Suits The C-Suite

Whenever the calendar year winds down, many among us find it an opportune moment to reflect and reevaluate the last 12 months. We recall the challenges we faced, revisit the dramatic changes in the business landscape, and ponder how we, as individuals and organizations, have grown and evolved. We have seen how companies have shifted their focus to global trends and technologies, how people are taking on new jobs that didn’t even exist a few years ago, and how the challenges of sustainable development have become the top priority for organizations.

At the start of 2019, I wrote about how the SGV team recommitted itself to the firm’s collective purpose to nurture leaders and enable businesses for a better Philippines. I described how purpose motivates people, becoming the primary driver of strategy and transformative development in every aspect of business. Purpose can empower individuals and teams by creating a deep sense of meaning that enhances personal commitment and energizes them with the power of positive action. Purpose is like having an internal compass, one that guides a person’s every action by never compromising values. At the same time, people who believe in and are proud to be part of an organization go the extra mile and tend to be at their creative best.

Becoming a purpose-driven organization is one thing, however. Sustaining that purpose for the long term is another. How, then, can organizations ensure that its people and culture will remain steadfast in its chosen purpose?

For a purpose to work, it is vital for the organization’s people, culture, work practices and leadership behavior to be aligned with it. Think of your purpose as your road map — those travelling on the road will need to adjust their course if they wish to remain on track. The truth of your purpose needs to permeate every aspect of your business. Purpose has to be a living covenant.

When SGV launched its purpose, we asked our people if they were willing to commit to the purpose and journey together to live it out. Each member wrote his or her commitment and placed it on a visual map as a symbolic reference. They were also encouraged to integrate our purpose with their own personal career journey, and internalize how such a purpose could energize and validate their progress, from initial recruitment to their continuing professional growth to their involvement in our CSR programs. Eventually, we see our people carrying our purpose with them even if they continue their journeys outside SGV as alumni.

Speaking of recruitment, purpose-driven organizations also need to consider adjusting their metrics for hiring people. Most companies hire for talent, skill or potential. Purpose-driven companies also hire for values, taking into consideration whether a candidate’s values align with those of the organization.

Simply declaring a purpose is not enough. Organizations need to have leaders who will set the pace for positive change by transforming the organization’s culture and ways of working to become more purpose-led. Purpose should not be the sole responsibility of one leader in the organization, it needs to be supported by the collective will and wisdom of various stakeholders. In SGV, a steering committee (aptly named the Purpose Council) meets regularly to identify areas for improvement and design programs to continually ensure that our practices reflect our purpose.

As with any transformative program, constant communication is key. An organization’s leaders need to actively and constantly communicate the company’s vision and encourage people to embrace the meaning behind the purpose on a personal level. Leaders not only have to “walk the talk” when it comes to purposeful behavior, but they also need to regularly keep the channels of dialogue open. We continue to sustain our purpose through regular, inspirational internal communications from leaders and partners to further strengthen our people’s collective resolve.

Leadership advisor Peter Fisk references an interesting duality between passion and purpose, which he attributes to Ha Nguyen of Omidyar Networks. Passion, he says, is about finding yourself. It’s about doing what you love and possibly building your life and career around it. Purpose is about losing yourself in something bigger than you. It’s about wanting to make a difference, to leave a lasting and meaningful legacy. Finding one’s passion may not always have purpose and finding one’s purpose may not necessarily fit one’s passion. However, for those individuals who can both do what they love while serving the greater good, that is where true fulfilment lies.

I wish to take this opportunity to share with our readers how fortunate I had been — that in my 38 years of working with SGV — I had personally found deep fulfilment in the unique intersection between my passions and our purpose. As I turn over SGV’s leadership to Wilson P. Tan, the next SGV Country Managing Partner, I am excited about the limitless possibilities of a fresh, new decade with full confidence that SGV’s Purpose will thrive and endure for generations of SGV professionals yet to come.

A Merry Christmas and a purposeful 2020 to all!

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.


J. Carlitos G. Cruz is the Chairman and outgoing Country Managing Partner of SGV & Co.