Nothing is Impossible!

Terry and Sue Hitchcock met in college and they married shortly thereafter. They enjoyed the classic American Dream. Living in suburban Minneapolis, Terry worked as an executive and Sue stayed home to manage the household. By their mid-forties, they were happy, in love, and busy raising three children.

Then the unthinkable happened. Sue received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Sadly, the spread of the cancer was aggressive and her treatment was unsuccessful. Sue passed away mere months after her diagnosis.

After Sue died, Terry was thrust into single parenthood—cooking, clothing, and caring for his three young kids. Three days later, Terry lost his job and income.

Times were tough. And Terry’s eyes were opened to the plight of single parents. Finally, twelve years after Sue’s passing, he had to do something.

It was 1996, and at age fifty-seven, Terry didn’t recognize the old man in the mirror anymore. His fire was gone.

He wasn’t what you’d call athletic. But he used to challenge himself by entering the local 5K every year. He always came in last. And six months after having a heart attack, and never having run more than this annual 5K, Terry Hitchcock made a decision that would change his life forever.

He got the idea from a Canadian man—Terry Fox, a man who lost his leg to cancer and did something extraordinary in 1980.

This young nineteen-year old decided that what he was going to do was to attempt to run from east to west, across Canada, to raise money for cancer research. After one hundred forty-three days of running, and almost thirty-five hundred miles across Canada (24.5 miles a day), Terry had to leave the highway because the cancer that had taken his leg was now in his lungs. Throughout his run, he raised over twenty-four million dollars to combat cancer. Terry passed away some eight months later. To date, his foundation has raised close to one billion dollars for cancer research.

Inspired by Terry Fox, Terry Hitchcock decided to honor Sue and shine a light on the struggles that thirty-five million American single parents and their children experience. Hitchcock decided to run again. He wasn’t going to go on just any run. He wanted to go on a two-thousand-mile odyssey from St. Paul to the Olympic Games in Atlanta![i]

Terry commented, “I knew that the Olympics were going to be held in Atlanta and two of my three children were born there. The Olympics represent going beyond and doing the impossible. I thought, ‘Well maybe what I could do is run toward Atlanta and maybe do the equivalent of at least a marathon a day. I think I’ll run to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.’ Since I’m a dreamer, I could tell the story of what I’m doing and help raise awareness for single parents and their children.”

“No runner that I ever met said that I could do this,” Terry said. “They would say it was humanly impossible. Every doctor said, ‘You just can’t do this,’ because while I was training, I had a heart attack halfway through. My cardiologist said, ‘Don’t do this. You won’t live to tell your story.’ So all those things were against me, but I just felt with my own faith that this was something I should do—that when I completed it, it’s a story for the ages.’”

Despite the odds, Terry hit the streets running with a small team of friends and family. Soon enough he realized just how difficult the journey would be.

His plan was to run slowly, but for a long time, about eight hours a day. Yet when he finally set off he wasn’t prepared for the pain-filled realities of running the road.

Terry reported, “First of all, the pounding that you put your body through is incredible. Halfway down to Atlanta, both my ankles were fractured and my left kneecap also had a fracture. I was in pain every day and just had to learn to bear it and run above it.”

He thought about quitting each and every day. “Actually, it was probably many times during a day. It was very hard.” And it only got harder as I ran farther south into warmer temperatures. “

Worst yet, after thirty days of running, his team began to disband. “Five of the six said, ‘We’re going to go home,’ because it wasn’t fun. It was very hard work. They were young and they missed their friends. The thirty-first day I’m standing on the side of the road with a trailer going home, and beside me is my oldest son Christian. He is looking at me saying, ‘Dad, I’m not going to leave you.’ It seemed like Chris and I against the world.”

“Crossing the finish line at Centennial Park in Atlanta, knowing that I had just finished almost twenty-one hundred miles—and I was still alive—that made it all worth it.”

Terry’s run required running slightly over a marathon a day for seventy-five days—an average of twenty-eight miles per day.

It has shown me, in no uncertain terms, that I am here on this earth to ‘teach,’ to show others that their ‘daily marathons’ are possible to get through each day, that nothing is really impossible, that one’s own personal faith is the strength we all need to help run our marathons, and that I am simply a vehicle to make a difference for others.

Terry Hitchcock’s purpose is this: I am here on this earth to show others that their daily marathons are possible to get through each day and that nothing is really impossible.

Years after his run, the late producer and director Tim Vandesteeg completed a documentary called My Run, narrated by Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton. My Run won 10 awards. Hitchcock also wrote a book telling his story, A Father’s Odyssey.[ii]

The story of Terry Hitchcock is more than a story about a man running multiple marathons; it’s about the daily marathons every one of us runs.

When you’re faced with obstacles, you have a choice.

If a fifty-seven-year-old man with no athletic ability can run a marathon a day for seventy-five consecutive days, then just imagine what you can do!

You can give up or you can keep pushing. It’s your decision.

As Terry Hitchcock shows, “Nothing is impossible.”

[i] “The Man Who Ran to Atlanta,” Euan Kerr, MPR News, April 16, 2010 https://www.mprnews.org/story/2010/04/16/my-run.

[ii] “My Run Q&A with Terry Hitchcock,” https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/interviews/my-run-terry-hitchcock-and-the-faith-to-endure.aspx.

Leaders Are the Force Multiplier for Impact

As a leader, it’s your job to get results, to create value and impact in a sustainable way. Your job is to inspire your followers by your example. To get everyone aligned. To help each person become their best. Do these things and you are a value creator. You create great impact. Fail to do these things and you are a value destroyer.

As a leader, are you performing like this? Are you a value creator or a value destroyer?

Consider these statistics about the state of leadership today:

  • Fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose.[i]
  • Only 49% agreed they get to use their strengths to do what they do best every day.[ii]
  • 58% of workers trust strangers more than their own boss.[iii]
  • 60% of workers have left a job or would leave a job over a bad boss.[iv]
  • 65% of workers say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.[v]
  • 70% of employees are disengaged at work.[vi]
  • 75% say their bad boss is the worst part of their workplace.[vii]
  • 79% don’t feel appreciated by the boss.[viii]
  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress. The main source of stress at work is their boss.[ix]

These are damning findings about the state of leadership. These shared perceptions point to a leadership crisis. If you are a leader, the odds are you’ve got a problem. Flip these statements around and try them on yourself? What would your people say about you?

To compound the leadership effectiveness problem, there is a leadership shortage. With baby boomers retiring and leaving the workforce, companies are worried about the readiness of other leaders to succeed the departing ones.

In the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte reported: “Eighty percent of executives rate leadership as a high priority for their organizations. But only forty-one percent think their organizations are ready to meet their leadership requirements.”[x] A leadership crisis combined with a leadership shortage is a disaster. But it is also an opportunity for you, if you are committed to becoming the best leader you can be and creating great impact.

How’s your self-awareness? Most leaders are unaware of how they impact others. Seventy-five percent of leaders think they are in the top ten percent of leadership. That’s statistically impossible. The bottom fifty percent of the class at Harvard Medical School couldn’t be in the top ten percent of their profession either. For leaders, this means sixty-five percent are delusional. When was the last time you completed a 360-degree feedback assessment of yourself?

You may have been a leader for many years. You may be smart with a high IQ. You may have considerable expertise and experience in your industry. You may have an MBA from a top-tier school. You may point to your track record of promotions and results and believe you’ve been successful. Perhaps. Those are the hallmarks of twentieth century success. What made you successful in the past is no assurance you’ll be successful in the future, if you don’t reinvent. The rules for leading have changed.

Would your followers say you don’t have a sense of your individual purpose? Do your team members trust strangers more than you? Do they feel unappreciated? Are they disengaged? Do they suffer from stress you have induced?

If you answered “yes’ to any of the questions above, you are failing as a leader. Any question that you have answered “yes” is due to the way people are treated by you and the environment you create.

Where do you stand?

As the leader, you’ve been given a gift. The gift of leadership is a privilege. When you lead others, and do it well, it is the most noble of professions. It’s a responsibility and an opportunity. There is no other occupation where you can help so many others learn and grow. It provides you, as the leader, the opportunity and the responsibility for making an indelible contribution to the lives of your followers. As a bonus, you get to be recognized for your team’s achievements and impact when you succeed.

To thrive and flourish in these times, in today’s hypercompetitive, volatile and uncertain world, where virtually every company is reinventing its business model and the way it operates due to technological disruptions, relentless competition, shifting demographics, and generational preferences, you have to reinvent yourself. Unfortunately, few leaders are reinventing themselves. If you aren’t reinventing yourself, learning and growing continuously, you’ve got a problem. Your career, your earnings, your dreams—they are all at risk.

Save yourself, and you will save a thousand around you.”

Saint Seraphim of Sarov

To reinvent as a leader is to consciously transform how you operate, connect, and lead so you can stay relevant and energized, capable of creating maximum value.

The question is, how do you do this?

You start by serving your people extraordinarily well. To help them be successful at work and in their lives.

Here are the new rules of leadership:

  1. Your #1 Role is to Lead by Example

You dictate all behavior, not by your orders or mandates, but by your example.

Why is this so important? Because people learn by mimicking. It’s a “monkey see, monkey do” world. As the leader, everyone is always looking at you. You are always on stage. People don’t go as fast as they can. They only go as fast you, the leader. Your speed determines the speed of your pack. That is why you have to be excellent in everything you do.

As the leader, you have to be the most positive, the most purposeful, the most passionate, the most productive, and the most impactful. You need to be the most disciplined, the most consistent, the most authentic, the most service-driven, the most committed to learning, the most committed to growth, and the most committed to reinvention.

Think about Usain Bolt, who won the gold medal and set the world record in the 100 meters in the 2012 London Olympics. He ran the 100 meters in only 9.63 seconds. Not only did Bolt set the record, but the silver and bronze medalists both finished the race under 9.8 seconds, the first time in history for the top three finishers. When Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin, the silver and bronze medalists, were asked how they ran so fast, they answered, “Trying to catch Usain.” Bolt didn’t just win the 100 meters in 2012. He won gold in the 100 meters and 200 meters in 2008, 2012 and 2016. He is the only sprinter in history to have ever done so.[xi]

The speed of Usain Bolt—the leader—determined the speed of the pack. He set the pace, the standard, for the competition. He raised everyone’s games. His competitors ran faster because of him. As the leader of your group, you have to do the same.

Do you hold yourself to the highest standard, like Usain Bolt did in the sprints? Do you expect excellence of yourself? You must hold yourself to the highest standard first before you can hold your team members accountable for excellence.

When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant in her pre-flight instructions reminds you that in case of an emergency, you must put the oxygen mask on your face first before helping others. The same is true for creating impact. You’ll need to gain clarity of your purpose, gifts, strengths, and passions first. You will need to recraft your role and turbocharge your productivity first so that you can create great value and impact. Then, show and coach others so they discover and excel, too.

