A sense of purpose and the ability to be purposeful are key to personal and organisational success. Coaching can be a highly effective means of evoking purposefulness, and so generate high levels of motivation and corporate intent.
This article explores how coaching can be used to uncover purpose, what the impact on the individual of increased purposefulness can be, and how individual and organisational purpose can be aligned to the benefit of both.Introduction
Increasingly organisations need to be able to continuously reinvent themselves so as to stay aligned with and responsive to their customers and other stakeholders. Creating the necessary changes can involve a wide range of programmes and initiatives such as culture change, process re-engineering, benchmarking, total quality management, values alignment, and so forth. What all these have in common is that, to be successful, they have to be accompanied by behavioural change by the organisation's stakeholders and, in particular, by the organisation's senior executives. Executive coaching is an intervention designed to support such senior executives and other key staff in making the necessary behaviour changes.Executive Coaching
Executive Coaching is a specialist form of management development and education. It is particularly suited to senior executives who have risen above the scope of formal management development programmes and require highly focused development and support tailored to the particular challenges facing them in their business.
Executive Coaching stimulates and manages the individual growth necessary to deliver business performance beyond present levels and beliefs of what is possible. It does this by helping executives:
- build a solid personal foundation and demonstrate strong confidence in self and others
- develop their personal vision and uncover their value priorities
- think strategically and inspire shared vision, mission and values
- determine appropriate goals, strategies, tactics and action plans
- enhance their management and leadership skills
- identify their personal winning strategies
- uncover self sabotage, recognise repeating patterns and introduce change to interrupt habitual responses
- elicit high commitment to personal change and development.
Being coached can therefore be a challenging and stretching experience, inviting executives to draw on and develop hidden personal resources and qualities. And it can be an exciting, stimulating journey of self discovery and development which opens up new opportunities for personal fulfillment and achievement. In either case it involves a journey into the unknown and into unfamiliar ways of being and doing; we may have to confront our fear of failure and, paradoxically, our fear of success; we may have to cast aside long held beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of; and we may have to resist strong pressure from family and colleagues to lapse back to our habitual ways. Thus to create and then sustain change in the face of the many forces which may pull us back, a powerfully motivating context is necessary. That context is Purpose.Purpose
Your purpose expresses who you are, who you are becoming, and what contribution you can make. You have a sense of purpose when your life has a direction and meaning which you have chosen. (Purpose differs from Vision which is about what you want to create and achieve. You choose a Vision but discover your Purpose.)
When our lives, at home and at work, are aligned with our Purpose, then our lives are meaningful and we connect to deep wells of energy within ourselves.
A prime reason why a sense of purpose is important is that it provides the strong container or context through which we can manage our inner experience of change. But to create that change we must be able to express that purpose in the world, that is, to be purposeful.Being Purposeful
You are being purposeful when you are fully living your purpose, that is when you are expressing your purpose in the moment rather than working towards achieving it in the future. Purposefulness can also be described as willfulness (in its sense of 'full of Will') and has the following qualities:
- energy, dynamic power, intensity
- mastery, control, discipline
- concentration, attention, focus
- determination, decisiveness, resoluteness, promptness
- persistence, endurance, patience
- initiative, courage, daring
- organisation, integration, synthesis (Assagioli 1973)
Bringing Purpose into the present requires the ability to be present - or to have Presence. Put simply:
Purpose + Presence = Purposefulness
Presence is the ability to be with another person with such inner self-knowledge that the other person is able to ponder the depths of who he or she is with awareness and clarity. It is the single most important skill the coach requires. Marianne Williamson describes presence rather more poetically: "We are all born to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of god that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (Williamson 1992) This is also an excellent description of the essence of coaching.Developing Purpose
The Mentoring for Change model provides a framework and methodology for coaching. This model and the four elements of the coaching process - Readiness, Authentic Vision, Skillful Action, and Insight - are described elsewhere (Turner, 1995) and here. The diagram below shows the corresponding elements of coaching on purpose - Satisfying Needs, Uncovering Purpose, Being Purposeful, and Realising Purpose.
Needs are those things which must be satisfied for us to have a solid foundation to our lives. For this reason, coaching on purpose will often start in this quadrant of the model.
When we are driven by our needs (eg, for appreciation, self-worth, security, love, success) it is difficult to express and live by our purpose because our energy and attention are devoted to getting our needs met. In developing a sense of our purpose, it is therefore important to determine whether our behaviour is being driven by our needs. If it is then we must find ways to get those needs satisfied once and for all so that their fulfillment no longer gets in the way of our purpose. So, for example, we may be a team-leader and have a strong need to belong. If we try to get our belonging needs met from the team when we are supposed to be challenging its members to new levels of performance, we are likely to fail both to provide the leadership the team requires and to get our own needs met. More appropriate ways of getting this need met must be found.
