The Work That Matters

If given ten seconds, could you articulate the work that matters for your cause? Would you use your mission statement, vision for the future, core beliefs, purpose statement, best story, or some hybrid? Is it accessible to those who ask why you do what you do?

Apple and Steve Jobs talked about making a dent in the universe. Most of the products and services that followed changed the paradigm of how we communicate and connect. Dent made (for better or worse).

What is your dent in the universe?

Utensil Drawer

Items can be placed in a particular direction, but there must be enough coordination and alignment that the drawer closes; otherwise, the purpose fails. Add a board member who wants to change to a vertical storage platform, assume a partnership that uses a super-sized serving spoon, or hire a staff member who uses the drawer to store valuable thumb drives; these different uses create challenges for an organization— clarity of purpose and alignment matter to facilitate function.

How might we maintain fidelity to purpose but offer sufficient flexibility to adapt when it benefits those we serve?

Purpose vs Passion

Morten Hansen wrote a book title Great At Work: How Top Performers Work Less and Achieve More. One of Morten’s areas of study was the difference between purpose and passion. Purpose asks what you can contribute to others. Passion is the pursuit of things that excite you.

Morten’s team collected data on work place engagement as self-reported by individuals and confirmed by managers. As expected, those who report high passion and high purpose were in the 80th percentile of their team. On the flip-side, those who report low passion and low purpose rank in the bottom 10 percent. So far, this resonates with conventional wisdom.

Next, the researchers focused on those with high passion but low purpose. How much impact does passion deliver for a team member, even when their sense of purpose was low? This group was close to the low passion, low purpose group. High passion, low purpose individual rank in the bottom 20th percent.

Which brings us to the high purpose, low passion individual. What is the impact of purpose on their contribution? It is remarkable. High purpose, low passion team members rank in the 64th percentile of their team.

The research confirms purpose overshadows passion like a giant oak tree. If we identify team members that embody both, the probability of success is high. If we must choose between an individual with a sense of purpose and a sense of passion, purpose delivers a significantly higher value.

Intrigued? Here is an interview on career advise from Morten Hansen

Tending the Fire


Facing the fireplace inside a Norwegian hotel.  Outside the picture window, snow falls restlessly.  An elderly gentleman rests in the oversized chair next to me.  He is tending the fire.  He rises every few minutes and carefully places a single log onto the fire.  The fire never burns too bright nor dies to embers.  There is a method to his approach.

Fortunate organizations have a fire tender.  An individual who ensures the enterprise’s purpose is brought front and center.  They energize and revitalize.  A person with a sense of timing who can deliver fuel for the journey.  

Celebrate your fire tenders.  They ensure anyone encountering your organization find a welcoming and warm hearth. 

Yesterday’s Work


Flying into Phoenix it is easy to see a number of infrastructure projects that are being built in preparation for the next phase.  Highway overpasses and exits direct to the desert, signals of pending growth.  How often do we think about what is being embedded into today’s work that may impact tomorrow’s results?

Current tax reform being proposed by the Unite States Senate removes the Universal deduction for charitable donations.  The consequences of this overhaul are being assessed and in response the Universal Charitable Giving Act attempts to secure the future of charitable deductions.  For many social sector organizations the lack of a tax deduction will test their donor’s motives.  Were their donors transactional or relational.  Said differently, did donors give because they received something in return or did they invest because they believed what the cause believes?  The work that you did yesterday will reveal itself today.

Authentic Games

John Oliver takes on the NCAA during the most recent installment of his show, Last Week Tonight. The episode is remarkable because it shines a light on the dark corners of the collegiate athletic system.  He makes visible the disparity between the stated belief of the NCAA and its actions.  The NCAA states it purposes as, a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.  When the dislocation between vision and activity becomes significant it allows for the type of satire where John Oliver excels.  The fake gaming video advertisement needs no explanation.  

Who is going to start the NACC (National Athletic Co-op Conference) where athletes and universities share in the revenue?  Or, when do collegiate athletics move to an enterprise outside of the university structure?  What if the professional leagues (NFL. NBA, NHL) took over the collegiate sports and created development leagues?  Many options and they each result in a structure that is more aligned with the NCAAA’s stated purpose.

A Thousand Feet Below

Alexandra Franzen proposed a few powerful questions last week on her blog.  It was shared with me and I read it hastily on the way to catch a flight.  Only once I was securely captive in my window seat as I jetted across the continent did the power of her questions begin to unfold.  As I peered out the window I caught sight of another aircraft piercing the sky headed in the opposite direction, a thousand feet below and moving expediently into the vacuum of airspace that we had just vacated.  A three second encounter gave me pause.  It forced me to try to calibrate the power of air travel.  How quickly I took for granted the physics, technology, and decision-making that allowed me to sit in an abstract state contemplating something completely irrelevant to aerodynamics, engineering, and navigation.  The expertise of the flying ecosystem had allowed me to have a completely different experience than say the Wright Brothers.

When I consider Alexandra’s questions it reaffirms to me the importance of purpose.  If we have not considered the effect, impact, and experience we intended to impart then we miss our greatest super power.  Few people join a cause to raise more money, re-word a mission statement, or attend an all-weekend retreat.  We joined because of an experience that was offered to us and we wanted to share with others.  We want other people to feel the way we feel.

I offer Alexandra’s questions as ones you should bring back to your tribe and ask aloud.  I think this may be the most important dialogue you can have right now.  Otherwise, you may be sitting in a window seat watching your enterprise’s best experiences headed the other way, a thousand feet below.

“What is the effect that I want to have on people?”

“What kind of impact do I want to have?”

“What kind of experience do I want to create?”

“How do I want people to feel?”

Photo Credit

Fences and Walls

IMG_7185Do you build fences and walls?  What is the purpose of your fence and wall?  Who is it for?  Does it keep somebody/something in or out?  Castles, prisons, farmers, and resort hotels each build walls and fences but they served very different purposes.  If you do not know your purpose, you may unintentionally find yourself on the wrong side of the wall you are building.