Chapter 1: Purpose, How to get there

Hi helpful contributizers,

What follows is the third and final extract from Chapter 1: Purpose.

Feedback desired:

  • Is this section useful, practical and actionable?
  • Do you have any additional ideas, comments or edits?


How can you locate a Purpose of Significance?

Let’s get practical. Put simply, there are three steps in the journey towards uniting a group of people in an organisation behind a shared purpose:

1.    Finding it
2.    Framing it
3.    Living it

1. Finding it

Clearly the first step is to find and agree on a purpose that makes sense to the organisation and its competencies andt can excite and inspire its people. There are two obvious routes to locating a Purpose of Significance:

•    From the individual – commonly a leader’s personal passion or perspective
•    From the group – through a collective effort

In the individual mode, inspiring individuals like Muhammad Yunus from Grameen or Su Hardy from Mooncup stumble upon or are already driven by a cause, a personal mission.
We all have passions burning inside us. Locating our own can feel impossible, it can seem so foggy and far from beliefs about what work is and should be. But the happiest and most successful people are generally doing something they love – they love their work AND they get paid to do it.

Discovering your personal passion and purpose can be as simple as reflecting on what it is you really enjoy, what it is you want to give, what gets you riled up, furious, hysterical and arm-waving, laughing out loud. It’s about locating those embers that are already burning.


The coaching world is very good at this, and there are some great ‘visioning’ exercises that an experienced coach can take you from, and in fact helping someone find their higher purpose is what gets most coaches very excited and passionate. The process is enjoyable, relaxed, enlightening and the results can be life-changing. Personally, I have worked with the CTI and found the quality of their coaches (and their coach training) to be incredible.

What’s Your Purpose? by Richard Jacobs

Richard Jacobs’ brilliantly designed work takes you through seven questions to ‘Find Your Answer’. I found the audio book to be an excellent way of consuming the content and working through the simple, enjoyable exercises. I can still remember how, through the course of a 1 hour train journey from Brighton to London in the middle of a frazzled busy working day, I’d sketched out some profoundly useful descriptions of what it is I wanted to give to the world. Highly recommended.

Leadership: Plain and Simple by Steve Radcliffe

In this excellent and very easy to read book on leadership, Steve Radcliffe walks you through a very practical approach to locating your own passions and then bringing others on the journey through his Future, Engage, Deliver model. As with ‘What’s Your Purpose’ there are a really tight set of wonderfully simple, open questions to get you clearly, but matched also with practical approaches to getting a wider team performing too.

In groups

In larger groups, the challenge to find a uniting purpose can feel much harder, but the result is obviously that much more powerful when it engages a whole group – be that a team, a small business, a division or an entire corporation.

My feeling is that again the purpose is lingering in the background, waiting to be dusted off and shared around. That, however hard or poor things have been, teams and organisations are often drawn together by implicit values and a purpose that may be shared but is also buried.

One method for locating a Purpose of Significance here is to run workshop groups of 8 to 15 people in a reasonably quiet and ‘safe’ space away from normal desks and interruptions and to ask some of the same questions covered in the two books mentioned above, but in a group setting.

In my team working for our clients or equally to develop our own company we often use white walls and Post-It notes or stick index cards up so that everyone can see them, providing prompts like:

•    What do we care about?
•    Why do we do the work we do?
•    What really matters?
•    What is the purpose of our organisation?
•    What do we want for the future of this group/team?
•    What can we give that really matters to the world?
And using the initial surge of answers as the start of a collective discussion about what the shared purpose will be.

    2. Framing it

Having identified a purpose, the vital key in this next century is clearly linking this purpose to a matter of significance in the world. For example, whilst working in Denmark I was told the story of a Danish company called Groundfos – a company with a long history of manufacturing excellent pumps for a variety of purposes, producing some 16 million pump units a year. My friend told me that what Groundfos had done in recent times to help lift and guide the whole business was to reframe its matter-of-face production of pumps in the context of a world where have access to clean drinking water is still a huge challenge for millions of people in the developing world, and where sustainability is becoming acutely important.

Today Groundfos frames what it does in this context:’ Grundfos is a global leader in advanced pump solutions and a trendsetter in water technology. We contribute to global sustainability by pioneering technologies that improve quality of life for people and care for the planet.’

So the opportunity here is to link what your company does with something that really, really matters in the 21st century.

    3. Living it

Living the Purpose of Significance is the fun bit. It’s the bit that, having clarified it, will be get easier and more exciting with every day that passes.

It is challenging yourself and those around you to find the link between the work and the purpose.

Living it also means sharing it. This generation of radical businesses are happy to champion and evangelize the issues that they stand for. They share knowledge freely, from seminars to articles and speeches – spreading and championing their cause.


This chapter about Purpose is deliberately first: it is where everything starts. Engaging with a Purpose of Significance transcends and influences everything else that follows. It is the keys to kingdom, the guiding star, the secret sauce! Without a clear personal and organisational purpose that really matters – a Purpose of Significance – everything else is window dressing and ‘nice to have’. This is where the magic starts. Enjoy it for what it is.

And although it may feel overwhelming and impossible to change, it really is not. Go for it, start soon. You’ll amaze yourself and the people around you.


This is the last extract from Chapter 1: Purpose. You can find the previous two on this Contents page.

Next week’s chapter – assuming I finish it in time this weekend – is on Democracy at work.

Thank you so much for your attention:

Please give me your feedback, comments, suggestions and support either in the comments section, tweet @willmcinnes / hashtag #cltrshck or email

Please all bring others with interesting or strong (and alternative) perspectives into the conversation – forward to a friend and all that.

5 thoughts on “Chapter 1: Purpose, How to get there

  1. Will, this is the best extract so far for me. Mainly because your personality and passion for the subject is really starting to shine through. There are a few typos here which I can show you when I see you. But keep it up – very excited to read the rest.

  2. I’d agree: this is well structured and accessible. One thought, though, would be that it resonates when you talk about your experience. When you mention sitting on the train from Brighton to London (a journey taken by many with similar belief systems, too many times), the story and prose comes to life. I’d like to know a little bit more about why, for example, you felt the coaches at CTI were “incredible”: what did you walk away from the day having learned about yourself? And, finally, it would be interesting to hear how you would you describe your own sense of purpose, once it had been found… And whether it’s changed over time!

    1. Hi Matthew, now that is an interesting point. Thank you for chipping in again. It’s really appreciated.
      I hear what you’re saying and agree that the personal story approach really works for me as a reader too. I think I need to check with my publisher as I’m not sure whether they want the personal story angle and it might change the book overall if I go too far down that road.
      But I can absolutely pepper the book with more snippets of personal experience.
      I will also edit the copy based on your suggestions about the CTI and my own purpose stuff.

      Thank you – much much appreciated.

  3. Nice, practical. Quite inspirational summary.

    Working in groups – you start off with some practical advice about getting the ideas out but one of the biggest difficulties following that is homing in on an idea. Can you give some other references to successful idea generation workshopping?

    Typos: “its matter-of-face production of pumps in the context of a world where have access to clean drinking water is still a huge challenge” And on that, sustainability isn’t becoming a problem – sustainable development was highlighted in the Brundtland report 30 years ago. Also, quoting your friend sounds anecdotal, can you use something more authoritative?

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