In uncertain times such as these, with companies and leaders faced with multiple challenges from recession and inflation to war and climate emergency, our values and purpose are put to the test. How we respond truly matters.
During the height of Covid, we witnessed companies queuing up to supposedly play their part, but most efforts fell flat and honestly felt more like virtue signaling. In an increasingly value-driven market, it’s getting more and more difficult to cut through the noise. When topics such as covid and climate change have become the tried and tested talking points for brands, no wonder people are growing tired and increasingly skeptical toward most purpose efforts viewed as cheap marketing tactics. That said, people will increasingly be looking to companies and leaders for help, as inflation, unemployment and rising energy prices are making daily life more difficult. Were these so-called values just nice-sounding words conceived in the board room or the marketing department?
From naval-gazing preacher to life coach
It is increasingly about a continuous push to help people live better lives. Think about it. With all these good-intended promises from companies, what company has in fact succeeded to create positive change in your life? If companies want to play a meaningful role in our lives, it begins with a stringent focus on our positive transformation by asking: Who can you help us become? There are companies that, rather than putting on the hero’s cape, have turned people into the heroes of the narrative: helping us discover a better version of ourselves. Purpose vanguard companies like Corona and Dove have stayed relevant through two decades by helping us discover the value of our oceans and beaches or by constantly challenging our beauty ideals. During the financial crisis of 2007, car maker Hyundai realized people were afraid to buy a car because of the economic uncertainty and launched Hyundai Assurance, a job loss protection insurance. An initiative they’ve continued with success through covid as people feel Hyundai got their back. Or take American Express that also during the last crisis launched an initiative called Small Business Saturday, rallying communities to support their local cornerstore. The initiative has been widely popular and is now an official shopping day in the US, endorsed by former President Barack Obama; years later, it is having a similar positive effect in the UK.
We need companies that can keep moving forward with us as we, through life, chase a better version of ourselves
Your companies’ values or My values?
When you as a leader or a company focus on people’s challenges, aspirations, or dreams, you constantly stay relevant rather than being stuck with values that at one time seemed progressive, but now more feels like a dinosaur trying to learn new ways. There is no space for loud purpose-parrots, but we need companies that can keep moving forward with us as we, through life, chase a better version of ourselves. It’s about time companies and leaders revise how they bring value alive. It’s about time they truly put values to work for us. Avoid being self-absorbed activists or howling missionaries but rather aim to be coaches or helpers, to be there for you and me. It’s about Me with a capital M—My values, My goals—not some crusade that ends with the company as the winner.