purpose

With vs. For

Working with someone is far different than for someone. 

With implies a group effort…people coming together with a common goal. Everyone shares in the load and everyone enjoys a share in the ultimate outcome.

For tells a different story…one of authority, power and non-inclusion. It’s a quid pro quo system. The boss makes a plan, the people below carry it out and get paid for their time. 

People enjoy being part of something…it’s what drives humans towards communal activity. It’s the reason we join book clubs, travel together, and volunteer for a common cause. It’s the purpose behind the activity which creates the enrollment. And so the work has deeper meaning than a paycheck transaction. All meaningful cultural change has this system built in. With requires a purpose. Otherwise the work is simply a transaction.

But there’s a benefit to the For system. Freedom from accountability. It’s clean and much more simple. The worker puts forth effort and is rewarded for the effort. And if the plan fails, ultimately there’s someone else to blame. The greater the effort, the greater the reward. Work faster and solve more complicated problems and we’ll pay you more. This feels safe for a lot of people. But it’s not sustainable. People will run on the hamster wheel for awhile, faster and faster. But over time it’s tiring and unchallenging. And their work diminishes…and a replacement is found.

So there’s a trade-off between freedom from accountability and complete unity around a cause. One is completely transactional and requires cogs. The other gives people a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves and make a difference.

Words matter…a lot. Choose wisely.

Are You Going?

I often ask people about their dream…their overarching goal, their purpose. And while the answer tells a story about what drives them, their true compass, more importantly it tells us that they are going. 

Rest is important. But other than a refresh, it doesn’t lead to change. It’s less important what you are doing. It’s really important that you are doing it.

Go be seen. 

On Purpose

An often misused phrase attempting to describe the intent or lack thereof of an action, where it’s more likely the outcome was the part not intended. I didn’t mean for that to happen vs. I didn’t mean to act that way.

Almost all actions are done on purpose. Otherwise, they’re accidents…where both the action and the outcome were unplanned and therefore unexpected by everyone involved.

It’s virtually impossible to act without intent. But it is quite possible to act without a purpose. Going to work, showing up, even just to go through the motions is intentional…on purpose. Most work is done on purpose. All of the mediocre products and services are done on purpose. All average books, bad movies and boring lectures are on purpose. Not one is an accident. The problem is that they aren't done With purpose. With purpose requires something more than start-up funding, efficiency and hanging on. Doing work with a purpose means a legacy and a promise are at stake. Purposeful work requires an investment of hubris, curiosity and emotion. Of course it might not work. But it might…and it’s this kind of work that leads to meaningful change. Without it we’d still be in the stone age. 

Every time you act you don’t get to choose if it’s on purpose. But you do get to choose if your performance, has a purpose…or not. Do purposeful work. We deserve it…and so do you.

Most Postmen Don't Ring Twice...

Most don’t ring at all. But ours does. Tom takes the time to notice if something looks too important to leave in the box and rings the doorbell to get it safely into our hands. He takes the time to notice when a piece of mail is mixed in with another address and makes a special trip back to our house to be sure it arrives at its intended destination. And Tom always does it with a smile, please and thank you. 

Postmen don’t need to go out of their way, do the unexpected or cause delight because it’s not expected. It’s not part of make-up of what the postal service is for. The postal service isn’t designed to lead change or make people happy. Its designed to deliver paper as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. This applies to most monopolistic business like utilities, waste removal, coal mines and the like. The people in those organizations are protected by the customers' lack of choice. Consequently, virtually no care is taken to make hospitality, quality or improvement (for the benefit of the customer) any sort of priority. And the real shame is this sort of transaction centric mentality creeps into non-monopolistic organizations as well…cable TV, telephone, grocers, hotels, theaters, etc. It’s particularly well engrained into publicly owned companies where quarterly earnings reports dominate the culture. 

Fortunately, there are the crazy ones, the outliers, the ones that understand that happiness and change are important, that leaving a legacy is what work is for. Thankfully there are people like Tom.

Work is for two things…leading change and causing delight. It’s this adventure and pioneering spirit to make the world a better place that makes life worthwhile. Otherwise, what’s the point.

What Are You in Business For?

In other words…what’s your purpose? Why are you doing what you’re doing? And no the answer shouldn't be “for money”. If it is…you plan to sell-out at some point. So surely your exit plan has already been developed. Would you share that with your employees? Your customers? More often the money part is about sustainability…how can someone keep their dream alive, live comfortable and pay their bills along the way. Just don’t confuse purpose with sustainability. Many people do…and the result is a disappointingly (for both you and your customers) short-lived effort.

1. Now list any clear actions which illustrate your purpose. Not slogans, promises or mission statements. The things you do to and with your customers. Your customers are raving about the highlights. So you can start by listing those. What would be missed if it were changed or eliminated?

2. Now list any actions which may be perceived as self-serving and might even be getting in the way of doing more of #1. What are your customers (internal as well as external) annoyed about? What won’t be noticed if it gets eliminated?

Now you know where to start…both shoring-up and repairs. Sometimes it’s processes or physical attributes of your product or service which need to be changed. More often it’s people and the culture which need adjustment. 

Need a plan? Now you have one.