People want to commit to a purpose, to people, profit, and the planet. People want to be inspired. Leaders who operate with purpose, passion, and productivity are a company’s force multiplier. They are the untapped source of value for most companies because only a few leaders are operating to create value and impact. Most are managing for output and maybe engagement.

Are you leading like the leader you would want to follow? Where do you need to improve, learn, grow, and reinvent? What commitments have you made to become your best and create great impact?

  1. Reinvent Yourself

To reinvent yourself as a leader, start by creating and articulating your individual purpose, your values and then living them with integrity.

Show your people how to connect their purpose with the collective purpose of your business. They likely don’t know their gifts (what others perceive) and talents. They may not know what they’re blessed with. Help them discover their purpose, gifts, and talents. They’ve likely lost touch with their passions. How about helping them find their passions?

Leaders with purpose who communicate this purpose to their followers inspire their people to be[xii]:

  • 8 times more likely to stay at the company;
  • 2 times more likely to have higher job satisfaction; and
  • 70% more satisfied with their jobs.

Virtually everyone wants purpose and meaning in their work and life.

DeVry U Career Advisory Board studied millennials’ attitudes regarding their work. They found that seventy-one percent of millennials ranked finding meaningful work as one of the top three key elements they used to evaluate their success. Thirty percent reported it as the single most important element. It was also reported that they were willing to sacrifice more traditional career comforts in pursuit of more meaningful work.[xiii]

Once people have a sense of their individual purpose, how about helping them express their purpose through their work and showing them how to identify and apply their passions and energy? As purpose is defined and they get more passionate about their work, how about showing them how to be more productive using the OKR productivity system to get more done with less effort? So they can create greater value.

People who aren’t purposeful, passionate, and productive simply don’t increase their value or their company’s value.

Need more proof? Deloitte Insights reported that “purpose-driven” companies tend to have thirty percent higher productivity and forty percent higher levels of retention.

  1. Get Everyone Aligned

The leader makes the difference between success and failure as to whether the team, company, or country succeeds or fails. As the leader, you are the one who can draw out extraordinary efforts of people or you can be the cause of your team’s downfall. High performance is only made possible through alignment—it’s your job. A talented team of people that lacks alignment and focus loses.

As work becomes increasingly digitized and information is ubiquitous, the role of managers and leaders as coordinators of work has largely disappeared. The challenge now is creating alignment as you are leading virtual teams, working under flexible arrangements, managing multi-generational and diverse groups, and supporting the flow of knowledge.

How do you align? You get alignment by everyone understanding the vision, purpose, and values of the company. Everyone must understand how their role contributes to the greater purpose of the company. Get everyone on the same page about the Objectives and Key Results to be achieved, and also how their OKRs support the company. Communicate how decisions are made and who has decision rights. Help your team members understand the impact their contributions have on the company. This will foster a feeling of purpose, belonging, and connectedness. Practice transparency. That’s what alignment is all about.

Few employees are adding the value they are capable of creating. It’s your job to help them contribute more, to add more value, and to become better versions of themselves.

  1. Help People Become Their Best

When you encourage your people to define and communicate their purposes, ignite their passions, and turbocharge their productivity, you are on your way. Help them grow professionally and personally. Understand and help them achieve their dreams.

Matthew Kelly, author of The Dream Manager, writes, “If you want employees to contribute heart and mind to the enterprise, then you must commit heart and mind to helping them achieve their dreams—to develop as persons who not only serve today’s customer with verve but are in a position to move on and move forward in the crazy-getting-crazier world in which they are imbedded.”[xiv]

“The key to creating an ownership culture is getting to people’s hearts. You have to get to people’s pride.”

Joe Kaeser, CEO, Siemens

Tom Peters writes in his brilliant book, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Works and Jobs that Last, about the importance of a leader helping others become their best versions of themselves. He shares his Corporate Mandate 2018: “Your principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop the skill set of every one of the people in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent) to the maximum extent of your abilities and in ways that are consistent with their ‘revolutionary’ needs in the years ahead. The bonus: This is also the #1 profit maximization strategy!”[xv]

Is that your principal moral obligation as a leader?

Here are two questions for you to consider:

 Does everyone who works under you grow as people?

 While working under you, do they become better, wiser, more purposeful, passionate, more energetic, more productive, and better able to create greater impact?

A powerful way to connect with and coach your followers is to implement a regular meeting to build individual responsibility, the W-5 (Work in 5 directions) meeting. A W-5 session offers a powerful opportunity to promote self-accountability and professional development. The five directions of work are: customer, direct reports, peers, manager, and self-development.

When you hold these sessions every week – or at least – every other week, in the right spirit, you’ll hold your team members accountable only when they don’t hold themselves accountable. The goals of these meetings are to develop your team members, help them learn and grow, commit to constant improvement and commit to achieving maximum impact.[xvi]

The purpose of this forty-five minute meeting is to discuss the team member’s OKR performance, and how she’s growing and learning. It is the team member’s responsibility to schedule and lead the meeting. She explains how she is meeting and exceeding the requirements in each of the five directions, and a plan to correct any deficiencies. She brings up specific co-workers with whom she frequently interacts, the quality of the interaction, and the strength of the working relationship. She covers successes and failures, shortcomings and accomplishments.

The two of you identify specific areas in which you can assist. The spirit is open and non-judgmental, and the coaching is honest and collaborative. Look for ways to encourage, support, and recognize her. After the team member nears the end of the discussion with you, ask how you can help her achieve results—support her. Ask questions such as the following:

  • What are you working on? How are your OKRs coming along?
  • What’s getting in your way?
  • What are the roadblocks you face?
  • How can I best help you be more successful?
  • How are you growing and developing to achieve your career goals?

“Three things every human being wants most: to be seen, heard, and understood.”

Oprah Winfrey

Think team members don’t want W-5 sessions? According to PwC, 60% of employees—and 72% of millennial employees—desire feedback daily or weekly. A study conducted by Adobe showed that 80% of office workers want immediate, in-the-moment feedback.[xvii]

A Workhuman 2019 global employee survey, “The Future of Work is Human,” revealed that team members who check in with their manager at least weekly are more than twice as likely to trust their manager.[xviii] W-5s are the linchpin of continuous performance management, the leader’s moment for rich conversation, feedback, and recognition.

In addition to promoting self-accountability and strengthening alignment, the W-5 meeting gives you as a leader, a power platform for recognizing and energizing your people. Perhaps no human need is more neglected in the workplace than feeling valued. The need for significance in work is a manifestation of our inborn hunger for meaning in our lives. People have a genuine hunger to be recognized, respected, and genuinely cared about. That’s your job, leader. As they operate by purpose and perform, remember what people really want. To feel good and validated. There are two things people can’t give themselves: personal attention and appreciation. The number one reason companies lose top talent is that they didn’t feel appreciated.

“The only thing more powerful than sex and money is praise and recognition.”

Mary Kay Ash

As the leader, are your recognizing and appreciating your people sufficiently?

Twenty-five percent? Or one hundred percent? Think about each of your team members. Most of them can probably “meet expectations” with two hands tied behind their back. They can easily perform ordinary, satisfactory work. That takes maybe 25% of their effort.

What about the other 75%? Are you getting the other 75% of their capability, too?

Getting the other 75% is voluntary and is entirely based on you. It’s based on how well you inspire them. How do you get the other 75%? Give them a challenge. Invite them to operate with purpose to create a great impact and to tackle huge dreams. Coach, praise and recognize them.

Whose List Will You Be On?

One last thought, when the people who have worked under you put their list of “Best Bosses” together, who’s list will you be on? What is your legacy in the collective minds of your followers – both current and past? Is that legacy what you’d like it to be? Would they say you are among the best leaders they ever worked for? Did you help them learn, grow, and become their best as people? Did you help them live better lives? Did you touch their lives indelibly?

Reinvent yourself, leader. Lead by example. Get all aligned. Help others become the best versions of themselves. Do this and you’ll be a massive value creator. You’ll create great impact.

 

[i] “From Purpose to Impact, Nick Scott and Scott Snook,” Harvard Business Review, May 2014,

https://hbr.org/2014/05/from-purpose-to-impact.

[ii] Only 49% agreed…, “2019 Human Capital Trends Study,” Deloitte Insights, 2019,

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/cz/Documents/human-capital/cz-hc-trends-reinvent-with-human-focus.pdf.

[iii] “Workplace Trust – 58% Trust Strangers More Than Their Own Boss,”

https://www.onemodel.co/blog/workplace-trust.

[iv] “Your best employees are leaving,” Randstad USA, August 28, 2018

https://rlc.randstadusa.com/press-room/press-releases/your-best-employees-are-leaving-but-is-it-personal-or-practical.

[v] “65% of workers say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise,” Ty Kiisel, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2012/10/16/65-of-americans-choose-a-better-boss-over-a-raise-heres-why/#3afbe44176d2.

[vi] “70% of employees say they are disengaged at work. Here’s how to motivate them,” World Economic Forum, November 4, 2016,

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/70-of-employees-say-they-are-disengaged-at-work-heres-how-to-motivate-them/.

[vii] 75% say their bad boss is the worst part of their workplace, “8 Unsettling Facts About Bad Bosses,” HuffPost, December 6, 2017,

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/8-unsettling-facts-about-_b_6219958.

[viii] “79 Percent of Employees Quit Because They Are Not Appreciated,” Todd Nordstrom, Inc., September 19, 2017,

https://www.inc.com/todd-nordstrom/79-percent-of-employees-quit-because-theyre-not-ap.html.

[ix] “42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics,” The American Institute of Stress, September 25, 2019,

https://www.stress.org/42-worrying-workplace-stress-statistics.

[x] “Leading the social enterprise: Reinvent with a human focus,” “2019 Human Capital Trends Study,” Deloitte Insights, 2019,

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/cz/Documents/human-capital/cz-hc-trends-reinvent-with-human-focus.pdf.

[xi] “Athletics at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Men’s 100 meters,” Wikipedia,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_2012_Summer_Olympics_–_Men%27s_100_metres.

[xii] “Leaders with purpose who communicate this purpose to their followers…” The Human Era @Work: Findings from the Energy Project and Harvard Business Review, 2014,

https://uli.org/wp-content/uploads/ULI-Documents/The-Human-Era-at-Work.pdf.

[xiii] How the Recession Shaped Millennial and Hiring Manager Attitudes About Millennials’ Future Careers, Career Advisory Board, DeVry University, 2011,

https://www.careeradvisoryboard.org/content/dam/dvu/www_careeradvisoryboard_org/Future-of-Millennial-Careers-Report.pdf.

[xiv] The Dream Machine, Matthew Kelly, Hachette Book Group.

[xv] The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Works and Jobs that Last, Tom Peters, Random House.

[xvi] “Torpedo Annual Reviews Try W-5 Instead,” Chuck Bolton, Upsize Magazine,

http://www.upsizemag.com/business-builders/torpedo-yearly-reviews.

