McKinsey Purpose

The Importance of Purpose in Times of Crisis for Individuals and Corporations

“Creating strong links to an individual purpose benefits individuals and companies alike—and could be vital in managing the postpandemic uncertainties that lie ahead.”

Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis, McKinsey Quarterly, 18th August 2020

It is widely recognised that companies around the world are extremely challenged facing the current crisis, so how important is it to be clear on purpose, of your company and of the individuals within the organisation. The authors explain that it may be a very important to have clarity of purpose. During times of crisis individual purpose can provide clarity of direction to individuals helping them address the challenges and potentially mitigate the risks and damaging effects of long term stress.

“What is your company’s core reason for being, and where can you have a unique, positive impact on society? Now more than ever, you need good answers to these questions.”

Purpose Shifting From Why to How – McKinsey Quarterly, 22nd April 2020

Research has proven that people with strong sense of purpose are more resilient and more likely to recover better from negative events. They are also five times more likely to have a positive sense of wellbeing and be four times more likely to have higher engagement levels. There are also long term health benefits, a study that commenced in 1997 found that patients with a strong sense of purpose are 52% less likely to experience a stroke. (Source: Rush Memory and Aging Project).

Individuals who identify their purpose as congruent with their roles are likely to find ‘more meaning from their roles’, this translates to higher productivity and over al career performance.

Nine Types of Purpose

  1. Achievement – Sense of authority, being the most influential person in a group, having status and a high income
  2. Conservation – Support for and caring for the environment
  3. Caring – Helping those closest to me
  4. Freedom – autonomy, choosing personal goals, learning
  5. Respect – Not being shamed in front of others and avoiding humiliation
  6. Tradition – preserving and practicing the values or rituals associated with culture or religion
  7. Enjoyment – Excitement, adventure, new and different experiences
  8. Stability – Order, structure, process clarity, rules and standards
  9. Equality and Justice – fairness, understanding, listening

During times of crisis, effective leaders are critical sources of trust, stability, meaning and resilience, they play the role of ‘sense maker’ for the team around them. As the leader the opportunity is to embed individual purpose into the way you lead and regularly into the employee experience. The authors point out that Recruiting, Onboarding and Performance Review Feedback are all very good opportunities to link organisational purpose to individual purpose. Using purpose rich story telling to illustrate the connection which has the potential to help them build greater resilience and to achieve improved performance.

Companies that embed and activate individual purpose in the employee experience can benefit as well, including through improved performance. And, of course, purposeful work and a purposeful life are enduring benefits in and of themselves—ones that everyone should have the opportunity to seek.

Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis, McKinsey Quarterly, 18th August 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Having clarity of purpose can lead to higher performance, greater resilience as well as potential health benefits
  • Linking the individual purpose to the organisation purpose can provide higher levels of satisfaction
  • McKinsey have created a nine box framework to better understand your purpose and associated activators and blockers
This article is a synopsis of two recent articles from McKinsey Quarterly as with all McKinsey articles they have a wealth of detail and I have only captured the key points so I strongly recommend you visit these links to read the full content which is excellent and provides numerous examples.

Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis
from McKinsey Quartely
by Naina Dhingra, Jonathan Emmett, Andrew Samo, and Bill Schaninger

Published 18th August 2020

Purpose Shifting From Why to How
from McKinsey Quarterly
Published 22nd April 2020

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