By Charlie Lang, Managing Partner Progress-U Asia
CXO Coach & Program Director of Asia Innovative Coaching Institute (AICI)

This article was originally published in the Classified Post’s Career Guide section on November 19, 2016 and is reproduced with permission.

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Barry had a strong track record working for over 20 years in fashion retail. So he was all the more flustered when he found his heretofore successful leadership style didn’t seem to work so well in his new role as general manager for all Hong Kong and Macau retail shops of a major sports brand. Nine months into the new role, he noticed increasing staff turnover, lower engagement levels and more conflicts than when he started.

One thing he realised was that his direct reports – shop managers and functional leaders – were almost exclusively millennials, people born in the 1980s. In his previous job, the average age was much higher.

Unlike older generations, millennials tend to put a high importance on doing purposeful work. If they feel the work they do is meaningful, financial incentives drop in importance while engagement and retention levels rise. But how do you become a purposeful leader?

It starts with discovering your own purpose. A number of activities, such as writing a 100th birthday speech, can help you discover your deeper meaning in life. You imagine yourself turning 100 and that someone you admire has prepared a birthday speech to honour your life. Writing that speech about yourself in the third person helps you identify what really matters and often provides insights into your life mission.

When Barry did the exercise he found that what inspired him was consumers gaining confidence wearing the products his organisation sold.

His management team took the same exercise and while team members came up with different individual purposes, the team collectively were able to agree on a shared purpose that resonated with all members.

Continuously communicating and acting upon this shared purpose not only helped Barry’s team to become stronger and more engaged but also helped boost profitability across the organisation through higher engagement levels.

Let’s keep progressing with purpose!

Charlie Lang