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How to get crystal clear about work purpose

insight Sep 16, 2022

Inc. magazine published an article this week written by Dr. Moshe Engelberg,an executive coach and author of The Amare Way, a book outlining a process to bring love back into what people do for work.

In the book's description on Amazon, Moshe explains how work is often identical to war with talk of capturing customers and crushing competitors. Lets add advancing a career, guerilla marketing strategies, fortifying a weak flank, and commanding attention. We also sometimes consider co-workers to be rivals competing for promotions, budgets or other perks.

Thinking in those terms often means people are looking out only for themselves rather than seeking win-win opportunities, he added.

When we're engaged in a war, it's hard to see a purpose beyond winning at all costs. So, Moche encourages people to look for ways their work can have a greater impact beyond earning money.

One of the things he encourages employees to do is simply take a "wonder walk" in order to wonder what their work is all about. Imagine the end customer who uses the product sold or service provided and what difference it makes in his or her life.

After all, that's the ultimate purpose of everything a company does -- to solve a problem for someone else. That means, many times a company's purpose goes far beyond what it makes or sells.

Going beyond making money

When I worked as a magazine editor, the company I worked for lost sight of its ultimate purpose, which was to provide timely information business owners could use to improve their companies and serve their customers.

Upper management was far more concerned about advertising sales than it was about the content being delivered to subscribers. How could I tell? Every year, the ratio narrowed between advertising pages and editorial pages.

When I started working, the ratio was about 35 to 42 percent advertising. That meant each issue of the magazine was chock full of editorial content about new products, better ways to run a company and ideas for marketing products, improving service or managing employees. Articles featured successful companies and what they did differently which made them successful.

While attending trade shows, readers told me repeatedly how much they enjoyed the magazine and looked forward to each issue. In fact, they claimed that when it arrived, they would often drop everything and read it cover-to-cover.

But, alas, the company was sold, and sold again until it was owned by a finance company that was only interested in the bottom line. The ratio of advertisements to editorial content rose to 55 and even 60 percent in some issues. Editorial content became filler between ads and many quality stories were cut from the final pages.

Profit is important for the survival of any business, but the firm I worked for lost site of the purpose for their existence. The year before it went bankrupt, all employees had to take five days off without pay because the company promised a 15% return to the banks, but only delivered 12%.

My magazine alone brought in $1.1 million in sales, and dropped $685,000 to the bottom line after all expenses were accounted for -- a profit margin of 62%.

As a result of the near-total focus on money, many stellar editors and publishers who were producing industry-leading publications bolted for the door. They started competing publications with the ultimate goal of serving the information needs of subscribers.

What business are you in?

In the Inc. article, Moche told employees to wonder what business they were in, and ask that question of senior managers as well. If they can't articulate a purpose beyond making and selling products or services, then there is little hope for ever being involved in something larger than themselves.

It's important for people to see themselves solving important problems in the services they provide to customers or to the company, for that matter.

"Clarify why you work with the 'so that' technique, as in 'I do this work so that ________ so that _________ so that __________, etc'. Somewhere in that benefits chain is your higher purpose," Moche wrote.

If you can't identify a higher purpose for the work you provide for a company, then it's time to leave and start over somewhere else. Perhaps that's in a business of your own where you can get crystal-clear about your purpose -- and work to deliver upon that.

"When you are really clear about what work is about, why you work, and what value you give and get, it's much easier to stay motivated, inspire others, and lead with love," he added.

Moche's full column is available at www.inc.com.

His book, "The Amare Wave: Uplift Your Business by Putting Love to Work (The Amare Way)," is available on Amazon.


If you buy Moche's book from the link above, Forward From 50 may earn a small commission.

If you're struggling with identifying a purpose for your life or setting a path to pursue it, I'm happy to help. For a limited time, I'm offering a complementary 30-minute coaching session exclusively to members of the Facebook group. Let's see if we can't brainstorm some options for you.

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