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Performance with Purpose - the Magic Sauce

January 31, 2017

Memphis barbeque is nationally recognized as a culinary delight. Just having the word “Memphis” associated with an eating establishment’s name and/or menu inspires a sense of anticipation. The smoky flavor and special sauce, a vinegar-based concoction that pleases the pallet, defines the taste.

For barbeque, the secret combination of flavors captured in the name “Memphis” will help ensure an establishment’s success. But what is the secret sauce found in many of today’s best leaders and companies that helps achieve long term success? The answer is Performance with Purpose.

It is not enough for a company to have maximizing profits as its driving purpose for existence. There needs to be an integration of social and economic interests to ignite a sense of passion and mission for the work. As humans, we need to feel connected with others in an effort to accomplish goals that are larger than ourselves. This sense of community builds commitment, creativity, and engagement.

There are three actions required in making Performance with Purpose a reality.


The organization must declare its intentions. For example, Johnson & Johnson’s North America credo is: “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” It goes on to describe employees as the second highest priority, followed by the community, and then the stockholders.

Such a mission statement clearly expresses the common good and social need that is to be addressed. It is intended to inspire commitment, a sense of community, and pride among the workforce. Thoughtful effort is put into formulating the statement and communicating it to all constituents. As an organizational leader, every opportunity should be taken to communicate the message and elaborate on its meaning in terms of decision-making, resource allocation, staff development and leadership.

It is said about communicating vision and mission within an organization, about the time leadership is tired of talking about it, employees are beginning to internalize the message and see their roles in making it a reality.


Once the core message is in the domain with sufficient clarity, leadership challenges employees and organizational units to build on the ideas and find ways to express the intent through specific actions. By becoming personally invested in the Purpose, employees become part of the process for building substance and finding applications that go beyond the originator’s initial vision. Through engagement, employees can exercise their creativity and depth of understanding.

Business processes such as rewards, recognition, talent management, performance measurement, delegation, building trust, collaboration and more are aligned around the Purpose. Stories that illustrate real examples of how adherence to the Purpose affected actions become part of the cultural dialogue.

In the case of J & J, the experience with tainted Tylenol provided a real-life illustration of an organization staying true to its word. The company immediately withdrew the product from the shelves in order to eliminate the risk of additional incidents.

As another example, Russell Reynolds, an international executive search firm, wishes to build a collaborative environment that benefits both organizational development and clients. Every new search consultant is required to make his/her first five calls upon initiating a new search to fellow consultants within the organization. This is done before the first outside call is made in order to facilitate the search process and, more important, to force new consultants to collaborate with one another to achieve the best results.

Shielding Against Distractions

As the first two actions reflect, establishing Performance with Purpose takes work and commitment. It is the result of thoughtful preparation and execution. It takes perseverance to sustain the momentum and resist distractions. With any change initiative, there are dictators. Leadership may be called upon to aggressively orchestrate change.

Appealing, but conflicting opportunities will be proposed. Leadership will be called upon to reexamine and validate initiatives in order to maintain the momentum.

Recruiting and selection processes will need to be refined to focus on the skills and talents that are needed to support the change. Performance assessment will focus on developing talents and skills that are consistent with the new culture.

By Illuminating, Enlightening and Shielding Against Distractors, Performance with Purpose can be the Magic Sauce to take your organization to the next level of success.