Committing to Purpose Can Provide Real Results for Women Leaders
What does it mean for business leaders to be truly committed to purpose and to lead a company that brings its purpose to life every day?
As women 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.
Female leadership is enhanced by a dedication to purpose. Not only does this focus utilize the traditional traits associated with women leaders – like collaboration, empathy and selflessness – it also can help female leaders build continuous engagement with employees, customers and other key stakeholders. Studies have shown that leaders committed to purpose are more able to retain key talent and improve employee engagement regardless of their gender.
As women leaders, we have an opportunity to be in the forefront of this type of purpose-driven focus. A dedication to purpose begins by sharing the benefits of connecting with a core corporate purpose; it is the foundation upon which all business decisions should be balanced. When developed, women leaders can use this to guide their company’s direction, mission and all the business decisions that lead to success. It is a roadmap to align all internal behaviors to deliver on purpose and train every employee toward that goal.
But don’t consider this strategy soft. A focus on purpose produces hard and fast results. Corporate cultures based on shared values outperform other firms by four times in revenue growth and 12 times in stock growth, according to the book Corporate Culture and Performance by John Kotter and James Heskett. Additionally, purpose explains up to 8% of the variation of the financial performance of companies operating within the same industry, and companies devoted to a larger purpose than maximizing profits outform the S&P 500 by a ratio of 9:1, according to a Burson-Marsteller survey.
Here are some ways that women business leaders can demonstrate their companies are delivering on purpose:
We are willing to focus on the long-term strategy over short-term results.
CVS pharmacy recently made news because of its decision to remove tobacco products from their stores, focusing instead on their purpose: “helping people on their path to better health.” In the short term, it is estimated that this will cost the company 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 are 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 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.
We focus on what’s important rather than what’s hot.
We’re all so busy that it’s easy to get caught up in what’s urgent and let the really valuable things slide. Purpose is a huge element of helping our company, Savage Brands, prioritize. Instead of topping a to-do list with whatever was emailed in bold with exclamation marks, we assess tasks against our purpose statement and ask: is this helping us deliver on our purpose? If not, then why should it be on my task list?
We understand that saying ‘no’ can be critical.
When looking for a supplier, client or partner, it’s easy to assess numbers to determine qualified companies. But when you’re committed to purpose, there’s another, more important aspect to evaluate; do the values and mission of a potential supplier or client align with ours? Starbucks turns down contracts with less expensive suppliers if they don’t meet the company’s standards of ethics, responsibility and quality.
Who a company partners with, or even takes on as a customer, is critical. Just as individuals are defined by the company they keep, businesses are shaped by the organizations they work with and for.
We follow through on purposeful values.
We work 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 stopping the CEO and politely insisting that he step back into a safe area.
When a leader is truly committed to their values and related 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 those values.
This article originally appeared on the Glass Hammer May 28, 2014.