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Purpose as Organizer: Centering Vision Behind Actions

At Trunorth Institute, we recognize the important role that purpose plays in organizations, standing as a crucial cornerstone that focuses their goals, actions, and identities. This is especially true once your business is required to weather the inevitable stages of organizational change that will inevitably come as it grows and develops.

Purpose is often thought of as an element of organizing that is established at the beginning of a project to guide its creation, and then is overlooked during the actual process of building the infrastructure around it. This is a critical error and one that is all too easy to make for a plethora of reasons.

Purpose is the conductor of an orchestra- critical to guiding the many different instruments during practice to ensure that they are all aware of their functions and responsibilities in the melody. However, the conductor’s job cannot be abandoned once practice is complete and it is time to perform! It is at this point that the conductor’s job heightens in importance because, in the chaos of performance, it is easier than ever for the orchestra to lose sight of the big picture as each of its members focuses on their own individual parts. Purpose stands at the heart of a successful organization because it provides a unifying sense of direction for the many moving to work together collaboratively.

We at Trunoth approach every aspect of our work, including our coaching programs and retreats, with this outlook because we believe there is purpose even in rest.

Financial Gain and Purpose

One of the easiest to overlook due to its ubiquity is that nearly all business ventures and organizations begin and operate off of an inherent purpose given to every living entity (and indeed, organizations should be living organisms, capable of adaptation and evolution) to survive. In the context of business, the lifeblood that sustains either the organization or the people that make up the business is money. This is an important thing to recognize because the absence of a strong sense of organizational purpose, will not result in a total lack of guidance to organizational action, but rather this survival imperative will overtake the original goals of the organization and aim its focus towards merely making money.

What is wrong with centering money in the long-term? This isn’t to say that money can, or should, be removed as a goal from businesses; that would be counterintuitive. What is so coercive about money as a motivator is that it is essential- unavoidable. However, what makes this dynamic so tricky is that money is not only a way that companies and organizations survive, but also frequently stands as the marker for success and growth. Once money takes precedence over the original imperatives of an organization, the organization is placed in jeopardy of losing its essence, and ultimately dissolving as a result of fracturing interests and identities. Money’s essence as a motivator also makes it a prime medium for manipulation and exploitation from both within and outside the organization. 

Reputation is an invaluable currency for organizations, and a good reputation is often something hard-won through ethical business practices over a long period of time. Despite the extensive amount of time and energy it takes to build a good reputation, inversely it can take only a moment for it to be lost. If you have an organization with any worthwhile reputation, there will be an onslaught of entities looking to utilize that reputation to their benefit, often with money used as the incentive. Partnering with the wrong businesses can cause irreparable damage to your organization’s legacy and survival, and the less reputable an organization is, the more desperate it will be to utilize yours, using money as a way to compensate for its lack of validity. Purpose is the bulwark that stands guard against these common pitfalls and allows for an organization to stay on course as it goes through the many inevitable changes that all organizations experience.

Purpose for Individuals

Identifying organizations as living entities also aids us in remembering that organizations are made up of individuals: humans. There is a very tangible correlation between the quality of work that people perform and their level of engagement with that work. There is a bevy of research and scholarship to support this reality, such as this article by Oxford University's Saïd Business School titled "Does Employee Happiness have an Impact on Productivity?" that draws an empirical correlation between the mental well-being of workers and their level of productivity.

Beyond the scholarship, however, it is easy to see how vision and passion are much more effective motivators than money, though they take more effort to evoke within people. This is because money is ultimately a means to an end such as financial stability or social status, but is intrinsically useless. If you can foster a sense of personal investment, the goals of the organization will ultimately line up with those of the individuals within it. This does not mean that having a strong sense of purpose will make individuals who aren’t aligned with the goals of the organization suddenly care about it, but it will ensure that your organization will be able to more effectively market to, attract, and retain individuals whose goals align with your organization's.

Purpose as Marketing

A strong sense of organizational purpose is also critical for attracting employees and business partners who are interested in the same area of work as you. The strong sense of identity fostered by purpose not only projects a sense of brand stability and confidence that encourages trust in people looking in but also makes it easier for individuals who are passionate and skilled in your area of focus to identify your organization as one that would be good to either work with or for.

There is an old adage that states “The way you do anything is the way you do everything,” and this concept is very useful in considering the work that purpose does in an organization. Once identified, it should be present for every major decision made by your organization, as purpose guides actions, but reciprocally, actions cultivate purpose. The more that the purpose of your organization and its practices align with one another, the stronger each will grow to support one another.

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