Creating Corporate Purpose – On Purpose

Yvon Chouinard, self-described reluctant businessman and maverick environmentalist, made international headlines when he gave away the shares of the iconic outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, that he founded with his wife Malinda in 1973.

The company is based in Ventura, California, nestled in a grove of trees at the junction of the 101 and 33 freeways, a short walk to California Street, the town’s best surfing break.

I had the opportunity to work for Patagonia in the mid 90’s when the company was generating around $150 million in revenue, a tenth of its current size.

When I worked there, Yvon would have these “philosophy” sessions for small groups of his employees – in meetings and in casual conversation he would stress the simple yet powerful ethos that is the core of his business philosophy.

Creating Corporate Purpose in Your Team

“You gotta understand. “Doing good is good for business.”

Yvon decided to transfer his and his family’s ownership of Patagonia into a trust rather than sell or go public – he wanted to enshrine the values of the company and ensure that all its profits, approximately $100 million a year, go towards environmental causes, in perpetuity.

His choice to transfer ownership of Patagonia into a trust, rather than pursuing a sale or going public, exemplified his dedication to creating corporate purpose.

He stated: “Instead of going public you could say we are going purpose.”

With the company valued at $3 billion dollars, and annual sales of over $1 billion, it is the most significant donation in the history of the environmental movement which in fact started 25 miles north in Santa Barbara in 1969, with the blowout of Platform A in the Santa Barbara Channel, and the release of over 4 million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, and onto our beautiful, pristine beaches.

So, what’s the big deal about purpose and why is it the word on the lips of so many leaders of organizations. Certainly, Yvon Chouinard is one of the few in leadership to put his money where his mouth is and commit his company’s entire existence to a purposeful path.

Some hard truths on purpose

A number of recent studies on purpose have revealed some hard truths about what might be perceived as a soft, touchy-feely issue.

In a longitudinal study of 73,000 people, Professor Celeste Leigh Pierce at the University of Michigan showed that “people who didn’t have a strong life purpose were twice as more likely to die than those who did.”

Another more recent study at the same university showed that “working with a sense of purpose leads to far greater engagement, motivation, productivity, and retention.”

With retention, engagement, motivation and productivity being fundamental issues in our post-pandemic workplace, one would think that corporate leaders and HR directors across the world would be busting down doors to find out how to imbue their teams with a sense of purpose.

Embracing strategies for creating corporate purpose could hold the key to unlocking team potential and driving lasting success.

Creating Corporate Purpose

Purpose is the energy that empowers organizations and individuals to thrive.

Recent research from Ernst and Young indicates that purpose-led organizations perform 42% better than those that are simply in business.

However, according to a Gallup poll, two-thirds of employees worldwide are purposeless – bored, detached and ready to actively sabotage plans, projects and other people. Considering you spend around a third of your life at work, this disengaged culture means that helping people to find a sense of purpose isn’t just vital for business, but also for people’s overall wellbeing.

The significance of creating corporate purpose should be a primary focus for leaders. By establishing a clear and meaningful purpose for their organizations, leaders can inspire and engage employees, foster a positive work culture, and drive sustainable success.

What is the true meaning of this elusive and ethereal concept – how can it be quantified and captured and spread across an organization?

Purpose can be simply defined as a long-term committed intention to accomplish goals that are meaningful to oneself and others. Purpose is our reason for being and gives our lives meaning. Purpose is the energy that empowers individuals to thrive; a personal North Star that enables us to truly fly and realize our potential. Purpose underlies our drive on the path to life fulfillment, what humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow called self-actualization, the state of becoming everything one is capable of becoming.

Purpose has five elements that can be described as a simple acronym – AIMAT.

  • Purpose is aspirational, a higher order mission that is something to strive for.
  • Purpose is inspirational – our purpose inspires ourselves, but also inspires our peers, our colleagues and our family members.
  • Purpose is moral – in this age of shifting quicksands of truth and false reality, purpose is a bedrock of our existence.
  • Purpose is authentic – my purpose is authentic to me in the same way your purpose is authentic to you – purpose has no nuance or shading.
  • Purpose is timeless – it does not change with the winds, with the seasons, with trends or culture shifts. Purpose is forever and is the polar opposite of a SMART goal – purpose is not time sensitive.

How to find and define one’s purpose?

Finding purpose is easy – all it takes is a pen and paper, 15 minutes of time, and some thought, imagination, commitment and then action.

I call it the Code Method.

The Code Method

  • Find a quiet spot and do the exercise solo, or with your family or colleagues at work.
  • Set aside 15 minutes.
  • Write 12 lines, each beginning with “I will…”
  • If you are with a group, then once all are complete, each person gets up and reads their 12 lines out loud to each other.
  • If you are solo, read it to yourself and feel proud.

These words are poetry of the soul – words of passion, power and purpose.

Try it – 15 minutes, 12 lines of poetic prose…

The Code is designed to create a positive wave that spreads across the planet, activating purpose and igniting hope…

2 thoughts on “Creating Corporate Purpose – On Purpose

  1. Gary Ross says:

    1. I will give respect to get respect
    2. Our planet is now a small boat with others with the amazing truth that it just fate that we all have more in common together at this exact time in space as ship mates.
    3. Feed your mind with the others that have inspired you to always be learning and better for all of us on board this tiny ship.
    4. Know that life’s greatest lessons may also be the most painful but they also act to guide us to the pathway for us and sometimes urgently but for our own greater good.
    5. Nature rules and with strength and natures amazing solutions for survival leading to dynamic peace as the challenge and is unique for everything and everyone.
    6. Nature has mastered all of the earths dynamic design details with artistic grace and harmony.
    7. Waves are natures dynamic and powerful gift and every wave a paddle out for a surfer to ride for each wave in a swells journey that ends and sometimes born thousands of miles away.
    8. Not easy for a dozen and taking a break to reflect and as it turns out… very important to know we have the freedom to guide our thoughts and ambitions and to try to learn why we are here.
    9. God is more than a fantasy that exists and we are beholden to ourselves to be true as best we can for our private role of our lords vision tending the garden where we have landed and thanks to our special angel that caught us while ice climbing or when surfing a huge wave.
    10. As a beginner in this dozen I can cheat to expand on one through nine but now know mankind can learn to be kind no matter what we all believe the reason we on the boat together.
    11. When I learned to standup paddle I learned to appreciate sweeping the floor for the exercise to be a better paddler or the last parking spot away from the market to make me stronger for the longer walk. Life’s lessons are just mental exercises and the pain of our mistakes are also gifts that guild us forward.
    12. I now appreciate all of the amazing people I have meant as examples to guide me and thank them now all in my mind regardless if they will never know their gifts to me. I wish them all well and with all I will never meet on this earth ship with wave for gift by example they gave me.

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