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  • Writer's pictureJill Hauwiller

Life and Career on Purpose

In an often noisy and information-overloaded world, distractions are everywhere and many of us hold close to the expectations of others. We lose track of what is most important to us and over time, we feel lost in our own lives.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the public reckoning for social justice in 2020, my executive clients were finding themselves adrift; uncertain about their paths, contributions, and goals. These tended to be private, intimate conversations. Now, more people are grappling with the life-shaping experiences that lead them to reconsider how they spend their time and who they spend it with. These explorations are happening out loud, on social media, with friends and employers. It is one of the contributors to the Great Resignation, although in this case, the “Great Awakening” is more applicable.

All of these people are looking for their purpose — that deeply personal and unique expression of what matters to them and how they act on it. When we understand our values and personal motivations, we can make choices about our lives, priorities and careers that are energizing and fulfilling.

A few years ago, I worked with a client who was ready to make a change. Purpose was at the heart of our work together. She had achieved significant career success and was the leader of a function at her company. Then the company was acquired, and it became clear to her that her career potential at the combined company was non-existent and even her current C-Suite role would be eliminated after the integration. This was a challenging and stressful realization for her. It showed in her eyes and withdrawn appearance. She was living in a state of self-doubt. While this was a low point, she was able to tap into a deep need to move into her next career opportunity with integrity and intention.

Through our work together, she read The Power of Purpose by Richard Leider which provided a strong foundation for understanding what mattered to her. We talked about times in her career that she had felt the most fulfilled and happiest, professionally. She came to understand that she preferred roles in which she could offer specialized expertise rather than leading a function. Together, we sorted through the complexity of exiting an executive role while considering a different path forward. The insights from her self-reflection and our coaching sessions put her in the driver’s seat when it came to her career. She is in a much different place today. She finds her work fulfilling and is able to leverage her deep subject matter expertise to make a difference. This transformation was possible because we focused on purpose.

If you haven’t already discovered your own reasons for being alive, you may be wondering, how do I find my purpose? The path to a more purposeful life is likely a little different for each of us, and there are a multitude of resources to help you discover your purpose. Here are a few resources I have found helpful while reflecting on my personal purpose and in my work with clients:

Because most of my client work on purpose is related to leadership and career development, another tool that I find helpful is the Purposeful Leadership® 360 Assessment with Inclusion Scale from Linkage. Within an organization, purpose in leadership is a little different than personal purpose, but when they are aligned, a leader is more likely to be effective, inspiring and trusted because there is integrity between their role and their core values. Tools like this assessment help leaders and their organizations understand how leaders are perceived, their leadership strengths and areas where they need to develop. Focusing on purposeful leadership within an organization can be similarly transformative to finding personal purpose. According to Linkage research, companies with purposeful leaders have stronger revenue growth, faster profit growth and higher employee engagement.

I would also suggest that purposeful leaders are more capable of having the meaningful conversations that many employees are seeking now about opportunities, connection, priorities, and their own purpose and goals. Leaders who can step into these vulnerable conversations with integrity and curiosity will leave a lasting impression on the people they work with and will transform their workplace for the better.

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