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Be the CEO Who Gives Gifts and Thanks

During the past two weeks, the business news has been dominated by tech companies that are laying off staff. Meta laid off 11,000 employees or 13% of their workforce. Twitter terminated the employment of 3,700, nearly 50% of its staff.  A long list of other companies followed. Intel, Snap, Robinhood, Stripe, Salesforce, Lyft, Microsoft, Shopify, Netflix, HP and Coinbase rounded out the list of companies laying off 10% or more of their team members.

The news of layoffs in the tech sector strikes fear in the markets and in those outside of the industry, too.  Meanwhile, unemployment remains at or near an all-time low. Most businesses are not laying people off but doing their best to meet the needs of employees and customers. Many CEOs are projecting an economic bounce back and predict 2023 will return to a more normal year. Outside of the tech sector, where most Americans work, is where the good stuff in our economy is happening, although it is rarely mentioned in the news.

One of my CEO clients in the medical device sector brought his top leadership team together last week to discuss their 2023 plans. Since he was hired just over a year ago, four of his eight direct reports are new to the company. Aware his team of leaders have been working hard learning the business, managing their responsibilities and building their credibility, he took them off-site for a few days to plan for the upcoming year and to recognize their contributions. It is a lonely journey most leaders walk, saddled with multiple demands and high expectations, yet rarely do they receive positive support and affirmation. He decided to change that.

His desire for his new team is not just to develop and execute the strategy, but to get to know one another better and build trust as they work together to create a great company.

During the last working session of the day, everyone wrote on a sheet of paper the name of each team member. Then they wrote three gifts each person brought to their work. These were not technical skills or work competencies; they were personal qualities demonstrated by the individual. At the bottom of the sheet, they wrote what they would miss if that person was no longer on the team.

Ten minutes later, each person received seven pages of their gifts as perceived by their teammates. They took a few minutes to each read their gifts silently, then they shared what they heard with the full team.

After each individual shared “What I heard”, their colleagues elaborated on the gifts and unique qualities that person brought to their work, sharing examples and a story or two.  Many smiles were shared. After everyone took their turn, to take it a step further, they reflected on what they heard, what they saw as their own special gifts and wrote and shared their unique gift statement.

Here is a sample of the gift statements shared:

  • I use my gift of enthusiasm, joy and a positive attitude, to lift people up, encourage and support others, to see the bright side and find a silver lining.
  • I use my passion and ability to connect with others, to create an environment that creates an opportunity for people to achieve excellence and enjoy the experience that leads to results.
  • My gift is passion and care for people. I use my gift to serve others, to increase confidence, so they can achieve increased fulfillment and impact in their lives.
  • I use my gift of a deep caring for people – to engage, support, serve and impact others – helping them elevate.

As they exited, the CEO thanked each team member for their willingness to lean in and work together. He said, “You’ve now landed on your unique gift statement, the uniqueness that no one else in the world brings. What makes you special. Let’s now bring our gifts to all the opportunities and situations that come our way.”

What do you think the collective mood of the team was walking out of the room that afternoon?

One team member stated, “I’ve never been through a process like this, giving and getting gifts from your colleagues and leader. I’ve worked with some companies for many years and never heard what others thought my gifts were. I feel tighter with this team already than the other teams I have been part of.”

Another said, “While it was at first a little uncomfortable to be recognized by my peers and boss in such a way, I am grateful you appreciate me for who I am. I am so happy to be part of this team and company. You make it safe and motivating. Thank you for your encouragement and letting me be me.”

As they wrapped up, high fives, smiles, thank yous and hugs were abundant. An uplifting and affirming afternoon. The team was tighter, more supportive and trusting at the close of their meeting.  Each person felt accepted, encouraged and inspired.

Is the collective emotional state of your top team, CEO, like this team’s? Do you invest in building relationships, trust and commitment?  If not, why not? What’s the price you’ll pay if you aren’t the CEO who gives your team gifts and thanks?

Intentionally building relationships, trust and commitment secures the foundation from which you build and grow your company. The bonds and tight relationships serve as the cement that holds the blocks of the foundation – the people, strategies, goals, products, execution and results – together. A small investment in time and effort can yield a tremendous return on investment.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and the holiday season, won’t you be the CEO who is grateful for your team and gives gifts and thanks?

