Observations on 100 Years: The Power of Purpose

At PCI, do we publish publications?  Or, do we inspire dreams and transform lives?

Both, actually.

PCI turns 100 this year and this week we are looking at five key lessons we’ve learned about building an enduring organization.  So far, we’ve explored the power of shared values, focusing on becoming a learning organization, leading with a servant’s heart, and putting forth a vision.  Our fifth and final learning is around the power of purpose and searching for the meaning in our work.

Lesson #5: The power of purpose and meaning

At PCI, we have always taken great pride in serving our nation’s colleges and universities.  Fifteen years ago a group of PCI associates read Roy Spence‘s terrific book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose.  We used the material as a springboard to create greater clarity around our purpose.

We began by making the link between the work we do and the work our clients do.  We serve colleges, universities, high schools, and service organizations. Why do they exist?  What did they have in common?  We discovered all three types of institutions exist to inspire dreams and transform lives.  Every day, the work we do strengthens their ability to inspire dreams and transform lives.  

We had discovered our purpose: To inspire dreams and transform lives.

Every quarter when we gather as an organization, we begin by reading our purpose.  Every month at our Trailblazer extended leadership meeting, we begin by reading our purpose.  Every day at our 10-minute operations huddle, we begin by reading our purpose.  

The goal is to create an awareness of the bigger picture and how what we do as an organization make a difference.

The second part of purpose equation involves creating an environment that encourages us to reflect on the meaning in our individual work.  In their excellent, research-based article, “What Makes Work Meaningful – or Meaningless,” Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden identify five qualities of meaningful work:

1: Self-transcendent: “People did not talk about themselves when they talked about meaningful work; they talked about the impact or relevance their work had other individuals, groups, or a wider environment.”

2: Poignant: “People often found their work to be full of meaning at moments associated with mixed, uncomfortable, or even painful thoughts and feelings, not just a sense of unalloyed joy and happiness.”

3: Episodic:  “Awareness that work was meaningful at peak times that were generative of strong experiences… These peak experiences have a profound effect on individuals, are highly memorable, and become part of their life narratives.”

4: Reflective: “It was often only when we asked the interviewees to recount a time when they found their work meaningful that they developed a conscious awareness of the significance of these experiences.  Meaningfulness was rarely experienced in the moment, but rather in retrospect and on reflection when people were able to see their completed work and make connections between their achievements and a wider sense of life meaning.”

5: Personal: “Work is meaningful is often understood by people not just in the context of their work but also in a wider context of their personal life experiences.”

Building on #4 above, at PCI, we are excited about experimenting with adding a question to our Quarterly Conversations inviting people to reflect on when, over the prior 90 days, they found meaning in their work.  

If you are interested in purpose, click below to read additional Rise With Drew blog posts on this topic.

Steve Jobs was wrong

Who’s Happier? Managers or their Assistants?

Can a 30-minute meeting where we read and talk about four stories change how we see our job?

A Defining Moment of Change

Reflection:  When in the last 90 days did I find my work to be meaningful?

Action:  Share your reflections with a colleague.  Invite them to share their thoughts.  Today.

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