Why we need purpose in our relationship

What are relationships for

How far do you look into the future? (photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by stockimages)


“That business purpose and business mission are so rarely given adequate thought is perhaps the most important cause of business frustration and failure.” -Peter F. Drucker

Very same night after publishing this post, my spouse once again asked me: “What is our fate?”. (We are not native speakers, but talk English to each other.) In the following morning that question made me to add here our glimpse into the future, but in the particular moment I managed to mumble: “How would you imagine it?” I tried and succeed in avoiding the question. I don’t always succeed.

“It’s how we make it.” She answers. “I would like to make it just as normal life.” She continues. The life that we had been living hadn’t been that typical so far. We met in Austria, lived in Czech Republic, Finland and now in Denmark to name one detail.

When most of us were still in business school, mission and vision were fashionable. Today you can see them fading into background, where they are consolidating into one. Purpose. The race for efficiency has hit the statement of company’s future too – cut it down into one word.

Like it was the case with mission and vision, the formulation of purpose usually takes place in the top management of the company. Most importantly the purpose of the company eventually sets the long-term direction of the business. Meaningful purpose is also a tool to motivate employees and increase their commitment into the business. It can be also used as a vehicle for building public image of the company.

Purpose requires farsightedness

Before jumping into the purpose of the relationships, we need to understand the governance system of relationships. Earlier we discussed the organizational structure of relationships that lead us into thinking of relationships constituting chairman of the board, woman, and chief executive office, man.

This time we elaborate into one of the elements behind this division: farsightedness. In relationships the idea of direction setting we base on the assumption of difference in the thinking of men and women.

Without putting much scientific research behind of the key assumption, we could easily state that women – in average at least – have stronger, more sophisticated part of the brain where emotions, and also emotional decisions, take place. The part of the brain in question is called limbic brain.

Generally women are also better to articulate their emotions into words. Those words are produced in the neocortex part of the brain. By articulating their emotions into words women talk about future and create pictures of the shared future. Often they also expect men to describe their perception of the future.

Difference of time span

Men often live like most of the chief executing officers. Reaching out to meet the targets of each month and running quarter. Often men are fine with living day by day.

I can’t provide a lot of research to support the statement about emotional proficiency of women. Instead I can base some of it on the numerous observations of the discussions between men. Stories, where men are left numb with women’s request for response to her expression of feelings are typical source of manly humor. A compassionate story told as a joke might also work as a sign of support when a friend has challenges with at home.

Women have deep foresight of the future of the relationship. In business that’s the duty and task of the board of directors. In the relationship woman acts as a board of directors for strategic direction. After all, depending on the country in question local legislation usually requires a company to have an appointed committee for supervisory role, board of directors, and one for management of daily operations, managing director.

Why is purpose important?

What does a purpose bring to businesses and relationships? Famous author of Innovator’s dilemma Clayton Christensen specifies the components of the purpose. His book How will you measure your life (2012) divides meaningful purpose into three components:

  • Likeness: what you want ultimately to be.
  • Commitment: purpose requires commitment to the likeness.
  • Metrics: Progress towards the likeness should be measurable.

In other words purpose will demonstrate the future of the business or relationship to the participants rather than letting them to find themselves from a coincidental situation.  As it is case with work-life well articulated purpose enhances commitment, but there needs to be commitment to the purpose in the first place.

Clearly defined purpose drives the actions towards the first component, likeness, the picture of the destination. Purpose also sets certain metrics for the business and relationships. Against the purpose members of the organisation or partners can evaluate their own progress.

As relationships are small enterprises the roles of the board of directors and managing director are blurred. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that as a chief operating officer man has an opportunity to influence the purpose setting, but ultimately it’s given. Working towards the purpose will eventually build  up the relationship.

In our relationship we have drawn a dusk picture of our future and purpose of our common journey. In crossroads of our journey we often evaluate how each turn matches the purpose.