[xvii] “5 Employee Stats You Need to See,” Maren Hogan, February 2016,

https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/5-Employee-Feedback-Stats-That-You-Need-to-See.

[xviii] The Future of Work is Human: Findings from the Workhuman Analytics & Research Institute Survey, 2019,

https://www.workhuman.com/press-releases/White_Paper_The_Future_of_Work_is_Human.pdf.

Bringing Your Company’s Purpose To Life: 4 Steps to a Purpose-Driven Client Experience

In our recent post, you discovered that purpose is the secret ingredient of extraordinary companies. If you’ve done the work, you reflected on the questions to unlock that noble purpose statement for your company. You’ve committed to a higher purpose and you and your team members are genuinely passionate about making a difference in the marketplace. You believe in the good work your firm does. Your company’s products and services make people’s lives and the planet better.

With this noble and honorable purpose statement now in place, here’s the big question for you:

How do you bring your purpose to life?

With great care and on-going commitment, you design both a purpose-driven client experience and a purpose-driven team member (employee) experience.

Let’s focus today on the purpose-driven client experience. Why? As iconic leadership expert Peter Drucker stated, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”  When you operate with purpose when serving your clients, something remarkable can happen.

Here are the four keys for creating a purpose-driven client experience.

  1. Define your brand position

Step one is to create a concise statement that details how your firm differs from and is better in meeting your client’s needs than your competitors. The following are reflection questions to create your brand position statement:

  • What do we do better than anyone else in the world?
  • What difference has our product or service made in the lives of our clients?
  • When would and wouldn’t they use our brand vs the competition?
  • What is the emotional benefit we provide our clients?
  • How do we make them feel?
  • What would they lose if we ceased to exist?
  • As we serve our clients, what makes our hearts sing?

Example: The Bolton Group LLC is the #1 resource to guide medical technology, life sciences and healthcare CEOs in creating massive value so their stakeholders thrive.

Make sure all team members know, understand and can articulate your brand position statement with clients, so clients know your firm is unique.

  1. Create a one-liner making your client the hero

Step two is to make your client the hero of the story. Your role, and that of your brand is not to be the hero, but the guide.  Your client doesn’t want another hero. They want to be the hero of their story.

What is success to your client? How do your clients wish to feel and what do they want? Your job is to help your client solve their biggest problem and/or capitalize on their biggest opportunity. What role will you play in your client’s journey? Create a one-liner of how you and your brand will make the client a hero.

Example: I’m Chuck Bolton, the guide who helps medtech, life sciences and healthcare CEOs thrive. Making you the hero of your magnificent story.

  1. Use the clock model to strengthen client touch points

Now is the time to do a brand audit  – an assessment of the positive and negatives – of every point where your firm connects with the client. Each component influences your client’s perception of your firm and each component must be supportive of your company purpose.  This is where you adjust and clean up any problems.

A useful model to conduct this exercise is to think of a clock.  To what extent is each component reflective of your company’s purpose? Which needs to be adjusted in order to be consistent with purpose? Which component is doing well and is consistent with purpose?

Pre-purchase. A client enters your brand world at the pre-purchase stage, think 12 to 4.  Pre-purchase components include advertising, tradeshows, social media, public relations, events and sponsorships.

Purchase is 4 to 8 on the clock. The components include distribution, packaging, store design, user reviews, financing, user generated reviews.

Post-purchase is 8 to 12. The components include customer service, loyalty programs and warranty programs.

How to strengthen your client touch points?

First, put your client in the center. What is most important to them?

Secondly, look at the client experience holistically around the brand. Does your purpose get reflected like you intend?

Thirdly, look at your competitors. What can you learn from them?

Fourth, Where is your firm’s opportunity to stand out? Where is the world headed? Where’s the greatest variance? With your limited capital, where can you be world-class in your sector? Where can you gain the greatest return on investment with shifts you make to your client touch points?

When Apple launched Apple Stores in 2001, many were skeptical of these expensive and airy retail stores that just displayed a few products. Experienced consumer electronic chains like Gateway, CompUSA and others were in decline.  But the customer experience Steve Jobs and team wanted was not to have metal boxes thrust at their customers. They believed there was power in focusing on the pre-purchase touch points, allowing customers to try out and learn about the products. When customers experimented and learned, they could see the potential the products had in empowering their lives in the future. They would develop an emotional connection, and sales would follow. Apple took a decidedly different approach than their competitors. As they prepared for the launch of Apple Stores, they asked a more empowering question: How do we enrich lives?

As they visualized the experience of their clients, they developed the following statements to guide their efforts in the creation of the stores:

  • A store that enriches lives has a non-commission sales floor. Instead of clerks or sales people, it would hire geniuses and concierges.
  • A store that enriches lives hires for empathy and passion.
  • A store that enriches lives greets you as you step foot inside.
  • A store that enriches lives let you play with the products.
  • A store that enriches lives is located where people live their lives.

Better questions led to better innovations. The vision to enrich lives served as the Apple Stores’ True North. Enriching lives still remains at the heart of the company’s mission.  The more technologically advanced our society becomes, the more we need to go back to the basic fundamentals of human connection. Empathy is one of the greatest creators of positive energy.

Once you’ve completed your clock model to identify and strengthen client touch points, defining your brand identity, you can create an explicit purpose-driven client story to serve as a narrative for how you’ll treat your clients moving forward. Just like Apple did with their stores. Now it’s your turn to create that purpose-driven client story.

  1. Construct your purpose-driven client story

Create a story of how you and your brand make your client a hero.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon

There are eight steps to the purpose-driven client story:

  1. Who is your client and what do they want? What is their definition of success? How can you enrich their lives?
  2. What’s your client’s biggest problem? What price do they pay when they suffer from the problem? What is the benefit when that problem gets fixed? What are the stakes? How are their lives enriched?
  3. Your client meets a guide – you armed with your brand, products and/or service – who brings both empathy and the authority to fix the client’s problem.
  4. You give them a plan. As your client’s guide, you have a proven process (a product or service) that when your client implements, will fix their problem and make their life better.
  5. You call them to action. Clients are people and people are often reluctant to try new approaches. You remind them of the price they pay when the problem is prolonged. You describe the future benefit from accepting the call to action. You invite them to take action, on what will become a transformational journey for them.
  6. That ends in a success. With your client, you create a vivid picture of what success will look like when the work is completed. The desired future state.
  7. That helps them avoid failure. You remind the client they will not face the downside of their problem when they are guided by you and use your proven process.
  8. That helps them transform. When they follow you and implement their plan, change happens. They become better at their work, their company gets better, their stakeholders benefit and they transform, becoming a better person, too.

As a firm that has a noble purpose and a commitment to improving the lives of people, there is no doubt you have knowledge of compelling client stories, even if you haven’t organized it exactly in this purpose-driven client story format. As a next step, write out your “customer as hero” stories, using this eight-step framework. If you have sub-brands or different product offerings, you will want to create a hero story for each brand, division or product.

These stories should be widely shared within in your firm, so everyone understands how the company’s purpose is brought to life as you serve your clients.

As you engage your clients today and in the future, share your client stories and use the client story framework directly with them, engaging them in the questions and in creating the story of their success and transformation.  Your clients will feel your commitment to making them the hero of their stories. The effect will be a magnetic pull toward you and your company and will set you apart from your competition.  As the guide, you make the client the hero of the story – every time.

Four powerful keys for bringing your purpose to life as you serve your clients

  1. Define your brand position
  2. Create a one-liner making your client the hero
  3. Use the clock model to strengthen client touch points
  4. Construct your purpose-driven client story

Implementing these four ideas is an impactful approach in making certain your clients experience your firm’s unique, noble purpose. These ideas bring your purpose to life for your clients – the most critical external stakeholder to sustaining your company’s long-term success.

Using Your Purpose Story to Pivot

When you read her bio and then meet her, you can’t help but being impressed with Rachel.

In her early 50s, she’s Ivy-League educated, has an MBA from one of the top business schools in the world, speaks multiple languages and holds a senior level global role for a leading healthcare company. With her educational and career background, it’s no surprise that she’s smart and strategic. But a high IQ doesn’t always transfer to high emotional intelligence, or EQ. Rachel is both self-aware and socially aware. Polite, well-spoken and empathetic, she brings the right combination of heart and head, the right ingredients to one day become the CEO of her $2 billion global company.

But Rachel had a problem.

After three years, she had doubts her company was right for her.  As we got to know one another, she confided she wasn’t feeling good about the company, she’d lost her passion and wanted to get her juice back.  When she experienced the nagging feelings her company may not be the right fit, she’d stuff them away, and immerse herself deeply in her work.

She described her boss, the CEO, as “old school, low energy and fear-based, who didn’t like open debate.” His presence created, in her words, a “certain toxicity.” She rationalized that she had a big role and was expected to get results, that she was paid well, and that every company and every boss brings both positives and negatives. She wondered, “Is it me? Can I thrive in a place where I can’t communicate with my boss and the team with complete candor and openness?”

She worked hard and felt a little cheated that she could not find more joy in her work, particularly given the effort she invested. She sensed the CEO may not have had complete confidence in her and she was concerned she might fail in his eyes and be asked to leave.

I asked Rachel if she had defined her purpose. Purpose is the overarching principle that gives your life meaning. It’s the forward-pointing arrow, that gives you clarity and helps you get out of bed in the morning. She said she hadn’t given much thought to purpose of late. I provided Rachel some materials on discovering her purpose and that’s where her story begins. Rachel describes below in her own words, in her purpose story, how she uncovered her purpose and how it led her to make some important changes in her life.

“When I was 23 years old, I wanted to see the world and do something physically challenging. Many of my classmates who I had studied abroad with in China traveled to Tibet and raved about it. So a year after graduating from college, and after doing some research, I signed up with an Australian expedition company to do a thirty-day hike in the Himalayas. Traveling on my own, I signed up to join a group of ten other individuals, all strangers to me, ranging in age from twenty-somethings to couples in their thirties and forties. There was one couple in their late forties. I was the only American among this group of Aussies. We had one guide, a bunch of mules who did the heavy lifting, and a handful of sherpas.

“The first few days I was filled with energy and excitement and we trekked an average of thirteen miles each day. As each day went by, my energy and excitement started to wane. The poor sleep, severe altitude sickness, the lack of a warm shower or bath, and eating the same food (mutton, nonetheless) slowly, but surely, chipped away my energy. Little had I appreciated the luxury of standing under a shower with hot water pouring down on me. Little had I appreciated the feeling of being clean, head-to-toe. Little had I appreciated biting into a juicy watermelon or a hot New York-style pizza. Thirty days later, after having summited five mountains ranging from ten to fifteen thousand feet, each time with altitude-induced head-bursting migraines, and only sponge-bathing in a pure, frigid glacial stream, I not only appreciated all of these life luxuries but actually couldn’t stop thinking of them. It didn’t help that at day twenty, a kerosene tank leaked on the food, resulting in much of the food being discarded. At that point, I learned to appreciate the mutton that I was so tired of as we had to settle with only dahl, rice, and potatoes for the last ten days. By the time we stumbled into the city of Leh, more than three hundred miles away, I was simultaneously thoroughly worn out and fatigued, and deeply proud of my accomplishment, having discovered a deep well of tenacity and potential.

