Purpose, as is often said, our why. It sparks our vision—our becoming. It develops our mission—our doing. Purpose catalyzes us to achieve, but it does not say HOW we can achieve it. Many people achieve greatness by acting more as a bulldozer than a tractor. A bulldozer flattens. A tractor pulls. In the former, the bulldozer steamrolls obstacles, even people. In the latter, a tractor drives ahead, drawing others in its wake.
There is a way to make purpose more compelling and appealing. We call it grace, a catalyst for the greater good.
Purpose is not inherently full of grace. Instead, it is powered by ambition, drive and ego. And those are positives when they are used by true leaders, one more interested in bringing people together than in steamrolling opposition.
How grace transforms purpose
Grace complements purpose. If purpose is our why, then grace becomes our how – the way we do things here. Grace shapes the values that bind members to one another. Values underscore people to feel wanted. They believe they have a stake in the outcome. They know they belong. Grace transforms an organization into a community.
Grace is inherent to the human condition. Some might say our DNA includes it because we, as humans, true to our tribal natures, are inclined to help those closest to us. Grace, however, knows no biological kinship; it creates spiritual kinship. We are connected to others.
Here’s a thought experiment. Consider your place of work. Does your organization exhibit grace?
An organization without grace is one where people feel fearful, uncertain, and perhaps unloved. Without grace, there can be no community. There may be an organization, but there is no connection. People feel they do not belong.
My colleague Mark Goulston, M.D., a business psychiatrist and best-selling author, often talks about the need for people, especially those at risk for self-harm, to “feel felt.” Organizations can be alienating. Communities are embracing. In short, people feel emotionally connected to others. They, in the words of Dr. Goulston, “feel felt.”
An organization with grace is a community. A community shares ideas, collaborates more closely and endures hardships. It knows sacrifice for the greater good. It is rooted in purpose. Its members understand what the organization wants to achieve, and they are committed to working toward the vision, accomplishing the mission, and living the values they espouse.
Organizations are administrative. They are formed to do something. They are artificial constructs. At the same time, because they are human creations, they can be made better. They can become communities where people feel they belong and can contribute to something greater than themselves.
Grace facilitates our connection to one another. Grace complements psychological safety, a concept that thought leaders Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School have developed. When people feel safe, they can speak their minds, share their thoughts, work cooperatively and collectively. Psychological safety encourages collaboration.
With grace, we do the following:
· Put others first.
· Listen before speaking.
· Look for problems to solve.
· Encourage people to speak out.
· Instill hope in the face of adversity.
· Drive out fear.
· Act with courage.
Doing so enables us to integrate purpose into our lives and create community with others.