The Power of Purpose in Leading Change

You may have noticed that more and more brands are swapping humor and clever taglines for advertising messages with a high dose of heart and humanity.  It’s a growing trend as companies attempt to build and deepen connections with consumers that span well beyond their products and services.

While not an entirely new concept, purpose-driven messaging is being used more and more to inspire action for a greater cause.  Communication emphasizing social impact is on the rise to meet the increasing demand and preference for purpose in the brands we buy.  This trend was evident in many of the spots that ran during this year’s Super Bowl, including Procter & Gamble’s “Like a Girl” campaign, Unilever’s “Real Strength” campaign, and the “Make It Happy” campaign from Coca-Cola.

Interestingly enough, outside of brand campaigns, little time is spent thinking about the importance of emotional buy-in.  Building connections to engender loyalty among consumers is just half of the equation, and the most innovative brands recognize the power of using purpose-driven messaging internally to galvanize an organization to support the business cause.

More motivating than a paycheck is a sense of purpose.  It matters to us because as human beings we have an innate desire to belong and contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  Aligning employees with purpose—especially during turbulent times—inspires a commitment that can’t be bought and yields powerful outcomes that can accelerate execution and growth during times of both stability and change.

So what are the implications for us as change leaders?

Change creates natural resistance, as employees must fundamentally rethink and reshape the business while minimizing losses in productivity.  This requires extraordinary levels of energy and engagement.  In their study, “The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management: Why it isn’t working and what to do about it,” authors Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken state that what leaders care about (and typically base at least 80 percent of their messages on) does not tap into roughly 80 percent of the workforce’s primary motivation for putting extra energy into change.

When presenting the case for change, leaders often focus solely on business objectives such as entering new markets, increasing shareholder value, or enhancing corporate reputation.  Ensuring a genuine commitment to the cause requires connecting with employees on both a rational and emotional level—marrying desired outcomes of the business strategy with purpose to engage hearts and minds.

Storytelling is the single most effective way to remind employees of the company’s purpose and their critical role in achieving it.  A powerful transformation story is authentic and begins with the “why” behind change—not “what” the company is trying to achieve.  It creates unique opportunities for dialogue, helping employees to understand the vision and why the strategy is relevant so they become energized by what’s possible and motivated to act.  It answers the “big questions,” from impact on society to impact on employees, and creates a line of sight for people to recognize that what they do matters and is valued.

Naturally curious and eager to listen, our team would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Connect with us! Give us a call, send a note, or follow us on LinkedIn. If you liked this post, consider sharing it with your network and inviting others to comment and join the conversation.

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