At Work

The one thing that’s missing from all our KPIs

Lessons from cheese, the sun, the moon and the cheetah.

Muhammad Ali, idolised as the world’s greatest boxer, said once in an interview, “Everyone and everything on this Earth serves a purpose. A cheese has a purpose, the moon has a purpose, the sun has a purpose and the cheetah has a purpose.”

Your company too serves a purpose that means something to them. But before you can serve your company’s purpose, you need to be clear about your own life purpose first.

If you don’t know who you are and why you are alive today, then chances are you are constantly going to wonder why you are at work and why you should.

What is missing in our KPIs is something so simple yet highly critical.

You probably would have noticed that your KPIs have a “what needs to be done” and “how it needs to be done” column, isn’t that right? What is missing in our KPIs is the “why are we doing this?” column.

“Starting with Why?” is a purpose driven technique coined by Simon Sinek that has consistently supported me in achieving all my KPIs, with immense fulfillment.

In his research analysis, Simon’s conclusion was that all the greatest people and organisations think, act and communicate the exact same way and in total opposite to the norm.

Their opposite pattern called the “outside-in” approach meant that they would start with why they do things, then how followed by what.

After all, aren’t we all more inspired to do something because of the why?

Here are some examples of the significant difference in performance and impact when great people and organisations “Start with Why”.

From delivering shoes to delivering happiness

At Zappos, America’s largest online shoe company, CEO Tony Hsieh observed that employees perceived the role of customer service poorly. It almost seemed like a role to join when all else failed.

As Zappos’ grew, their brand promise evolved – from “the largest selection of shoes” (what) to “customer service” (what) to “culture and core values as our platform” (how) to “personal emotional connection” (how) then finally to “delivering happiness” (why).

The moment Zappos started operating from the “outside-in” or the “why”, the perception and possibility of the customer service role changed and so did the culture, performance and attitude of the people.

Employees started to take their roles of “delivering happiness” so much more passionately, that Zappos not only received multiple customer service awards but they were consistently rated as one of the best places to work for.

The work itself was the same. However, the meaning of the work created a more compelling purpose for performance. And what better purpose in life and work than happiness!

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From audience engagement to raising consciousness

Oprah Winfrey’s role as TV show host was originally to engage and connect (what) with people. Later it was all about the famous the Oprah Winfrey Show (the how).

Subsequently, Oprah defined her role in terms of why. So, why was she doing all of this? What was her highest, most meaningful purpose for doing this? She then realised that it was all towards raising the consciousness of others.

Despite the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show and being titled Richest Woman on Earth, her bigger purpose made her feel that she was only just starting her real work.

Compelled by her new larger than life purpose, she created an entire network, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a platform only for mindful television aimed at raising the consciousness of people.

She found so much more personal meaning to her that over the years, her impact on the world only got stronger.

From world’s greatest boxer to freedom of black people

When Muhammad Ali won the heavy-weight gold Olympic medal at the Rome Olympics of 1960, he went back to his hometown Louiseville and intentionally chose to celebrate by dining at a fine dining restaurant that rejected Negroes.

Wearing his gold medal on his neck, he walked in, hoping to get a table but instead got rejected with a statement saying “Whites only.”

He threw his gold medal into the Ohio River stating that the medal meant nothing to him given that he was still being rejected for his race. From then, his purpose became stronger and more meaningful.

His role and title would be used for the freedom of the black people (why). Boxing was now not only a sport to him but also an avenue for him to change the circumstances of his people.

His purpose shifted from a self-centric one to a world-centric one.

You could say that all these three individuals were lucky to have a job that was related to their life purpose to begin with. But they all worked hard to get that job and once they did, there were many things about their job that they didn’t love too.

The idea that you need to do what you like is important but it is also over-rated, limiting and will be shortlived.

Finding a way to create immense meaning and a greater purpose in what you do, instead, can positively change everything for you.

The first thing I would urge you to do, right away, is to write down your life purpose and how work contributes to your life purpose. Then begin to create relevant meaning and purpose for all your KPIs. You can later refine it, shift it, deepen it or heighten it as you go along.

Here’s wishing you lots of wisdom and creativity in experiencing meaning and purpose through your work!

Hetal Doshi – Suhana Daswani is a professionally qualified organisational psychologist, certified professional coach, and the founder of O Psych Sdn Bhd, with an expertise in work performance, team dynamics and emotional intelligence. To get in touch with her, drop an email to


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