“I dug deep into my reserve and courageously faced each day when I had no choice but to tackle the day’s trek. I found that I had resilience to keep going. Our group was out in the middle of nowhere, among nature’s majestic mountains, lush and fertile landscape, and stark and barren scenery, sometimes not seeing another soul outside of our expedition group for nearly a week. I experienced the forces and beauty of nature and was humbled and awed by its power. I learned that it’s when we are pushed to the limits of discomfort, sometimes on the brink of feeling broken, that we have the opportunity to open ourselves up and tap into our reserve to unleash our strength. These lessons from my expedition have stayed with me and carried me into day-to-day life, helping me to navigate through life’s twists and turns. It has taught me that power and strength come through vulnerability and openness to move toward the unknown. And this experience confirmed that by embracing discomfort, changes, and new experiences, I am able to surprise myself in discovering the potential that exists within me.

“This experience helped clarify my purpose statement: To courageously dig deep to unleash potential as powerful as Nature. Today I live that purpose in all aspects of my life. I have the confidence to shape my future—and whatever circumstances are thrown my way—when I reflect on my trek in the Himalayas and my purpose.

“The process of clarifying my purpose and identifying my passions caused me to reflect deeply on my career. I’ve been fortunate to have led companies in the healthcare products sector. About three years ago, I joined a new company to oversee its North American business. After a successful two year run in my first assignment, I was asked to take on even bigger role at the company. On paper, it was an impressive role. I had great responsibility with many people reporting into me, I was compensated well, and served as a valuable member of our company’s executive team.

“But I felt something was missing. I wasn’t passionate about the company or its culture. The company was very different from the company where I had thrived. It was hierarchical, traditional, and low energy, run by a CEO who verbally encouraged the opinions of others but his actions didn’t support the verbal encouragement. People operated within an environment of fear, and therefore they aspired to “fly under the radar.” The climate could be described as collegial at the surface level, but honest, open debate where the best ideas win wasn’t truly welcomed or encouraged.

“While there were many positive aspects of the company, I knew this was not the environment or culture for me to thrive long term. I had known this for some time deep inside my soul, but I ignored those feelings, and had grown numb to the situation by throwing myself into my work. My team and I delivered results and put points on the board, while I overlooked the uneasiness of not really fitting in. I was unable to fully commit myself to this company.

“As I embarked on the journey to define my purpose, and reflected on my experience in the Himalayas and how I had lived my life, I strove to operate by courageously digging deep to tap into my potential and live powerfully. That was the true me. And being honest with myself—while I had the big job and the trappings that went along with it—I wasn’t living true to my purpose and values. It was at that time that I knew I needed to find a different environment so I could flourish and then help others flourish, too.

“Being clear about my purpose and my passions allowed me to take the courageous next step of resigning. I transitioned with honesty and integrity, leaving the people and position in a good place. This departure gave me an unexpected sense of relief. As I embarked on my search, I felt a sense of great optimism about what the future held. While I was a bit uncertain as I began the journey, and I didn’t know my exact destination, I had a strong sense of where I was headed. I believed I would know the destination when I saw it. I was confident I’d find the place where I could dig deep courageously to unleash potential as powerful as nature, and where I could create impact and value for myself and others. I was confident I’d be able to help others be successful and grow in an open and transparent environment. I had great faith the best was yet to come.”

Now, six months later, after writing her purpose story, Rachel found her dream job. She accepted the chief executive officer role of a smaller, privately-held company in the women’s health industry. She’s passionate about the space, the company, and culture, and she is confident she will make a meaningful difference in growing and shaping the future of this company. She states, “Had I not clarified my purpose and my plan to create impact, there is no way I would be in this role today.”

When you’re clear about your purpose, it serves as your north star. When you write and share your purpose story, it’s healing and liberating. Sharing your purpose story is the most generous thing you can do.  Sharing your purpose statement and story will inspire others to write and share theirs, too. Live by your purpose and purpose story, that’s the recipe for living a life of great impact. Just like Rachel.

What’s the #1 Thing a CEO Should Do to Create Clarity?

Define a clear company purpose. Operate by that purpose. Align and mobilize others to operate by purpose.

For individuals, your purpose is the overarching guiding principle that gives your life meaning. It’s your unique definitive statement about the difference you are trying to make in the world.

It’s no different for companies. Purpose is the company’s definitive statement it is trying to make in the world. It’s the secret ingredient of extraordinary companies.  CEOs, business unit presidents and owners are well-served making their organization’s purpose front-and-center for all stakeholders.

Why would you want to define your organization’s purpose? In challenging times, a statement of purpose can serve as your company’s rudder. Purpose makes decision-making easier, drives deeper employee and customer engagement along with more fulfillment and happiness.  When it is clear, companies look at problems, opportunities and the world through the lens of their purpose. Having a clear purpose benefits your top team, your people, your customers, your ownership group and your other stakeholders, too.

During the pandemic, your people, customers and others have likely felt adrift. Let your purpose serve as your North Star. A well-defined purpose grounds your stakeholders, enabling them to focus on issues and problems with a sense of hope and meaning.  As businesses reconsider working arrangements and their roles in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, these initiatives benefit from being tightly led and aligned with your company’s purpose.

No organization or company is too big or small, too young or old, or too specialized or too commoditized to have a purpose.  Every company is capable of having a purpose – and should!

A well-defined purpose statement provides the following:

  • A clear reason for being in business and serving – other than financial performance – that your people and other stakeholders can grab hold of today and in the future.
  • The difference you are trying to make that betters the world.

Purpose is a path to high performance. Here are additional reasons a company should develop and operate by their unique purpose. Consider the proofs:

  • Only 53% of employees feel their organizations were effective or very effective at creating meaningful work.[1]
  • 70% of US adults say it is important to them that their actions help make a positive difference in the world.[2]
  • Purpose is so important to people, 9 of 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. On average, the pool of American workers said they’d be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.[3]
  • Companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5-7%, grow faster and have higher profitability. [4]
  • Studies have shown that stock values of purpose-driven organizations outperform others within the same space from 133 to 386%. The research of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras looked back to 1926 and found that purpose-driven companies performed 15 times better than the overall stock market since that time. [5]
  • Companies that choose to put their employees and their customers first are outperforming conventional competitors (who have an eye almost exclusively on profit and shareholders) in stock market performance on the order of 8 to 1. [6]

A powerful purpose statement connects with the heart as well as the head. There should be an emotional, ethical and rational appeal that emanates from a well-defined purpose. It expresses your company’s impact on the lives of stakeholders – employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, the community and the environment.

Some people get purpose mixed up with vision, mission and values. Purpose trumps vision and mission!

A purpose statement is the unique definitive state about the difference your company attempts to make in the world. A vision statement confirms what the company wishes to be like in the future. A mission statement describes what the business is here to do. The business the company is in. It’s objective is internal to provide a focus for leaders and tea members. Values describe how people are expected to behave and operate in pursuit of the vision and mission. While vision, mission and values are important, a firm’s purpose is key. Purpose steers the ship. Vision, mission and values may change over time, but a purpose never does.

Here are examples of company purpose statements:

Bosch: Invented for life, we want our products to spark enthusiasm, improve quality of life, and help conserve natural resources.

BMW: To enable people to experience the job of driving.

Charles Schwab: A relentless ally for the individual investor.

IAG: To help people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss.

ING: Empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and business.

Kellogg: Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.

REA Group: To make the property process simple, efficient and stress free for people buying and selling a property.

Southwest Airlines: To give people the freedom to fly.

Wal-Mart: Save people money so they can live better.

To craft a purpose statement for your company, start asking questions. You’ll want to reflect on the reason for the company’s existence, who it benefits and the unique contribution it makes to the world.

Consider reflecting on and answering the following questions:

  • Why does our company exist? Why was our company created?
  • Why does our company do what we do in the here and now?
  • What are the “jobs-to-be-done” we do for our customers/clients? What are the functional benefits of the “jobs-to-be-done” we do? What are the emotional benefits of these “jobs-to-be-done” we do? What is the ultimate value we create for our customer?
  • Why is that important?
  • What is unique about us?
  • What is our “superpower” that allows us to make a distinctive contribution to the world?
  • How do we operate when we’re at our best?
  • If our company were no longer here, what would our customers/clients miss? What would other stakeholders miss?

Now it’s your turn to create your organization’s purpose statement. Gather your colleagues. Keep it to a sentence. Capture your firm’s uniqueness. Capture what you do that is a competitive advantage, without being too concrete or too abstract. Get started!

It may be useful to create several drafts with an expanded group of team members.  What are the “red threads” of your company’s uniqueness that shine through?  Can you find one purpose statement that makes your heart beat a little faster? That captures the essence of what your firm is all about? If you can’t, you’ve got more work to do. If you have, congratulations!

Now the challenging part begins. How will you bring that purpose statement to life? Having it on a poster on a wall or on a coffee cup doesn’t do it justice. Your people will need to internalize your purpose, and be able to recite it if you were to call them at 3 am (not suggesting this test). Once you’ve landed on your purpose, you will want to evaluate current company practices to see if they pass “the purpose test”, too. It should be used when tackling an issue where a decision must be made. Alternative choices should be weighed using the purpose.  “If I choose option A, is that consistent with our purpose? How about if I choose option B?”

If you don’t have a defined purpose, you are missing a huge opportunity to lift up the performance of your people and company in so many areas. CEOs who take the time to clarify and operate by purpose don’t regret the decision. Leading by purpose makes work and life so much simpler.

In upcoming posts, I’ll share more ideas for bringing that purpose statement to life.

For more information on purpose, check out bestselling book, Reinvent Your Impact: Unleashing Purpose, Passion and Productivity to Thrive

[1] Deloitte Insights – 2019 Human Capital Trends – From Employee Experience to Human Experience: Putting Meaning Back to Work

[2] Gallup Workplace – What Millennials Want is Good for Your Business – Jennifer Robinson, March 22, 2019

[3] Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Alexi Robichaux – Harvard Business Review, November 6, 2018

[4] Top CEOs Have Realized Companies Need a purpose Beyond Profit – Claudine Gartenberg and George Serafeim, Aug 20, 2019, Harvard Business Review

[5] Leading from Purpose: Clarity and the Confidence to Act When it Matter Most – Nick Craig

[6] It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose – Roy Spence

“For the First Time in His Life, He Was Able to Get Around.” How Jim Conn Creates Great Impact Serving Mobility Worldwide

The old factories and warehouses that powered the industrial section of northeast Minneapolis for decades are giving way to microbreweries and taprooms, restaurants, and co-working spaces. Yet in the basement of an old dairy on Broadway Street, there’s an organization of volunteers – Mobility Worldwide – that is transforming and saving lives around the world, one person a time.

