That’s Not Your Purpose: The Don’ts Of Corporate Purpose Description

March 31, 2020
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Let’s get real. Every company needs purpose, but some of those supposed inspirations aren’t doing much for anybody. While many brands recognize the importance of having a strong purpose, unfortunately, not every brand understands how to clearly articulate it. In shortsighted efforts to attract more customers and the right employees, businesses often miss the mark. It’s not easy to put words to motivations. Here are a few mistakes to avoid when you determine why you do what you do:

Don’t give that same old generic answer.

Every company tries to “build a better future,” “bring people happiness” or “make the world a better place.” We get it, but we sure don’t believe it. If your purpose isn’t unique to you in any way, it’s not really your own. Don’t choose or reword a commonly used purpose because it sounds nice and can be stretched to apply to you. Be true to your own beliefs and what motivates you.

Don’t mistake what you do with why you do it.

Neither your mission nor your vision is the same as your purpose. Your mission is the work you are committed to doing every day. Your vision is the future you see for your company. Your purpose is the reason your company exists or the ultimate motivation behind everything you do. While both your mission and vision statements contribute to uncovering your purpose, neither what you do nor what you hope to achieve is exactly why you do it.

Don’t be vague.

A company’s purpose shouldn’t be broad or generalized. While you don’t need to specify exactly what you do when you articulate your purpose, there should be a clear connection that you and others can see between what you do and why you do it. A purpose should be a specific inside window into what drives you that everyone can see. If no one understands what you mean or how your purpose relates to you, your words won’t have an emotional effect on anyone.

Don’t be anything less than inspiring.

Not every motivator is purposeful. No one’s true purpose is to “succeed” or “make money simply.” Those aspirations are actually achieved by living a purpose, and they’re not nearly powerful enough to motivate people on their own. A purpose must inspire you and others to be passionate. Purpose evokes emotion. If yours does not, then it can’t be your true purpose.  

Don’t keep it to yourself.

If no one knows your purpose, you might as well not have one. For your purpose to make a difference, you need to share it with everyone in your company and arguably the world. Employees need to know a company’s purpose to understand, believe and align with it. Consumers need to feel a company’s purpose to be drawn to it.

Don’t contradict yourself.

If you don’t live your purpose, your purpose is useless. When a business preaches a cause that its own actions don’t align with, it loses its credibility. Your purpose should guide everything your company does. It should be infused into your company’s decision-making processes and practices to maintain the authenticity that inspires employees and customers to rally behind your brand.

Now that’s a purpose.

Every company can benefit from articulating a clear purpose. There’s no value to a purpose if it’s unclear, unheard, uninspired or untrue. Take the time necessary to uncover what really drives you. Make sure to check your purpose against the common mistakes listed above. Ask yourself if it genuinely excites you and motivates you to jump out of bed every morning to do what you do. Uncovering your purpose is an iterative process that can get messy, but the results are well worth the effort. When you clearly articulate a specific inspiring purpose unique to you and live it in everything you do, you can begin to attract like-minded people who it resonates with. Those people are your ideal customers and right-fit employees who will help you fulfill your purpose.

This article was first published on Forbes Agency Council, Nov 27, 2019.

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