Across the globe, government and corporate entities are now being challenged to do the right thing, to be more responsive, more human centric but what does that mean? How do companies find their purpose, use their voice and be authentic in the direction they are moving? We turned to social impact leader Jennifer Bahrami to find out. As Founder and CEO of Strategy & Pitch she is focused on advising organizations and leaders that choose purpose as core to how they can also achieve profit.
A Place of Purpose
There has been an evolution in both the external and internal activist world where employees, consumers, and stakeholders are demanding action from brands, leaders and organizations. The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a lot about the state of the world today, including that 60% of people will both advocate for a brand they believe in and choose a place to work based on beliefs and values.
For someone in the C Suite or sitting in that room, significant parts of their agendas must be focused on people, culture and purpose to be able to address the many societal issues we have been facing over the last several years. Investing in people and culture has a reflection on reputation and ultimately, financial well-being.
Purpose is a Conversation, not a Statement
Ten years ago, it was easy for organizations to simply say they supported the missions of their customers. Today, that isn’t enough. Employees are asking to be heard, to have the companies they represent connect with the missions that are important to them. And on the business side, corporations are vetting suppliers, looking for alignment in mission, ethics and purpose.
Purpose needs to be a conversation that serves clients, employees, and the bottom line. It needs to be incorporated into the DNA of an organization to be authentic and to be successful.
To succeed in acting with purpose, leaders must be guided by authentic purpose. If they feel forced, people will see through it. It may come across as trying too hard, may come across as distracted and without focus. Either way, it will not work.
Defining purpose takes work. It takes listening at all levels, inside and out of your organization. It requires a look at your original mission and values. Do they connect to your culture today? Are they tied to the DNA of the organization you want to see moving forward? How will you engage to communicate who and what you are?
Leadership must champion any forward motion. Sometimes you see people empowered to operate with purpose, leadership at all levels are engaged and change comes quickly. More often though, identifying a leader or organizations authentic voice is a process that does not happen overnight.
Finding and Using a Voice
Today especially it is important for leaders to be able to take positions on issues or explain why they are not. Employees are expecting it. It is unacceptable for a leadership team to remain silent because the implication is complicity in whatever is taking place. This does not always mean that an organization needs to voice a position on the issue, but they do need to make sure you are listening and engaging around the issues.
It is important to understand finding the right voice is also a journey. Especially in 2022, given the uncertainty of the past few years, it is entirely okay to define purpose within the context of the unknown, from a place of ‘we’re still figuring it out, but join us on that journey.’ When you can bring your team, and your community, along on that journey, it builds a culture of trust.
Collaboration and Humility
Identifying your purpose should be built around collaboration, around building different voices into the mix, including employees and customers. It helps to think outside of your own walls, to think about others you can bring in to support your mission and values.
Often the conversation may come down to something you have never done before or the impulse to think that you cannot change a way of behaving. It can take humility from leaders to recognize they may not have the best way forward, to question why and how they have done things in the past, and to make real and meaningful change.
Purpose & People
Whether it is from the organization’s side or thinking about the customer, people come first. If we are making decision without considering the people within, the end-user, it will be hard to succeed.
More and more we are seeking talent being discerning about where they want to work, and where they will stay. They are evaluating companies for real actions and are measuring authenticity in what they see and hear. Meeting these expectations doesn’t require perfection but it does require being truthful in what you are working to achieve.
At the end of the day purpose is not a magic process but it does require a will to know what impact or outcomes you want to have.
The expression ‘walk the walk’ cannot be underestimated when it comes to culture. It doesn’t matter what companies are putting down on paper or broadcasting through their channels, it will be the day-to-day interactions that tell the real story, the way leaders talk to the team and to each other, how they handle themselves in meetings or make policy decisions. Those are the pieces that build purpose and when the actions and words are not aligned, people can see through this. It impacts your ability to lead, the brand reputation and your customer’s trust.
Once you have implemented your new strategy and start operating from a place of purpose, you should recognize measurable changes, in retention, in deeper client relationships, in increased engagement, that will tell you whether you are on the right path.
About Strategy & Pitch
Strategy & Pitch is a brand advisory that works with organizations and leaders to unlock purpose, build stakeholder trust and drive business impact.
About Jennifer Bahrami
Jennifer is a social impact leader and strategic advisor guiding organizations and leaders through a changing world. As former CCO & CMO she has a clear vision, a deep understanding of stakeholder needs, and an ability to build trusting, collaborative networks. She has worked with clients across the public and private sector supporting technology modernization efforts, healthcare transformation and global education initiatives. Jennifer serves on the Board of Learning Undefeated a nonprofit which is driving race and gender equity in STEM.
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