your job is to set the direction or vision for your team.  Are you setting the vision big enough?  How does your organization make a difference to your customers and to the world?  Have you shared that with your staff?  People want to be part of something that matters, something bigger than themselves.  Set the vision, let them know how they fit in and reinforce that vision through your actions and your words — consistently and regularly.


Ask Your Employees

Ask your staff what they believe your organization’s higher purpose is.  Hopefully you find that your message is getting through.  Or maybe, you’ll discover that your employees are seeing your vision even more fully realized than you’ve imagined.


Worth the Journey

Every job has with it the good times and the bad.  But when your smart, educated, professional staff understands the bigger picture of how they contribute to the higher purpose of the organization, then they have more reason to engage and stick around through all the times.  Set the vision.  Repeat the vision.  Personalize the vision.  It’s what makes the journey worth it!


Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world.   Connect with Kelly and discover how being professionally human can bring you better business results. 

Contact Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her or tweet her @KellyVandever.

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