23 December 2020

Purpose, A Behavior Guide | Is Purpose Working Podcast Episode 5

Dani Johnson
Co-founder & Principal Analyst


  • This is the 5th episode of our podcast season: Is Purpose Working?
  • In this episode, Dani Johnson of RedThread and Chris Pirie of Learning is the New Working interview leadership strategist and purpose thinker Dan Pontefract, and we have a mid-season review.
  • Dan shares, Why Purpose needs to be more than ‘values on the wall’ but a working, operating behavior guide, And his idea that there are three kinds of Purpose—personal, role and organizational.
  • A special thanks to our season Sponsor, NovoEd for their support!


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Dan Pontefract, Founder & CEO The Pontefract Group


Dan Pontefract, based in Canada (Victoria, British Columbia) is a leadership strategist, author, keynote speaker and trusted advisor. After a successful career including as ‘Chief Envisioner’ and Chief Learning Officer at TELUS, a $14bn Canadian telecommunications company where he (among other things) set up a special internal TELUS MBA, a role he took on after senior roles at major tech firms such as SAP, Business Objects and BCIT. Dan then founded The Pontefract Group, which is all about building bridges between life and work.

Writing for Forbes and Harvard Business Review, he’s also an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business, and has published four books (with a fifth on the way!). And as you’re going to hear, Purpose is very much at the heart of all his recent work and thinking; he says he helps organizations and leaders become better versions of themselves, plus offers consulting to help organizations get more “collaborative, productive, engaged and purpose-driven”.

Ask Dan Pontefract, about his current mission and he’ll tell you, “If we want Purpose to happen, maybe we need to take a look at our thinking”—and that, “We’re not here to see through each other, we’re here to see each other through.” Sounds like we need his input into our work trying to answer our defining question for Season 7 of ‘Is Purpose Working?’ Agreed—and we do just that in this episode, but then we do even more: in the first of a two-half Purpose podcast, we then have a mid-Season discussion.

This podcast interview covers topics like:

  • Why Purpose needs to be more than ‘values on the wall’ but a working, operating behavior guide
  • His idea that there are three kinds of Purpose—personal, role and organizational
  • Why he’s convinced there’s a direct link between EBITDA and Purpose
  • Is it the employer’s responsibility or not to help the employee find their Purpose?
  • Why Purpose is much more a realistic business deliverable after COVID than it was in 2015

Then for the second half, as we mentioned, we pivot after the conversation with Dan to conduct a special three-way review of some recent key developments with regard to Purpose and what’s going on out there in a fast-moving COVID world right now.

Get ready for a quick debate between on what we took from talking to Dan like the many levels of Purpose beyond organizational and why they need to align and his sharp linking of Purpose and Empathy, as well as external developments such as:

  • How talk of Purpose is everywhere right now—including for the President-Elect—but will it stand the test of Time?
  • A year on from the famous Business Roundtable statement, what’s actually happening in the real world, Purpose-wise?
  • A critique of the September KKS Advisors Purpose audit and its methodology
  • Where we are with possible metrics to help… if we even need them


A number of recent reports and news announcements get referenced to in the discussion half of the podcast:


This season will culminate in a live online gated experience (a webcast) where we'll review and debate what we've learned. Seats are limited. Secure your place today, over at www.novoed.com/purpose.


We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Work podcast. Check them both out.

Season Sponsor

Global enterprises rely on its collaborative online learning platform to build high-value capabilities that result in real impact, with its customers working to deliver powerful, engaging learning that activates deep skill development, from leadership to design thinking and digital transformation, as well as driving measurable business outcomes.


Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.