As we continue to explore purpose, I want to dive into Personal Purpose, specifically: what is your Why?
Mark Twain once said: “The two most important days in a human being’s life is the day we are born and the day we discover why.” Most of the 8 billion people on the planet will live their entire lives without ever discovering what their purpose is. Why do we do the things we individually do? Why do we get up in the morning? Why do we work at the place we do? Why do we do the job we do? Why do we ‘matter’ to our partner, family, friends, and the world around us? Do you dread Monday’s? Do you count down the days to Friday? Are you chasing money and not your passion (remember, salary, like profit for a business, is an outcome of what you do and should not be the reason why you do what you do)?
These are all questions that I ask the leaders I work with today in my practice.
I used to work as a leader with, as they say, my head down and my tail up. Going from one tough project to the next with a team of people that were full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (ah, the life of a Turn Around Executive). Sometimes, I couldn’t wait to get to work. Other times, it was pure drudgery. I could never understand why I had two polar opposite feelings from project to project. On the former projects, there was an excitement about them that energized me – on the latter, I was, to be honest, thinking about the money I was making.
About 15 years ago, I met a coach named “Liam”. He worked with me to do the work to discover what my purpose as a leader and quite frankly as a human, was. We had some very tough conversations. He would never let me off the hook with the hard questions he asked me. He pushed me hard to open up and talk about my ‘Why’.
Our conversations were about times in my life where I was full of energy and passion for what I was doing. Times when I felt on top of the world. Times when, seemingly, everything ‘clicked’. Times when the hands on the clock just flew by.
We also talked about times when I needed an alarm clock to get out of bed (I haven’t needed an alarm clock to get up in the morning now for over 10-years). Times when I hated doing what I was doing. Times when I didn’t particularly enjoy the company of the other executives on the team of my peers. Times when the hands on the clock moved in slow motion.
What was the difference?
This is part that requires work on your part. My coach had me journal as many things as I could remember about the two different scenarios. As many details as I recall. I filled pages in my trusty Moleskin Notebook. It probably took me a couple of months to complete the task.
Next, he had me analyze things that were different between the scenarios I captured. What was different? Who was different on the team? What was I doing? What challenges, opportunities or issues were there and how did all make me feel?
Here’s what I discovered…
In the times when I was on top of my game, full of passion for the people on my team and the project, there were common values like freedom, creativity, optimism, curiosity (from me and the team), a thirst for learning and teaching. I was in a role where I was working with a team that wanted to learn… I was a ‘Teaching Leader’.
In the scenarios where I was frustrated in my role (and there was some very big roles and titles involved here), the common frustrations I documented were an organization and CEO or Board that was focused on the purpose or mission of profitability (remember the profit is an outcome, not a purpose). The leadership at the top was violating values and people on a regular basis and prioritizing short-term profits and quarterly performance – mostly because that is what Market Analysts were making their ‘Buy or Sell’ recommendations on the stock. If stock prices went up, the senior leadership profited personally because of their Stock Options or Bonus Plan. They did not subscribe to the ‘Long Game’ theory which states that if you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers and that will drive higher, longer term relationships, customer satisfaction, and profits.
In those situations, my leadership style was under constant attack. There was no autonomy, freedom or creativity allowed. People in the organization were viewed as FTE’s (Full Time Equivalents) or, in reality, consumable assets. In those roles, myself and my teams were just ‘going through the motions’.
With this awareness, I was now able to really dig into what my ‘Why’ was. I discovered that I had this belief in the unlimited potential of people. I discovered that I love helping people unlock their potential and in turn, unlock the potential in their teams, their businesses and in some cases, their lives. My ‘Why’ is quite simply to ‘Unlock Potential.’ That is why I do what I do.
Since that time, my happiness, motivation, relationships, and success have all fell into place because I do not, ever, do anything as a leader that does not align with that purpose.
My advice to you… Do the work. Grab a notebook and start journaling your highs and lows as a leader. Start to distill down those ‘Mountain Top’ moments and feelings. Discover why you matter to the world around you. Discover your ‘Why’.
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, International Keynote Speaker, and TEC Top Speaker of the Year for 2018. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, connect with Robert on LinkedIn.
Click here to get his weekly Tuesday Tune Up blog posts straight to your inbox.Tags: Leadership, Personal Growth, Robert Murray, Robert S. Murray