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Does your company live up to why it exists?

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Today, “purpose” is discussed ad nauseam by people around the business world. The zeitgeist around purpose-oriented companies risks being counterproductive, as too many companies become satisfied with declaring and publicizing their purpose rather than the more important work of living up to it. While discussing purpose is a positive step beyond just talking about profit at all costs, purpose is unfulfilled intention that doesn’t satisfy anyone for any length of time: not the employees, customers, leaders, or investors that purpose initiatives typically aim to serve.
Declaring why your company exists is a good start, but many companies are struggling with the challenging and expansive work of living up to it. Here are four considerations to realize potential.

The first consideration is that living up to why you exist is not a one-time event. Just as great athletes are forever honing their craft, or those dedicated to a religious faith consider a lifetime’s journey, companies with an elevated purpose are unlikely to ever have a singular moment of being “done.” And that’s a good thing: Larry Page has said that focusing on “really big goals” is critical to leadership, “because something you can work the rest of your life on and still be excited about . . . that attracts the best people, and retains them, and keeps them focused.”

In navigating the journey, it’s useful to frame big questions that continue to reveal new paths and opportunities. Ben Steele, chief customer officer of REI, who led the wildly successful #OptOutside initiative, has said it stemmed from internal questioning: “The question is not how do we maximize sales, the question is are we living up to our values? … and how do we show people what we believe?” Asking the big questions, frequently, is the best guidance system in evolving towards your potential.

The second consideration is that living up to why you exist is more about action than communication. In........

© Fast Company