How purpose, pain and process can bring a better 2017

For today's talent, it's more about shared values and less about perks

For leaders seeking ways their organizations and employees can perform better in 2017, they may be surprised (or relieved?) to hear that office perks have peaked — and today’s teammates are really looking for a place to belong, a sense of purpose.

What does this mean?  Well, to start it means transferring some focus (and fear) away from the pursuit of attracting talent and instead investing in the talent already onboard.  

What does the current team need? Purpose and process, as well conversations that resolve pain. Today’s employees stay put when they are pursuing a shared goal with shared values, when they trust operational and communication processes are consistent, when they feel comfortable having tough conversations, and when they trust their teammates and leaders hold one another to account.

It's not about the Ping-Pong table.

Office perks have perpetuated the notion that Millennials are entitled, but the truth is that this cohort is searching for purpose. True, there is a generation gap, but there is also common ground.

The young have always been cool and rebellious — and at the same time, purpose has always been a thing.  While time has created distance for many baby-boomers from perhaps their more rebellious days, the cause behind rebellion has always been about finding a custom-fit purpose. And while some of today’s employees, many of whom are Millennials, have gained a name for themselves by requiring perks and shucking long-term company loyalty, what they really crave is belonging.

Identifying common ground — or “common purpose” — is one thing; pursuing it together is quite another.  Here's where facing pain with process finishes the equation.

Face the pain.

Growing pains that stem from truth-telling and accountability are the type of pain that bring organizations to new heights. But facing pain, or what doesn’t work, won’t be tolerated unless the organization values this kind of truth telling with courageous conversations.

Growth has many faces, many definitions, but what’s important to people development is the growth that drives both individuals and the collective forward.  Having the skills and capacity to have courageous conversations is one of those key growth opportunities.

At the root of most conflict is the pain of unfaced feelings and a difference in how people interpret a situation. Feelings and perceptions or stories about what is happening are often being concealed or expressed in irresponsible ways. The ability to express in ways that are authentic and productive is uncommon and this often creates roadblocks. Developing a culture where responsible self expression is welcomed clears the space for trust and creativity, which then creates momentum and progress.

Process doesn’t eliminate the need for change.

The notion of agile has been in practice in technology departments and organizations for more than a decade.  Now with proven results, the technique is gaining traction outside the software-platform arena.  Bringing agile into process is critical at every organizational level, in every vertical, generating immediate and long-term change.

Strategic planning v. Game methodology

To perform better in 2017, organization leaders should pivot their planning from the archaic feve-year pursuit to a one-year plan. Creating five-year plans is often a  waste of time and energy, with lengthy narratives and lofty goals that don’t translate into basic direction that leaders and their teams can get on the ground with or use to make key decisions.  

We prefer a more agile planning process.  It involves key stakeholders in a nimble and organic way.  The plan is simply organized and focused in a way that promotes incremental work on milestones that are measurable and help the organization stay on track or adjust in order to move toward key objectives. Denver-based Culture Counts *(small plug*) calls this the “Game Methodology.”

Managing from a Sweet Spot

For those overseeing staff or project managing at any level, doing so from an identified “Sweet Spot” is critical to success. What is a Sweet Spot?  It’s both an individualized assessment and a go-forward recommendation.  In tune with the Myers-Briggs assessment and even the ancient enneagram, a “Sweet Spot” evaluation determines an individual’s unique DNA by assigning three talents an individual possesses and four talents that individual masks within a set of seven archetypes.

Each characteristic has four stages, or maturations. If each of the seven talents were slices in a pumpkin pie, these stages would be progression from the outside crust or rim inward toward the center of the pie.  Order of characteristics also matters; for instance, a priest-first individual propels everyone forward together in vision, whereas a priest-second individual sees and shares vision, but may activate “in service” of it rather than driving it.

The seven characteristics include:

  • Priest: Focus on vision
  • Server: Focus on love
  • Sage: Focus on community
  • Artisan: Focused on creativity
  • Warrior: Focus on efficiency
  • Scholar: Focused on knowledge

Knowing a “Sweet Spot” can help an individual lead and live with more authenticity and greater success.  More information can be found with “The Sweet Spot,” or at

Disciplined + Practical Ways

Leaders and their teams who have a shared purpose, who lead from their sweet spots and establish a value for courageous conversation are well on their way to realizing success.  And sustainable change, transformation and growth happens as a result of applying all that in a discipline and practical way by staying focused on shared goals that can be measured and obtained within one year.

I welcome your thoughts! @whitney.walpole


Whitney Walpole is an entrepreneur, founder and educator, helping leaders create better business results by shaping great workplace cultures.  Her organization,, works with leadership teams across North America to help them perform better.

Categories: Management & Leadership, Web Exclusives