CEO Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference

How Medtech CEOs Are Falling Short – On Purpose!

After two long years, Advamed’s annual MedTech Conference took place in Boston last week. Over two thousand executives, entrepreneurs and medical device professionals gathered to share ideas, learn, network and connect for three days.  The importance of a company’s purpose – the overarching guiding principle for why the firm exists – was raised many times by the CEOs who took part in panels and presentations.

Purpose was cited repeatedly in response to questions about how to encourage their people to accept change, how to motivate and inspire, how to recruit and retain the best, and avoid losing top talent due to the Great Resignation. In the three panel discussions I attended and recorded, purpose was mentioned twelve times during the Leadership in Times of Change session, nine times in the EY Pulse of the Industry panel and seven times during the Top Trends Shaping the Medtech Industry.

CEO Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference

Jim Welch – EY
Ashley McEvoy – JNJ MedTech
Geoff Martha – Medtronic
Gary Guthart – Intuitive

The gist of the CEO responses is the medtech industry has a “built in” purpose, or as one CEO described, an “Uber purpose”, due to the life enhancing nature of the sector’s work.  In other words, people employed in medtech should be motivated because the work they do improves lives worldwide. One CEO of a company that treats cardiovascular disease, said his company was unlike companies that make “toaster ovens”, which presumably have a less important purpose for existence. Another CEO remarked, “We’re not making and selling baked beans, what we do matters to patients around the world.” Every CEO stated their businesses operate in accordance with a shared company purpose.

Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference 2022

Ashley McEvoy – JNJ Medtech
Mike Minogue – Abiomed
Barry Rosenberg – Boston Consulting Group

From my own early career experiences at Baxter and Boston Scientific, I agree working at a medical device company that operates by a shared purpose statement can be motivating. But that alone is insufficient. Purpose doesn’t stop with only the company purpose statement. While it is admirable these CEOs embrace purpose statements and purposeful work, that’s the beginning of the purpose journey. It’s only table stakes.

After their panel appearances, I asked a few of the CEOs if they helped their team members discover their own personal purposes. I received the “deer in the headlights” look in response. They apparently aren’t encouraging their people to discover and operate with a sense of personal purpose. By failing to do so, these medtech CEOs are falling short – on purpose! They aren’t embracing purpose-driven leadership.

What is purpose-driven leadership? For starters, it is leading and making decisions in a way that is consistent with the company’s purpose and values. But that’s not all. It’s believing that every person craves meaning in their lives. It’s understanding that every person has a personal purpose – even if they haven’t yet defined it. Purpose-driven leaders know their personal purpose. They live by their personal purpose as they carry out the company’s purpose. The two purposes are not in conflict. They openly share their personal purpose with others when asked. They teach and encourage others to find their unique purposes, too.

Why should leaders teach and encourage others to seek their unique personal purpose, when the company already has a purpose statement? Because they know that a personal 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. A personal purpose must serve a bigger cause than just yourself. The company purpose isn’t a personal purpose. You can be fired, quit or retire from the company’s purpose, but once defined, you’ll never quit your personal purpose.

Panel Discussion at The MedTech Conference

Nana Mohtashami – Russell Reynolds
Jim Hollingshead – Insulet
Bronwyn Brophy – Thermo Fisher Scientific
Quentin Blackford – iRhythm Technologies
Deepak Nath – Smith & Nephew

With personal purpose defined, purpose-driven leaders help their team members apply that purpose in a way that meshes with the company’s overarching purpose. Encouraging team members to create and live by their personal purposes is important for three reasons:

First, all medtech companies share an identical purpose. Each one is worded slightly differently, but it’s a version of, “We exist to enhance (or save) the lives of patients through _________ (pick a buzzword: innovation, technology, medical procedure, global, etc.)”

Don’t believe me? The company purpose statements of the CEOs on the panels are listed below. Throw the purpose statements of these companies in a hat (Abiomed, Insulet, Intuitive, iRhythm, Johnson and Johnson Medtech, Medtronic, Smith & Nephew, Thermo Fisher Scientific) pull them out, and match them to the respective company. I bet you can’t do it. There is nothing that distinguishes one from the other. (The correct matchups are at the bottom of this post.)