Most people take walking for granted, but there are over seventy million people in the world who are leg disabled. Birth defects, polio, injuries, landmines, disease, and other causes can lead to this disability. For those who are leg disabled and live in developing countries, many have to literally crawl in the dirt. Traditional wheelchairs don’t work well where the roads are unimproved. When given the gift of mobility, lives are immediately changed for the better.

Mobility Worldwide’s vision is to end immobility. They provide a rugged, three-wheeled, hand-powered cart with hauling capacity.

These carts are donated to people in developing countries who do not have use of their lower limbs. Developed in the late 1990s in response to a need identified in Africa, the carts are built in the US, but distributed exclusively overseas. There are twenty-three production sites in the US. Each cart costs roughly $300 to build and ship. Donations fund the cost of materials and shipping. The staff is all volunteer. Since 1994, over 78,000 mobility carts have been built and distributed in 106 countries using over 70 distribution partners.

In 2011, Jim Conn, a retired program manager from the aerospace industry, learned of Mobility Worldwide and the carts they provided the poorest of the poor. He was immediately hooked and became the director of the first affiliate in Minnesota.

Jim says, “Sometimes you ask how I, as one individual, can change the world? These carts change lives. The looks on the faces of recipients are ample evidence of that. Their testimony is further evidence. People everywhere can help change the world for the better. Without our help, they crawl in the dirt. These carts change their world. The carts provide much more than mobility; they offer freedom, dignity, and self-confidence.”

Jim continues, “You see, in many societies, people with disabilities are shunned, avoided, and believed to be cursed. They are often not even acknowledged as people, which is cruel. When they get their carts, they gain self-respect and hope for a better future.”

The volunteers of Mobility Worldwide are retirees, students, and groups from churches and community service organizations. After a short training and orientation, they provide the labor to assemble and package the carts. Working together in small teams, volunteers enjoy their experience at Mobility. They know they are making a difference. The Minnesota chapter just loaded a container – shipping its 1130th cart – to Nigeria.

Jim recalled his first distribution trip to Tanzania. “While everyone who receives a cart is grateful, there was one person in particular who stands out to me. A young man in his 20s, his body misshapen from birth defects, was carried on the back of his mother to the pickup site. His mother had carried him forty kilometers (nearly twenty-five miles) on her back. He received his cart and was ecstatic. For the first time in his life, he was able to get himself around. She didn’t have to carry him. It was life changing for him – and for his mother, too.”

Each cart has an area for storage and hauling. Most people use it to better themselves, whether it is to haul books and supplies to a school or to start a small business.

Jim spoke about a man in Kenya who had his cart for about fourteen months. When a volunteer saw him again, after the distribution, the cart – which is very sturdy and was designed to work with minimal maintenance for many years – was functional but pretty beat up. He asked the recipient why there was wear and tear. The Kenyan man said he used his cart to haul gold ore to the rock crusher. He loads a few hundred pounds of rock and takes it to the rock crusher in the hope of finding gold. People are very creative. Some will build canopies and use them as mobile vending machines or a mini food truck. Others will load the cart with a cooler and sell cold drinks. Jim recalled a man in Viet Nam who lost his legs to a landmine. With his new cart, he started a shoe repair business.

In Tanzania, after a woman received her cart, she went to the outskirts of town, tilled a garden, and planted and grew vegetables. She harvested them and she took them back to town to sell. She is now self-sufficient economically. He recalls another woman who drove her cart to a local business with a knitting machine she could rent, so she could make clothes and then sell them at the market.

Jim’s favorite story is about Seun Okoke, a beautiful young woman from Nigeria who was stricken with polio and scoliosis. She was leg disabled. With her cart and mobility, she was able to finish school and college. She’s now working as an information technology specialist for the civil service.

Every day Seun rides the bus to work. She pays two fares, one for her and one for her cart. Then after work, she does the same to get back home.

Because she is able to work, she feels like she’s a contributing member of society. Her self-esteem is high. She is now married and has a young son. Jim says Seun earns more than her husband, all due to the gift of her cart. She has been given the gifts of mobility and dignity that are immeasurable in value.[i]

Jim Conn’s purpose: To make a tangible difference in the lives of people around the world.

At age 75, through his work with Mobility Worldwide, Jim Conn is making an impact.

[i] Jim Conn interview by Chuck Bolton, 2019.

You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Write and Share Your Purpose Story – Part 3 of 3

In the last Creating Impact post, I shared how to mine for and discover your purpose. After a lot of thoughtful reflection about your unique gift and your life, you wrote your purpose statement.  Well done!

Most people who clarify their purpose statement stop there. Not you! Not us! We’re writing and sharing our purpose stories.

Why write a purpose story, you may be wondering?

When you write your purpose story you catapult your purpose to life.

Your purpose story is your commitment to your life’s direction. You’ve had ups and downs. You’ve experienced bumps and bruises. These experiences brought you to where you are today, giving you the raw material for your purpose. When you take your gifts, beliefs, experiences, values and now purpose statement – mix it all together – you craft your purpose story. Your noble cause – your purpose – is one to which you’ll commit yourself to forever, beginning today.

As you write your purpose story, you may also heal some old wounds that have stayed open for far too long.  While you may quit on goals, you’ll never quit on your purpose. So, honor that purpose by capturing the story of your purpose that you will tell yourself and others, when the opportunity presents itself.

Why would you tell your purpose story?

When you tell your purpose story to those close to you, you strengthen your bond with them. By sharing your purpose story, you’ll encourage and inspire them to mine for their purposes and to write and tell their purpose stories. You’ll lift their hearts with your story.

In today’s world, with so much information flying at you from so many directions, you forget facts, figures, numbers and trends in the information overload. It’s hard to sort out what is real, what is important, and what isn’t. Information in the form of facts, figures, percentages, and statistical variances is directed to your head. It literally goes in one ear and out the other. Anthropologists contend that 70% of everything we learn is through stories.

Your purpose story, on the other hand, comes from the heart and is directed to the heart. People will remember it forever and want to hear it again and again. It will move them. To influence and persuade, you aim for the heart and then the head.

Who is the purpose story for?

It’s for all of us. You, me and us.

Everyone loves stories, whether it’s a story in a movie, a book or live by a skilled storyteller. Good stories draw us in like a magnet, like a moth to a flame.  Your purpose story will inspire you. When you tell your purpose story, it connects others to you.  They begin to know, like and trust you.  Think of your purpose story as connective tissue.

Your purpose story isn’t about perfection. No one is interested your perfection.  When you share your bumps and bruises, you share your humanity.  The more personal your story, the more universal it becomes. People listen to your story autobiographically.  In other words, when you speak of your mother and her struggles, people think of their own mother and the struggles she faced.

In my newest book, 19 Fighting COVID-19: Unsung Heroes Creating Impact During the Pandemic and Unrest, I profiled Chris Bentley. After graduating from the US Naval Academy, Chris served for fourteen years as a naval flight officer before entering the private sector. Now, he is an accomplished and recognized financial advisor and founder of Wings for Widows, a non-profit organization that provides free financial, legal and coaching services to recent widows. He’s also an international bestselling author. Chris is a man who lives on purpose and creates an enormous impact.

 At the end of this post, I’ll share a link where you can read the entire story about Chris.  But for now, let’s focus on Chris’s purpose statement and purpose story. Here are Chris’s words:

“As a young man, I was a river guide – helping our guests navigate more than 40 miles of whitewater, providing safe passage from the put-in to the take-out.

“As a naval officer, I was a mission commander – getting my crew to station, prosecuting enemy submarines, and returning home after 10-hour missions. I provided safe passage from take-off to landing.

“As a sailor, whether skipper or crewman – I weathered storms topside, at the helm, day and night, ensuring safe passage of our sailing vessel and the passengers entrusted to my care.

“As a financial advisor I guide clients through up and down markets to help them retire comfortably and realize their dreams. I provide safe passage during a lifetime of living and investing.

“As the founder of Wings for Widows, I provide safe passage for new widows, from heartbreak and loss to a future of hope and possibility.

“The purpose, then, that seems to define me is:

“To provide safe passage down the river of life, helping others to experience adventure, find and feel joy, and live life fully.”

The impact Chris seeks to make is ”To make certain no new widow has to go it alone.”

That’s Chris’s purpose story. There are many other purpose stories of ordinary people, just like you and me, in my book, Reinvent Your Impact: Unleashing Purpose, Passion and Productivity to thrive.  Mine’s in there, too.

Now, let’s get to work on your purpose story.

Step 3: What’s the Story Behind Your Purpose?

Over the past several days, you’ve done a lot of reflecting and writing on your unique gift and your purpose. Pull out your notes.

Here are ideas to get you started writing your purpose story:

  1. Write your one true sentence. It’s been said that when Ernest Hemingway had writer’s block, he’d write one true sentence.  Start your story with one true sentence.  Chris wrote his, As a young man, I was a river guide – helping our guests navigate more than 40 miles of whitewater, providing safe passage from the put-in to the take-out.”
  2. Remember, you are the hero of your story. All good stories follow the “Hero’s Journey” pattern. It’s like a three-act play. First, there’s a challenge that comes out of nowhere that has to be met. Often, but not always, it happens between the ages of 9 -12. Identify your challenge. Second, there’s a struggle.  Your wrestle with the challenge. You don’t know the solution to fix the challenge, but through trial and error, often with the advice from a wiser and more experienced person, you figure out how to solve – or at least control and overcome – your challenge. Third, there’s resolution of the challenge. You conquer the challenge. You are able to make sense of what has happened. You move on. You share your insights with us about how the challenge can be conquered. This is the classic Hero’s Journey.
  3. Write as fast as you can for 45 minutes. After you’ve written your one true sentence, with your notes in front of you, highlight the keywords, set a timer for 45 minutes, and write as fast as you can. No critiques or edits for now. Write about your purpose and how and why it became your purpose.
  4. Read it, edit it, refine it and memorize it. When you finish your story, read it out loud. Edit it where necessary. Record yourself reading the story. Play it back. Continue editing and tightening up your story. Memorize your story. Make sure the story is three minutes or less.
  5. Share it. Share your story with family members and friends who care about you. Ask for their impressions and feedback. Make adjustments where necessary. As a general rule, briefer is better. Now identify opportunities for sharing your story, to lift up, encourage and inspire others.

