This article is part of a series in which I describe each section of a quadrant model. This model is based on two criteria. The first one is the level of desire for personal development. The second one is about the level of joined effort around a common goal. In a perfect world, high level personal development and a unifying purpose will enable people to improve the world by improving themselves while participating to a project. This series is a conceptual work in progress. You are reading the third article of the Purposeful Organization Concept series.
Are you working in a fairy tale company? In short, does your company have a clear unifying purpose while employees and leaders have a low personal development? We talk here about a fairy tale because members of the organization aspire to contribute to a better world. Unfortunately, the low personal development hinders them in creating the conditions to achieve their common purpose in a collegial way.
Let see in more details how it looks like.
A unifying purpose
People with a strong personal mission decide to join a company that has a similar purpose. A good example is the health industry. Some employees decide to work there to help other get healthier. They want to serve the world.
N.B.: We also have to recognize that due to the lack of manpower in some sectors some people may be forced into roles to fill the void. They may join others in their desire to improve the world or see their job as a pain.
So when do we know a company has a unifying purpose?
It is difficult to give a number. I would suggest that almost everyone within the company answer the following question with a similar answer (without being trained to answer this way):
Why are we working together?
This question may seem simple at first. In fact it is a deep almost philosophical question. Asking the question “Why” requires an elaborate response from the respondent. A personal justification about one’s motivation. “Working together” implies that the person has no other choices than to cooperate. Does he?
The way people interpret this question indicates their state of mind. It is sometimes mind blowing. If you had to ask this question around you. What kind of answers do you expect to receive? I usually ask people why they do the work they do and the answer can be placed on the following continuum:
- Because they want to participate to the company’s purpose.
- because they needed a job. They are not that interested in the company common purpose.
Now, what does having a unifying purpose imply for the company itself?
Clear goals and actions
The consequence of the unifying purpose is that employees organize themselves or are organized by others to complete the tasks at hand. You may recognize such a company with the following aspects:
- Shared & clear purpose and goals
- shared & clear belief about the raison d’être of the organization
- Clear roles definition
- Clear responsibilities
- Clear procedures
- Clear safety rules
Everything that is related to the purpose is well thought out. People seem to know what has to be done and are ready to take action. This idea of clarity does not mean that everything is set in stone. Instead it means that it is clear for everyone how to achieve the overall purpose of the organization.
Unfortunately, in a fairy tale company something slows down the wonderful organism. The personal development of employees and leaders does not support the achievement of the uniying purpose.
Egocentric people make it a fairy tale
The low personal development impairs the achievement of the common purpose. The most dangerous aspect of low personal development is a strong ego. Things seem to be focused on the individual. He does not consider the importance of cooperation in order to achieve the common unifying purpose.
The low personal development also implies an incapacity to connect with oneself and others at the same level. The german language uses the word “Augenhöhe” (eye-level) to express this idea. This means considering others as your equal and not inferior or superior to you.
You can recognize this inequality in the following aspects:
- strong hierarchical use of power.
- diminishing others.
- low cooperation readiness.
- “Me first” mentality.
- “I am the best” mentality.
- authoritative leadership.
- No consideration for so called “low level jobs”.
- Ignoring that everyone is there to achieve the common purpose.
- considering negatively others.
The consequences of such mindsets are following:
People with higher education look at those with a lesser education as “dumb”, unable to make neat decisions. They see in others children that must learn to behave.
On the other side, the employees at the bottom of the hierarchy see their hierarchical superior as hypocrites, bad boss, not good listeners and most of the time ass****.
Obviously, I am taking extreme examples to present my ideas. Not every boss or employee in a fairy tale company sees the others like this but you will be able to recognize shades of those behavior.
Is the fairy tale company made for you?
You are the only one who can answer this question but here is my suggestion. If your personal purpose is strong and you can handle a workplace with a low level of personal development. Perhaps, it is for you.
I am an optimist and believe that more and more people have the desire to work at “augenhöhe” (same eye level) because whatever your level of diploma or state of knowledge is, we are all human beings. No one is better than you overall. Others just have different level of skills and knowledge. It does not make them better or worth.
When does a fairy tale company work?
It works when people within it assume that there is not other way to achieve their common purpose. They have a mindset about personal interaction and power that influences all that they do. Imagine how the world would look like if they only believed:
“Everyone in the organization knows something I do not know and together we can join our collective intelligence to achieve our common purpose.”