From a Checklist Mentality to the Realization of High Purpose

Busy executives often mention that they live by a “checklist mentality.”  This means they are very busy, and they move rapidly from task to task.  In doing so, they are focused on logical problem solving.  In class, I emphasize shifting to a purpose driven life, becoming purpose driven leaders, and creating purpose driven organizations.

To do this, one clarifies the highest collective purpose, articulates it, and makes the purpose the arbiter of every decision.  If there is a purpose, and if it is the arbiter of every decision, one continues to solve problems, but now every problem-solving interaction aligns with every other.  There is a cumulative effect.  The interactions bring a transformational outcome, the emergence of a purpose driven culture.

In a recent session we were discussing the move from problem-solving to purpose finding when a man shared an example.

“I just came back from a three-year assignment in China.  We were in contract negotiations with our Chinese partner.  We were struggling to meet quarterly objectives, so we decided to solve our problems by making a big ask.  To our surprise, our partner agreed.”

“We braced ourselves for their request.  We were stunned when all they asked was a one tenth of one percent increase in profit share.  We immediately agreed.”

“When we finished, I could not stop thinking about the strange transaction, so I decided to do a little historical research.  It turns out there is a pattern that problem-solving people, on a three-year assignment, do not notice.  In every negotiation, for three decades, there has been an increase of one tenth of one percent.  When I plotted the curve and calculated the overall value, it was staggering.  We are solving problems and they are in constant pursuit of a purpose.”



  • How does the account of the Chinese orientation, compare to the mentality that drives your organization or your personal life? What are the implications?
  • Do you have a higher purpose that is the arbitrator of every decision?
  • If were to align all your problem-solving efforts to a higher purpose, how would your life change? How would your organization change?
  • How can we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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