Ask the Expert: What Does Committing to Purpose Look Like?
What does it mean for a business leader to be truly committed to purpose – and to lead a company that brings its purpose to life every day? We asked Savage President Bethany Haley: What does it look like when a CEO believes in purpose and walks the talk?
They’re willing to focus on the long-term strategy
CVS pharmacy recently made news because of their decision to take tobacco products out of their stores, focusing instead on their purpose, ”helping people on their path to better health.” In the short term, this will cost them upwards of $2 billion - a huge hit. But in the long term, the leaders at CVS understand that in order to deliver on their purpose, they have to change the way they’re doing business, focusing less on being the ”corner store” for anything and everything, and more on providing the means for healthier living.
This is a trademark of a leader that truly believes in his or her company’s purpose: the ability to look beyond short-term gains and focus on how to bring that purpose to life in the long run.
They understand that saying ’no’ can be critical
When looking for a supplier, client or partner, it’s easy to assess numbers to determine which company is best. But when you’re committed to purpose, there’s another, more important aspect - do their values and their mission align with ours? Starbucks turns down contracts with less expensive suppliers for their products if they don’t meet the company’s standards of ethics, responsibility and quality.
Who a company partners with is critical. Just as individuals are defined by the company they keep, businesses are shaped by the organizations they work with and for.
They follow through on purposeful policies
We deal with many companies that claim a ”zero tolerance” policy in regards to one or more of their values - safety, quality, sustainability, etc. But it’s not enough just to claim that value or desired behavior; as leaders, we have to follow through. On a recent site visit with one of our clients, the CEO leading our tour stepped across the yellow safety line. Immediately, one of his line workers felt comfortable stepping up, stopping the CEO and politely insisting that he step back into a safe area.
When a leader is truly committed to purposeful behaviors, employees feel secure in carrying them out, knowing that there will be no negative repercussions. Likewise, they understand that leadership will follow through if they see employees straying from the path of purpose.
As business leaders, committing to purpose can be one of the most valuable, meaningful decisions we make. But if you don’t mean it, don’t do it - ultimately, it will only hurt you to claim purpose and not follow through. When you’re truly committed, every stakeholder can see it.
As President at Savage Brands, Bethany is known for forging powerful connections – connecting people to people and connecting companies with the fresh ideas that make their brands purposeful. In her recent book, "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose," Bethany conveys to business leaders the importance of leading with purpose.