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It’s Time to Ditch ‘Performance.’

It strikes me that we need a new measure for motivation, happiness, and success in business. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

I believe the ‘Performance’ in ‘Key Performance Indicators’ needs to be replaced with a new word: ‘Purpose.’ Without purpose work is meaningless. It is also superficial, and people don’t buy superficial any more. They buy authentic, genuine, and unique. And you can’t deliver that if you’re just going through the motions with the work you do.

When I was working in corporate I was set KPIs to determine whether I got the job done. I hated them. Maybe it’s my tendency towards being a creative hippy, but I looked upon these as a straight jacket strapped hard around me, restricting me from opening my wings and doing my best work.

If we’re just doing the work set and delivering pre-determined outcomes, we are not in flow. And if we’re not in flow, we are not delivering our unique talents, abilities, and the ‘magic’ we, and only we, are capable of delivering.

I think the word that grated most for me was “performance.” It’s so cold, and lacking in imagination. Ultimately it was a turn off.

Clearly we need to get things done and achieve outcomes. But it feels like the word ‘performance’ is too restrictive. To me it says “keep your nose clean, don’t speak out, and get the job done. Go home to rest, then come back in the morning and re-focus on achieving those KPIs.” Rinse and repeat. It seems to be wedded to the old idea of the industrial revolution, where products and services were created on a production line, and producing identical items again and again was the prime objective.

While COVID-19 has been a destructive force on business, one of the good things it has done is to blur the lines between personal and professional. It has allowed us to bring our true selves to work. How can we possibly stay ‘professional’ when our 3 year old walks in on our Zoom conference call, we apologise, and get up to guide her back to our partner, only to remember half way to the door that we didn’t bother putting trousers on this morning?

The connection point between who we really are, and the work we produce, is Purpose. It’s like the electrical pulse that surges between two synapses in the brain. If we don’t have this electricity, work becomes mundane and uncreative.

By introducing Purpose as the measurement for success, businesses will be able to access the uniqueness, creativity and ‘magic’ its individual employees offer. Of course those companies need to first be clear on their own Purpose before they can set Purpose indicators for their own people. And this needs to be done in a genuine way, not with a superficial statement of intent.

So let’s start discussing how this can be done. It’s time to transition from the limitations of ‘performance’ to the magic of Purpose.

Justin JG Cooper is is a Purpose Consultant, the founder of Brand Purpose .Co, and the author of Marketing is Dead, Long Live Purposing – along with two yet-to-be-published Children’s books.

Brand Purpose .Co 2012-2020