Finding Purpose

Finding Purpose

I recently attended an event where I saw Dr. Laurie Santos speak on The Science of Happiness. In distilling her popular Yale Course into a 1-hour lecture, she laid out ten things we all must do to ward off depression and find happiness in our lives and work. Number eight was finding purpose.

This one struck me because it is the top theme I have heard from prospective candidates over the past few years. Purpose always mattered but the pandemic made this front and center for many. With a robust economy, candidates had greater choice and sought out companies and work that would give them purpose. The failure in their strategy was not recognizing that purpose is crafted by the individual, not the company. The magic happens though when we, as executive leaders, take the time to recognize an individual’s purpose and celebrate the impact their work has.

Finding your own personal purpose, and then helping others understand theirs, needs to be a key part of recruiting, employee retention, and job hunting. Here’s how to think about each:

Understand what culture fit really means and how to interview for it. After years of recruiting executives, I’ve realized that a leader’s success comes down to how they conduct themselves, how they see the world, and what they want to give and get out of their work. Executives rarely fail in jobs because their skills and experiences are off. They fail because they cannot find their footing with the other executives or are not aligned on how each delivers purpose for the business.

If a person can’t find purpose in their work, they will falter. Taking time during the interview process to understand where an individual found purpose in prior roles is critical. Listening to what motivates them, what makes them tick, and what defines their happiness is the key to understanding if they will be a culture fit and a culture add to your company.

Work from home has left many on an island and an island that some don’t want to leave. Navigating this as a CEO and executive leader is brutally hard and as you are awake thinking about the economic shifts and impact this is having on your company, some of your top team members have wandered off and are thinking about their next career move. There is no better time than now to help your leadership team and your employees find or rediscover their purpose. This is not about you evangelizing the company's purpose. This is about you supporting your team members and helping them discover how impactful they are on the business and the community they serve.

My advice is deeply evaluate each opportunity, including the current position you are in, and pause to think about your purpose and if you can find it in your current company or if it is time to leave. If it is time to leave, as you talk to new companies, work to understand how you will find your purpose there. Carve out time in the interview process to not only learn about the business and how your career will grow but also examine how other executives are finding purpose within the business and culture. Happiness will not come from achieving the next rung in your career ladder, but it will come from finding purpose in the work you do.

As the holidays approach us, and 2023 sits on the horizon, it represents an opportunity to become an executive leader that prioritizes purpose. Like putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others, taking the time to reflect on what purpose means to you is how it will all begin.