Sometimes, mere awareness that a need is being met in inappropriate ways is sufficient to enable people to drop the pattern. But often the need's function has been to protect the individual from the challenge of embracing their sense of purpose and then more wide ranging work is required.Uncovering Purpose
As we release ourselves from the hold of our needs, so we create the opportunity for our sense of purpose to begin to emerge more fully into our lives. This emergence can be facilitated by looking at the course of our lives, distinguishing the themes and patterns, becoming aware of what is unfolding, noticing the qualities of those times when we have felt most alive, recalling what it was we especially enjoyed as a six year old, considering the Tombstone Test ("What would you like your epitaph to be?"), and by other explorations of the wider context of our lives.
Steve Jobs, trying to lure John Sculley, then CEO of PepsiCo, to Apple famously and ultimately successfully evoked Sculley's sense of purpose by asking "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" (Sculley, 1988)
A more analytical approach to working with both Purpose and Needs is to work with value priorities. Values sit at the gateway between our inner and outer worlds. They describe what is fundamentally important, and hence meaningful, to us and so are directly related to our sense of purpose and to our needs. Instrumentation, such as the VMI from Values Technology Inc which can be used to uncover individual and organisational values and place them in a developmental framework of 125 global values (see below), can be used to measure value priorities. This can be a particularly effective way to identify those values which are just emerging into our lives and which point us towards our unfolding purpose.
A sense of purpose does not necessarily lead to purposeful behaviour. Purpose is passive; purposefulness is active and emerges out of a process in which we express ourselves through what we do. Connecting our sense of purpose to the actions we take involves clarifying our values, developing our intention, deliberating on the possible ways of realising our purpose, choosing one or more, affirming the choice, formulating plans, and finally acting.
In being purposeful, we must mobilise our mind and our feelings: at the intellectual level our sense of purpose provides a powerful reason for making the changes; and at the emotional level our purposefulness provides the motive force to bring our purpose into existence.Realising Purpose
Once we are taking purposeful action we must ensure that this is creating the outcomes we seek to achieve. To do this we have to learn to perceive clearly our impact on our environment (eg, organisation, family, team) and be able to sense the intricate web of connections in which we exist, and to see the whole as well as the parts.
We have to develop the ability to sustain our new behaviours and ways of being, to develop new habits, to learn from our experience, and to be sensitive to what we are creating. These are systems skills and they emerge most fully when our instrumental, interpersonal and imaginal skills become integrated. In essence they involve a shift from seeing a world made up of things to seeing a world that's open and primarily made up of relationships.Linking Individual and Corporate Purpose
The traditional psychological contract between employer and employee has involved a trade of time for pay. But many people are now looking for more from their work than just financial rewards; they are seeking the opportunity to develop and fulfill themselves. Increasingly it will be those organisations which are able to satisfy this desire for more fulfilling work which will be able to attract and retain the best staff. Thus, the challenge that organisations face is how to provide their staff with the opportunity for more personally meaningful work whilst simultaneously enabling the organisation to meet its goals.
In fact, organisations too can be described as having purpose, although it is more usually referred to as the organisational mission. An organisation's mission expresses itself in a variety of ways - through the structures, polices processes etc of the organisation - but predominantly it comes from the sense of purpose of the people who make up the organisation. And just as individual purpose can be accessed through personal values, so organisational mission can be accessed through corporate values. It is values that provide the link between the individual's purpose and the organisation's mission. This is not to say that the individual should have the same value priorities as the organisation - though there does need to be a core of shared values - but that the stage of development of the individual's value system should match that of the organisation.
Living our purpose consistently is a profound challenge. It requires high levels of self-awareness, a firm commitment, a strong sense of our own self-worth, a willingness to take risks,and the emotional discipline to travel outside our comfort zone. In essence it requires that we develop the skills of self-leadership. The role of the coach in this is to help the coachee continually deepen their understanding of reality, develop their sense of self, learn to listen for what is emerging, and to encourage them to live their purpose.References
- Assagioli R, 1973, "The Act of Will", Turnstone Press.
- Sculley J, 1988, "Odyssey",Collins.
- Turner M H M, 1996, "Executive Mentoring", Counselling at Work, 12.
- Williamson M, 1992, "A Return to Love", Harper Collins.