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The Power of Purpose

A sense of purpose has an amazing impact on job performance. When we see a purpose behind the tasks we do, everything takes on an importance that might not be so obvious otherwise.

A client recently sent me a story that powerfully reinforces the impact a sense of purpose has on performance. The story is about a group of ironworkers and how they bring smiles to faces that might not have a lot to smile about.

These ironworkers are involved in building a new cancer center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It’s a construction job. Each day the children who come to the current cancer center write their names on pieces of paper and then tape the papers up on the windows of a walkway that’s in full view of the construction site. The ironworkers see the children’s names, and purposefully and carefully spray paint the names on the steel girders before hoisting them into place. The children and their parents are thrilled as they watch their names become a permanent part of this important building.

These ironworkers have taken a construction job and turned it into something far greater than that. They’re demonstrating an understanding that their work is important and contributes to making the world a better place. I believe that an ironworker with a sense of purpose that powerful can’t help but do a better job than one who simply completes tasks.

Take a look at the article at the link below, and pass it around to your team. Imagine if each one of us truly understood the impact of our work and performed accordingly. We all need to periodically step back and reflect on the purpose of what we do, and recognize that when we perform with a sense of purpose we can truly make a difference – no matter what our job is.

Naming the Beams For Dana Farber Patients – be sure to click on the “Read the Entire Article” link.

Children's Hospital by you.Children's Hospital 2 by you.

Moon Shots for Management

One of the magazines I enjoy reading is the Harvard Business Review. While some HBR articles are a bit too academic for my tastes, and many of the writers seem to have an unusual fondness for the word “indeed,” the magazine definitely makes me think about business in new ways.

The February, 2009 HBR had an article titled, “Moon Shots for Management,” written by management guru Gary Hamel. The article focused on what Hamel calls Management 2.0 – the next phase of management practice. He and a group of scholars and business leaders tracked the evolution of management and concluded that what got us to where we are won’t get us to where we need to go. More importantly, they outlined what they feel is needed to succeed in the future.

I want to share one quote from the article that made me stop and think about possibilities, and got me excited about the role of management in the future – Management 2.0.

“Instead, (managers) will need to become social architects, constitution writers, and entrepreneurs of meaning. In this model the leader’s job is to create an environment where every employee has the chance to collaborate, innovate, and excel.”

I love the idea of leaders being “entrepreneurs of meaning.” When an organization’s employees find meaning in their jobs, they can’t help but perform at higher levels than those who see their jobs as a series of meaningless tasks that serve no purpose beyond making money for the company. In many jobs, a higher purpose isn’t immediately apparent, but I believe that every job does have meaning and purpose beyond the job’s tasks. Helping employees to find that meaning is exciting.

HBR charges for reprints of their articles, so I can’t provide you with a link directly to the content. But this link will take you to where you can purchase it – HBR Article Link. I think it’s worth the $6.50 for the download.

As a leader, what would you do differently if your title was changed to “Entrepreneur of Meaning?”

Respecting Our Customers

I had an 8:15am appointment with a specialist referred by my primary care physician (nothing serious). I arrived a few minutes early, filled out the paperwork and had a seat in the waiting room.


At precisely 8:15, a nurse entered the room and called my name. “Wow!” I thought, “Right on time. Impressive!” Unfortunately, the nurse also called the names of two other patients and escorted us to our respective examining rooms.


I know that physician’s offices schedule appointments so that the doctor has approximately fifteen-minutes with each patient. So, I knew that one of us would be lucky enough to see him at the appointed time, one of us would see him at least fifteen-minutes late, and one of us at least thirty-minutes late. I was wrong on all counts.


Sitting in the exam room, without a magazine in sight, I could hear the doctor and office staff in conversation. Were they discussing the patients and their charts? No. Their animated discussion was about a trivia game show one of them had viewed the night before and he was challenging the doctor and the other staff members with trivia questions about music and movies. Although the door to my exam room was closed, I could clearly hear every word and could tell how engrossed they all were in the contest.


After about fifteen-minutes of this (one patient’s worth of time!) I should’ve interrupted them with my own trivia question – “Guess how long your patients have been ignored by this entire office team?”


