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Encouraging Purpose in Your Children

Eighteen months into the pandemic, it may be more important than ever to encourage purpose in our children.

Forty years ago, after graduating high school, you either went to work at the factory, joined the military, enrolled in vocational school to learn a trade, or entered college. The options were pretty straightforward and there was an implicit “deal” of what you could expect from each choice. Graduates made their decision and could more or less follow their paths to a middle-class life.

Today, young people have limitless options. That is both exciting and terrifying. What’s missing is they’ve got no clear answers. As young people think a lot about their futures, this lack of clarity too often creates anxiety and depression. They see a volatile and uncertain world that feels scary and threatening.

For far too many youngsters, the stress is too much to handle. The National Institutes of Health reports one in three of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. Other studies show a sharp rise in depression among teens and young adults over the last decade.[i]

While there are a number of reasons that drive the increase in anxiety and depression of young people, worry about the future contributes to their decline in mental well-being.

If ever there was a time for parents to get connected with their kids and help them, it’s now. This is where parents need to step in. An excellent source for parents and caring adults is William Damon’s book, The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life. Damon is a Stanford University professor on adolescence.[ii]

Damon writes, “In our interviews and surveys, only about one in five young people in the 12-26-year age range express a clear vision of where they want to go, what they want to accomplish in life, and why. The largest portion of those we interviewed – almost 60% – may have engaged in some potentially purposeful activities, or they may have developed some vague aspirations; but they do not have any real commitment to such activities or any realistic plans for pursuing their aspirations. The remaining portion of today’s youth population – almost a quarter of those we interviewed – express no aspirations at all. In some cases, they claim that they see no point in acquiring any.”

He describes four groups of young people.

The Disengaged express no interest in purpose, and they made up 20% of the sample of twelve hundred young people between 12 and 26.

The Dreamers consisted of 25% of the sample. Dreamers had ideas about purposes but had done little or nothing to actively try out their ideas.

The Dabblers were those who had engaged in some activities that were potentially purposeful but showed few signs of committing themselves to these pursuits over time. Dabblers represented 31% of the sample.

Finally, those who found something meaningful to dedicate themselves to, sustained this interest over a period of time, and expressed a clear sense of what they were trying to accomplish and why, made up 20% of the group. He described this group as the Purposeful.

If you have young people in the world you care about, which group do you believe they fall into today?

As a parent or caring adult, there is an opportunity you have to assist your children discover their purpose.

The hectic lifestyles of many parents spill into the lives of children. With everyone on the go, family interactions fray and face-to-face connections decrease. When parents do try to help their kids, their suggestions are usually tactical in nature, offering no strategy. Statements like, “Get good grades,” don’t provide useful direction or clarity to the “Why?” and “What kind of work will I do when I get older?”

Damon believes that if young people had a goal in mind and then went to college or other post-high school training with that purpose in mind, taking classes to prepare themselves for achieving it, saying, “Here’s what I need to do in order to fulfill my dream,” that would be a much superior approach than simply saying, “Get the degree and figure out why later.”

When young people have a destination, the right decisions along their journey become clearer. Without purpose, being a good kid can feel like an arbitrary list of things to do and not do. With purpose, doing the right thing is clear because it’s in service of a greater goal.

Damon writes, ““Once a young person has taken on a purposeful quest, his or her personality begins to be transformed by the activities and events of the quest. Out of necessity, the youngster acquires such capacities as resourcefulness, persistence, know-how, and a tolerance of risk and temporary setback. Character virtues such as diligence, responsibility, confidence, and humility get a boost from the experience of making a commitment to a challenging purpose and seeing it through. What’s more, literacies of all kinds (verbal, mathematical, cultural) develop in ways that extend well beyond anything previously learned in the youngster’s home or classroom.”

What can you do to help young people discover their purpose?

Start by being a good role model. When you convey your individual purpose and your values, and how you chose those, that’s a great start. Share the meaning you get from your work. Your job does more than pay the bills. What is it that you do that makes the world a better place, contributes to the common good, or makes someone happy?

For instance, how did you know you wanted to raise a family? At what point did you know you wanted to be a marketing manager, a police officer, a principal, a __________? Share the meaningful experiences from your life and your setbacks that helped you gain this insight. Whatever your purpose is, discuss how you knew it was your calling and how it contributes to your everyday life satisfaction. When your children see you living a life of purpose, impact, and joy, they’ll be encouraged to do the same. Tell them your purpose story.

