Finding Purpose: Open Secrets and Hidden Notions

Trending Question: How can I get more creativity and commitment from my team?

The short answer is relatively unpopular: inspire them. Once I mention inspiration and purpose, it usually launches explanations of messy circumstances, an occasional moan, and then the next question: How in the world do I do that?

The open secret is that like much of great leadership, inspiring others is an art form with no linear path. But, the promise of inspired performance is so big that it’s hard to ignore the opportunity of making it part of your leadership repertoire.

Here are two insights and one practice to help you get started.

If there is no choice, there is no commitment.

Telling people what their purpose is will get you compliance, not commitment. If you are in a leadership culture that holds a hidden notion that people don’t know what’s important, then it’s likely that the challenge of inspiring others will be even greater.

Inspired performance moves from the inside-out, and most of our cultural beliefs about good leadership revolve around outside-in strategies [i.e. telling and directing; strategy ideas coming from the top and flowing down in an orderly way; efficiency measured and optimized regularly]. Imagining leadership via inside-out approaches can be mind-boggling for leaders, especially if their experience lies in successful organizations of mature industries.

Sometimes what it takes to begin to adopt this new mindset is a reminder that you can trust these two things: people know what they care about, and they want to make a meaningful contribution.

You don’t need to know your life’s purpose; you just need to know what’s meaningful in this moment.

Another hidden notion lurking in our business culture is that the only way to work with purpose is for individuals to know and articulate their personal life’s purpose. This idea overwhelms most of us and often leads to tangled leadership team conversations.

While exploring personal life purpose is a valid and useful activity, it’s not always necessary. When you’re focused on building the skill of inspiring others, try thinking about purpose in its most simple form: bigger picture and deeper meaning. People just need to know their connection to these things in the moment, and then be encouraged to create more of those moments.

Notice the subtle signals of purpose and inspiration.

Increased creativity and commitment are the natural consequences of inspiration. Here are five things to look for that signal you to what is intrinsically important to you, or the people you lead:

  1. Yearnings: internal force of magnetic attraction
  2. Flow: so engaged you lose track of time
  3. Deep Satisfaction: emotional and psychological contentment
  4. Rapid Learning: unfamiliar tasks look practiced and immediately natural
  5. Flashes of Excellence: moments of outstanding performance

Each of these is a powerful indicator of where purpose and inspiration reside within someone, and how to access those connections more reliably. If you want an easy way to jump-start your team’s capability to bring purpose to life: ask a question about any of these in your next conversation.


What would be different today if the people on your team were inspired about their work?

What ideas do you have about how to build your team’s capability to inspire others?





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