"Purpose Inspires, Values Guide, Habits Define."
Purpose is the why of your organization. Purpose is what gives work meaning. But purpose is in danger of becoming "GWOP" - Goals Without Plans - unless it is aligned with your culture. Putting it another way, purpose is about where your company's journey is taking you. Culture is the combination of values and habits that will get you there.
Purpose, Values or Culture: What's the Difference?
Some people confuse the ideas of purpose, values and culture. They are three similar but distinct concepts. If purpose, values and culture were a math equation, they'd look something like this:
Purpose = Direction
Culture = Values + Habits that support purpose
Purpose is about the direction your company wants to go, while values serve as a roadmap that will get you there. Habits, on the other hand, might be akin to the fitness regimen you undertake before a long hike, or the car maintenance you do to make sure you don't break down on a road trip.
Values and habits together define your culture and make the idea of purpose something that isn't just talked about in executive board rooms, but is lived by your people every day. Leadership expert and author Anne Loehr says, "Purpose is the middle of the compass. It's the arrow pointing to our true north; our values are NSWE. Values tell us how we will achieve our purpose. They guide us and tell us how to make decisions. Purpose and values together increase engagement, someone's willingness to make a strong contribution to work."
Purposeful Values + Purposeful Habits = Purposeful Culture
Your culture is a combination of the values that guide your organization and the habits your people live. These give life to your purpose. Values, like purpose, are ideals that guide decision making. Habits, on the other hand, are more about the actions you take. They might be physical actions, like communicating with others or taking a moment out of the day to think about why we do what we do. They might also be mental actions or ways of thinking.
What are some ways that values and habits combine to create a more purposeful culture? Let's look at a few.
Mindfulness - Mindfulness is a value that aligns with purpose in the sense of thinking about the purpose and values of what you do every day. It can also be a purposeful habit. Gary Bradt, a speaker and thought leader on change says, "Values are the tool you use to make decisions every day. Values are purpose in action. Purpose is why, values is how, habits are daily actions that demonstrate values and take you towards purpose. Mindfulness is a tool that helps people be able to change and be more purposeful. If you could only adopt one habit, mindfulness - or the ability to listen to that little voice inside your head - is the most valuable."
Fearlessness or Embracing Failure - Purpose is a destination: getting there is a journey, and journeys always involve risk, a change of venue and the possibility of failure. These are what prevent most people and organizations from undertaking a purpose transformation, especially if we've experienced some success from doing things a certain way.
But unfortunately, we no longer live in an age that rewards playing it safe. That means change needs to become part of the culture. Says Adrian Gostick - Co-founder of The Culture Works, a global training company, "People need to be convinced why staying put is more dangerous than taking a leap."
Today, businesses are threatened by competition, technological disruption and other forces that require a more adaptable and fearless mindset. Innovative people seek innovative cultures where willingness to try new things, even if they may end in failure, are rewarded. Says Chester Elton, co-founder of The Culture Works, a global training company, "Unless you can celebrate failure you are not going to get creative people."
Grit - Fearlessness isn't the only value you need to weather the winds of change on your journey to purpose, however. Another key value is grit, or the belief that you can find a way to get the job done and the persistence to see it through. Says Paul G. Stoltz, founder and CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc., "A lot of the work I do is about grit and the importance of nurturing that quality in individuals. If the goal is to grow and live purpose, then grit is perhaps the most vital element. It's said that without the why there is no try. Purpose is the why of the organization but grit is the try. It's about digging deep and investing effort to achieve the purpose we seek."
Communication - Communication is both a value and a habit key to a purposeful culture. According to Gostick,talking to your team about why you have the purpose and values you do is important. "Your biggest differentiator is your culture: communicating your culture demonstrates what you are trying to do," says Gostick. "Leaders have to be transparent and talk about why purpose and values are important. We have to be open and treat our people like they are partners in the business. Communication is how we convince people that our culture and our purpose are where they should invest and give of themselves."
Lead by Example - Purposeful cultures are built by leaders who demonstrate the importance of culture by leading with culture in mind. Alyson Daichendt, Managing Director of Human Capital at Deloitte says, "Culture and employee engagement always have to come first. Leadership models behavior and demonstrates what is important. This is more important today than ever because the way work has changed has changed the way we see things. Leaders need to be genuine so the workforce knows who they are and why they are at that organization."
Purposeful culture must be embodied in the leadership of an organization. According to Daichendt, "We did a lot of studies around culture and creating brand purpose. Leaders who empower culture create the best employee experience. authentic and honest communication from leadership is what connects people's heads, hearts and hands."
Aligning purpose with culture is about defining and embodying the values that will guide your organization towards purpose, and delivering tools to your people - in the form of purposeful habits - that will allow them to live out the purpose in the work they do every day.