WRITTEN BY DAN SALVA
I look back with pride on each Big Audacious Meaning we have helped a myriad of organizations develop. The emotionally-charged language in each anthem still captivates.
I have fond memories of those triumphant moments when the stakeholder team of a journey to purpose gave its blessing on the final language. The feeling in the room was exhilarating. There was a sense of real accomplishment, and a palpable anticipation for what the future held.
There is nothing quite like that moment when we arrive at the destination of our quest.
But what about the journey?
When I think about an organization’s journey to purpose, those moments I just described jump to the forefront. They embody the culmination of a lot of work, and passion. But what has a tendency to get overshadowed is the transformational power of the journey itself.
Defining a Big Audacious Meaning shouldn’t be reserved for a handful of leaders cloistered-away in a dark-paneled boardroom. In fact, that’s absolutely the wrong approach if your intent is to find something that is true to the organization and genuinely resonates with all the people in that organization.
That’s why celebrating the journey is so crucial.
Discovering the wonder
In the early stages of a journey to purpose, we find ourselves looking into the past of an organization. We go on an archeological dig of sorts. We uncover stories, photos, and other artifacts as we discover evidence of the organization's founding purpose.
There is real magic in this process.
People love to see and relive the history. When it's possible, we even capture some old-timers recounting stories from previous decades. There is a tendency to gather up all these things and save them until we arrive at our Big Audacious Meaning. But doing so is wasting an opportunity. We can invite the entire organization into the process. We can let them experience the progress. And let them get excited about where it is all heading.
Not only does this create excitement, but it also creates context. All of our team members will be able to connect the dots to understand how we arrived at that profound purpose statement when it is revealed in the future.
Owning the idea
I’ve seen organizations want to limit participation in the purpose process to just the leadership team. They believe it makes for a controlled and streamlined undertaking. Any time this happens, there is a lag in adoption among the rest of the organization. And, leadership seems confounded by it. As if they can’t figure out why everybody just can’t seem to grasp the obvious brilliance of their work.
The better approach brings everyone in the organization into the process from the get-go. By sharing discoveries and soliciting their feedback, we create so many benefits. We help everyone quickly understand the importance of the effort. We create a sense that we are discovering this together, building collaboration. We help people feel like their voice counts. And more. All of this helps speed adoption. Which means the organization can start to see the purpose being put into action immediately. And start to see the rewards.
As I have taken organizations through the purpose process over the years, a universal truth has emerged. It is that the journey is just as important as the destination. It’s an opportunity to build the esprit de corps. And to speed the evolution of all your team members into believers and then advocates and even evangelists.
Finding a truly genuine and meaningful purpose is inspiring. Because the finding can be as rewarding as the purpose itself.
Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.