At our ‘Exploring the Power of Purpose’ event last week I opened with a personal story.
A few days previous I’d been in Calella - a little seaside town north of Barcelona. It wasn’t for a weekend on the beach, it was to complete one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.
Last year, around this time, a few of us decided that we’d have a crack at Ironman Barcelona. I remember reserving my place - the next day I was giving a talk to the Institute of Banking and I told them. “Yes, this...has just signed up to do an Ironman!” to much raucous laughter and applause!
And from that moment THAT became (with the agreement of my wife and family) my overriding purpose - just to be the best that I could be (and avoid killing myself in the process!)
For those not acquainted with Ironman the deal is simple - swim 3.9km, bike 180km and then run a marathon (42km). And do it in under 15hours 40minutes.
It takes a lot of training as you might imagine.
But having that single minded purpose, wanting to be my best, knowing that everyone was behind me (even though they thought I was plainly a mad man) REALLY helped.
It got me out of bed at 6.30am for training every day (except Mondays - I got one day a week off!!) for seven months come hell or high water (or sometimes both!). It got me to do an extra lap in the pool or another run loop or go a bit further on the bike.
In that period I cycled over 2,500km, ran over 850km and swam over 120km.
And it was what motivated me around that course a few weeks ago. It’s what made me swim and bike faster than I ever have before and run the furthest I’ve ever run (it was my first marathon).
And, ultimately, it was what delivered a 12:01:09 Ironman finishing time.
Now, imagine if your organisation had a purpose that connected THAT strongly with your people?
That motivated them to want to give that bit of discretionary effort. That instilled a strong sense of pride and belief. Even if you only got to 10% or 20% of your people, what difference might that make to customer experience, engagement levels, sales or profitability?
A very positive one I suspect.
WHY organisations do what they do isn’t something they often think about. They tend to focus more on the WHAT (like selling widgets) and HOW (by running a state-of-the-art widget production line).
Neither of those things is particularly motivational. However, if you start to think about who uses the widget, what they use it for and how it benefits their life, then you’re at the start of a journey that will get you to something much more powerful - a real sense of purpose for your organisation and, more importantly, your people.
This whole story reminds me of an old joke...:
‘How do you know someone’s done an IronMan?’
‘They keep telling you’
I’ll shut up now! ;-)