When Ranjay Gulati, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, began working on his latest book, he initially planned to call it Purpose. But he quickly realized he needed a new working title: During his research and writing process, he found that many companies like to talk about purpose but few back it up with their actions. For those few successful companies that did walk the walk, “it wasn’t just a purpose statement. It was a way of being. It was something that informed everything they did,” says Gulati.
That’s an important distinction, and it explains why Gulati ultimately titled the book, Deep Purpose. At Inc.’s virtual Purpose Power Summit Tuesday, Scott Goodson, founder and CEO of StrawberryFrog, spoke with Gulati about the idea behind his new book.
In its most basic form, Gulati says, a company’s purpose is a generalized intention about how you want to be in the world. A deeper, thoughtful purpose helps leaders set and achieve goals, not to mention go after a long-term vision. In other words, purpose is a key part of unlocking your company’s growth.
But how? For Gulati, the answer is multifaceted.
1. Your people are more motivated.
A deep purpose will help you attract and keep employees who are aligned with your company’s mission, and it will make them more productive. According to a 2015 Harvard Business Review study, inspired workers are twice as productive as satisfied workers. “When they [employees] connect their purpose with the company purpose, you get a different kind of person showing up,” Gulati says.
2. Your customers feel a greater connection to your brand.
More than ever, customers care about companies with purpose. They want their purchases to back brands that play a positive role in the communities in which they operate. The more you can connect with customers on the level of purpose, the more trust and loyalty you build.
3. Your business transitions from transactional to relational.
Partnerships, suppliers, customers, employees: Running a company today involves a lot of moving parts and lots of relationships. Think of this as your company’s ecosystem. Gulati says that having a deep purpose builds stronger relationships, which in turn strengthens your ecosystem. He says this transition will look like a “changing of a firm from an economic vision of a nexus of contracts,” where everyone is looking for their piece of the pie, to a “nexus of commitments,” where everyone is working toward that deep purpose.
4. You’ll always have a true north to guide your next moves.
Gulati says, “Purpose is a compass.” The ups and downs of running a business can be brutal, but a deep purpose will keep you on track no matter what challenges you face.
Finally, Gulati says, for leaders, a well-developed purpose helps them be more than just operators–they become inspirers. And that goes for not only inspiring employees in their day-to-day tasks but also inspiring them to work toward their own deeper purpose. That’s how leaders cultivate and grow their teams while also building a purpose-driven company from the ground up. Borrowing from Stanford University professor emeritus James G. March, Gulati says the world needs “leaders as both plumbers and poets.”