  • To enable our customers to enjoy simplicity, freedom, and healthier lives through innovative technology.
  • A leading provider of groundbreaking medical technology that provides circulatory and oxygenation support.
  • Helping people get back to what matters most.
  • We unleash diverse healthcare expertise, purposeful technology, and a passion for people totransform the future of medical intervention and empower everyone to live their best life possible.
  • To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.
  • To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

Secondly, since we agree medtech company purpose statements are virtually identical, the company’s purpose statement can’t make the critical difference in the employee experience. What makes the critical difference then? A direct manager who is purpose-driven and coaches others to become their best. The direct manager creates upwards of 70% of the working climate a team member experiences. Many companies intentionally create a desired macro-culture for the company, but there are many micro-cultures within the firm that create very different employee experiences.

Gallup has reported that 70% of leaders don’t know their personal purpose. A study published in Harvard Business Review reported that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their individual purpose. That number is likely even higher in the general population. If I’m a prospective employee, I need to know my manager’s personal purpose. Is the manager purpose-driven? How do they mesh their personal purpose under the company purpose? If my manager doesn’t have a personal purpose, why in the world would I want to work under that person?  I’ll take the managers who know their personal purpose and embrace the company’s purpose – while coaching and encouraging others to do the same – all day long.

Third, people who operate by their personal purpose in sync with the company’s purpose are your passionate value creators. They take great care of your clients. They are your “A” players. They are clear about their gifts, their purpose, their values and they know how to apply them in support of your company’s mission of enhancing and saving lives worldwide.

If it is true that fewer than 20% of employees operate with a defined personal purpose, as CEO, how can I expect them to take great care of our customers, perform at a high level, create great value, and grow and stay with the firm? If I’m not helping them define their purpose, and showing them how to thrive at our company, won’t they vulnerable to being poached by more insightful companies and leaders who are purpose-driven – and can help them discover and live by their individual purpose? Here’s how you can help others discover their purpose.

My invitation to medtech CEOs is to embrace purpose at both the company and individual levels. It’s your job to be a great value creator and make an enormous impact. You are the role models for purpose-driven leadership. Harnessing purpose in all your team members – and connecting it to the company purpose – is a critical step forward in creating great value for all your stakeholders.

“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

Company Purpose Statements

  • To enable our customers to enjoy simplicity, freedom, and healthier lives through innovative technology. Insulet
  • A leading provider of groundbreaking medical technology that provides circulatory and oxygenation support.Abiomed
  • Helping people get back to what matters most. Intuitive
  • We unleash diverse healthcare expertise, purposeful technology, and a passion for people totransform the future of medical intervention and empower everyone to live their best life possible. Johnson and Johnson MedTech
  • To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Smith & Nephew

Attention All CEOs: Torpedo the Performance Review – Try the “W5” Instead

The loathed performance appraisal is raising its ugly head again across corporations. Many companies that halted reviews during the pandemic now have employee performance in their crosshairs. The Dreaded Performance Review Makes a Comebacappeared as the lead article in the Wall Street Journal’s C-Suite Strategies section on September 19, 2022.

Meta Platforms (Facebook), Google, McKinsey, CarParts.com, and Goldman Sachs were identified as ones where performance reviews are returning. It’s a big mistake. Performance reviews at most companies, as conducted for decades, is an inherently flawed process. There is, however, a better solution for managing performance.

What’s required for any business that seeks to serve its clients well and grow? A group of motivated, high-performing people is a necessary component. And how do most businesses monitor the performance of its people? An annual performance review is typically used. And who feels the performance review process works well? Just about no one!

Consider these facts:

  • Employees – Only 13% think performance reviews are effective.
  • Managers – 70% of managers admit they have trouble giving a tough performance review.
  • Human Resources – 58% of HR executives grade their performance review process a grade of C or below.
  • CEOs – Only 6% of CEOs think their performance review process is effective.