If you regret not following your dreams, don’t shy away from relaying those lessons learned to your children. This may help them gain knowledge from your experience.

Share with your children that what they do matters. While they get told what to do a lot at school and home, this will change over time. They have the personal power to make decisions and take actions. They will be able to make decisions and will be called on to make a difference. They can make the world a better place. If they don’t make a difference somewhere to someone, life isn’t going to feel very meaningful. The choices they make and the actions they take matter. People cannot have a sense of purpose until they know how much they matter. When young people have the confidence to know they matter, they can begin to imagine their purpose in life.

Realize you aren’t the creator of your child’s purpose. You don’t create purpose and passion for your kids any more than you can create their personality. What you can do is to gently ask questions about their opinions and interests. You can expose them to new things and see how they respond. You can introduce options. You can encourage them to go deeper to experience and learn more about topics that resonate. Pay attention to what drives them to keep learning. If a teen loves writing stories, and is challenged to write more to improve, encourage that passion. Their talent and interest could help them find a life of purpose that is right for them.

Create a safe environment for dialogue. Dinners, watching the news together, and trips in the car each offer organic situations that lend themselves to discussing topics that are important to your youngster. You can ask them why their topics of interest fascinate them. It’s better to have small, frequent conversations, too. This is a process, not a one and done discussion.

Avoid questions like “What do you want to do with your life?” Instead, ask non-intimidating questions such as, “When was a time you helped someone?” or “What do you think your best qualities are?” “What kinds of things do you really care about and why?” “What does it mean to have a good life?” “What does it mean to be a good person?”

Let your kids know they have unique gifts. Describe the gifts you see them possessing and have a dialogue with them to get them to hear their perceptions of their gifts. Explore ideas with them about how they might use their gifts at school, in extracurricular activities, at volunteering opportunities, and in the future.

Identify and discuss examples of purposeful young people. Sometimes it is useful to have an example or two of young people who have discovered their purpose. While everyone has their own path to discovering purpose, Damon’s book has several examples of young people who have followed their purposes and have made a difference. The story of Ryan Hreljac, was particularly inspiring.

Ryan learned at age 6 in school that many people in Africa had a hard time getting access to clean water. Ryan began doing chores to raise money to build a well, which led to other fund-raising activities. Within twelve months, he had raised $2,000, which was the cost to build a well. He sent the money to Water Can, and a well was drilled in northern Uganda, alongside a public school. Two years went by and he raised $61,000 to build wells. His story was picked up on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

His parents helped him set up a registered charity, Ryan’s Well Foundation, to educate school children about water issues and to get more people involved in fundraising and well digging. A number of years later, the foundation brought clean water to nearly 900,000 people in sixteen developing countries through nearly 1200 water and sanitation projects.

Not everyone will create a purpose like Ryan’s Well Foundation, which has such a far-reaching impact. Yet everyone can have a purpose that has an impact in the world, even in small ways. Educating and inspiring your child with stories like Ryan’s can be the spark that lights the flame.

Encourage volunteer work. Volunteer work is a wonderful way to finding something meaningful. When teens experience the personal satisfaction from doing something that makes a difference in the world, they develop their personal beliefs and values, which leads to healthy development and a sense of purpose. Resources such as DoSomething.org can connect teens to volunteer opportunities.

Introduce your children to trusted adults who can be mentors. If they express an interest in a profession or field, think of who you can introduce them to who has some experience in their area of interest. Maybe you can’t describe what it is like to be a trial lawyer – but your cousin, the trial lawyer can. Your doctor can speak to the process of preparing for and getting accepted to medical school and the path to becoming a physician, if that is an area of interest. Connecting them with trusted mentors outside the home is very powerful. Damon identified twelve youngsters who were highly purposeful in his book. Every one of them had a mentor outside the home.

Help them develop an entrepreneur’s mindset. Encourage an entrepreneurial attitude by supporting them in stepping outside their comfort zone into the world around them. Maybe it is an after-school club or activity, a part-time job, or exploring the local community with friends. Maybe it is to fundraise for a special cause, to sign up for a camp, or to study abroad. You never know what might stick. Think about taking a mindset that is about “offense” and not “defense.” It’s about developing a growth mindset with empowering beliefs. Encourage your child to take on challenges and healthy risks when trying new activities.

