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Sense of Purpose

In this edition of The Coaching Conversation, I'm going to reflect on the experiences I've had with leaders and their teams around the challenge of motivating a whole organisation to want to achieve the goals, the targets, the objectives that the leadership team want them to achieve.



Typically, we find that this falls to a leader or a leadership team that has a genuine desire to involve and encourage people to be part of this delivery system. Or, they fall into the category of dictators where this is the way it's going to be, get on the bus or get off the bus, but this is the way it's going to be. Frankly, in the latter group, there's not an awful lot of coaching you can do because their minds are made up. They're going to tackle it in that particular fashion and whatever happens, is what happens as a consequence of that.

So, most of the coaching we do around this is around the kinds of leaders and leadership teams that genuinely see the value and genuinely want to enlist the commitment for the whole of their team, and often wider than that - other stakeholders, suppliers, customers. So, how do they do that? Well, the short answer is sense of purpose. If a leader and their team can build a very clear picture of what they're trying to create and the ‘why’ that sits around that, it's a relatively easy thing to describe to other people, and it's a relatively easy thing, therefore for them to buy into, and embrace, and see their own role in it.

This typically does not mean writing a vision statement or a mission statement and sticking it on the wall. Typically, it's something that comes from the heart. Something or things that have real meaning, things that matter; matter to the leader, to the leader's team and therefore, ultimately to the people when the rest of the organisation.

This sense of purpose overrides everything, and it very rarely comes with numbers or KPIs or even possibly deadlines. There might be milestones that are established to try to equate whether or not you're on the right track to equate how far down the journey you are progressing. But in principle, the sense of purpose is an aspiration - It's a north star. It's not the end of the journey. It's where we want to get to ultimately.

Now, this sense of purpose can be many, many, many things. It can be about the product. It can be about the service. It can be about the organisation's place in society - Are they acting as a responsible organisation, whether that's paying people, the right kind of wages, whether that's acting sensibly in terms of sustainability? Is it about their place in society in terms of the way in which they tackle some of the world's greater challenges around COP26 and pollution and inequality for example?

the beauty of a sense of purpose is that it creates energy, it creates enthusiasm and excitement that is purely natural. No, you don't get that reaction. When you say we're going to double sales or we're going to have market share dominance. It's just not the same - it may be true, that may be exactly what you do achieve. It may be ultimately how you fund all the other things that you're going to be doing, but of themselves, they are an outcome, not an objective.

So, what we find in creating sense of purpose is trying to get the leader and the leader's team to just open up about what they care about. Say out loud things that they might have previously been a little nervous about saying out loud, indeed, be brave in the context of saying things that sound absolutely ridiculous. Aspire to the totally nonsensical because the energy that comes around following whatever is you agree is going to be your sense of purpose will enable you to do things. You never thought you could do.

One of the parallels to this, that proves the point I guess, is just about everybody knows the difference between being ‘in the zone’ and ‘not in the zone’. When you're in the zone, there is with everything you do ease and flow. Everything you do is very straightforward. You find it easy. Now, that could be in a sport, that could be in some kind of job that you're doing, perhaps you're writing a report and it's just flowing easily. You're really in the zone and you're exuding all of the energy that comes from what you do.

Well, what we're talking about is creating a sense of purpose that gets as many people in your organisation as you can, as close to being in the zone as you can. And therefore, you know, that you can achieve more together when that sense of purpose and being in the zone come together.

Now, this isn't flaky, this isn't fairy tale stuff. This is about aspiring to something that matters. Matters enough to want you to care about it. Matters enough for wanting you to actually commit a bit more, and for you to share that as part of the team, whether that's as the leader, the leadership team, or a member of the wider organisation.

And the thing about that kind of success is it breeds success. Everybody knows that once you start to get things right, more things follow. The more sense of purpose you create and the more achievement against that sense of purpose you create, the more energy you're going to get - It's like a dynamo; it generates more.

So as a coach, when we're helping teams build business plans, we try to get them to start thinking about what they really want to create. Not just where they want to be in three years' time with the sales, with the profits, with the cash - though, that will ultimately be an output you will want to get to that because, in the end, you've, you've got to manage resources and make stuff happen - But in a context of where do you want to be? What do you want to create? What excites you? When you look back at the end of your career will you say ‘I'm really proud of what we did there’. Well, what would that be? These are the kinds of challenges.

These days, many of the younger generation coming into the workplace want to feel that not only are they on a career path for themselves, but there are amongst people who have a sense of purpose, and that there's a value to what they do. That there's an importance to what they do beyond simply their career. So, not only is this a good thing in terms of energising your organisation, it's a good thing in terms of attracting people who are equally going to be energetic and equally committed to the sense of purpose. In a slightly strange way, you are future-proofing what you're trying to achieve.

So, they have it building a sense of purpose, where it fits into business planning and how a coach can help the leader and the leadership's team try to energise the whole organisation, using a sense of purpose.

So, there you have it, the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at

If you want to reach out you can send us an email at you can book a free 15-minute coaching session at which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.

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