How important is it to feel deeply connected to what you are trying to do? Kevin recognises that the new generation are more attracted to businesses with more purpose. After experiencing a role where he felt he could make a really big difference to NZ he understands it. Purpose brings people together. You see it in employee engagement. You see it in the way people act and behave. You see it even in the micro-decisions people make in every moment of every day. Once people have purpose they’re aligned, heading in the right direction. It’s not to say you can’t be successful without it but you will perform a lot better with it.
What is the secret to success? Glen believes that success comes when you merge talent with ambition and a willingness to take risks. His vision is to create retirement villages where people want to live and not come to die. Where the walls between the home and the community are permeable, so that kids want to come and visit their grandparents. To succeed Glen will need to empower and enable his people to be creative, to stretch themselves and to be their best selves. To achieve this he makes sure he takes the time to stop and chat with them for as long as they need. Because for Glen being a great leader is about being a better listener than a talker.
Is listening to your people the most important trait of a great leader? Mike demonstrates time and again that it’s his people that are the most important asset and that they deserve to be invested in and listened to. In fact, Mike holds these values so dear that he quit a job when he was told he couldn’t have the budget to develop his people and he spent the first year at Z Energy entirely focused on his people, determined to discover who they were, what they wanted to achieve and why they do what they do. Having won CEO of the year – it’s clear that his approach works.
Great leaders have a clear vision for the future. For Marc it’s about changing the way that consumers engage with energy. How do you do that? How do you make change happen? You have to have an appetite for the right type of risk. You need to have an intent-based leadership but you also need to have a humility, so that people relate and connect with you. It’s a huge task that Marc has ahead of him, guiding not only his people, but the customer, to change the way that they interact with energy. And this kind of leadership demands the strength that Marc displays.
How do you get your people on board with your vision? You have to have hundreds of conversations. You have to demonstrate through your actions that you mean what you say. To achieve this, you must be authentic. It wasn’t until Nick knew who he was – why he wanted to be a leader and what type of leader that he would be that he became the CEO at Southern Cross Health Society. It’s this sense of purpose that gives vision and clarity and ultimately guides the success of the organization, keeping it relevant and profitable.
What does it mean when your customer bakes cookies for you? For Chris, this is the ultimate symbol of a job well done. This is when you know that what you’ve done is worthwhile. For Chris great leadership requires taking people on a journey. A leader has to be able to say, ‘This is what I want to do. This is why I want to do it and this is how we are going to do it.” You have to be able to sell the dream and take your people with you. Your team are looking to you for answers, guidance and direction and you need to give it to them so that they can help your customers. It’s all about leaving people in a better space.
The toughest place to be is the CEO. But when does a leader change tack, and decide to move away from just creating profit for the shareholder and decide to do something for the benefit of the whole community? It seems cliché to say a midlife crisis can change a man’s values but it’s not unusual. Often, when people reach the top of their career and have made more money than they ever imagined, they start to see that material wealth does not bring happiness and fulfillment. It has no purpose. Giving back does, and that’s exactly what Sam is set on doing through Simplicity Kiwi Saver.
Success is over-rated. Think about it. After every big event, once the crowds and athletes have departed, what remains? Empty streets, litter, the sound of the wind and the creak of the abandoned winner’s podium.
Ask any Olympic gold medallist about that ‘lost’ feeling they get when the shouting’s all over. Think about the sense of regret you may feel when a good story ends. Hitting your sales budgets does not make you a great business. A happy ending does not in itself make a story good.
Staff need to constantly strive for wins
These outcomes are alright for stories and the Olympic Games. For all one-off-events that must come to an end. But your business is not a one-off event. One win must follow another, on and on, forever. So how do you keep it going? How do you keep your staff striving for win after win without getting bored? What do you do about that sense of déjà vu which, whether it follows a win or a loss, can incite feelings of futility?
In our previous two blogs “What Hollywood can teach business about culture, purpose and success” and “How do banks, retailers and insurance companies use storytelling to build success?” we discussed how purposeful storytelling could help you achieve successful transformation or cultural change within your organisation (for more on storytelling to build business momentum download our free eGuide here). But once you’ve achieved your initial objectives, how do you keep momentum?
The Dramatic Question
In the blog “How do banks, retailers and insurance companies use storytelling to build success?” we used Dunkirk and the rescue of more than 300 000 soldiers as an analogy to explain the concept of the ‘inciting incident’ (the battle of Dunkirk) and the ‘dramatic question’ (who will rescue the soldiers?) as two devices that are useful for achieving business objectives, in the same way as they achieve story goals.
If the heroes of the story were able to answer the dramatic question quickly, then that would be it. The soldiers make it home safely. The end. And yet, this is exactly the dilemma that confronts companies all the time, at that moment they meet their targets.
But unlike a story, there is no ending for your business. There’s only onward and upward, or a slow drift in the opposite direction.
The answer? To keep your customers, your staff and other stakeholders engaged and motivated, you need to uncover more dramatic questions.
Fortunately, there’s also no end to inciting incidents when you’re in business – for example, head office whims, digital disruption, economic downturns, new inventions, changing social attitudes, fickle politicians.
