Entrepreneurially-minded organisations achieve agility not by having a purpose but what they do with it. These agile and entrepreneurially-minded businesses display a clearly defined set of drivers within their cultures that are the secret to bridging the Purpose Gap and making purpose work in an organisation.

“trust equals consistency over time. There’s no shortcut for either”.  Jeff Weiner

Contexis Purpose Gap_v3_4The first major difference in these organisations is a strong cultural assumption of TRUST. These cultures tend to be open, compassionate and creative rather than inward looking, fearful and controlling.  Purpose is able to live in the organisation and create value and impact because people implicitly trust in its authenticity.

In more traditional cultures based on control, people are instinctively distrustful of the purpose and hence it has no power to change things for the better. We once interviewed, across global markets, 600 middle Managers of a global Bank whose CEO had created and communicated a compelling and authentic purpose, strongly supported by the Board. Yet, the percentage of Managers who identified with or even believed the purpose was in low single digits.

What drives trust, allows purpose to thrive and transforms cultures is a marked difference in the organisation’s approach to people. Whilst it’s not always perfect, people tend to feel valued and trusted because management from the top to bottom is encouraged and supported to consistently act and behave differently. This is about managing compassionately, using a specific skillset that gives managers the knowledge and confidence to understand another’s point of view and take more time to listen and understand.

Trust allows people absolute confidence in their expectations of how they will be treated which means everyone’s energy is focused on making good things happen in the company rather than on protecting their own positions. People feel confident to try new things and go the extra mile which makes these cultures open and creative outwardly-facing. People strive for self improvement and mastery because the default setting tends towards learning before blame.

Compassion isn’t simple empathy; it requires action and gets results.

There is nothing soft or altruistic about this. Compassionate management isn’t simple empathy; it requires action and gets results. It is about creating exceptional productivity and efficiency. It is about building agile, responsive and highly effective cultures.

These cultures do not happen by accident but as the result of a conscious choice to manage people differently. It is also not an instant fix. As Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, who has consistently built a culture based on compassionate management, says  “trust equals consistency over time. There’s no shortcut for either”.

To create a culture built on trust requires a conscious and courageous choice for senior management, backed up by consistent and sustained focus. In our experience, an entire culture can be transformed only when enough people are working, thinking and feeling differently to reach a tipping point. As a rule of thumb, 15% of the organisation’s management at every level must develop a fundamentally new way of thinking for change to become permanent and self-sustaining.

As Jeff Weiner says “compassion can be taught” by which I think he means the techniques and methodologies can be taught. Compassion is a core part of the human condition. Management theory and practice has just spent a generation trying to suppress it.

Perhaps it’s time to release people’s natural compassion in the workplace. As Linkedin has discovered, the rewards of creating Cultural Agility in terms of building cultures that are innovative, open and always learning can be extraordinary.

To find out about the other key drivers of entrepreneurial agility in large organisations, read here and here.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash