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Helping Advisors Craft Their Purpose With a Capital P

Embrace your unique leadership signature to inspire meaningful interactions with advisory clients.

4 min read
Sue Thompson profile picture
Head of SPDR ETFs Americas Distribution

Kate Isaacs is a scholar, teacher, and strategy advisor who designs organizations and stakeholder partnerships for people and places to thrive. A Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, Ms. Isaacs teaches courses on leadership and inclusive innovation. She consults with organizations in all sectors on strategy and culture change.

Each year, our SPDR® MasterClass program draws on the expertise of leading specialists like Ms. Isaacs to help advisors grow their businesses, keep pace with change, and better satisfy clients’ evolving needs. During a recent MasterClass, Ms. Isaacs guided a group of advisors through a spirited exploration of “Purpose with a capital P.”

As humans, we’re hard-wired to seek belonging and respect. We’re equally driven to contribute and develop. By getting in touch with a deeper purpose, high-performing advisors can tap into the power of these truths.

Here we share key takeaways from leadership expert Kate Isaacs’ work on purpose plus practical advice to help advisors craft a purpose that is both inspiring and actionable.

The Power of Purpose

A different kind of leadership is needed in today’s fast-paced world. We’re shifting away from a traditional “command and control” approach and moving toward nimble organizations that are flexible and fluid. Instead of assuming the people at the top create the best ideas and push them down through the ranks, nimble organizations turn the hierarchy upside down and architect distributed leadership systems.

Successful organizations are likely to be the ones that provide platforms for employees, customers, and the broader stakeholder ecosystem to make creative contributions in line with their deeper purpose. We’re hard-wired, after all, to want to develop and contribute, while desiring autonomy over these processes. We want to belong to a community. We also want to be respected, seen, heard, and recognized for our contributions.

These hard-wired characteristics are nothing new — you might even recognize them from your high school psychology class discussion about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Organizations, however, have often been designed to squeeze out people's creativity rather than enhance it. But now you have an opportunity to flip the script to acknowledge and amplify our hard-wired characteristics, to get in tune with your own purpose and help team members get in tune with theirs.

Crafting a Financial Advisor Purpose Statement

Your personal purpose statement is like a thumbprint. No one else in the world can do it the way you do. How you bring your purpose to life can be your unique leadership signature in all of your interactions with clients.

How do you begin? Start by considering who you are, what you stand for, and how that connects to your company. Think about some of your bests: When are you at your best? And when is your organization at its best? How do you use your superpowers in unique ways to help clients achieve their goals? What do you deliberately choose not to do? How do your best qualities show up in your client relationships?

As you move forward, Ms. Isaacs suggests using the C.O.R.E. mnemonic to ensure your purpose meets the criteria for Purpose with a capital P:

  • Contribution: Bigger than just making money, how are you creating value for your stakeholders and society?
  • Other-centered: How are you partnering with people to meet their needs and help them achieve their goals and aspirations?
  • Rooted: How is your purpose rooted to your organization’s history and stories?
  • Emotionally Compelling: Does your purpose move the hearts of your people, your customers, and — most of all — you?

5 Steps to Move Purpose Off the Walls and Into the Water

Your purpose should be actionable. It needs to live in the water, not on the walls. The most successful firms, Ms. Isaacs believes, apply the following five steps to bring their purpose to life:

  1. Connect your personal purpose with the collective purpose. Think about who you are and what you stand for and connect it to what your company does — then share that story. It's motivating and inspiring, and it helps people see how they can connect their own purpose to what you're doing as a company.
  2. Write it down and describe expected behaviors. Companies that are living their purpose break it down into concrete expected behaviors mapped to core capabilities.
  3. Use simple rules that reflect your purpose and values. Simple rules of thumb help people understand what to do in any given moment in order to live the value.
  4. Connect all levels of your organization with relatable goals. Bring top-level corporate goals all the way down to the shop floor.
  5. Tell stories of proud moments and stumbles. Encouraging and celebrating a regular storytelling practice can help tap into the natural talents of your team.

Looking for more articles like this? Explore our Practice Management content.

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