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Deliver productivity.

Deliver happy.

Deliver WHY.

Deliver Sagely.

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We help teams grow productivity by implementing purpose.

This is how we do that.

Fast forward

"Everyone talks about their WHY. But it doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere."
Mid Market CEO

It's been over half a century since the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, said the first duty of every leader is to clarify their business purpose.

Most companies have invested in publishing a mission, vision, or values statement—often all three.


Then they've sat back waiting for results—and heard crickets.

What's going wrong?

Fact 1: Leaders love their missions—but don't use them.

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Bain and Company been asking executives about how much they like and use their purpose statements since the '90s.

Satisfaction has remained steady at around 4 out of 5.

But usage has plummeted—from 80 percent to less than 30 percent.

Fact 2: Today's purpose statements mean even less to employees.

McKinsey recently asked a thousand people if they are able to live their purpose at work.

Five in six "upper managers" said yes.

Below that level? Only one in six could agree.

Leaders have a broader, richer perspective on a company's progress, along with more clearly empowered roles.

Almost everyone else—the other 98 percent of the workforce—is largely unclear on the impact they're having, or are even supposed to have.

McKinsey calls this "The Purpose Gap"—the biggest challenge to face employers since they first identified  "The War for Talent."

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Solution: Purpose is not about your company's impact. It's about your people's.

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We've spent six year trying to get to the bottom of this problem for our clients.

What we've discovered?  

Our WHY is not an idea we can figure out in a workshop and articulate in words.

Nor is it about corporate citizenship initiatives. 

These can help employees feel better about their company.

It does nothing to make them more productive.

Purpose is a feeling of impact that individuals experience.

The role of leaders is to help employees experience theirs.

Fast forward

"Stop telling me about my company's purpose.

Help me feel MINE.

— Gen Z Employee

How distrust of buzzwords got us here.

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Like our pragmatic clients, we aren't great fans of buzzwords. 


By the time many become popular, the phenomena they're describing are often in decline. Think "Quiet Quitting,"  the "New Normal," and countless others.


Few terms have seemed more buzzy in recent years than employee engagement.

For many, it conjures images of team-building off sites whose output is quickly forgotten, or junior employees telling seasoned managers how their career is going to unfold.

We've come believe it could be the single most important tool in the management toolkit.

Productivity is driven by effort. Effort is driven by engagement. Engagement is driven by... well, many things.

But above all, we've discovered through broad experience, a specific, consistent brand of leadership.

We've seen this work miracles in team implementations, where as little as another 15 minutes a day per FTE can yield market-beating productivity dividends.

How critical do we believe this to be?


Well, we've written a book about it.

In fact, it's why we founded Sagely.

Our view starts with a clear-eyed appreciation of one of the longest-running,  poorly understood and troubling of business realities: our seven-decade decline in productivity growth.

Economists continue to analyze and offer policy solutions  (like innovation incentives) to how declining output per hour worked can be reversed. 


This isn't much help to frontline managers

A UK study has found the average employee is fully productive less than three hours a day.

This is what leaders are really wrestling with.

It's also where engagement comes in—or more specifically, productive engagement.

This is more than a nice idea about happier workers: it's a tangible driver of a tangible output.

As with most efforts, chances of success rise dramatically when goals are well-defined and tracked.

Searching books

"Once we figured what productivity actually meant for us,  we began to get engagement, too." 

Fortune 500 SVP

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Many newsletters are great. Not ours.


The world is awash in quality thought leadership delivered into your email each week.

We do things a bit differently.

The Counterintuitive Leader is our occasional series featuring insights that power leaders' thinking no matter the size or focus of their team.

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We hope you'll agree, when you publish occasionally, each publication is an occasion.


(Just don't call it a newsletter.)

Counterintuitive Leader # 5 
The Joy of AI Anxiety

BONUS: The WHY of the Physical Workplace (published on Medium)

BONUS: The Happiness Cheat Sheet (in honour of the UN's International Day of Happiness, 2024)

Counterintuitive Leader #4:
How do we actually find our WHY?

Counterintuitive Leader #3 :
How does WHY really work?

Counterintuitive Leader #2 :
Why is finding our WHY so hard?

Counterintuitive Leader #1 : Counter Your Intuition

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Thank you for your interest in The Counterintuitive Leader.

Intrigued by a bold new business concept?
Start with these Three Questions.

There's no better way to explain how Sagely works with leaders than by example.


Many leaders are overly sceptical of new business concepts, writing off unfamiliar practices with great value potential as fads. 

Others are not sceptical enough.

Fit is everything.  Trendy practices are not inherently "right" or "wrong."  They are right or wrong for you.

That's why we encourage clients to start with three questions:


1. How do they know?

Unlike engineering or medicine, no formal qualification is required to write a business book or to position oneself as an expert.

Is the source of the idea credible?  Is their advice grounded in real experience or evidence? Or is it just an appealing idea?

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2. Is this relevant to me?

Just because something works for Apple or another admired company doesn't mean it will work everywhere.

Many concepts simply don't scale. They are developed for if not by big brands, whose challenges and resources are often very different from mid market companies.


If there isn't at least one case study that sounds like relatable, stop to consider whether you have the prerequisites for success.

3. How can we adapt it?

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Just because four steps out of a six-step program are not workable for you—perhaps because they relate to a consumer business and yours is B2B—doesn't mean there isn't value in the other two, or a way to modify the whole to meet your needs.

Think hard about exactly how improving your customers' experience, for example, might drop to the bottom line—or where you might simply be throwing money away, in a purely price-driven market, for example.

Often a program or paradigm that doesn't fit well can inspire your team to innovate in other ways.  

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So. Those are the Three Questions we use to start testing new business concepts. 

Not rocket science.


But easier asked than answered.

If you'd like help working with them, or just have a no-obligation chat about your needs, drop us a line

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About Sagely.

Based in Sun Valley and serving clients across North America, Sagely is the vision of two ex-BCG consultants with social science PhDs and decades of experience as executives, entrepreneurs, and advisors. (Learn more about them here and here.)

But don't let that put you off.  Our superpower is questioning expertise and tailoring it to fit .

Our first book about a fresh approach to business purpose has just come out. (Get a sneak peak through our tie-in TEDx talk.)

Contact us for a no-obligation consultation and keynote speaking information.  

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