Damon writes, “Cultivating an entrepreneurial spirt means encouraging the following attitudes: 1. The ability to set goals and make realistic plans to accomplish them; 2. An optimistic, can-do attitude; 3. Persistence in the face of obstacles and difficulties; 4. A tolerance – or more, even an appetitive – for risk; 5. Resilience in the face of failure; 6. Determination to achieve measurable results; and 7. Resourcefulness and inventiveness in devising the means to achieve those results.”

Show optimism. Stay optimistic about their future while helping them be resilient. They will experience adversity along their journey. Their beliefs about adversity are what drives the consequences of the adversity. There is always a better way to look at a setback than as a failure. Setbacks are the lessons to get you closer to your purpose and desired destination. That’s a mindset of optimism and resilience.

Be patient. Discovering purpose is not a single event – it’s a process. Young people will go at their own pace. Remind them that life is an ongoing process of change. It’s OK not to have an answer right away on purpose, as it takes experience and time. Remind your youngsters that you are there to support them and love them no matter what.

While you can provide guidance on different routes to travel, and you can introduce options and allow exploration within safe limits, they’ll sort through choices to determine what is best for them. With your support and interest, they’ll discover their purpose in time. This process of encouraging purpose will put them on a path to creating a life of impact.

[i] Anxiety and Depression in Adolescence, 2017,

https://childmind.org/report/2017-childrens-mental-health-report/anxiety-depression-adolescence/.

[ii] The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life, William Damon, Free Press, 2008.

How Mike Sievert Fumbled T-Mobile’s Massive Security Breach Crisis: Mobile Provider CEO Fails The Three Rules of Crisis Management

A cyberattack that exposed the personal information of more than 53 million people, including names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers and driver’s license information of current and previous customers was reported to T-Mobile, the US’s second-largest mobile service provider, on August 13.  This is the fourth known data breach at T-Mobile since 2018.

On August 15, T-Mobile reported an investigation of a security breach was underway. On August 26, John Binns, a 21-year-old American living in Turkey, shared in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he was the hacker behind the security breach. Binns described his entry point into the cellphone carrier’s data center and how he accessed more than 100 servers. Binns said, “… their (T-Mobile) security is awful.”

Fourteen days after becoming aware of the massive security breach, and one day after the WSJ interview, CEO Mike Sievert finally went public on August 27. Sievert stated, “We didn’t live up to the expectations we have for ourselves to protect our customers.” Sievert’s public post on the company’s website included news of T-Mobile’s plan to partner with two consulting firms to prevent future cybersecurity disasters, a two year offer of free identity protection services and instructions for resetting PINs and passwords.

Nowhere in his public statement did Sievert explain why the breached confidential personal information was not encrypted. Nowhere in his public statement did Sievert – as CEO – take personal responsibility for the security breach.  Nowhere in his public statement did he acknowledge the inconvenience and potential pain his customers and former customers might suffer as a result of their private data being breached.

With 90 million customer accounts, the damage to the T-Mobile brand with this fourth breach in three years could be massive. The damage to Mike Sievert’s personal brand may also be massive. Time will tell.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced an investigation into this latest T-Mobile failure. Two years ago after their data breach failure, $3.5 billion consumer credit reporting Equifax, entered into a $700 million settlement with US officials. With over $68 billion in revenue in 2020, what will be the fine T-Mobile will pay for their lapse of security?

At some point in time, every company faces a crisis. These are the moments that can define companies, brands and CEOs.  Three steadfast rules should govern CEOs when mistakes are made and things go wrong. They are:

  1. When a crisis arises, the CEO must be front and center, seen as personally managing the crisis. While T-Mobile knew of the breach on August 13, it took two weeks, a day after the hacker went public, for Sievert to issue a public statement.
  2. When the crisis arises, the CEO has to acknowledge the issue and accept personal responsibility. When Sievert finally issued his public statement, he didn’t comment on the headaches and problems for millions who had name, address, SSN, date of birth and driver’s license numbers compromised. A statement on the company’s website two weeks after T-Mobile learned of the cyberattack, doesn’t cut it as a heartfelt personal apology to impacted customers.
  3. Most importantly, when crisis occurs, the CEO needs to overcorrect. When Johnson and Johnson experienced the Tylenol murders, the CEO pulled product and developed tamper-resistant packaging. When Wal-Mart experienced a fatal shooting in its El Paso, TX store, it stopped selling handguns and ammunition. What did T-Mobile do? They offered assistance on how to change your pin and password and a couple of years of identity protection service. Could something more financially meaningful for loyal customers be offered? A free month of service? A free phone upgrade? A generous gift card? Something meaningful to show “we care” to valuable customers.

