Is Your Company Purpose Truly Part of Your Culture – or Just Marketing?

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” -Albert Schweitzer, German theologian, philosopher, physician, medical missionary

Many companies say they have a purpose and support a good cause. They’ll write a cheque or do some things. But I’ve found that few actually live it. Few are able to connect to their company purpose in a way that the people in the organization are directly experiencing the purpose…seeing it, hearing it and talking about it.

When it comes to purpose, I’ve noticed three types of companies:

  • No purpose beyond profit – it’s just about making money
  • Say they are purpose led, and say all the right things. But if you look at the actions behind the behaviours and actions, it’s about money
  • Truly purpose led, with a cause that drives the company ahead. It shows up in the leaders DNA, and in everything they do.

I’ve seen the difference a purpose-led organization can have on a company – how it makes the work much more meaningful and impactful.

One company is my client Chicago-based Medix, a leading provider of workforce solutions for healthcare, science and IT industries.

A few years ago we defined that the core purpose of the company is to “positively impact lives”. It means that every day, and in every way, they truly strive to make a real difference for the talent they represent, their clients and their internal team – and to strengthen the communities they touch.

It’s so far from marketing – it’s who they are.

And CEO Andrew Limouris has an amazing gift to bring this purpose to life in a way I’ve never seen leaders do. It is exceptionally powerful.

Once he had company leaders participate in a team-building exercise to build bicycles for kids – without instructions. When they’d finished the difficult challenge, they were surprised when the conference room doors opened. In walked a group of kids who had never owned bikes in their life – ready to receive them from the executive team.

Another time, the executive quarterly planning session took place in Phoenix where the company had raised money to buy a house for a veteran, in support of Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors project. When the house was completed, we held a team meeting in the veteran’s backyard. The man and his wife spent the evening with us, telling stories of what they had been through. At the end of the night, the veteran gave Andrew one of his service medals, in gratitude for helping them.

This year, to celebrate the achievements of exceeding their financial targets, and annual priorities set a year ago, Andrew held our three-day planning meeting in Punta de Mita, Mexico. One of those days was carved out for a purpose experience, to visit Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza, a children’s shelter just outside Puerto Vallarta. (We worked ‘til almost midnight every day in order to get this done, and then in the evening to wrap up our work, after we got back from the shelter. Worth every moment.)

Of course, we had all packed an extra bag full of clothes and school supplies for the kids.

But Andrew took it to a whole other level. When setting up the visit he asked how else could we positively impact them? What did they need? A doctor, a dentist, an eye doctor?

They needed a dentist, bedding, dish soap and laundry detergent. So we hired two dentists, and bought at least 40 sets of sheets and pillows, and other supplies at Walmart. Andrew also arranged for the woman who was the cook and maid in our villa to come and join the experience as well.

We set up a mini carnival and other games, and had a wonderful experience with the kids. They all saw a dentist who cleaned and extracted teeth, and arranged to do more work where needed. And the dentists were so touched, and so thrilled to be a part of it they did it for free!

Remember, we are emotional beings who rationalize things. If a purpose is approached rationally, it’s not that powerful. But creating experiences where people feel the intent of that purpose is extremely powerful for those you help – and the people in your company.

We could have just written a cheque for a few thousand dollars – but we did so much more, and are better for it. I’ll tell you why in the next blog.