Monday, August 30, 2010

Passion, Purpose, and Profit....

Many of you, who have happened upon this blog, will have seen Daniel Pink’s YouTube video on motivation . It is cleverly rendered and designed to appeal to those of us who predominantly think with the right side of our brain. After reading a little more of Pink, I learned that there’s no neurobiological evidence of the right/left brain concept but, as he would say, “it’s a catchy metaphor.” What’s even catchier is his contention that employees work for much more than money and that understanding this motivation is the way to work in a complex world.
Dan Pink’s fundamental thesis is that incentives, particularly monetary, only work for rudimentary tasks. The kind of tasks that are routinely outsourced. The incentive works to focus the energy of the individual on the completion of a task that requires little cognitive energy and almost no creativity. When it comes to tasks that require complexity of thought and innovation narrowing the field with an incentive actually weakens performance. This focus on a single goal often prohibits seeing a much richer, more creative, response. In a world where we are frequently looking for multiple right answers and where the goalposts are continuously changing a focus on the one right answer may seriously stunt our growth. Today’s business environments require much more than simple behavior modification principles to engage people. Yet, most human resource departments are set up to “compensate” performance not to enliven and inspire people.

What’s even more compelling in Pink’s view is the notion that motivation and purpose must be strongly linked to attract and engage talented high performing employees. The desire to contribute is a powerful motivator for most people. It therefore makes great sense for businesses to truly contemplate the ways in which they can contribute to a purpose higher than the bottom-line. What’s your organization’s purpose? Your raison d’être? If you have a hard time conceptualizing this perhaps your purpose and motivation are untethered. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods suggests that, “Virtually all of our societal organizations seem to have either forgotten or have never really known why they exist and what their higher purposes are. Instead, they have often elevated narrow individual and institutional self-interest into the only purposes that they recognize as valid.”
At Whole foods their “green and healthy” purpose is central to their business. They need to make profit in order to fulfill their mission. It’s making money to serve the greater mission of doing good and being good in the world. When people buy Whole Foods, they’re buying into something that is more significant than simply food.

The connecting of purpose and passion with profit is not new. Small and large organizations alike are beginning to realize that talented people have choices and unless an organization is offering something more than a competitive salary few truly original thinkers will be attracted. Connecting with your purpose as an organization can, quite honestly, be gut wrenching work. It requires a deep level of introspection, a dedication to ruthlessly understanding environmental and social impacts, and a commitment to creating value for all shareholders up and down the value chain. Great missions are not made in a weekend retreat. They are the product of deep thought and inquiry. This process of inquiry is, in itself, an amazing tool for engagement. Who are your employees? Why do they want to work for you? What’s gets them out of bed on Monday morning? What purpose do they seek to serve by working for you? You may be surprised and inspired by their answers…

The Acacia Group’s purpose and passion is transformative and unique leadership development for organizations and individuals seeking to live out their global citizenship. To do this we blend knowledge from Corporate Social Responsibility, Community Development and Leadership Development and Learning to emerge new opportunities for leadership excellence for our clients.

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