Purpose is at the center of the conversation about the way we work and live. Science has now validated that a sense of purpose is essential to every aspect of our well-being. And on a collective level, purpose-driven companies are more resilient, better able to navigate an ever-changing business climate, and grow in a sustainable way. We talked to leaders about the role that purpose plays — both personally and professionally — in the world today.
Thrive Global: How did you first discover purpose in your work?
Gail Tifford: I give that credit to my company – Unilever is committed to a long term, purpose driven approach where business growth and the value we bring to consumers sits comfortably alongside our values. But this is not only about the values and purpose of our brands, it’s also about helping our employees find their purpose. We are rolling out purpose workshops company-wide to help each and every one of us discover what our personal purpose is. I was fortunate to be part of one of the first workshops and now I’m working to help facilitate workshops for the rest of the organization.
TG: How does purpose show up for you in your work now?
GT: My personal purpose is to unlock the potential of next generation female leaders who want to make this world a better place. And it shows up every day – whether it’s through our brand campaigns like Dove Real Beauty, my co-leadership of GALvanize, Unilever’s women’s business resource group, or leading #SeeHer, an industry initiative to drive the more accurate portrayal of women and girls in media and advertising. I am actually so glad you asked because I think it is important that leaders talk about their purpose openly so others have courage to do the work to find and live their purpose at work. When purpose and capability meet within an employee, one is living in a space of unlimited possibility and huge impact.
TG: Do you have a clear sense of your life’s purpose? How has that evolved? Do you expect it to keep evolving?
GT: I do believe I have a clear sense of purpose and as I get older it continues to evolve. In fact, as time goes on and as I take on more responsibilities, I feel compelled to make an even bigger impact. This is especially true as I watch my daughter grow up. Watching her fuels my relentless pursuit to inspire and empower the next generation of female leaders.
TG: What do you think are some ways businesses today can ‘live’ purpose? How do you think about instilling purpose in others?
GT: I think Unilever sets the gold standard. Our business strategy and purpose are inextricably linked and it is key to our success. We achieve this mission through purpose led brands that transform the way people think about beauty and confidence, establish programs that do social good and protect the planet’s resources. Our CEO Paul Polman talks about how the real breakthrough around business with purpose is FEELING it… not just in the head but also in the heart. How inspiring is that?