Evolving Workplaces: Purpose Grounded Direction

Oct 27, 2022

From Profit to Purpose

In my previous article, I talked about why focusing primarily on profit can be a challenge and have significant negative consequences in the workplace. 

What then will drive the workplace forward creating the focus and foundation for the business’s existence in the first place?

In the Evolving Workplaces Framework, we’ve created a method called “grounded direction.” Our wording here is very important because direction without grounding can lead workplaces to fly from one thing to the next. The objective of grounded direction is to create clarity of purpose and passion for the people who are responsible for executing on them. To help them stay grounded in what, why, and how the business is executed to create the intended impact in the world. Grounded direction creates stability and alignment in the reason the business exists and how the business executes. Grounded direction defines the vision (why do we exist?), mission (what do we do?), and strategy (how will we succeed?).

How is this different than traditional models?

Our model is built on traditional business models that define directionally where the business is going. However, we’ve chosen to incorporate what we know about the multiple intelligences to ensure each element is implemented more effectively. What we’ve seen in many instances is workplaces define their vision in a boardroom and only the leaders are truly emotionally connected to that vision. Or a strategy is created, but then never reviewed regularly to ensure that the actions taken by employees on a day-to-day basis align with the strategy. A mission may be written but may not actually align with why people choose to work for the business or even become a customer of the business. Therefore, it exists but does not actually generate the intended results.

Let’s start by looking at the direction part of this method of our framework. Direction is about where we are going and each of the three intelligences (brains) are tied directly to one of the elements.

  • Vision: Starting with vision (why do we exist?). This element is directly related to the heart. The vision is meant to provide passion around a particular purpose. To energize and excite people to execute on the work in order to achieve this shared vision or purpose. Therefore, the vision must tap into emotion, interpersonal connection, or shared values to drive the passion and energy around the purpose or vision. The vision must ignite an emotional response within people, and if it does not, then it will not serve its intended purpose. Workplaces that try to define a vision as “grow to be 2 times our current size” fail to connect with their people’s emotions. Whereas workplaces that tap into the emotion with “to put a computer in every home” will ignite the passion of people!
  • Mission: Next, mission (what do we do?) is directly related to the gut. The mission is meant to motivate people to take action, to know what the workplace does and to tap into that motivation to act on that purpose. If a mission statement is too vague or difficult to understand, it will fail to motivate people or provide clarity of purpose. Furthermore, if done right, the mission can actually help you to focus and call in the people you are intending to serve or impact who align with and support your mission.
  • Strategy: Finally, strategy (how will we succeed?) is related directly to, yep you guessed it, the head. Strategy is about how we succeed; the intentional choices the workplace or business is making to determine how they will execute their business. Which is why so often traditional businesses get stuck in strategy. They come up with the most amazing strategy that must be successful but if they fail to help their people understand it, then strategy is a mostly dust-covered document no one pays attention to. For strategy to be successful, it must be fully understood by the people or employees executing on it. If the strategy is too complex to understand or communicated ineffectively, it will not serve its purpose.

What does this look like in an evolving workplace?

When evolving workplaces address each of the intelligences needed to truly incorporate the vision, mission and strategy successfully, they will see tremendous results due to the alignment and clarity employees feel between their brains and the business overall. Essentially, the whole business will be operating in a flow state of alignment, setting it up to successfully create significant results and outcomes for the business. However, even with all these elements addressed successfully, they must also be grounded into the workplace if they are going to be successful.

What does it meant to have grounded direction in the workplace?

Historically, businesses often define vision, mission, and strategy and maybe they communicate it to their organization initially or even periodically, but if they do not integrate it into their practices and ground it into their existence, it will inevitably be pushed to the side. What do I mean? When work gets busy, we begin to slip away from the direction we defined. We might be pulled towards new opportunities to make money, to new products we could sell, to new businesses we might want to work with or even acquire. As this activity accumulates, individuals get further and further from the initial direction they defined for the workplace. As they drift away, they begin to fly from one thing to the next and fail to re-ground themselves in their direction.

With a world changing so quickly, we must have a way to stay steady amidst the constant challenges and changes occurring in our environment. Evolving workplaces aim to be intentional with their choices to pivot, change, or adjust in response to the changes in their environment and to do so as a collective rather than on an ad hoc basis. I heard a stock investor once say that we better just get used to the boom and busts of the marketplace because inevitably we will continue to experience them. If his statement is true, and by all accounts it appears this will be the case, then we must shape our business practices around the notion of change not stability.

In an evolving workplace, the direction setting gets grounded into the business execution, approach, and practices. Direction does not remain an annual, quarterly, or leadership-only activity, but is part of what individual employees are doing regularly in their performance. By grounding our direction, we are incorporating our gut intelligence to create stability in the workplace identity and safety in the decision-making related to the workplace. Essentially, we want the evolving workplace’s grounded direction practices to help them stay steady amidst the storms or allow them to ride the waves while maintaining a lifeline to the shore!

How does grounding direction work?

Grounding direction is an activity done by all employees on a frequent basis. The direction is defined clearly and simply enough that all employees can not only remember it but have to be able to re-visit it frequently in the execution of their work. Grounding direction occurs throughout the execution of work at times of change, new opportunities, or new challenges. Anytime something shifts in the workplace even just slightly, employees following the grounding direction approach ensure they are either aligned with the direction or whether the business direction needs to shift.

Grounding direction gets incorporated into many of the employee and leadership conversations occurring on a regular basis as an activity to realign and then reconfirm vision, mission, and strategy in the midst of work being executed. This actually achieves two purposes. First, it keeps the vision, mission, and strategy – the passion or heart of the work, the motivation or gut of the work, and the thinking or head of the work – always at the top of the minds of employees. This reminds them of their energy, motivation, and intended approach on a regular basis. Second, it ensures any action that might deviate or be contradictory to the direction is addressed early and often so it can be considered before additional time investment is made.

Check out the Evolving to Exceptional Podcast Episode that talks about this topic more in depth here.


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