The words of the leader have an outsize impact on the team. Words create worlds. If you’re a leader, your words tell your people how they should feel about your organization. I use the word “feel” very intentionally here. The most effective leaders use their time with their teams to infuse a sense of purpose and meaning into the organizations. Here are four ways you can infuse meaning your workplace feel more meaningful.
Tell customer impact stories at town halls. Nothing is more powerful than a leader standing on stage telling a story about how your organization makes a difference to your customers. Instead of a deep dive on the quarterly numbers, provide a top line summary, then tell what we refer to as a customer impact story: a short, specific story about how your solution improved life for a customer.
Steve Johnson, President and COO of Berkshire Gray, an AI and robotics firm, says, “It’s easy to say our product is xyz, but the definition doesn’t tell the whole story. When you hear a story about achieving your purpose it closes the loop and makes everything much more understandable – and meaningful.” A customer impact story gives your team the message: we’re more than a transactional organization. Our work matters.
Start team meetings with purpose. One of our CEO clients reads her firm’s purpose statement at the start of their monthly executive team meeting. When the purpose is short and reflects your highest aspirations for customers, it centers people. If you don’t have a purpose statement, start your meetings with a short sentence that describes how you make a difference to customers.
That particular CEO’s executive team says hearing their Noble Purpose, “Is like the bell at school or the gong at church, it calls people into the space and reminds us why we’re here.”
Leadership teams come into meetings with their minds on their own functional areas; repeating a customer-focused purpose increases alignment, and puts a customer lens on all the function.
Bring the customer’s voice into strategy sessions. When the boss asks, “How will this choice impact our purpose?” you change the frame. New initiatives should further your purpose. When you budget with an eye towards achieving your purpose you make better strategic decisions. Consider the difference between asking, “How will this impact our budget?” vs. “How will this impact our customers, and our larger purpose? The first question is transactional. The second question is strategic and will help you create a more differentiated organization.
Cascade meaning in casual hallway conversations. It’s awkward to run into your boss, or her boss, or the CEO when you’re not expecting it. People get nervous. Make it easy and fun. One of our CEO’s clients loves to say, “Another day of changing lives, got any good customer stories for me?” He’s always looking for stories about how their firm made a difference to a customer. And if his team doesn’t have a story, he is always ready to tell one. His team may roll their eyes in jest, but they sure know what’s important to him.
Words create worlds. These everyday moments in the cadence of normal business are how you as a leader build belief with your team, belief in your company and belief that the work your firm does matters. If you want to create a tribe of true believers, bring your purpose into daily conversations. Your words matter, let your team know, you’re a purpose-driven leader worth following.