Several months into this year’s pandemic in the U.S., a Forbes article reported that a lot of businesses were still thriving. A common thread between those weathering the storm most successfully was this: They had an authentic and integrated commitment to a purpose larger than profitability or growth.
Bill Damon, author of the book Path to Purpose, defines purpose as “a long-term, forward-looking intention to accomplish aims that are both meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self.” However, as Simon Sinek notes in his bestselling book Start with Why, most people know what an organization does, but few know why they do it. In other words, most purpose-driven leaders can articulate their mission, but many mission-driven leaders can’t articulate their purpose.
At NAWBO, we know about purpose. We exist to power the dreams of women business owners across our nation—whether we are using our voice to speak out on issues that matter most to our community, creating an educational experience that leaves women business owners supported and inspired or partnering with corporations and other organizations that bring value and expertise, whether it’s around access to capital, technology or legal. At NAWBO, everything we do powers dreams.
As women business owners, being aware of and feeling deeply connected to the why behind our work keeps us from getting distracted by novel trends or discouraged by tough situations or environments. And it ultimately makes us more effective leaders who are more satisfied with our work and better able to inspire, engage and empower our teams.
If you’re looking to better connect with your why—the purpose behind what you do—now and in the year ahead, here are some actions to take:
Clarify your purpose: Why did you start your company? What were you hoping to accomplish? What values and beliefs are at the core of your purpose, and how do they influence the way you lead and live? Are there opportunities to better align your personal and professional values?
Plan to reflect: It’s critical to step back from the day-to-day and check in with yourself and your purpose. Choose an activity each week that helps you unplug and reflect on your values. It might be journaling, hiking or meditating. Put it on your calendar, and don’t move it.
Share your why: Although most employees can readily recognize the what behind your company, few may be able to articulate the why, and as Sinek points out, employees only connected to the what will show up for the paycheck, but employees connected to the why will give their blood, sweat and tears to their work.
Connect with customers: Once businesses grow to a certain level, as leaders, we sometimes lose direct contact with customers. Schedule time to personally connect, whether it’s during a 30-minute call or a coffee date once it’s safe. Your customers will feel more connected to you, your company and what it stands for, and you’ll be reminded of your purpose.
We all had a why when we started our businesses, and it’s the perfect time to reconnect with it. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and a new year filled with great purpose!
—Cristina Morales Heaney
2020-2021 NAWBO National Board Chair