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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.

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.

Positively Impact Others in the Chaos of Life

When the men’s small group that Dave Hemink is a member of collectively decided to mine for and define their individual life purposes, just over two years ago, little did Dave know how valuable that exercise would be in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis.

At the time, Dave was a division president of a $1B global publicly-traded medical device company. As a seasoned leader with twenty-five years of experience running companies, he knew a lot about leadership. The father of two teenage girls and married to his amazing and beautiful wife, Kristin, for nearly twenty years, Dave had a loving family and an important job. Once Dave’s purpose was clarified, it suddenly opened an entirely different way of thinking.

Purpose is the overarching guiding principle that gives your life meaning.  Most people haven’t clarified their purpose. Together with the other men in his group, Dave reflected on some deep questions, his life experiences, his values and gifts.  Dave said, “We looked within and clarified our purposes. Your purpose is deep within you, it is there. It’s up to each person to find it.”

After thoughtful consideration, Dave defined his purpose as: “I live life to break barriers, create paths and enable people to live purposeful lives, that positively impacts others, while living in the chaos of life.”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit the US in full force in March of 2020, we all experienced chaos in our lives. Dave included. Dave is the chief executive officer of Nonin Medical, a Plymouth, MN-based medical device company, that has been a world leader in innovating and manufacturing pulse oximetry systems for 35 years.  The mission of the company is to improve the quality of people’s lives throughout the world by expanding the capabilities of noninvasive measurements.

The pandemic and resulting public health crisis have created a shortage of pulse oximeters, which have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a critical clinical therapy in treating COVID-19 patients, citing: “Oxygen therapy is a major treatment intervention for patients with severe COVID-19. All countries should work to optimize the availability of pulse oximeters and medical oxygen systems.” Dave and the Nonin team provide the equipment needed for healthcare workers and patients on the frontlines of this global pandemic.

“In the past few months, Nonin has seen a dramatic increase in demand for its mobile pulse oximeters. I don’t think anybody could have predicted what we are seeing today”, said Dave. “We’ve been fighting this from day one and the global demand for pulse oximetry products globally has been unprecedented,” Dave further stated. Nonin Medical’s executive chairman, Phil Isaacson, added, “The people who have been buying from us in the past are now trying to buy 10 times more. We can’t keep up.”

Dave and the Nonin team are literally working around the clock, expanding manufacturing capabilities and strengthening their supply chain to provide pulse oximeters to healthcare professionals worldwide to diagnose and treat COVID-19. “We have product lines that are up 2,600 percent,” reported Hemink.

Dave said his purpose helps center him during this unprecedented period. “My purpose is front and center now. Your purpose is magnified at different times of your life. You live it – it is embodied in you in times like these,” said Dave.

“As a leader, you have a lot of tools at your disposal, I compare it to a mechanic’s Craftsman red tool chest. Some of the tools you use daily, some of the tools you will never use, until one day, you have a unique job that requires a unique tool.  That is where we are today.  The COVID-19 crisis has our team reaching so far in the back corners of the tool chest.  That chaos component is amazingly real. We’ve got supply chain issues and challenged suppliers. We are an essential employer and we’re committed to keeping our team members safe and well. We have customers who are demanding and desperately in need of product. Every hour it is something different. What I’ve learned is you live your purpose – and that tool chest – to guide you. To provide the team with the path”, Dave continued. “I think of purpose as the grout between the tiles. It holds everything together.”

When asked how he uses his purpose to lead his team, Dave replied, “I’m using it to create calm during the chaos, so I can give our team members the confidence to act. They are doing heroic things. The definition of a hero is an ordinary person in an extraordinary time who takes action. That describes our team members.  They are having to really stretch – sometimes doing things they’ve never done – for the greater good.  Figuring out as we go, as we’re driving 120 miles per hour. For example, helping our suppliers open shuttered factories in the Philippines and India. Finding new sources of raw materials to meet our customers’ demands. Figuring out how to process and ship orders even faster.  Working with the FDA proactively and creatively to accelerate new product approvals. We’re doing this and more, all in real time. I couldn’t be any prouder of the team and the amazing work they are doing.”

If meeting the dramatic demand for Nonin products wasn’t challenging enough, while ramping up their production capabilities, Nonin Medical has had to deal with additional chaos, when one of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota was an employee of the company. “Suddenly, that individual, as well as 10% of the Nonin team, were in proactive quarantine, just when Nonin needed every hand on deck. Thankfully, no other team member to date has tested positive and the individual who tested positive has recovered, is healthy and back to work,” said Dave.

Christine Horton, Nonin’s vice president of global marketing states, “Great leaders and individuals grow from adversity and chaos. I see Dave as someone who is positively impacting others through the chaos of life. He’s navigating the company, the leadership team and individuals through this adversity in order to better everyone. It hasn’t been about Dave, about his title or any of that. He could have any title and people would follow him. He doesn’t need to lead with his title. They are following because they feel empowered when they follow him. He’s navigated us through so many obstacles, where we could have had failures, we’ve found opportunities. We are finding solutions. He’s navigating us to make the entire company better and very, very rapidly. In a very short time.”