The old adage about life, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters,” holds true for CEOs and companies that stumble.

While Sievert whiffed on CEO rules 1 and 2 of crisis management, there’s still time to salvage rule 3 by overcorrecting. The window of opportunity is quickly closing. Will Sievert recover and handle T-Mobile’s latest crisis in a way that protects his company’s brand, restores confidence to customers and shareholders and bolsters his leadership?

Here’s an opportunity for Mike Sievert. It’s time to pivot. How about taking personal responsibility for the mess and recovery? How about providing a heartfelt, deep apology to those who have been affected? And how about overcorrecting by doing right by your customers?  Following the three rules of crisis management will help Mike Sievert and his Team Magenta shift the story, boost stakeholder confidence and ensure this latest crisis doesn’t go to waste.

 

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.

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: 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:

19 Fighting COVID-19: Unsung Heroes Creating Impact During the Pandemic and Unrest

As the COVID-19 crisis has spread across the country, it has disrupted every aspect of American life. During this perilous time, we all seek inspiration from people who capture our hearts and minds, who show us the path through the storm. People who are creating an impact.

Now, combined with a heightened awareness of the injustice and indignities African Americans have suffered during 400 years of racial discrimination following George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, we find ourselves in the grips of two pandemics that have become inextricably intertwined.

Over the past three months, I’ve learned the stories of nineteen unsung heroes in Minnesota. Ordinary people, like you and me, who are leading with hope and purpose, making a positive impact in our state and nation, in the midst of the COVID pandemic and social unrest.

I’m releasing a new book today, June 29, 2020  – 19 Fighting COVID-19: Unsung Heroes Creating Impact During the Pandemic and Unrest – where you will discover the stories of these inspiring Minnesotans. I hope their stories will fill you with optimism, hope, and encouragement. In our volatile and uncertain world, if ever there was a time for a book about resilient people who are making an impact, now is the time.

Thank you in advance for considering a purchase. With your purchase, you’ll make a contribution to fighting food insecurity in Minnesota. 100% of the author’s commissions will be donated to Second Harvest Heartland and Loaves and Fishes, so they can continue to feed those most in need during these times.

Here’s the link to buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/19-Fighting-COVID-19-Creating-Pandemic-ebook/dp/B08BCNVWK8/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Here’s a summary of the people and their stories within the book:

  • The story of an award-winning hairstylist based in Edina who created customized DIY coloring kits with instructions for her clients and delivered from a socially safe distance with a wave from her and her young daughters, while salons were in shut-down mode. Her purpose is to “Help others look and feel great, and uplift their happiness, confidence and self-image.” She’s the loving image shaper. Her name is Alli Swanson of Sloan’s Beauty Bar.

 

  • The story of a Maplewood-based intensive care unit nurse, whose purpose is “To do anything I can do – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally – to help my patients feel better.” She’s the one who takes care of COVID patients. Who is in constant communication with the contact person of the family. She’s the one who is constantly checking the ventilator settings and determining if they are getting better or not. Of being there for those very ill, helping the family say their last goodbyes by iPad and being there with the patient until they take their last breath, so they do not die alone. That’s Tiffany Wolfsberger of Regions Hospital.

 

  • The story of a woman, her 8-year-old son and family who created a colorful eight circle THANK U sign on the retaining wall of their Edina home, each circle representing a COVID-19 hero group. There is a circle dedicated for doctors, nurses, truckers, grocery workers, police, firefighters, teachers and maintenance workers. And you can buy the signs and put in the yard of your hero. Or buy t-shirts. The money goes to food banks. That’s Heather Heier Lane.

 

  • The story of a Bloomington man with a servant’s heart who uses his gifts of empathy and connectedness to listen to and encourage at risk-teens with Zoom calls and connects with several older people who are isolated in nursing homes weekly. His name is Pat Siebenaler.

 

  • The story of a Hopkins woman who having found herself at her children’s pediatrician for the third time in one week, one time each for each of her three kids, to be tested for strep throat. She was so frustrated she started up a company to create a home-administered strep test. Earlier this year, the company pivoted to create a home-administered diagnostic test for COVID-19 to assist others in determining if they’ve been exposed to the virus or have developed immunities against the virus, potentially helping us to get back to work more quickly. Her purpose is to serve others. That’s Patty Post, CEO of Checkable Medical.

