I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to say the most successful companies in the future will not only be values-driven, but also purpose-driven. It’s not enough to deliver value or demonstrate high-performance. Employees are seeking to do greater good than they could achieve as individuals, and companies that offer the opportunity to achieve that greater purpose will not only be employers of choice, but also will deliver the greatest returns in terms of the triple bottom line.
I explore the concept of Cause and Engagement in Chapter 3 of Organization Horsepower:
The ultimate goal of any competition is to win, to stand on the top step of the podium and receive the adoration of fans, competitors, crews, and sponsors. But winning isn’t the only reason we race. After all, only one competitor gets to stand on the podium, and it takes a small army to get him (her) there. Sometimes winning and coming in first isn’t the same thing.
Personally, racing was a cause I could get behind, so when a good friend decided to return to professional racing, I was able to fully engage with the effort. I’m always available to help a friend, but competing goes beyond just helping.
Not everyone has a friend who’s a professional racer or personal abilities that can be leveraged by a racing team. Not everyone sees competition as a cause. However, every viable company on earth has at least one person with capabilities that benefit the business. But not every company has a cause. And not every company has what it takes to compete at every level.
Two things are at work here: The possibility of winning, and a cause people can join.
If you’re the number 1 widget maker in the world and offer top-notch salaries, people will line up at your door to help you make and sell widgets. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll able to engage with those people at any level beyond economics.
Or you can be a company with a cause. A company that wants everyone to have a widget because it somehow makes life better. You might have a chance at being number 1, but you won’t sacrifice the cause to be number 1. That’s the kind of company people will get behind and engage with on a level that will actually help the company achieve greatness no matter the challenge.
Many things in life inspire us to take up cause. Country, family, love, charity, and faith are among the most common, and they all link back to caring about and for people. We do these things because we are inspired to do so, and we dedicate ourselves to the struggle and to success in whatever form it may come.
At the end of the day, there are different levels of engagement, and in some senses it can be fleeting.
We can capture attention by telling a great story.
We can appeal to common ground by expressing our values.
But sustainable engagement needs to reach beyond good storytelling and common values, it speaks to common benefit, not only for the individual and the organization, but also to a wider population. As companies, if we want that level of engagement, we need to seek out and articulate the good we do in the world. Then together, we can win any race we enter.