Love your purpose and purpose story. When it shows that you love your purpose story, others will love it, too. When you share it with others, when you deliver it, do so with absolute conviction.  Don’t read it like a news reporter.  Embody your story. Physicalize your story when you share it.  Keep rehearsing your story on walks, on your solo bike rides or runs, when you’ve got some alone time.  With practice, you’ll have a purpose story that grabs – and moves – hearts and minds.  Once your purpose story is ready for prime time, look for opportunities to share with friends and colleagues. They will be drawn in and fascinated by your purpose story.

Your story will reinforce your need and commitment to live a life of purpose, so you can create great impact. Sharing your purpose statement and purpose story will inspire others to write and share theirs, too.

Your story helps others understand what is important to you, how your life experiences have made you what you are today and why you do what you do. Sharing your purpose story is the most generous thing you can do. When you tell it with conviction and authenticity, you’ll hold your audience’s attention like a magnet.

You tell your purpose story authentically and others will empathize with you and be more likely to embrace your passion and position. It’s the way to influence and lead others.

Research shows that leaders with purpose who communicate this purpose to their followers inspire their people to be:

  • 8 times more likely to stay at the company;
  • 2 time more likely to have higher job satisfaction; and
  • 70% more satisfied with their jobs.

Imagine an organization where all leaders and team members mined for and discovered their individual purposes and shared their individual purpose statements and purpose stories. What would that be like? I’ll tell you.

When I’ve worked with leaders and their teams to write and share their purpose stories, something magical happens. A level of trust, respect and empathy emerge that were not there previously surfaces. Sharing your best human qualities – your purpose and purpose story – is a catalyst for building an aligned, high-performing, supportive leadership team.  Aligned together to serve the broader organization’s purpose, you’ll have a powerfully connected, purposeful and passionate team, positioned and committed to create great impact.

Here’s the link to Chris Bentley’s story, Providing Safe Passage Down the River of Life During the COVID-19 Crisis. http://theboltongroup.com/providing-safe-passage-down-the-river-of-life-during-the-covid-19-crisis/

Especially during the pandemic, everyone needs a purpose. Everyone needs a purpose and a purpose story. Commit to writing and sharing your purpose story. Encourage others to do the same. That’s the path for creating an amazing level of impact.

For More Information:

You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Mine for and Discover Your Purpose – Part 2 of 3

You’ve identified your unique gift and written your gift statement as part of your work from Part 1. Good job. Let’s see how you can apply your unique gift in the discovery of your purpose.

Purpose is the overarching guiding principle that gives your life meaning.

Purpose is the forward-pointing arrow. When you are clear about your life purpose, with an explicit, written purpose statement, you will know why you get out of bed in the morning. It incorporates your special gifts and life experiences.

Opportunities come your way in life. By applying your unique gift to these opportunities, you discover your purpose. But you can’t just sit still and wait for it to drop into your lap. You’ve got to do the self-discovery work.

To make purpose resonate, it’s important that it serves a cause bigger than you. You can create a lot of meaning in your own life by helping someone else do something that is meaningful to them.

Your purpose may have nothing to do with what you do for a living. Your career may not be your calling. While you may get fired from your job, you can never be fired from your purpose. If you can get fired from it, you haven’t discovered your purpose yet. Your purpose is not about the expertise you bring your job, either. Let’s not make our position or expertise our purpose.

For it to be your purpose, it must work in all areas of your life.

Mining for and discovering your purpose means embracing your gifts, capturing your essence, and living authentically. When you are clear about your purpose, you’ll never feel like you are an impostor.

Your purpose is unique to you. It can do no harm. It permeates all areas of life. While your purpose may change with life’s seasons, the “red thread” of purpose never changes in your life.

 When you are living by purpose, everything seems natural. It may not be easy, but you must live authentically. In your sweet spot. It’s like a baseball hitter or golfer who hits the ball on the sweet spot. Living on purpose is like the ball hitting the bat on the sweet spot. It just flies effortlessly.

When you’ve defined your purpose statement and live by purpose, there are many benefits. It serves as a filter. When an opportunity or experience presents itself, you ask, “Does this situation help me fulfill my purpose?” Or, “If I say yes to this experience, is that consistent with my purpose.” It allows you to quickly and definitively answer “Yes” or “No.” “Is what I’m about to do in keeping with my purpose and values?”

Heeding your purpose isn’t an easy path, which is why most people never know it. They don’t listen to their hearts. Or if they do and follow their calling, they fear the unknown, and they fear looking foolish or failing. So, they play it safe and drift along. Perhaps they are comfortable. Perhaps they have the means, but they lack the meaning. And they never create the impact they were born to make. Don’t let this be you.

“Would it not be better to ask people to what purpose are they applying their life, rather than simply asking them what they do for a living?” Thom Winninger, author, Your True DNA!

Step 2: Mine for and Discover Your Purpose

It’s time to go mine for purpose. Pull out your journal and thoughtfully answer the following purpose framing questions. The outcomes will be the raw material for your purpose statement and story.

When you were young, what activity brought you the most happiness and satisfaction? What were the specifics? What emotions do you feel as you recall these memories?

Hint: It could be one specific moment, a specific activity, or a list of experiences.

What have been the three most salient events in your life that have made you the person you are? Write one sentence that describes the gist of these events or experiences.

Hints: These are likely your most challenging life experiences. Pick an experience that is currently not impacting you.

Now, which of the three events would you call the single most defining moment in your life?

Hint: It is often – but not always – an event that happened early in life, often between ages 9-12, when you didn’t have the answers for the challenges you faced.

Why do you get up in the morning?

Hints: What gets your blood flowing? What causes do you care about most deeply? What is a problem that “someone needs to fix”? What are you committed to that is bigger than you?

What are your three inviolable values?

Hints: What are the top three values that guide you? What are the values you could credibly have printed on a t-shirt to wear? People would agree, “Yes, that defines what you stand for and how you operate.”

Using your unique gift and the responses to the purpose framing questions as raw material, reflect on the key words and phrases that jump out at you. Highlight the key words and themes. Can you see a pattern? A pattern – the gifts, the values, the red threads, the purpose – should begin to emerge.

It’s time to create a purpose statement. Your purpose statement does the following:

  1. Identifies the unique gift(s) you bring to the world;
  2. Taps into your own life experiences (challenging times, passions, and best memories);
  3. Uses a minimal number of words or symbols;
  4. Consists of words that have deep meaning; and
  5. Every time you recall and share your purpose, it provides clarity and focus to live on purpose.

Smarter people than your author recommend you meditate and contemplate intensively and extensively about your purpose statement. I suggest you do this, too.

Reflect on and complete this sentence:

The purpose that is leading me is: ____________________.”

Now edit your sentence into your purpose statement. Here are some examples.

To provide safe passage down the river of life, helping others to experience adventure, find and feel joy, and live life fully.

To show others that their daily marathons are possible to get through and that nothing is really impossible.

To help others look and feel great, and to lift up their happiness, confidence, and self-image.

Creating content for the 50+ crowd and sharing stories of people living their passion.

 To be a channel for those in broken situations to get connected to the Healer.

 To guide others through the moguls – so they see what is possible and become unstoppable.

 To courageously dig deep to unleash potential as powerful as Nature.

Now it is your turn.  What will be your purpose statement? Write it here.

With your purpose statement defined, let’s use it as part of a story – your purpose story.  Tomorrow, I’ll share with you an example of a powerful purpose story.  We’ll then work together to craft your purpose story, to help you bring your purpose to life.

“I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned.”Clayton Christensen, late professor at Harvard Business School and bestselling author

For More Information: 

You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Identify Your Unique Gifts – Part 1 of 3

Six months into the global health pandemic and many of us are restless. It’s an uneasy time. We want to go back to normal and resume our lives like we did, prior to mid-March.

In so many areas of life, it feels like there is little we can control.

Last week, while listening to Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Radio on SiriusXM, I heard for the first time an Uncle Kracker song, No Time to Be Sober. I was amused and a couple of the lines from the song struck me.

I used to crack a beer and throw on CMT,

But now I’m sipping vodka with the CDC.

The song continued:

This ain’t no time to be sober.

There’s a time and place to hide your face,

And I got nothin’ but time to waste,

This ain’t no time to be sober.

The song is humorous, but the message, of uncertainty and an altered state during a dark time, hits a little too close to home for me.

Everyone is experiencing it to some degree. We may be worried for ourselves, our loved ones, friends and co-workers. We’re feeling it on multiple fronts – concerned about health, work, finances, school re-openings, COVID restrictions and the political division created by all of the misinformation from our president about the pandemic. We miss our friends and family. We miss our places of worship, going to a ball game, traveling and gathering with our friends and families.

When this pandemic ends, I don’t want to reflect on it as a period when I chose to waste time because I had “nothin’ but time to waste.” That isn’t uplifting to me, and likely not to you, either.

What about you? If you feel angst and uncertainty, what do you say we take back what we can control?

We have a choice. We can control our minds. We can control what goes into our minds. Limiting the 24-hour continuous negative news cycle and social media. Limiting the binge watching of Tiger King and other inane, mindless shows. We must guard our minds from trash.

Secondly, we must feed our minds.  With positive content that will nourish our minds. Inspiring stories, reading good books, learning new useful content, journaling, writing and sharing uplifting stories with one another.  We consciously feed our minds with positive thoughts and energy.  Bestselling author John Ortberg writes, “What makes people the way they are is the way they think. Think great thoughts! People who live great lives, think great thoughts!”

So, let’s take care of our minds. Then we operate with purpose – even during a pandemic.

If you were interviewed by NBC News anchor Lester Holt, in front of a live audience of 12 million people, to describe your purpose in life – not a summary of your job description or your company’s purpose – could you deliver it in a sentence or two with clarity and conviction?

If you answered “no” or “not sure,” you’ve got plenty of company. It’s been reported by Gallup that 70% of leaders don’t know their purpose. That number is likely even higher in the general population.

What exactly is meant by the word, “purpose”?

Purpose is the overarching principle that gives your life meaning.  It’s a forward-pointing arrow, that gives you clarity and helps you get out of bed in the morning.

You can’t be fired or retire from your purpose. A pandemic can’t derail your purpose.

The pursuit of purpose is biological. It’s programmed into your DNA. Your brain has a “seeking system” that encourages you to explore, learn and find meaning.  Your brain is wired to want to know, understand and experience purpose and the positive emotions that go along with it. You’re wired to be simultaneously driven toward something and pulled to it. So, defining your purpose is a human need.

While operating on purpose won’t answer all the questions you’re wrestling with today in these turbulent times, it will provide you clarity and serve as your Northstar for your life. You’ll know where you are headed. It gets you out of the mode of surviving and on to the path to thriving.

If you haven’t clarified your life’s purpose, how about you and I work together for the next three days – for a three-part series on purpose – and get you clear about and living on purpose?

Here’s the good news. Your life purpose is inside of you, just waiting to be released. You’ve got to find it. You’ll need to mine for it. I’ll show you how.

My good friend and client, Dave Hemink, CEO of Nonin Medical, a medical device company that provides critical products in the fight against COVID-19 says, “Your purpose is deep inside you; it is there.  It’s up to each person to find it.”

