How can leaders use purpose to build trust?

How can leaders use purpose to build trust?

Simone Maus

Leadership, Culture & Performance Architect at The Zone

“Purpose is everything” was one of several repeating comments that participants recently made after one of our leadership trainings. It was like a collective realisation, a collective insight.

Many of us know Simon Sinek’s talk: How great leaders inspire action. He speaks about how everything starts with the why. “People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it” is one of his famous quotes.

I wonder if we can take this even further and embed the use of purpose in everything we do.

As a leader we have to make constant decisions on why and how we will act. In facilitation, we call this making an intervention. One of the basic foundations of facilitation skills training is to start always with purpose. When we start with purpose we build trust, because we are making our intentions known to the people around us, to the people we lead and to ourselves.

Here are 7 ways on how leaders can use purpose to build trust:

Building up trust with one-self

1.    Set your individual purpose

Having connected with your life’s purpose will give you strength and pave the way in a direction that is aligned with your deeper self. All your decisions and interventions with others can be guided by this purpose. Knowing your purpose will give you strength. You will feel empowered and the creator of your life rather then feeling in effect of it. It points you in the right direction for your work and your relationships and you can make informed decisions. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing is a powerful leadership quality.

2.    Set a purpose for the year

This is one of my particular favourite practices. Setting myself a direction for the year helps me to decide what I like to focus on and it helps me seeing my achievements. I have done this also with the teams I have worked with and it gives us focus together and we can keep learning and growing towards our purpose every year.

3.    Set a purpose for your day

This is also a very powerful practice, in particular when there is a lot going on. Deciding on one thing to focus on for the day will ground you and will build trust in your capability of managing your life deliberately.

 Building up trust as a business leader

 4.    Set a purpose for your organisation

This comes back to Simon Sinek’s words. “ People buy what you do and not why you do it”. As more inspiring your purpose for your organisation is the more it will lead the way with your employees and your clients. It will energise you and the people around you. Spend some time to identify your organisations purpose. It will lead the way for anyone working for or with you to follow your inspiration.

This also is sometimes called a mission statement.

5.    Set a purpose for your team or working group

Any leader can set a purpose for the team you work with. Ideally involve all team members in this process. Start with everyone’s individual purpose and then listen for what you have in common and what you as a team can achieve. Listen for alignment and not giving in. It might take a little while to really find this together but it is so worth it, because after that the team is pulling in the same direction. Aligning on a common purpose together also helps a team to go quicker through the essential storming phase of a team.

6.    Set a purpose for each team meeting

According to Doodle's 2019 State of Meetings report, the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. This is almost half a trillion dollars for these two countries alone -- a tremendous drag on the effectiveness of businesses.

Setting a meeting purpose creates focus and makes it very clear on who should be there and what the meeting is about. Staying in purpose builds trust with your team and you will be known for respecting everyone’s time.

7.    Intervene by standing in the purpose

Now this one is really important and it refers to the title of this article, that purpose is really everything. Whenever you decide to speak, to listen, to act to do nothing this is an intervention, which creates a response. So as more as you can intervene with purpose the more control you will have of the outcome of your intervention. As a leader, if you intervene by standing in the purpose, then you also make the purpose the boss and not yourself, which will build trust and empower your team members. 

Final words on a good purpose:

  • A purpose should be a short statement of no more than 12 words and ideally covering only one idea.

  • The purpose should feel inspiring and exciting. So it is not so much about the actual words but more about how they feel.

  • After naming the purpose you should feel compelled to get into action. It pulls you forward.

  • A purpose statement begins with either To or a verb ending with –ing. This gives the purpose direction.

  • Questions that can help to find the purpose: Why are we here? What do we want to create?

Examples of an inspiring purpose:

  • To skyrocket our facilitation capabilities

  • To create holistic success in our business

  • Creating an uplifting space for growth

  • Bringing leadership alive

  • To help our customers to do what they love

How are you using purpose to build trust?