“The character of a leader is defined in the time of a crisis. This is who we are and what Nonin is all about. It’s a new frontier and we need new solutions. We’re flexing our adaptable muscle for those on the frontlines. This can be – and will be – our finest hour. Having a clearly defined purpose is my rudder in the chaos of life, so I can provide the leadership all our stakeholders desperately need,” Dave said.

When leaders lead with a clear purpose, everyone benefits. It serves as your North Star, the overarching principle that gives your life meaning. Would you want to be led by someone without a purpose? What if that leader, without a clear purpose, was you?

Leading with purpose provides a path, that positively impacts others in the chaos of life. In today’s unprecedented time, while leading Nonin Medical, Dave Hemink is creating great impact.

“Not On My Watch!”


Frank Pleticha, a marketing research manager at a financial services firm in Minneapolis, enjoyed his job, but he wouldn’t have gone so far as to call it his purpose.

He had recently attended a seminar where the speaker challenged the attendees with what Frank described as a life-changing question: “What gives you juice?”At that time, Frank struggled to answer the question.

A few months later, a friend invited him to attend a human trafficking panel discussion at a local college. Frank described the event as a “complete eye-opener.” While Frank had heard of sex trafficking in India and Thailand, he was shocked to hear how prevalent it was across the US. The convergence of major expressways and an international airport, combined with close proximity to the rural Upper Midwest and other factors, earned the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area the dubious distinction of being one of the leading metropolitan areas in the US for sex trafficking.

Minneapolis Police Department Sergeant Grant Snyder’s remarked, “Don’t think sex trafficking is a problem in another part of town. It’s taking place within two blocks from here. Right now. It’s happening in your comfortable suburb where you live. And the kids who attend your junior high schools and high schools are being targeted. That’s a fact and that’s how insidious this problem is.”

Frank learned that human trafficking is growing faster than any other criminal industry. That commercial sexual exploitation of children victimizes two million children globally. Additionally, this modern slavery has an annual revenue of $32 billion, exceeding the annual revenues of Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and the National Football League – combined!

Frank volunteered for anti-trafficking training, attended more seminars and events, and watched documentaries such as Nefarious: Merchants of Soulsand The Whistleblower. As he heard the pain of the victims, their sense of loss, their lack of self-esteem and hopelessness, their stories broke his heart. And learning the average age of those forced into prostitution in the US is thirteen, he was on fire. This revelation ignited Frank’s passion to do something. He proclaimed, “No, God! Not on my watch”and he began to act.

He connected with Trafficking Justice, a Minnesota-based volunteer organization that shares facts about how people are exploited today. The organization brings hope and healing to victims. Frank learned that in order to slow the growth of sex trafficking, three audiences need to be addressed: victims, traffickers, and buyers.

Frank sees his purpose of eradicating this injustice in Minnesota similarly to how William Wilberforce, a British politician and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade in the 1800s, saw his mission. He borrowed Wilberforce’s quote to British Parliament, when he speaks to others on the evil and pervasiveness of sex trafficking in Minnesota, the US, and world. “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Frank spoke to the pastoral team and members of his church, Grace Fellowship in Brooklyn Park, to build awareness. Through a series of events and sheer persistence, things began to move. Frank calls the shift similar to turning a giant, heavy flywheel. It takes a lot of effort to get it moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long enough period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.

While Frank has been a catalyst, one person can’t do it alone. He’s building the team at Grace Fellowship and elsewhere to take a multi-faceted approach to addressing victims, traffickers and buyers. As Frank has mobilized his church’s talent, time and financial resources to focus on this problem, he speaks of a future vision, ideally five to ten years out, when sex trafficking in Minnesota is discussed in the past tense.

Over the past few years, Frank’s eyes have been opened to a world that he’d never seen. It’s changed the course of his life. A man of deep faith, Frank firmly believes this crisis screams for a Christian response of compassion for the victims, justice for the buyers and traffickers, combined with redemption for all. His hope is to see a recovery ministry, with each service filled with people going through the recovery process and having hope for a better tomorrow.

Frank’s goal is to bring hope to the victims and to end sex trafficking in Minnesota. He’s not doing it for the fame and adoration. Even if no one knows his name, he yearns for the day when he hopes to hear Jesus Christ say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The crisis of modern-day sex slavery doesn’t need interested observers, it needs incurable fanatics. Frank is an incurable fanatic.[i]

Frank’s 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.

Frank’s purpose is: Being a channel for those in broken situations to get connected to the Healer.

The impact Frank is aiming for in a decade: “To eradicate sex trafficking in Minnesota and beyond!”

[i]Frank Pleticha interview by Chuck Bolton, 2019.