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The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization

May 10, 2016


Dan Pontefract provides a blueprint to build a stable, three-legged stool for our business and business lives, balanced on three crucial areas of purpose: individual, workplace role, and organizational.

"The Purpose Effect helps individuals and leaders connect the dots between the personal, professional, and organizational. Dan Pontefract makes a strong case that we shouldn’t check our core values in life at the office door.” —Adam Grant, author and professor at the Wharton School of Business

"As the sense of meaning in the corporate world continues to plummet, the shortage of clear and comprehensive thinking on solutions has become acute. Dan Pontefract rides to the rescue with The Purpose Effect.” —Roger L. Martin, author and Director, Martin Prosperity Institute, Rotman School of Management

Companies with high levels of employee engagement consistently outperform their competitors on the stock market, earning 147% higher earnings per share, according to Gallup's research. Yet, employee surveys, conducted over several decades, show a dismal lack of engagement in the workforce with over 70% of US workers—and nearly 90% worldwide—reporting that they are dissatisfied with their jobs.

This predicament is a huge waste of talent for workers as well as companies. How can we build teams and organizations in which more employees can thrive? How can we forge careers in which we are enriched and motivated to go above and beyond our job description, to have a greater impact at work? How can leaders and entrepreneurs infuse their companies with a higher sense of purpose, benefitting all stakeholders as opposed to solely shareholders?

In The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization, (Elevate; May 10, 2016) Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, a leading telecommunications firm in Canada, where he helped increase employee engagement to record levels of nearly 90%, offers a compelling solution that shows achieving higher engagement is a matter of establishing your personal purpose, and identifying where it intersects with the organization's purpose and the purpose derived from your specific role within the organization. He calls this axis of intersection, "the sweet spot" for individuals as well as companies. Arriving at the sweet spot is not easy, but he shows it's possible to cultivate such three-way balance over time through continuous self- and organizational-awareness.

Based on extensive interviews and research, Pontefract shares inspiring stories of individuals and companies who operate in their sweet spot and the benefits that accrue to all stakeholders as a result. Among these are:

  • Tim McDonald, who started his career in real estate where he was quite successful, but felt that something was lacking. After a few different turns, where he launched the HuffPost Live service as its first community manager, he eventually found his "sweet spot" when he joined the "No Kid Hungry Foundation" where he had worked as a volunteer. 
  • Kim and Jason Graham-Nye were so shocked by the waste caused by baby diapers making their way into landfills each year, that the couple launched gDiapers, a disposable and home-compostable diaper inserts company, after nearly a decade of searching for the right fit. This allowed them to fulfill their personal purpose alongside a new way of doing business. Some 10 years later, the company has expanded its operations globally even as the founders remain committed to leading with purpose.
  • Fairphone, where Bas van Abel is founder and CEO of the world's first company to manufacture and sell "ethical" mobile phones—made from conflict-free minerals and assembled by workers who receive fair wages. Abel aims to make a profit but he refuses to do so at the expense of the company's purpose. Fairness, balance and accountability to all stakeholders—including its employees and suppliers—is at the center of the organization’s purpose.

Drawing on these and stories of leaders as well as companies of all sizes, like Ford, LSTN, Etsy, IKEA, 1-800-Got-Junk, Lightspan Digital and Quicken Loans, Pontefract underscores the value of both individuals and organizations cultivating their sweet spot in purpose, refining it, and even regaining it when things go astray.

The Purpose Effect provides a roadmap for how we can develop personal purpose in our lives, in the organizations we work for, and in our specific role within an organization. Pontefract powerfully shows why we need to pay attention to each of these in relationship to one another.


Dan Pontefract is Chief Envisioner at TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company, where he helps customers enhance their corporate cultures and collaboration practices. He is also the author of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization (2013). Dan has written for Forbes, Harvard Business Review and The Huffington Post, and has presented at multiple TED events. He lives in Victoria, Canada.

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