Viktor Frankl, bestselling author, renown psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, experienced unspeakably harsh conditions during his three years in Auschwitz. Frankl lost his wife, brother, father and mother during the Holocaust.  The author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl wrote, “Man’s search for meaning (purpose) is the primary motivation in life. (Defining your purpose is) the most important activity for your development. With it, we can survive even the worst conditions. It gives us meaning in life.”

Your purpose is to make a positive difference in the world – however you define your purpose.  When you operate on purpose, you create an impact. Creating impact is a strategy for playing offense with your life. Impact is defined as having a strong, powerful effect or influence on a situation or a person.

You’ll need to do some reflection work, to answer the questions posed, so grab your journal or a pad of paper and pen, answer the questions to the best of your ability and do the work. If you don’t do the work, you won’t see the results.

The three steps for finding your purpose and living on purpose are:

  1. Identify your unique gifts;
  2. Mine for and discover your purpose;
  3. Write and share your purpose story;

 

Step 1: What’s Your Unique Gift?

Each of us comes into this world with a unique gift. It’s a personal characteristic you are endowed with, even if you don’t know exactly what that gift is.

The requirement for living a life of purpose and impact is to know and apply your gift. Applying your gift for a purpose greater than you allows you to impact others and make an impact on the world. What’s your unique gift?

Here are a few questions to reflect on to get clear about your unique gift:

Who are you?

 Describe yourself in just a few words. What descriptors would you use? Examples might include that you are a loving husband, a passionate artist, a committed leader of others, a healer of the body and soul, a matriarch of the tribe, a faithful friend. So, in just a few words, describe yourself.

What is it that people come to you for?

 What are you naturally good at—so good that other people compliment you? When others consult you for advice, what do they ask you about? They may say, “You are so good at that!” And you may not even realize what you do and how you do it that makes this characteristic a special, unique gift. You may minimize the gift or even take it for granted. Or it may seem like everyone can do it, so you don’t think twice about its uniqueness. When others come to you and ask, “How do you do that?” you can rest assured that it is a valuable gift. You find the gift comes naturally and you apply the gift unconsciously. What is your gift?

What would others miss?

 Survey your close friends, work colleagues, and family members, and ask them, “What do you see as my three greatest gifts? And what would you miss if I were no longer here?” How would they respond? What do you think they would say? Write it down.

They may ask “Is there something wrong?” Or, “What’s up with you?” as those are admittedly questions you don’t get asked every day. So, when you ask, you’ll want to start by sharing with them their greatest gifts, and what you would miss if they were no longer here. It’s a wonderful way to demonstrate what that person means to you and your love for them. By sharing with them their gifts, you appreciate their uniqueness and honor them.

What do you do that feels effortless and gives you energy?

 When you give your gift, it feels effortless. Far from expending your energy, the use of your gift renews your energy. You give it naturally to others, and you give it often. What is the gift?

Hopefully, you have several gifts that you’ve identified with one particular gift emerging as the one that is unique. Can you identify your number one unique gift?

If you are still struggling, request the input of others who are close to you. Others often have a clearer view of your special gifts.

Based on your reflections, what is your unique gift?

As you gain clarity of your unique gift, can you create a gift statement that describes what you are called to do to apply your gift? Here are a few examples:

  • My gift is transparency and genuineness. I use my gift to help others, sharing my emotions and vulnerabilities to build trust and create a degree of calmness with those I meet.
  • My gift is recognizing and focusing on what others do well, so I can help them apply both personally and professionally to optimize the impact of their gifts.
  • Time and patience are my gifts, which I use to help those around me—family, friends, and strangers.
  • As one who navigates and guides people down the river of life, I assist new widows as they transition from heartbreak and loss to a future of hope and possibility.

Frank Pleticha created his gift statement: “Through my gift of empathetic and active listening, I help channel resources and contacts to the broken person sitting in front of me.” For more on Frank’s unique gift and gift statement, you can read his story.  http://theboltongroup.com/not-on-my-watch/

Now it’s your turn.

What is your unique gift statement?

Congratulations! You’ve now landed on your unique gift and gift statement– the gifts that make you special, a one-of-a-kind. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? You bring a uniqueness that no one else in the world brings. Now, you know what it is.

As you’ve defined it, you get to apply your gift to the opportunities and situations that come your way.

How will you apply your gift more often in the future?

Tomorrow look for my post, You Need a Purpose During the Pandemic: Mine for and Discover Your Purpose – Part 2 of 3, where we’ll discover how to use your unique gift in identifying and living by purpose.

 

For more information:

4 New Rules for Leading with Impact

As a leader, it’s your job to get results, to create value and impact in a sustainable way. Your job is to inspire your followers by your example. To get everyone aligned. To help each person become their best. Do these things and you are a value creator. You create great impact. Fail to do these things and you are a value destroyer.

As a leader, are you performing like this? Are you a value creator or a value destroyer?

Consider these statistics about the state of leadership today:

  • Fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose.[i]
  • Only 49% agreed they get to use their strengths to do what they do best every day.[ii]
  • 58% of workers trust strangers more than their own boss.[iii]
  • 60% of workers have left a job or would leave a job over a bad boss.[iv]
  • 65% of workers say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.[v]
  • 70% of employees are disengaged at work.[vi]
  • 75% say their bad boss is the worst part of their workplace.[vii]
  • 79% don’t feel appreciated by the boss.[viii]
  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress. The main source of stress at work is their boss.[ix]

These are damning findings about the state of leadership. These shared perceptions point to a leadership crisis. If you are a leader, the odds are you’ve got a problem. Flip these statements around and try them on yourself? What would your people say about you?

To compound the leadership effectiveness problem, there is a leadership shortage. With baby boomers retiring and leaving the workforce, companies are worried about the readiness of other leaders to succeed the departing ones.

In the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte reported: “Eighty percent of executives rate leadership as a high priority for their organizations. But only forty-one percent think their organizations are ready to meet their leadership requirements.”[x] A leadership crisis combined with a leadership shortage is a disaster. But it is also an opportunity for you, if you are committed to becoming the best leader you can be and creating great impact.

How’s your self-awareness? Most leaders are unaware of how they impact others. Seventy-five percent of leaders think they are in the top ten percent of leadership. That’s statistically impossible. The bottom fifty percent of the class at Harvard Medical School couldn’t be in the top ten percent of their profession either. For leaders, this means sixty-five percent are delusional. When was the last time you completed a 360-degree feedback assessment of yourself?

You may have been a leader for many years. You may be smart with a high IQ. You may have considerable expertise and experience in your industry. You may have an MBA from a top-tier school. You may point to your track record of promotions and results and believe you’ve been successful. Perhaps. Those are the hallmarks of twentieth century success. What made you successful in the past is no assurance you’ll be successful in the future, if you don’t reinvent. The rules for leading have changed.

Would your followers say you don’t have a sense of your individual purpose? Do your team members trust strangers more than you? Do they feel unappreciated? Are they disengaged? Do they suffer from stress you have induced?

If you answered “yes’ to any of the questions above, you are failing as a leader. Any question that you have answered “yes” is due to the way people are treated by you and the environment you create.

Where do you stand?

As the leader, you’ve been given a gift. The gift of leadership is a privilege. When you lead others, and do it well, it is the most noble of professions. It’s a responsibility and an opportunity. There is no other occupation where you can help so many others learn and grow. It provides you, as the leader, the opportunity and the responsibility for making an indelible contribution to the lives of your followers. As a bonus, you get to be recognized for your team’s achievements and impact when you succeed.

To thrive and flourish in these times, in today’s hypercompetitive, volatile and uncertain world, where virtually every company is reinventing its business model and the way it operates due to technological disruptions, relentless competition, shifting demographics, and generational preferences, you have to reinvent yourself. Unfortunately, few leaders are reinventing themselves. If you aren’t reinventing yourself, learning and growing continuously, you’ve got a problem. Your career, your earnings, your dreams—they are all at risk.

Save yourself, and you will save a thousand around you.”

Saint Seraphim of Sarov

To reinvent as a leader is to consciously transform how you operate, connect, and lead so you can stay relevant and energized, capable of creating maximum value.

The question is, how do you do this?

You start by serving your people extraordinarily well. To help them be successful at work and in their lives.

Here are the new rules of leadership:

  1. Your #1 Role is to Lead by Example

You dictate all behavior, not by your orders or mandates, but by your example.

Why is this so important? Because people learn by mimicking. It’s a “monkey see, monkey do” world. As the leader, everyone is always looking at you. You are always on stage. People don’t go as fast as they can. They only go as fast you, the leader. Your speed determines the speed of your pack. That is why you have to be excellent in everything you do.

As the leader, you have to be the most positive, the most purposeful, the most passionate, the most productive, and the most impactful. You need to be the most disciplined, the most consistent, the most authentic, the most service-driven, the most committed to learning, the most committed to growth, and the most committed to reinvention.

Think about Usain Bolt, who won the gold medal and set the world record in the 100 meters in the 2012 London Olympics. He ran the 100 meters in only 9.63 seconds. Not only did Bolt set the record, but the silver and bronze medalists both finished the race under 9.8 seconds, the first time in history for the top three finishers. When Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin, the silver and bronze medalists, were asked how they ran so fast, they answered, “Trying to catch Usain.” Bolt didn’t just win the 100 meters in 2012. He won gold in the 100 meters and 200 meters in 2008, 2012 and 2016. He is the only sprinter in history to have ever done so.[xi]

The speed of Usain Bolt—the leader—determined the speed of the pack. He set the pace, the standard, for the competition. He raised everyone’s games. His competitors ran faster because of him. As the leader of your group, you have to do the same.

Do you hold yourself to the highest standard, like Usain Bolt did in the sprints? Do you expect excellence of yourself? You must hold yourself to the highest standard first before you can hold your team members accountable for excellence.

When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant in her pre-flight instructions reminds you that in case of an emergency, you must put the oxygen mask on your face first before helping others. The same is true for creating impact. You’ll need to gain clarity of your purpose, gifts, strengths, and passions first. You will need to recraft your role and turbocharge your productivity first so that you can create great value and impact. Then, show and coach others so they discover and excel, too.

People want to commit to a purpose, to people, profit, and the planet. People want to be inspired. Leaders who operate with purpose, passion, and productivity are a company’s force multiplier. They are the untapped source of value for most companies because only a few leaders are operating to create value and impact. Most are managing for output and maybe engagement.

Are you leading like the leader you would want to follow? Where do you need to improve, learn, grow, and reinvent? What commitments have you made to become your best and create great impact?

  1. Reinvent Yourself

To reinvent yourself as a leader, start by creating and articulating your individual purpose, your values and then living them with integrity.