Clearly all the stakeholders of the annual performance review see the process as broken. If that’s the case, isn’t it time to obliterate – instead of bring back – the traditional performance review?

Why don’t companies blow up their performance review processes? Three reasons:  1. Because it is necessary to give feedback on performance and this provides a mechanism for the exchange of feedback; 2. Because (pre-pandemic) we’ve always done performance reviews before; 3. Even if we acknowledge performance reviews don’t work well, we don’t have a better solution for delivering performance feedback.

I’m all about giving and receiving feedback, improving performance and fanatical about creating performance-oriented cultures. But I’m adamantly opposed to the annual performance review process, which sadly is the antithesis of high performance.  So, what can companies do differently?  I suggest the W5 meeting.

Five-way view

The W5 (work in 5 directions) meeting is an innovative idea in performance management.  These meetings offer a powerful opportunity to promote self accountability.  Very simply, a W5 meeting is a one-to-one meeting between a team member and the direct manager.  At these meetings, the team member should report a self-assessment on their performance from five directions:  customer, direct reports, peer, manager and self (how they are learning and growing). 

Coaching discussion between manager and direct report

Typically held monthly, the focus of this meeting is about the results the team member is achieving.  It is the team member’s responsibility to schedule the meeting and report in full.  During the W5 meeting, which should be conducted in 30 minutes or less, the team member gives a full accounting of progress on how they are meeting and exceeding the requirements in the five directions as listed above.

The team member provides an overall assessment of how they are delivering, taking accountability for performance shortfalls and reports on a plan to correct any deficiencies.  Both problem areas and success stories are shared.

Specific topics on which the manager can assist are identified, and together a plan is developed.  For both the team member and the manager, the W5 meeting is held in a spirit of collaboration, alignment and coaching for future performance. The manager should look for ways to encourage, support and recognize the team member throughout the meeting, in a genuine way.  The meeting is supported by candor and an open dialogue.

Implementing W5 meetings monthly builds accountability for performance with an eye on what is required for future success.  If W5 meetings are held regularly and with the right intention, the manager will only need to hold team members accountable when they are failing to hold themselves accountable.

Companies that implement the W5 process across the board can discard their annual performance review process.  Using the W5 process provides for recognition of excellent performance. Meanwhile poor performance gets addressed quickly and is not tucked away for a discussion that may occur months later.

There is no ambiguity how work performance is perceived, in the world of W5.  Problem performers find themselves in a pressure cooker, have nowhere to hide and are quickly faced with a choice:  dramatically improve or leave. Mid-level performers are encouraged and coached on ways they can lift their contribution.  Excellent performers are recognized for their superb work.

So, if we are committed to growth, extraordinary results and a performance-driven climate, it’s time to obliterate the old performance review process, substituting it with real time feedback and the W5 process.

 The biggest challenge of W5 meetings is the discipline to initiate and sustain these meetings, which take time.  But what could be more important to leaders and managers than creating a team of motivated, high performing team members that are positioned to achieve sustained results?  After all, taking great care of clients by creating the capability and climate for sustained results is what leaders are paid to do.

If you are getting great results with your traditional performance review process, you wouldn’t be reading this article.  If you want great performance in the future, I encourage you to consider committing to the W5 process.

 

 

What Do Exceptional, Value-Creating CEOs Actually Do?

Every CEO has six key responsibilities they must embrace. Exceptional CEOs think and act differently as to how they carry out their responsibilities.  They take different actions and deploy practices that create great value. These mindsets and practices can be learned, applied, and mastered.

The first responsibility is set the direction. The accompanying mindset of the highest performing CEOs is to be purpose-driven, to create an exciting vision of the future and to and take the bold actions to reframe the game in your sector.

The second responsibility is to optimize the top leadership team. The prevailing mindset is creating a high performing top team. Hiring, coaching, and investing in team members, who are capable, are candid in addressing the challenges facing the business, and are committed to the company’s success.

The third responsibility is to align and mobilize all to execute. The mindset is shaping a working climate that is energizing, is friction-free so individuals and teams can operate efficiently, and building a culture that reinforces and rewards value creation.