For every inciting incident, there is a dramatic question. Sometimes the inciting incident is in your face, other times it’s sneakier, more subtle or a vague sense of disquiet.
Some of these dramatic questions may be:
- ‘How do we work within the restrictions set by head office?’
- ‘What will we do about emerging technologies?’
- ‘How do we deal with the fact that we make junk food when what we really want is to teach people to have healthier eating habits?’
- ‘How do we respond to our competitor’s new invention?’
It’s these challenges, that keeps the story interesting and the business striving.
Employees need to be a part of the Story
Importantly, if you want to keep your employees engaged you need to include them in your story. They need to be an active part of it. They need to be the hero, the audience, the stakeholders in your story. Once your staff suddenly find themselves abandoned on the beaches and no rescue in sight, they get motivated pretty quickly.
Tip: #1. List your inciting incidents and develop an understanding of the dramatic question in your business.
Tip: #2 Listen to your staff. Go to them for solutions. Let your staff try things, make mistakes and get back up and try again.
Tip #3: Let your customers into what you are trying to achieve, and then they will cheer for you, cry for you and support you – but they need to be part of the story; actively enrolled.
Do that, and you’ll keep your employees and your customers totally ‘hooked’ on the story you’re telling.
If you want to know more about storytelling, I highly recommend these two books (the bibles of storytellers):
‘Story’ by Robert McKee; and
‘Screenplay’ by Syd Field.
To read more on how purposeful storytelling can help you achieve successful transformation or cultural change within your organisation, download the eGuide “Why 70% of Organisational Transformations Fail and How to Fix the Problem” here.
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” –Bill Copeland
How my purpose landed me in deep water
About a year ago I was asked if I would facilitate a conference for 60 people over two days. I had never spoken on a stage as an adult, and I had never run a conference, but… the topic of the conference played to every element of my purpose, using ‘real stories to inspire people’ to grow, to have fun, to enjoy life and work. To turn away from it would have been to turn away from my purpose…something I could NEVER have done.
Over the next two months, I planned 8 workshops, talks and activities.
I was terrified
Truth was, I was terrified, almost paralysed by the fear and there were countless times when I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. Part of me wanted to move out to a small cottage in the country and forget all about it. To some people, public speaking may not be such a frightening prospect, but I was terrified, there was a very real chance that I would be overtaken by uncontrollable shakes (it had happened to me before) and suddenly I was swimming in the deep end.
Enormous amounts of adrenalin cascaded through my body, triggering the fight or flight response. Or as my partner calls it, ‘the cowering in the corner, like a scared rabbit response’.
Adrenaline and the breath
However, I knew that it was something I just had to do, and so I ran regularly to burn off the excess adrenalin and I used breathing techniques to calm my thoughts. I use a technique where you breathe in for a count of one, out for one, then breathe in for 2, out for 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7. By the time I get to about 6 or 7 I usually have a handle on my fear.
With the adrenalin at a manageable level it became my greatest ally. With it, I had the focus to act. I spent hours in a state of flow writing scripts and learning them by heart. I employed a coach to help me with my delivery and I lined up my children’s teddy bears on the couch and practiced talking to them – for days.
Once I knew I was prepared, the anxiety turned to excitement and I was ready to go. I was following my purpose and I felt truly alive.
I did it!
It was an exhilarating and exhausting blur of activity over two days and I loved every minute of it.
However, while the conference was a success and the organisers were happy with the outcome, the real reward came not from learning how to fascilitate a conference. It came from what I learnt about achieving my vision. Things I would never have learnt had I not accepted the challenge.
People thought I was crazy to take on such a challenge with such little notice, but I took it on because I have a clearly defined purpose, and to turn the conference down would have been to turn away from that – something I just wouldn’t have been able to do.
I also learnt more about what my purpose is, how it can be achieved and what the challenges are that I will face to achieve it. I’ve done two more talks since and I have learnt even more from those, getting better with each one.
I learnt a lot about people, what they want to know, what makes them uncomfortable, what holds them back, what terrifies them…
But, you may be wondering, what’s the ‘moral’ of this story?
If I did not have a clearly defined purpose, I would never have been given the opportunity, never mind have accepted it. I would not have faced my fear and I would not have learned to speak on a stage. A purpose is like a compass pointing to ones ‘true north’.
Everybody – individuals, businesses and organisations – should have a purpose, a ‘reason why’ because without it there can be no authentic achievement and fewer significant learnings and experiences.
Live your life, do your business, on purpose – you’ll be surprised, delighted and enriched by the journey. Purpose makes us better swimmers.
Click here to download: “How to inspire your employees and get them excited by your company vision”.
The ‘aha’ moment of coming up with a solution to a challenge that you’ve been facing is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
In this talk I explain how everything up until that equisite feeling of the ‘aha’ moment is filled with confusion, questions and objections. So, if you want others to share in your excitement. To experience the same boost in energy that gives them the momentum to act on the idea then you need to take them on the same journey as you. And that means letting them into your decision making process until they reach the same conclusion. At that point they reach the same level of insight and are ready to act.