But, I’m a nice guy and thought I’d give it a few minutes more. Just then, the physician entered my room and, I must say, did an outstanding job in his examination and in presenting his recommendations. He really did. But he was starting out from a negative position. What could’ve been an overall positive experience, was mediocre at best because of the initial disrespect for patients shown at the beginning of the relationship.


I’m just glad I didn’t have an afternoon appointment, because with the very first appointments starting late, I can only imagine how the rest of the day spiraled down from there.


Was the staff’s disrespect for their patients malicious? I would like to think not; I’d prefer to think of it as unintentional. But intent doesn’t matter. The fact remains that three patients sat waiting while the physician and his team played a trivia game, and that kind of disrespect fosters negative feelings regardless of intent.


I believe that demonstrating respect for customers is one of the keys to generating intense loyalty. When customers feel genuinely respected, genuinely cared for, they reward that respect with their loyalty – and their money.


Think about the interactions customers have with your organization. How can you demonstrate respect for customers in a way that will make them feel valued and welcome? A good way to start is by answering the following:


How can our organization demonstrate, through our behaviors, that we respect…

·       every customer’s time?

·       every customer’s dignity?

·       every customer’s unique situation/predicament/emotional state?

·       every customer’s knowledge and experience?

·       every customer’s culture or uniqueness?


Just answering those questions can help an organization reevaluate the way customers are treated, and connect (or reconnect) all team members to the primary purpose of the organization, which is to create customer value,


Simply demonstrating sincere respect for your customers will differentiate your organization from the majority of companies your customers merely tolerate in their day to day lives. And it’s really not that hard to do.



Customer Service – “Be Our Guest”

One of the most popular songs from the Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, was the song, “Be Our Guest.” Belle, the heroine of the film, is enthralled by the magical preparations of a spectacular dinner as the animated candelabra, Lumiere, sings “Be Our Guest.” It’s a fitting song for a Disney film since the company has a long history of referring to its customers as “guests.”


Walt Disney’s philosophy at Disneyland was that they didn’t have customers, they had welcome guests. It was a mindset he worked to instill in the park’s cast members. Keep in mind that prior to Disneyland, amusement parks were often dirty and unsafe places, staffed by gruff, surly employees. Walt’s vision was for Disneyland’s visitors to feel that they were guests in his home, and he expected every cast member to treat them that way.


The guest philosophy is applicable to any business, whether or not you call your customers clients, patients, residents, or customers. Thinking of customers as guests helps to move away from a task mindset to mindset focused on building relationships.


The image of a customer is often one of a transactional nature. The company provides a service or product and the customer gives the company money. But the image of a guest is very different. It’s the difference of how you might treat a door-to-door salesperson versus how you treat an invited guest to your home. When a guest is visiting we are likely to:


·        Clean the house, put out the good china, and plan the meal around the likes of our guests.

·        Greet them at the door with a warm welcome and a sincere smile.

·        Invite them in enthusiastically.

·        Do everything we can to make them feel comfortable.

·        Keep them entertained.

·        Invite them to come back.


Imagine if your customers were treated that way during every interaction with your organization. Imagine how they would feel about your company and how they would describe it to others. Imagine how it would affect their loyalty.


I’m not advocating actually starting to refer to your customers as guests, although I’m not against it. What I’m advocating is adopting the mindset of treating customers as welcome guests. That mindset can’t help but change the way a company interacts with its customers.


Are you inviting customers to “be our guest?” Are you treating them that way?

Favorite Words

When returning a client’s call or email, I love to hear the words, “Wow! Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.” Those words tell me I’ve exceeded their expectations, and that’s a great way to begin a dialogue with a customer/client.

To be sure, I don’t hear those words every time because there are times I don’t respond quickly enough to deserve a wow (although I do focus on quick response times). And some people just aren’t “wow people.” But I know when I do receive a wow for getting back to a client quickly, the trust factor is being established.

In today’s market place, with so many customer service disappointments and frustrations, a quick response to a customer’s communication is a welcome surprise. Most customers aren’t used to it and are delighted when they receive it. It’s a way to instantly differentiate your service from your competitors as well as from most other organizations customers deal with.

In your next response to a customer’s communication, shoot for the Wow!