 

  • The story of a Plymouth man who with a few friends from church, created a website and process to connect those who are higher-risk people with a person of lower-risk in their same community for remote friendship, conversation and help with the delivery of groceries or prescriptions. His purpose is “To make life better for others. We’re all put here for a reason, to serve others as best we can.” That’s Jeff Johnson, Hennepin County Commissioner and founder of Northstar Neighbor.

 

  • A St. Paul Fire Department fire captain whose purpose is to “mitigate emergencies and return things to a safe state” and how the job of a firefighter and emergency responder has changed since COVID-19 and how he and his crew had to reinvent how they responded to and fought fires during May 28 & 29, when St. Paul experienced 55 arson-set fires, during the rioting and unrest. That’s St. Paul fire captain John Wolfsberger.

 

  • The story of a Plymouth-based privately-held medical device company that makes pulse oximetry products -a critical clinical therapy in treating COVID-19 patients – to measure oxygen saturation levels in the blood. The demand for their products has risen 10-fold so they are operating around the clock, struggling to manage a global supply chain, to meet the demand for their products. During their ramp up, they also had an employee who was MN’s second diagnosed person with COVID-19. No other ees contracted the virus and happily, the person who contracted the disease while traveling for work in Europe is now fine and is back to work. Their CEO’s purpose is to “Enable people to live purposeful lives, that positively impact others in the chaos of life.” Is this ever the time and place to live purposefully! That’s Nonin Medical’s CEO Dave Hemink.

 

  • Or how a young 21-year-old man whose purpose is “being a beacon of light when others are hopeless” who along with his friend from Shoreview, traveled to the looted Target store on Lake Street on Saturday, May 30 to clean the store of water sludge and debris. Their clean-up efforts were seen by others and before you knew it, over 1000 people joined in, creating assembly lined, to sweep & shovel out and pick up the mess fill garbage bags and arranged for a refuse company to haul the mess away.  I forgot to mention. This young man saw Minneapolis suffering and without hope and decided to do something about it. He drove 8 hours from Bradley U in Peoria, IL, to Shoreview, his friend’s parents’ home, so he could help out. He had never been to MN before but knew he had to do something – because he is a beacon of light when others are hopeless.  His name is Pierre Paul.

 

  • Of a small group of volunteers in south Minneapolis who came together literally overnight, convinced the owner of a hotel that was shuttered due to COVID-19, to allow 200 homeless people to take refuge in the hotel, in less than 24 hours, after the city razed an encampment they were staying with bulldozers, literally stranding them between looters, the national guard with nowhere to go during the curfew of May 29.  This group of volunteers is coordinating meal service, mental health services, first aid, harm reduction support and housekeeping services.  They are doing this in a horizontal way, anonymously, with no designated leader.  They call this the Sanctuary Hotel.

 

  • Of a woman who is a nurse practitioner in the neurosurgery intensive care unit of a large Minneapolis hospital who treats and cares for patients who have had strokes, traumas to the spine and other brain traumas. Now in the COVID-19 world we live in, family members are not allowed to visit their loved ones in the hospital. With her patients who’ve suffered cognitive injuries and traumas, her continuous communication with family is more essential than ever before.  She sees herself as creating impact by being a source of light during a troubling time for patients and family members, who cares and feels deeply.  That’s UofM’s Suzie Shane.

 

  • Of a man in St. Louis Park who started up a non-profit organization that provides free financial counseling and legal services and coaching to women who have recently become widows. His purpose is “to provide safe passage for others down the river of life.” He has also launched a new bestselling book in April, The Legacy Planning and Conversation Guide: The Workbook for End-of-Life Planning, a playbook to help singles and couples to get their affairs in order before they die. His name is Chris Bentley, founder of Wings for Widows.

 

  • Of the woman in Buffalo who is responsible for overseeing the safe transport of over 5000 students to and from school for the Buffalo/Hanover/Montrose school district. Her drivers cover a 157 square mile every school day. Her purpose – to get student to and from school safely and on-time – abruptly shifted in mid-March. Now, it’s to make sure the kids get fed.  Since school shut down, her team has delivered over 150,000 meals for those in need.  She’s making a huge impact. That’s Kimi Paumen.

