Purpose should matter not only to employees. It should matter to our customers, clients, and the broader community as well. Every organization needs external people to be invested in its purpose in order to survive in the long run.
Throughout history, businesses, not-for-profits, and government agencies have come and gone. Some have been missed for a moment, but most have been quickly forgotten, soon to be replaced by a different organization offering a similar or better experience. In order to remain intact and relevant to others, we need to ask ourselves questions like these:
- Would anyone care – would anyone be upset or saddened – if our organization didn’t exist?
- Is what we do important and valuable enough to clients that they would have an emotional reaction upon hearing that we were no longer here?
- Is there anything about what we do that is so special that it would be missed dearly? Would someone else be able to offer a similar product or service to easily fill the void we’ve left?
During the process of writing The Culture Question, we read the opening paragraphs of this section at one of our staff meetings. In the conversation that followed, we asked our employees to share from their perspectives why we matter and how others might feel if we didn’t exist. To our delight, there was no shortage of answers. Our staff recalled important events and heartfelt conversations with clients that served as proof in their minds that we would be missed if we ceased to exist.
This was a simple but powerful exercise, and we encourage you to try it with your own organization. If those in your organization struggle to come up with significant answers, use it as an opportunity to consider what you might do to increase your positive impact. If significant responses easily come to mind, listen for ways in which your organization makes an impact that you may not have considered before.
CONNECT AT AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL
One of the secrets to creating and sustaining an organization that will stand the test of time is to matter in the minds, and more importantly, the emotions, of the people who access your products or services. We say emotions because most people make decisions about which products to buy and services to use based on feelings, not rational thought.
Although we may consider information about organizations and their products rationally, our decisions also get processed through the emotional centers of our brains. It is the “feel good” connection to a brand or organization that keeps customers coming back for more.
Consider how your favorite brands or services make you feel. In all likelihood, the brands you like most are the ones that make you feel something – you may enjoy their products, they may inspire you, or maybe they make you feel “cool.” Think about how often people say things like, “I considered the options, but this one just felt right.” It’s not enough to rationally convince customers that your product or service is the best. You must also make them feel that it is the right product or service for them.
Unfortunately, most organizations value logic over emotions. They don’t often consider how people feel about their mission, products, or services on an emotional level. And yet it is only when we access and assess the emotions of our clients that we can truly answer the questions: “Do we really matter? Would anyone care if we didn’t exist?”
If you are struggling to answer these questions affirmatively, spend time considering what you can do to matter in people’s minds and hearts. Consider what can set you apart. Think about what can make your services or products valuable enough that they can’t easily be replaced. Your answers will relate to your purpose. They will also lead you to your strategy for sustainability and success.
Find ways to listen to your clients and customers directly as well. Ask for their feedback regarding your mission and products or services. Listen to what people say on social media and websites where your products or services are reviewed. Thank people for their feedback and take action when you need to make something right.
Organizations that last, and even grow, do so because their customers and clients care deeply about them on an emotional level. They have clients who resonate with their services or products and, more importantly, connect emotionally with their purpose.
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