The fourth responsibility is to guide your stakeholders. To be credible, you’ll need to master and deliver one compelling narrative that helps you connect with both internal and external stakeholders and be seen as trustworthy.

Excellent CEOs know they need to count on a wise board of directors. Responsibility #5 is leveraging your board. The mindset is to be transparent about your business and its challenges. To educate and engage the board and embrace a forward-looking perspective.

The sixth and final responsibility is to lead yourself. The hardest job you’ll ever undertake, is leading yourself. The mindset is a commitment to professional growth, of operating with humility and gratitude, and a practice of recognizing and encouraging others, even during challenging times.

Do these mindsets describe how you embrace your six key CEO responsibilities?

When you get better, everyone around you gets better. Go to YourCEOCheckUp.com, take the self- assessment to measure your current performance on these mindsets and practices. You’ll receiver your results instantly.

Then, for more on the practices excellent CEOs deploy to create massive value, go to YourCEOResourceGuide.com to discover what you can do to raise your game and put yourself on the path of becoming the exceptional, value-creating CEO you are meant to be.

Every CEO Needs a Coach

As CEO, your job is to create great value. More than any other person, your impact as CEO is the single biggest predictor of your company’s success. Perform in the upper 20% of CEOs and you’ll generate a nearly 3X greater return to shareholders than the average performer.

Yet sustaining top performance and value creation is not so easy. Today’s environment is riskier and more challenging than just a decade ago. You operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, where disruptive technology abounds, talent is scarce and shifting, new business models and competition threaten the status quo, and social unrest, a pandemic, and the climate crisis loom. You have a lot of weight on your shoulders. To help you navigate this treacherous terrain, can you benefit by having a CEO coach, whose sole goal is to help you become more successful in work and life?

Every top performer has a coach. World-class athletes, musicians, and entertainers all have coaches. Best-in-the-world performers hire coaches to help them improve their games, become better and stay on top. It’s the same for smart CEOs.  Eric Schmidt, former chairman and CEO of Google said, “The best advice I ever got was from John Doerr (chairman of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins) who said to get a coach.” A CEO coach sees you with a different set of lenses, making suggestions and offering insights that help you create great impact.

 

Your CEO coach’s only agenda is a desire to see you operate at your best and succeed. Your coach is a confidant who plays a role no other stakeholder can play. Board members, direct reports, or well-meaning spouses aren’t coaches as they have their own agendas. Your coach sees your greatness, beliefs, and blind spots. Listening carefully, your coach learns your biggest challenges and opportunities. Your coach asks thoughtful questions, explores options, and offers perspective and wise insights.  Your coach helps you learn new skills and strengthen your relationships. Your coach shows you how to grab hearts and minds. Your coach will teach you how to connect with, persuade and inspire others to act. Your coach encourages and inspires you to become your best.

When you get better, everyone around you gets better. You serve as a role model for others to grow and lift their games, too. That’s a powerful way of building a team of high performing, value creating leaders.

What to look for in your CEO coach? Your coach must understand your context, bringing senior level executive experience in your industry sector along with a track record of success working with CEOs on the topics where you seek assistance. Your coach must clearly describe what you can expect working together and provide examples and references of client success stories that resonate. Your coach must always keep your discussions confidential. Finally, your coach must be a good personal fit with you. The chemistry has be right.

Every CEO needs a coach. When you select and engage with an outstanding CEO coach, and commit to do your work, the benefits you’ll receive can be enormous. You’ll gain a brainstorming partner, a confidant, a trainer, a sage, and a motivator, who’ll help you thrive. So, you become better – in work and life – creating great value for yourself and all your stakeholders.

What Do Exceptional CEOs Do Differently? Where Do You Fall on the Scale?

As CEO, your job is to create great value. More than any position, your impact is the single biggest predictor of your firm’s success. What you control accounts for up to 45% of company performance. In an increasingly volatile world, your impact will become even more important in the future.

Every CEO has six key responsibilities they must embrace. Exceptional CEOs think and act differently as to how they carry out their responsibilities.  Finally, we have a self-assessment tool that measures your performance on these areas.  It’s called Your CEO Check Up. It takes about 10 minutes to complete on-line, it is confidential, you get your results instantly, and best of all, it’s free.

