How to Build a Culture of Purpose

March 18, 2014

By: Aaron Hurst

Originally posted on Aaron Hurst’s LinkedIn page

Last Friday morning I visited Cornerstone Capital to meet with Erika Karp, its founder and CEO. Erika is a former UBS executive who created her new firm to accelerate the velocity of capital by embracing sustainability. She is the first major Wall Street executive to get behind sustainability in a big way.

I arrived at 7:55 for the 8:00 morning meeting (I try to always be early). In those five minutes no fewer than five members of her team reached out warmly and asked if they could help me. It wasn’t the usual formality but felt genuine and very human. They weren’t going through a routine, they seemed to actually care.

When Erika and I sat down at 8:02, I complimented her on her team and asked her how she built what appeared to be an amazing culture.

What Erika does is very simple. She asks people if they had a good day. If they say yes, she ask them to identify the moment that made it good. She is basically asking them to name the purpose moment they experienced that made their day positive. That was the first step.

Then over the coming weeks and months she works with them to refine their job to maximize the number of these purpose moments they experience. She customizes the job to meet their purpose profile.

This is a process that positive psychologists call job crafting. It is a process of helping someone taking ownership of their job to maximize purpose while still getting the core work done. For example, if relationships and conversations are really important, you might modify your job a little and rather than always emailing people you should pick up the phone and try to talk to them every once in a while.

Erika knows that her team can gain purpose every hour of every day at work if they practice enjoying the little moments that give them purpose from relationships, growing and doing things that feel greater than themselves. These are the things that matter most and she makes it a priority that they experience them all the time.

We built Imperative platform, so that leaders like Erika can support this process by having their teams take a short diagnostic and determine their purpose drivers. It helps accelerate the process of building a culture of purpose at any office.