Corporate Headquarters
651 Oakleaf Office Lane
Memphis, TN 38117

Knoxville Office
106 Gore SW
Knoxville, TN 37919

Satellite Offices

(901) 726-1008
[email protected]

What does purpose actually mean?


A talk from Haley Rushing, Chief Purposologist, The Purpose Institute

from the 2018 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference.

Why purpose?

Humans need purpose and meaning in life. For every venture there are both extrinsic and intrinsic aspirations. Purpose is an intrinsic aspiration. Years of research has shown that those who have only extrinsic goals suffer from anxiety and depression. Yet, those who have intrinsic goals have very low levels of depression and anxiety.

Some mistakenly think that intrinsic aspirations are for those who have already achieved. Nothing could be further away from the truth. Intrinsic motivations fulfill many aspirations and act as a fuel to keeping working toward a goal.

Purpose Drives Employee Engagement.

The drivers are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If you feel micro-managed, or as if you’re not using your strengths, or that your work is meaningless, you long for purpose.

Gallup has studied the role of purpose in more than 1,000 organizations. Companies with a really strong sense of purpose have about 73% of its employees engaged. Compare that to the less than 40% of employee engagement working at companies without a defined purpose.

Purpose Drives Performance.

Purpose is the path to high performance. Your motivation matters. If you are only adopting a purpose to get an ROI, you will get a better ROI; however, companies with a high sense of purpose outperform conventional companies 8-to-1 in the market.

What is a purpose?

A definitive statement about what impact you are trying to make in the world. Purpose has to be authentic. You must author your own purpose to gain the authority and authenticity necessary to be a motivating force. Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose, says Aristotle.

It’s all inside out, leader-led and grass roots-fed.

Ask yourself: what does the world need you to do?  There are no shortages of problems in the world. Where is the intersection of your strengths, your passion, and a place where you can make a meaningful impact?

Do people know what their company stands for? Only 37% of employees know what their company stands for. Less than half of managers know what their companies stand for.

Bringing Purpose to Life.

There’s a gap between what we believe and what we do. This gap creates a dissonance.  If you introduce a new belief that business exists for purposeful reasons beyond of making a profit, it creates a gap. Our metrics do not account for the newly launched purpose.

Use your purpose as an animating force for everything you do. Think of it as a lens. Look at everything on your to-do list through this lens.

Purpose drives everything—employee interactions and authority, competitive differentiation, product development, business strategy, revenue modeling, and culture.

Culture and environment matters more than anything. Think of ENRON. Put people in a bad environment and they will react unethically. Counter to that example, put someone in a trusting, loving environment and you get better behavior.

A proven record of success

We have led more than 250 successful engagements in transformation, innovation, insights, and strategies. We’ve worked with Fortune 100 corporations to small businesses, nonprofits of all sizes, military service branches, municipalities, and private equity groups. We’ve touched many sectors in 15+ years of running. Check out highlights from our portfolio and industries served here.