Show your people how to connect their purpose with the collective purpose of your business. They likely don’t know their gifts (what others perceive) and talents. They may not know what they’re blessed with. Help them discover their purpose, gifts, and talents. They’ve likely lost touch with their passions. How about helping them find their passions?

Leaders with purpose who communicate this purpose to their followers inspire their people to be[xii]:

  • 8 times more likely to stay at the company;
  • 2 times more likely to have higher job satisfaction; and
  • 70% more satisfied with their jobs.

Virtually everyone wants purpose and meaning in their work and life.

DeVry U Career Advisory Board studied millennials’ attitudes regarding their work. They found that seventy-one percent of millennials ranked finding meaningful work as one of the top three key elements they used to evaluate their success. Thirty percent reported it as the single most important element. It was also reported that they were willing to sacrifice more traditional career comforts in pursuit of more meaningful work.[xiii]

Once people have a sense of their individual purpose, how about helping them express their purpose through their work and showing them how to identify and apply their passions and energy? As purpose is defined and they get more passionate about their work, how about showing them how to be more productive using the OKR productivity system to get more done with less effort? So they can create greater value.

People who aren’t purposeful, passionate, and productive simply don’t increase their value or their company’s value.

Need more proof? Deloitte Insights reported that “purpose-driven” companies tend to have thirty percent higher productivity and forty percent higher levels of retention.

  1. Get Everyone Aligned

The leader makes the difference between success and failure as to whether the team, company, or country succeeds or fails. As the leader, you are the one who can draw out extraordinary efforts of people or you can be the cause of your team’s downfall. High performance is only made possible through alignment—it’s your job. A talented team of people that lacks alignment and focus loses.

As work becomes increasingly digitized and information is ubiquitous, the role of managers and leaders as coordinators of work has largely disappeared. The challenge now is creating alignment as you are leading virtual teams, working under flexible arrangements, managing multi-generational and diverse groups, and supporting the flow of knowledge.

How do you align? You get alignment by everyone understanding the vision, purpose, and values of the company. Everyone must understand how their role contributes to the greater purpose of the company. Get everyone on the same page about the Objectives and Key Results to be achieved, and also how their OKRs support the company. Communicate how decisions are made and who has decision rights. Help your team members understand the impact their contributions have on the company. This will foster a feeling of purpose, belonging, and connectedness. Practice transparency. That’s what alignment is all about.

Few employees are adding the value they are capable of creating. It’s your job to help them contribute more, to add more value, and to become better versions of themselves.

  1. Help People Become Their Best

When you encourage your people to define and communicate their purposes, ignite their passions, and turbocharge their productivity, you are on your way. Help them grow professionally and personally. Understand and help them achieve their dreams.

Matthew Kelly, author of The Dream Manager, writes, “If you want employees to contribute heart and mind to the enterprise, then you must commit heart and mind to helping them achieve their dreams—to develop as persons who not only serve today’s customer with verve but are in a position to move on and move forward in the crazy-getting-crazier world in which they are imbedded.”[xiv]

“The key to creating an ownership culture is getting to people’s hearts. You have to get to people’s pride.”

Joe Kaeser, CEO, Siemens

Tom Peters writes in his brilliant book, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Works and Jobs that Last, about the importance of a leader helping others become their best versions of themselves. He shares his Corporate Mandate 2018: “Your principal moral obligation as a leader is to develop the skill set of every one of the people in your charge (temporary as well as semi-permanent) to the maximum extent of your abilities and in ways that are consistent with their ‘revolutionary’ needs in the years ahead. The bonus: This is also the #1 profit maximization strategy!”[xv]

Is that your principal moral obligation as a leader?

Here are two questions for you to consider: 

Does everyone who works under you grow as people?

While working under you, do they become better, wiser, more purposeful, passionate, more energetic, more productive, and better able to create greater impact?

A powerful way to connect with and coach your followers is to implement a regular meeting to build individual responsibility, the W-5 (Work in 5 directions) meeting. A W-5 session offers a powerful opportunity to promote self-accountability and professional development. The five directions of work are: customer, direct reports, peers, manager, and self-development.

When you hold these sessions every week – or at least – every other week, in the right spirit, you’ll hold your team members accountable only when they don’t hold themselves accountable. The goals of these meetings are to develop your team members, help them learn and grow, commit to constant improvement and commit to achieving maximum impact.[xvi]

The purpose of this forty-five minute meeting is to discuss the team member’s OKR performance, and how she’s growing and learning. It is the team member’s responsibility to schedule and lead the meeting. She explains how she is meeting and exceeding the requirements in each of the five directions, and a plan to correct any deficiencies. She brings up specific co-workers with whom she frequently interacts, the quality of the interaction, and the strength of the working relationship. She covers successes and failures, shortcomings and accomplishments.

The two of you identify specific areas in which you can assist. The spirit is open and non-judgmental, and the coaching is honest and collaborative. Look for ways to encourage, support, and recognize her. After the team member nears the end of the discussion with you, ask how you can help her achieve results—support her. Ask questions such as the following:

  • What are you working on? How are your OKRs coming along?
  • What’s getting in your way?
  • What are the roadblocks you face?
  • How can I best help you be more successful?
  • How are you growing and developing to achieve your career goals?

“Three things every human being wants most: to be seen, heard, and understood.”

Oprah Winfrey

Think team members don’t want W-5 sessions? According to PwC, 60% of employees—and 72% of millennial employees—desire feedback daily or weekly. A study conducted by Adobe showed that 80% of office workers want immediate, in-the-moment feedback.[xvii]

A Workhuman 2019 global employee survey, “The Future of Work is Human,” revealed that team members who check in with their manager at least weekly are more than twice as likely to trust their manager.[xviii] W-5s are the linchpin of continuous performance management, the leader’s moment for rich conversation, feedback, and recognition.

In addition to promoting self-accountability and strengthening alignment, the W-5 meeting gives you as a leader, a power platform for recognizing and energizing your people. Perhaps no human need is more neglected in the workplace than feeling valued. The need for significance in work is a manifestation of our inborn hunger for meaning in our lives. People have a genuine hunger to be recognized, respected, and genuinely cared about. That’s your job, leader. As they operate by purpose and perform, remember what people really want. To feel good and validated. There are two things people can’t give themselves: personal attention and appreciation. The number one reason companies lose top talent is that they didn’t feel appreciated.

“The only thing more powerful than sex and money is praise and recognition.”

Mary Kay Ash

As the leader, are your recognizing and appreciating your people sufficiently?

Twenty-five percent? Or one hundred percent? Think about each of your team members. Most of them can probably “meet expectations” with two hands tied behind their back. They can easily perform ordinary, satisfactory work. That takes maybe 25% of their effort.

What about the other 75%? Are you getting the other 75% of their capability, too?

Getting the other 75% is voluntary and is entirely based on you. It’s based on how well you inspire them. How do you get the other 75%? Give them a challenge. Invite them to operate with purpose to create a great impact and to tackle huge dreams. Coach, praise and recognize them.

Whose List Will You Be On?

One last thought, when the people who have worked under you put their list of “Best Bosses” together, who’s list will you be on? What is your legacy in the collective minds of your followers – both current and past? Is that legacy what you’d like it to be? Would they say you are among the best leaders they ever worked for? Did you help them learn, grow, and become their best as people? Did you help them live better lives? Did you touch their lives indelibly?

Reinvent yourself, leader. Lead by example. Get all aligned. Help others become the best versions of themselves. Do this and you’ll be a massive value creator. You’ll create great impact.

 

From Appendix 2 of Reinvent Your Impact: Unleashing Purpose, Passion and Productivity to Thrive

[i] “From Purpose to Impact, Nick Scott and Scott Snook,” Harvard Business Review, May 2014,

https://hbr.org/2014/05/from-purpose-to-impact.

[ii] Only 49% agreed…, “2019 Human Capital Trends Study,” Deloitte Insights, 2019,

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/cz/Documents/human-capital/cz-hc-trends-reinvent-with-human-focus.pdf.

[iii] “Workplace Trust – 58% Trust Strangers More Than Their Own Boss,”

https://www.onemodel.co/blog/workplace-trust.

[iv] “Your best employees are leaving,” Randstad USA, August 28, 2018

https://rlc.randstadusa.com/press-room/press-releases/your-best-employees-are-leaving-but-is-it-personal-or-practical.

[v] “65% of workers say they’d take a new boss over a pay raise,” Ty Kiisel, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2012/10/16/65-of-americans-choose-a-better-boss-over-a-raise-heres-why/#3afbe44176d2.

[vi] “70% of employees say they are disengaged at work. Here’s how to motivate them,” World Economic Forum, November 4, 2016,

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/70-of-employees-say-they-are-disengaged-at-work-heres-how-to-motivate-them/.

[vii] 75% say their bad boss is the worst part of their workplace, “8 Unsettling Facts About Bad Bosses,” HuffPost, December 6, 2017,

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/8-unsettling-facts-about-_b_6219958.

[viii] “79 Percent of Employees Quit Because They Are Not Appreciated,” Todd Nordstrom, Inc., September 19, 2017,

https://www.inc.com/todd-nordstrom/79-percent-of-employees-quit-because-theyre-not-ap.html.

[ix] “42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics,” The American Institute of Stress, September 25, 2019,

https://www.stress.org/42-worrying-workplace-stress-statistics.

[x] “Leading the social enterprise: Reinvent with a human focus,” “2019 Human Capital Trends Study,” Deloitte Insights, 2019,

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/cz/Documents/human-capital/cz-hc-trends-reinvent-with-human-focus.pdf.

[xi] “Athletics at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Men’s 100 meters,” Wikipedia,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_2012_Summer_Olympics_–_Men%27s_100_metres.

[xii] “Leaders with purpose who communicate this purpose to their followers…” The Human Era @Work: Findings from the Energy Project and Harvard Business Review, 2014,

https://uli.org/wp-content/uploads/ULI-Documents/The-Human-Era-at-Work.pdf.

[xiii] How the Recession Shaped Millennial and Hiring Manager Attitudes About Millennials’ Future Careers, Career Advisory Board, DeVry University, 2011,

https://www.careeradvisoryboard.org/content/dam/dvu/www_careeradvisoryboard_org/Future-of-Millennial-Careers-Report.pdf.

[xiv] The Dream Machine, Matthew Kelly, Hachette Book Group.

[xv] The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Works and Jobs that Last, Tom Peters, Random House.

[xvi] “Torpedo Annual Reviews Try W-5 Instead,” Chuck Bolton, Upsize Magazine,

http://www.upsizemag.com/business-builders/torpedo-yearly-reviews.

[xvii] “5 Employee Stats You Need to See,” Maren Hogan, February 2016,

https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/5-Employee-Feedback-Stats-That-You-Need-to-See.

[xviii] The Future of Work is Human: Findings from the Workhuman Analytics & Research Institute Survey, 2019,

https://www.workhuman.com/press-releases/White_Paper_The_Future_of_Work_is_Human.pdf.