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What are you here for?

October 12, 2017 Matt Norquist

That’s a big, lofty question. In fact, it might be one that we spend years, decades, or even our entire lives trying to figure out.

Our team’s research (read: Rethinking Leadership: The Power of Purpose) took an in-depth look at how the most effective leaders answer this daunting question: What are you here for?

We refer to this as your personal “why”—the motivation that drives you to push toward a defined objective. What we found is that purposeful leaders are not only able to define their personal “why,” but also successfully translate this into a broader vision and message that inspires their team—an organizational “what for.”

But the real question in my mind is: how can we break this down into something that feels actionable and manageable—and gets me one step closer to what I’m here for? Ultimately, this boils down to our behaviors, not billion-dollar, big-picture plans.

When we look at traditional competency models, which are frequently packed with every skill or trait under the sun, it becomes apparent that nobody can do all of them right or well. So, start small and focus on the practices that can have a positive impact on your team.

Ask yourself: What are the behaviors that I can put in place today to make me a little bit better, one percent better every day, for even just a couple of days in a row, to make a big difference? Then, what are the commitments that I need to make and keep with my team to help us achieve our vision?

Ultimately, we must acknowledge that becoming purposeful is a lifelong journey. We don’t ever fully get there. A good leader will recognize that she or he likely doesn’t have all the pieces in place to be fully purposeful today—it’s a continual process and a daily practice of becoming more than you were. It’s about becoming someone who your stakeholders want to emulate, want to learn from, want to grow with and hold in the highest regard.

I find these three questions hugely helpful as I partner with and coach senior leaders who are grappling with how to tackle this topic:

  1. What are three commitments that I need to make and keep with my team to help us achieve our vision?
  2. What are one or two small practices that I can put into place on a daily basis in order to make progress toward fulfilling these commitments?
  3. What is one thing that I will do differently, starting today, that will have a positive impact on my team, my organization and my community?

And why does all of this matter? Interestingly, when we had our statisticians look into what matters when it comes to driving business performance, the top quartile leaders, when measured by purpose,  grew sales at twice the rate of their counterparts who were less purposeful. They grew profits at four times the rate of their less purposeful counterparts, had five times the level of employee engagement, and nearly 10 times the level of net promoter score. So, this doesn’t just matter in terms of helping you figure out what you’re here for—it impacts your bottom line.

So…what am I here for? Ultimately, it’s about going out to win every game we are in—and viewing each day as a chance to prepare and practice so that we can win these games. And, hopefully, to achieve a sense of both momentary and long-term purpose—whether we’re charting a course for our company, or simply practicing the small things that ultimately help us create impact.

I’m interested in hearing from you: What is your purpose as a leader? What are you here for? Have you thought about this question before? If so, what commitments have you made? How has this changed your perspective on leadership and your team dynamics?

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