Canadian Lawyer InHouse

April/May 2021

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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36 www.canadianlawyermag.com/inhouse FEATURE THERE'S A strong correlation between leaders who actively communicate purpose and their team engagement and morale, according to research from KPMG. The firm found that people are three times more likely to consider leaving a company when leaders don't discuss purpose, with double the turnover rate. These results were consistent across all generations. Unsurprisingly, increased engagement also goes hand in hand with better business performance. Raj Sisodia, a professor of global business at Babson College, found that purpose-led companies had 10 times the finan- cial returns of the broader S&P 500 between 1996 and 2011. For leaders, purpose is fundamental to a great employee experience — building the crucial connections between people, their work and the organization. But to define and articulate it effectively requires an under- standing of how humans experience meaning. Throughout history, there have been numerous theories, typically seeking a single, collective purpose and highly influenced by the social themes of the time. Today, the post-postmodern understanding of meaning is comfortably ambiguous. It's widely accepted that purpose is a narrative that humans are inherently compelled to derive and embody. Put simply, our purpose in life is whatever we make it. Family, religion, conservation, exploration, creativity, work — whatever it is, we hold an unwavering belief that we exist on Earth to do this one thing. It's a reason to live, our enduring legacy — and a fundamental part of our identity. Wherever we individually find meaning, it tends to be bigger than ourselves. We talk about existing to serve a greater or higher purpose, serving the community, providing for our family, standing up for the underrepre- sented or saving the world. We share informa- tion, but we evangelize purpose. And the more we feel our contribution matters in the wider context, the more fervent our belief. It's no surprise then that purpose plays such a critical role in the performance of individuals, teams and organizations. Not big, but meaningful Purpose doesn't need to be monumental; it just needs to be meaningful. What are we working together to achieve? Does it make a difference? Is it worthy work for a worthwhile cause? These are the considerations that motivate people over the pursuit of profit. When they're comparing two jobs with similar wages, the one with greater purpose will have greater appeal. Research also shows that we're more inherently motivated when we're aware our work helps others. Psychologist Adam Grant conducted a study in which university students who'd received scholarships spoke to operators from the call centre that had raised the funds. A month later, operators were spending 142% more time on the phone with a revenue increase of 171%. Simply hearing about the impact of their work was enough to make a massive difference. Challenge is key The common fear when articulating purpose is that it will seem unachievable or unrealistic. As a result, it tends to be watered down until comfortably tepid. But this isn't the time to be realistic — it's an opportunity to be idealistic. A study by psychologist Dan Ariely found that the more effort we invest, the more pride we feel. Ariely had participants follow origami instructions; on completion, the builders, as well as a group of observers, were asked how much they'd pay for it. He then repeated the process, this time without instructions. Congruent with the ownership effect, the builders valued their initial work at five times the amount of the objective observers. However, Purpose can be the ultimate motivator for employees. Jen Jackson outlines what smart leaders can do to cultivate a sense of purpose within their organizations Connecting people with purpose

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