 

  • The story of a 20-year old man who is a 5X cancer survivor, is a college student and is a Big 10 collegiate football player. Last July 19, this young man delivered the keynote speech at the Big 10 Football Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago. He lives daily by his impact declaration of: Wake up! Kick Ass! Repeat! He also coaches and encourages families and kids who are stricken by cancer and has been a big fixture at Children’s Masonic Hospital – that’s Casey O’Brien, the placeholder for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.

 

  • The story of an Area manager for 9 bakeries whose purpose is to help everyone around her, “Feel Better and Be Better.” During the pandemic, they’ve had to reinvent their model, serve today’s customers differently, look to the future for what they want to be, while they serve first responders at a moment’s notice and she works to develop women leaders, supports the LGBTQ community and works with local food banks to distribute today’s left over baked goods. Favorite story is about how she prepared 900 box lunches for the National Guard on May 30 with less than 3-hours notice from 8 stores. That’s Panera Bread’s Marie Benesch.

 

  • The story of the Hanover elementary school music teacher who in addition to teaching her students via distance learning, performs on keyboard and sings Virtual Music events on Facebook Live for thirteen straight Friday nights while the live music venues have been closed. Her purpose is “Bringing joy to young and old by sharing songs that inspire.” Each week it is a new genre and new set of songs. She averages 5000 global viewers each week and was recognized by Governor Walz during his May 7 COVID update as his Feel-Good Story. That’s my beautiful and talented wife Mary Bolton.

 

  • The story of a man who doubled pivoted his business. At the outbreak of the COVID crisis, he pivoted his Minneapolis distillery to make hand sanitizer. When his distillery was damaged during the looting and arson following the death of George Floyd and the protests, he created a pop-up food shelf to feed the community. That’s Chris Montana of Du Nord Craft Spirits.

 

  • The story of those in the fight to battle food insecurity. Second Harvest – the nation’s second largest food bank, whose purpose is “To end hunger together.” Before the crisis 1 in 11 Minnesotans as well as 1 in 8 kids didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. Today, the needs are off the charts. They are seeing new faces. Our neighbors, colleagues and friends. They are really pumping to meet demand. They need donations – they can make $1 into 3 meals. Allison Toole CEO and leading the charge at Second Harvest.

Loaves and Fishes is the largest “open to the public” meal program in MN, serving free healthy meals to Minnesotans in need. The requirements for meals since the coronavirus pandemic have gone from 3500 meals per day to 12000 meals daily – triple their regular workload.  They’ve shifted their meal from congregate dining to takeaway meals during the pandemic.  Cathy Maes is Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes.

As I’ve had met and interviewed these people, during this uncertain time, during two pandemics – the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial injustice pandemic – which has been going on 400 years but has just been heightened for many of us the last four weeks – I am encouraged. I see hope. I see people taking care of others.  Operating with great purpose, with passion and making an impact.  While in many ways, we’re dealing with more uncertainty than certainty, I’m seeing more humanity in people, by and large.

That’s encouraging. That’s inspiring and motivating. That’s inviting to all of us to look for ways we can each create greater impact. So we can serve others and thrive. I know we’ll emerge from the adversity – that’s what Minnesotans always do. The question is will you be making greater impact – or not? The answer is up to each of us! It’s up to you, folks.

Here’s the link to buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/19-Fighting-COVID-19-Creating-Pandemic-ebook/dp/B08BCNVWK8/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

About the Author

Chuck Bolton is a coach and advisor to CEOs and a five-time bestselling author. In April 2020, he launched a new book, Reinvent Your Impact: Unleashing Purpose, Passion and Productivity to Thrive, which became an international bestseller in the USA, Canada and Australia.

Since 2000, Chuck has shown his clients how to reinvent their impact and create massive value through his coaching firm, The Bolton Group LLC. He loves inspiring and encouraging others to become their best so they can make their unique difference in the world.

Chuck has coaches and consults with leaders at Abbott, Boston Scientific, Cantel Medical, Hollister, IQVIA, KMT Medical, Medtronic, Nonin Medical, Optum, Performance Health, United Healthcare, Vyaire Medical and many more.  In his prior corporate career, Chuck last served as group vice president, human resources, Boston Scientific.

For more information: http://theboltongroup.com

100% of the author’s proceeds from book sales are donated to Second Harvest Heartland and Loaves and Fishes to fight food insecurity in Minnesota

Here’s the link to buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/19-Fighting-COVID-19-Creating-Pandemic-ebook/dp/B08BCNVWK8/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=