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Leadership & Communication: Purpose Begins at Home

September 13 2021

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The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly left devastating effects on healthcare systems, businesses, and economies around the world. Many families lost their livelihoods and for some, even their loved ones.

While the pandemic continues to hit many countries, it has also created an opportunity. This crisis has reaffirmed the importance for organisations and businesses to prioritise purpose as part of their sustainable business strategy. It is now an expectation from stakeholders, be it regulators, investors, customers to even employees that businesses must operate with more accountability to the planet and people, besides making profits.

Today, many companies and brands have prioritised Environmental, Social and Governance criteria (ESG) within the purpose framework of their organisations’ reform and reinvention for growth. In fact, ESG commitments are now being scrutinised and placed in the agenda of boardroom discussions.

However, many organisations fail to recognise that ESG does not begin with an announcement to the outside world. It starts at home. Without the heart of the organisation – the people (leaders and team members) believing and “walking the talk” of its purpose – none of the ESG commitments will be delivered or fulfilled in a sustainable manner.

Just like Brands, Purpose must be built from Inside Out

Companies often invest substantial resources into getting their branding right. It is no different when it comes to building the organisation’s purpose journey. It must be from the Inside Out. We must remember purpose is the “raison d’etre” or reason for being of an organisation. A company must invest into embedding its purpose enterprise-wide. Employee communication is the true game changer in this regard.

Organisational buy-in of purpose is critical to ensure that the ESG commitments are not merely empty claims. It requires the all-in commitment of the people within the organisation to make each and every ESG indicator happen. It must begin with leaders who walk the talk.

Unfortunately, many think that the purpose journey is equivalent to a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Community Relations exercise. Purpose is certainly not just a CSR or PR exercise. Any purpose journey that doesn’t start from within is not sustainable. It will most likely be just another empty claim, or worst – just another branding spin or ‘greenwashing’.

Building the Purpose-driven narrative from Inside Out

Just like any business strategy, the best result can only be obtained when company leaders work together with the rest of the team to make meaningful and significant change to the organisation. Without a collective effort, the purpose dream will remain just a dream with no tangible results to show.

To develop a strong purpose narrative from the inside out, we need to ask some key questions. This is important so that we can communicate clearly with teams and get them on board the continuous journey.

Here are 4 key questions to get started:

Why?

This will help us gain clarity about ourselves – what are our mission, vision and values? Why does it matter to us? Where do we currently stand in light of them?

Who?

This is to help us gain clarity about our audience and stakeholders. What matters to them? How do our ESG goals relate to them? What are their expectations of ESG and of us? Who are we to them at this point?

Where?

This helps us gain clarity on where we want to be as an organisation. Which direction are we headed to? What are outcomes we hope to achieve? What will it look like along the journey? How will we know when we arrive?

What?

This helps us gain clarity on the processes that we need to have in place to achieve our goals. What is the best way to consistently convey our purpose to employees and the market? How do we enroll employees to be the bridge between our purpose and the market?

 

Everything we do, and everything we say as an organisation must arise from our core purpose. Importantly, walking the talk is how the world knows it can trust us. Our people must share this aspiration and join us on this purpose journey together. After all, if our people don’t buy it, why would anyone else?

Andy See
Founder, Principal Partner & Managing Director, Perspective Strategies
After spending more than 10 years working with leading multinational and Malaysian consultancies including The Boston Consulting Group and Edelman, Andy decided to reinvent his career by setting up his own firm. This led to the birth of Perspective Strategies in 2006. The boutique agency grew quickly with the promise of delivering strategic counsel and quality services to clients and has over the years won numerous industry awards on the global and national levels. Aside from steering the firm’s strategic direction and managing key client relationships, Andy regularly conducts spokesperson training and speaks at industry events on strategic communications, issues management and stakeholder engagement. Currently, he is the President of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia), spearheading efforts to champion the interest of PR professionals including industry best practices, quality and standards as well as talent development.  Since 2017, Perspective Strategies has been part of the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), one of the world's leading independent PR agency networks. Andy is on the Executive Committee, serving as Secretary and Regional Vice-President for Asia Pacific (APAC). As Regional Vice-President, Andy leads PRGN's initiatives in growing the network's presence in APAC by pushing to enhance communication, improve coordination and drive momentum at the regional level. Andy also actively contributes articles and thought leadership pieces on PR, leadership and strategic communications in various publications and online platforms.

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