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Giving people something to believe in

Giving people something to believe in 5

Giving people something to believe in 6By Des Kennedy, Executive OKR Coach, at AuxinOKR


“OKRs are not a silver bullet. They’re not going to be a substitute for a strong cultute or for stronger leadership, but when those fundamentals are in place, they can take you to the mountain top” – John Doerr.


Business leaders who embrace Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) do so because they seek transformational change. But it’s important to remember that the framework itself is not a silver bullet.

Introducing and embedding OKRs takes time, commitment and buy-in at all levels. And even when you’ve mastered the skills required, you may still find you are not achieving the outcomes you’d aimed for.

That’s because, although OKRs is a powerful tool, it’s ultimately your people that make change happen. So, understanding what drives and connects them is key to OKRs success.

Businesses are human systems. And, like all systems, the better organised and interconnected they are the better they perform.

So, what makes people want to get behind a common goal and embrace a different way of working?  At AuxinOKR we believe the answer starts with purpose. Or, to put it another way, a person’s ability to answer these two simple questions:

  1. Why am I doing this?
  2. Why are we doing this?

Belief in a common purpose motivates people to alter their behaviour both individually and collectively. When this behavioural change leads to positive outcomes their belief gets stronger and motivation increases.

Giving people something to believe in 7

OKRs enable this process to gather and maintain momentum. It’s worth exploring each element in detail to see how they relate to each other.


More people today want to work for employers with a clear purpose. Businesses and organisations that aren’t just there to make money for a single stakeholder or achieve growth at all costs but that have a set of deeply held values that they, as employees, can subscribe to and believe in. While increasingly customers and other stakeholders of a business expect it to do more than offer products and services.

Consultancy firm EY defines companies with purpose as those that “create value for a broad set of stakeholders, including society and the environment and that have an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and that inspires a clear call to action.

Research shows that 75% of executives of purposeful companies recognise that purpose drives value over the short and longer term. Including: building customer loyalty; preserving brand reputation; delivering innovative products and services; as well as attracting and retaining top talent.


It is widely recognised that our belief system drives our behaviour. Educational psychologist Dr Bobby Hoffman proposes that human behaviour is based on a set of five tacit self-beliefs that in aggregate determine what we do, how we do it and how we see our accomplishments. These self-beliefs are a set of guiding principles. Operating on a subconscious level these five self-beliefs are: 

  • Control  
  • Competency  
  • Value  
  • Goal-orientation 
  • Epistemology 


Motivation at work falls into two categories. Extrinsic motivation is driven by the prospect of external rewards such as a pay rise, bonuses or recognition for a job well done. While intrinsic motivation comes from inside and speaks to a positive emotional response, like a feeling of enjoyment and fulfilment for example. 

There are many reasons why we, as individuals, turn up for work everyday. These include: enjoying our role; the challenge it presents; the culture of the organisation we work for; the people we work with; the opportunities it provides to further our career; and the money we receive at the end of the month. 

Conventional wisdom states that those who are more intrinsically motivated make better employees. In his best-selling book Drive author Dan Pink sets out a model for helping employees become more intrinsically motivated. Stating that rewards alone do little to improve a person’s engagement with tasks and that the ‘carrot and stick’ approach of old is no longer effective in the modern workplace. 

Self-determination theory suggests that people are motivated by three innate needs: 

  • Autonomy — people need to feel in control of their own behaviour and goals.
  • Competence — people need to master the skills required for success.
  • Connection — people need to feel a sense of belonging and attachment to others.


Effective business leaders realised long ago that the ‘command and control’ approach of the past is simply not sustainable. Recognising instead the importance of clarity, connection and consideration in every person-to-person interaction. A leader’s role is to guide and encourage individuals towards certain positive behaviours like: 

  • Championing company values
  • Commitment, cooperation and collaboration 
  • Welcoming new ideas
  • Supporting, trusting and respecting one another 
  • Communicating clearly and often

OKRs as a catalyst 

When looking at purpose, beliefs, motivation and behaviour in this way the common themes that run throughout each become apparent. But if a business is to achieve transformational change, it needs defined goals and a clear plan to achieve them as well to measure progress. And this is where Objectives and Key Results come in. 

When combined with a clear purpose OKRs act as a catalyst increasing conductivity between beliefs, motivation and behaviour. 

OKRs actively encourage autonomy, competence and connection (self-determination) amongst teams while providing demonstrable proof that behavioural change delivers positive outcomes. 

When your employees believe they have a positive effect on outcomes at work, they become more motivated and engaged. While the conversations, feedback and recognition OKRs promote, support and encourage them as they learn and grow. 

As the habits and skills required become second nature so OKRs help build a high-performing team. A team with clearly defined goals and committed actions. With true transparency and accountability. A team that is willing and able to communicate clearly and celebrate each other’s successes. 

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