In this blog article I want to spend a little time talking about purpose, which I see as the key to engagement and commitment.

Purpose, engagement, and commitment. These words that tend to make some men and women run away. Fast! But not good leaders. Good leaders seek out these things, because they know that these three “ingredients”, when put together create an inclusive, high-performing culture. A culture  which energizes teams and organizations to achieve great, positive outcomes.

Organizational culture and leadership are linked, and over time leaders can shape culture through their actions. Here’s how:

Become a “We Culture”.

Some of the best teams and organizations I have been part of, or worked with had what I describe as ‘We Cultures” — cultures that are highly inclusive, where everyone feels like they are contributing to the organization’s mission. “We Cultures” are guided by purpose, and have higher levels of engagement, and commitment.

Ditch the transactional mindset.

If you are supervisor reading this, you might be thinking, “Why should I concern myself with culture, let alone purpose, engagement, and commitment?” Yes, you pay your employees to do their job. That should be motivation enough, right? Wrong. That is a transactional mindset. No one will go above and beyond for you and the organization without being inspired.

The fact that you are paying employees to do their job is the exact reason you as a supervisor, a leader in your organization, should be concerned with purpose, engagement, and commitment.

Make work meaningful.

If you provide a purpose for your employees, then work will be more than just a job, they will be more fulfilled which will lead to higher engagement and commitment.

A common purpose creates the glue that bonds teams and organizations together. In The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner write that the motivation to deal with the challenges and uncertainties of life and work comes from within. Sometimes people need a reason to keep moving forward. Leaders provide that reason.

Create a feeling of interdependence.

By keeping the focus of the team on the common purpose you will create a feeling of interdependence among members of the organization. They know they have to commit to each other to be successful. As I shared in the post in How to Gain Commitment in the Workplace, “Leaders must engage in behavior that maintains each team member’s commitment to them and the organization.” Commitment starts with leaders demonstrating their commitment through their actions by establishing strong bonds with, and among their employees.

Provide the rocket fuel every team needs.

I know from my combat experiences that what inspired us to get through tough times was a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Purpose and meaning provided the rocket fuel for our unit to keep moving through any high-stakes environment.  On Bridge 3, we were under incredible adverse conditions, yet we were able to move toward the enemy gunfire, not away from it. We succeeded in accomplishing our mission. Likewise in the workplace, when people are together in their purpose, and believe in the “why”, they will rise — above fear, ambiguity, and fatigue and keep moving toward the end goal.

Don’t forget this critical ingredient.

As leaders our job is to effectively communicate exactly what the common purpose is in order to engage and obtain the desired commitment from our “troops”. But this cannot be achieved without the final, and most critical ingredient – empathy. Empathy is the spark that ignites the power of relationships. Through empathy we are able to better understand and perceive situations from our direct reports’ point of view. This understanding leads to better choices and better leadership, which sometimes results in a shift or change in the direction you were headed, and may prove to have a significant, positive affect on your team – raising the level of performance — to the max!

And there you have it. My tried and true recipe for leading teams that do well. I’ve said it before and a I’ll say it again. It was that experience on Bridge 3 that proved to me without a doubt what is needed to adapt and survive – that same experience can be compared to a work environment.

By leading with empathy and engaging with employees, leaders will earn commitment from members who will align themselves with the purpose of the organization. When employees have a purpose, are committed and inspired, they won’t be overwhelmed by failure and will see it merely as a temporary obstacle they will need to adapt to and bypass. Purpose can build resilience because there is an understanding that everyone has a role and others are counting on you.

Of all the things that sustain organizations over time, purpose is the most enduring. When leaders are inspired by purpose, they will inspire their employees and other members of the organization. Organizations benefit from the unifying positive outcomes that purpose provides.

Toujours prêt – Always Ready

~ Jonathan