Finding a greater purpose, finding our ‘Why’

In Blog article by Freethinking Business Consultants

By Julie Robinson, Consultant at Freethinking

As in many other industry verticals, our clients in Financial Services must navigate through an era where digital technology is rewriting the rule book – changing everything from business models to management principles, and completely reshaping how financial services firms engage with their customers.

But South Africa suffers from dire skills shortages in key areas of the emerging digital economy, and these organisations are under intense pressure to attract and retain top digital talent.

How can an organisation do this authentically and sustainably? Salaries, incentives, stock options, benefits? How about reasonable levels of job fulfilment and opportunity?

Unfortunately not.

The harsh reality is that none of these tactics will ever attract creative digital minds that ambitious organisations will need in the future.

So what is the answer?

If we turn to the breakthrough theories of leadership guru Simon Sinek, of ‘Start with Why’ fame, we can find tremendous applications to the South African business community, the economy, and our society at large.

At the centre of Sinek’s thinking is the principle that employees must connect powerfully with an organisation’s purpose. The purpose must be something meaningful, something bigger than just the bottom line.

Sinek’s work’s beauty is its simplicity: we each have an individual purpose, also known as our personal ‘why’, which we should discover and articulate (at least, articulate to ourselves). From there, we should seek out those employers, and those colleagues, whose ‘whys’ fit with our own.

“Authentic people can immediately recognise the authenticity in others, drawing one into new networks and new, purposeful opportunities.”

By connecting our own raison d’être with those of the people around us, and the organisation we represent, we start to find deeper meaning in our work. Spurred on by a company vision that resonates with us, our energy rises. We start contributing at our highest levels, yearning to learn more and power the organisation to the next level.

When this alignment clicks into gear, something magical happens. Suddenly those awkward business tensions seem to dissolve:

  • Profit becomes the result, not the goal… as we find meaning in our work, we attract others towards us that hanker after that same feeling of fulfilment. Doors start opening, and opportunities rush in.
  • We stop chasing after the elusive ‘work-life’ balance… no longer should our ‘work’ and ‘personal’ lives operate in opposition to each other (where the one steals time and money from the other). Working on something purposeful is innate and organic, there is no longer a ‘work’ and ‘personal’ life – there is only ‘life’.
  • We learn to say ‘no’ based on values… we’ve all had that experience of accepting a job offer or a contract, and realising that the people we’re working with don’t align with our morals, ethics, or manners. By seeking alignment based on beliefs, rather than functional job requirements or skills needed, we start making better decisions about who we work with.

Authentic people can immediately recognise others’ authenticity, drawing one into new networks and new, purposeful opportunities. As a business community, and as a country, we can all play a role in developing these virtuous cycles and ecosystems.

As leaders, we must forge strong and purposeful visions for our organisations – something so compelling that others can latch onto and connect with.

We can even apply these principles at the highest level… As South Africa prepares for a leadership change in the coming months, many of us become fearful once again: We fear that the wrong political decisions will be made. We fear that the economy may continue its slow sputtering to a halt. And we fear that we have absolutely no control over these dynamics.

But another approach is to embrace Sinek’s principles, find our personal and organisational ‘whys’, and recognise that we do have the power to make an impact. The businesses we run and the teams we lead have the potential to be a force for good – to better support communities and to help lead people to reach their potential.

In fact, in a country like South Africa – where there are so many challenges to solve and people to help – there are endless opportunities for your business to have real ‘impact’.

It’s time to ask ourselves that big question: what is my ‘why’?