How you perform matters – a lot.  You can be a boost for your company or can set it back.  The risks are high. With CEO turnover on the rise, fail to create the value you must and you’ll be shown the door.

 How about you? Are you winning or losing? Every CEO has blind spots. What’s the risk if you don’t perform to your full potential? What price will you pay?

With results in hand, you’ll want to know how to create the value you must. For more on the mindsets and CEO practices that drive value, you’ll need Your CEO Resource Guide.  It’s full of valuable insights and information, its downloadable and it is free, too.

When you get better, everyone gets better. Go to YourCEOCheckUp.com, take the self- assessment and get your results. Then, go to YourCEOResourceGuide.com to discover what you can do to raise your game and put yourself on the path of becoming the exceptional, value-creating CEO you are meant to be.

Creating by Extracting

In a world that gets more complex by the day, sometimes great things can best be created by extraction. By making things simpler.

If you are in northern New Mexico and hear a tap-tap-tap, it just might be Ra Paulette. Paulette is an American cave sculptor who lovingly and intentionally digs into and scrapes sandstone – solidified sand dunes, which were once the shores of an ancient sea – in order to transform the material into elaborate artistic spaces inside mountains.

For the past 25 years, with only his dog as company, he’s been scraping and shaping the New Mexico sandstone into man-made art caves.

Working alone, he uses hand tools to do his work: picks, shovels, scrapers, mirrors, and a wheelbarrow. There is no dynamite, no drills, no sledgehammers, no generators, no power tools or conveniences of any kind. It’s a grueling, arduous process and the manual labor is backbreaking.

Describing himself as “simply a man who has found his passion,” Paulette is not an architect, he has no degree in sculpture, and he is not a structural engineer. He prepares no drawings or blueprints to guide his efforts. He calls himself an “intuitive engineer” and feels like an archaeologist, uncovering something that is already there by creating space through extraction.

Ra digs horizontally into a hill or mountain, about fifteen to twenty feet, and then he breaches the ground to open a hole on the top of the cave for sunlight. He can feel the empty space. And he digs and creates what he calls “the juxtaposition of opposites.” You enjoy a sense of being underground with streaming light – it creates a perception trick. There is intimacy in being in a cave with high walls, with columns and arches sometimes 30 to 40 feet high. Light floods in.[i]

These wilderness shrines are massive in scale and poetic in design. He finishes the caves with scallops, molded curves, smooth ledges, inlaid stones, narrow pods, and crusty ledges. He wants his work to take your breath away in its magnificence.

He believes his work is magical. He’s totally obsessed with cave sculpting. When he’s engaged on a project, he thinks about it all day long. He dreams about his cave when he sleeps. He’s passionate about his calling.

Ra doesn’t do it for the money. Over the past 25 years, he’s sculpted over a dozen caves, each about the size of a house. A project takes at least nine hundred hours, but it may take two years or more to complete. He charges about fifteen dollars per hour for the project. And now in his late sixties, he acknowledges he doesn’t have much time to continue his art. His work was chronicled in Cavedigger, a documentary that was so unique it was nominated for an Academy Award.[ii]

He describes his caves as celebrations that create transformative experiences. They are an aesthetic adventure. He seeks to open people’s feelings. He views his caves as hallowed places and healing retreats. They are sanctuaries for prayer and meditation where transformations occur. He hopes that visitors to his sculpted caves will come in and find the solitude that he experiences. To find a sense of peace and purpose. To share a sacred moment when they can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and life.

 

Ra Paulette’s gift: His ability to visualize what could be and to create space from extraction.

Ra’s purpose: To give others a deeper understanding of themselves.

Committed to living an expressive life, Ra doesn’t put any energy into being a success in the world. But he does put all of his energy and passion into living a life of purpose.

How does Ra define creating impact?

By creating healing retreats to discover peace and purpose through extraction. 

Less is often more. How can you create something remarkable by making things simpler? By extracting?

[i] Ra Paulette, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra_Paulette.

[ii] Cavedigger documentary, Ra Paulette, Jeff Karoff, Journeyman Pictures, 2013.

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.