The Best an Organization Can Get?
True purpose is lived from the inside out.
Many of us have seen the provocative ad from Gillette, We Believe: The Best Men Can Be. It serves as powerful marketing. It stands for something. It stands out. Marketing, however, can be deleterious if your own employees consume it and mutter, ’that’s not what it’s like to work here.’
As organizational purpose has come into vogue, we are at risk of using language without embodying the language. Are organizations and their leaders committed to transforming themselves and not simply their marketing? Is the intent to serve, from the inside out, or is the intent solely to boost their brand and turn a higher profit?
Brand equity and profit are fine, but Infinite and WHY-based organizations view their brand and profit as the fuel to drive the crusade forward, not the end goal. In order for purpose to be felt by your customer, your purpose must first be felt from the inside by your employees. When our people feel cared for, they are all the more likely to extend that care to each other and to the customer.
What if someone's boss at Gillette exhibits misogynistic views and behaviors? It provides Gillette leadership with the opportunity to walk its talk in confronting, supporting, educating, coaching or dismissing that leader if that intervention is necessary.
Leadership is not about perfection. Leadership is about honesty, transparency and constant improvement to realize your purpose.
I have never set foot inside a Gillette office. I’ve only had a couple of conversations with employees of Proctor & Gamble (P&G)—Gillette’s owning company—to date. This is not a criticism of Gillette. I’m writing this simply as a caution for any leader or organization: when you claim to be a purpose-led organization, you have to mean it and live it. Otherwise, you’re at risk of alienating your own people. And that eventually bleeds to your customer.
P&G has been gifted a WHY that I have not yet seen them use in any meaningful way. If you look at all of P&G's products, every single one of them directly or indirectly comes into contact with human skin. Their WHY could be: To touch humanity so that we strive to make it better every day. For this purpose to be lived, every one of P&G's products, services and actions would have to be a consistent representation of this ideal. Further, their own employees would need to feel that the WHY is being lived inside the organization. They have a real opportunity to live and advance that WHY for each other, the company and its consumers.
We all want to work for an authentic leader and buy from authentic brands. But, what the heck does authenticity mean? Authenticity is when we say and do the things we actually believe. For organizations and leaders to live their purpose they need to have clarity of their WHY, discipline in HOW they bring it life and consistency in WHAT they do.
Leaders aren’t perfect. Leaders communicate and act to close the gaps between what they are saying and not yet doing.