Legacy

Legacy. n. A tangible or intangible thing handed down; a long lasting effect of an event or process.

 We often talk of ‘legacy’ as something we view in hindsight, being the outcome of accumulated past events that create a present reality. Rarely do we ask ourselves at the beginning or through that journey what is the end result we desire.

There is the well-worn scenario painted by educators through the question ‘if you were an observer at your own funeral what would you like your eulogy to say of you?’ I suppose it does draw into a scarily stark reality that in thinking about your legacy, the end of your days might not be the time to be asking that question.

I recently met with a family Director of one of Australia’s largest food distributors, PFD Food Services, Sharon Landy. She spoke to me with both pride and acceptance of ‘that’s just the way it is’ of her father, the owner and past CEO of PFD, Richard Smith. Richard has supported organisations like The Reach Foundation for over twenty years. While he also supports other not-for-profits and sports clubs, it is the impact PFD have had with Reach that exemplifies legacy.

Richard didn’t overtly brag about his support of this teenager support organisation, but quietly got on with committing PFD to get behind them for the long term. The impact of the quiet conscious leadership that I detected from my conversation with Sharon was that this culture of responsibility beyond your own backyard, has had generational ingrained impact with his family, his colleagues and is now ‘just the way it is’ at PFD. The determination that part of the PFD purpose was to invest in the world around it was considered as important and probably impactful on its bottom line over the long term as profit. It demonstrates again that profit still can be gained, but the impact of purpose is far greater.

Richard’s commitment and foresight in creating a Triple Bottom line philosophy (People, Planet & Profit) for his company by enlivening his values was then not only counter to the narrow ‘profit above all else’ corporate culture, it was visionary. It is leaders like this that have a conscious awareness of the role of their organisations in their communities. While I am sure the nature of the man would not espouse this philosophy as a motive, good corporate citizenship, a sense of greater purpose makes good business sense.

Gratitude

The teenagers that PFD supported through Reach’s tremendous mentoring over many years have now grown to be adults. I’m sure many, because of the grit they learned in their troubled lives and support of Reach have gone on to be leaders themselves. PFD’s support is not about short-term gain, but about long-term investment in our communities. Communities that are good for business.

I have never heard a legacy read at a funeral, where the commitment in a person’s life is summed up in what they did for themselves, only ever what they did for others.

I recently read some research about obituary notices. I know who would do research about that, let alone read it! But interestingly of the thousands of obituaries reviewed, the most common phrase used to describe people’s lives was ‘the good they had done for others’.

Legacy is about a conscious life, about understanding the impact we have on others, on our families, our colleagues, our communities and our planet and choosing what that impact could be and not to wait till the game is over. It is about purpose!

Touchstone

My Blogs and social media posts centre on Purpose and why a social conscience not only makes good human sense but also good business sense. I endeavour to explain through each of these media that conscious leaders can manifest disproportionate benefits by driving a purpose agenda within their organisation that engages their people, encourages higher levels of commitment, nurtures an environment that allows for greater creativity and innovation and increases customer and stakeholder loyalty.

I thought it was time to jump from the theory to the reality. By this company’s own admission and occasional good-humoured pun, one might not immediately pick them as a star in the conscious capitalism environment. But bear with me, their story is really inspiring, particularly for one that operates in the highly competitive and ‘under the public microscope’ environment of fast food.

I had the great pleasure of having a long conversation late last year with Joe Marino the Franchise Business Coach from KFC Australia. KFC has a long-standing relationship with the Reach Foundation that was initiated over 23 years ago by their founder Jim Stynes. (I have mentioned Reach a few times in my blogs and have an explanatory note at the end of this one). Jim’s heart wrenching initial request was that ‘for some kids who attempted suicide by jumping off a large bridge not far from their outlets, KFC was literally their last meal. Could KFC please put some signs in their toilets asking these kids to reach out for help’.

Obviously, KFC responded and that was the beginning of a long-term and deep relationship. While there was a compelling human need that KFC acted on immediately, the longevity of the relationship is really based more on the synergy of their organizational values. Similarly, KFC has a workforce where 90% are aged between 15 and 22. Reach deal with youth support very much in that same age bracket. So again some alignment here.

Teenagers95% of KFC’s management started their careers at the coalface as a casual in a franchise outlet. They use the term ‘grow their own timber’ so longevity and a positive culture are cornerstones of their organizational values. In their long-term engagement strategy, they take on a serious commitment to growing the ‘human’ not just the employee and look for ways to shape a culture that is people-centric.

I used the word ‘touchstone’ as the title of this blog because Joe used it a number of times in our conversation. For KFC the relationship with Reach and the other causes they support are a touchstone in their own humanness. The stories that emanate not only about the kids that Reach support but the manner in which the KFC people interact with Reach in workshops, camps, motivational days on so on, creates a touchstone in how their people value each other, their communities and respect their organization. In fact, Joe commented humorously that it is much easier to engage their people in becoming a better whole person using these connection points than just training them on cooking fried chicken.

There is clearly a strong driver to contribute to the community and that manifests throughout KFC from the most senior level through to the franchise operations. KFC see themselves as part of communities and obviously respect that relationship. What struck me most in this conversation was how the ‘touchstones’ had impacted and inspired their management. The humanness was a top-down philosophy that filtered through its culture clearly impacting the return on investment with staff, even at the coal face staying on average for 5years and management for 15years, exceptional in modern terms.

I have great admiration for companies like KFC that live conscious capitalism through active community and people engagement. This clearly demonstrates that organizations aligned to cooperate with their strengths can create great things.

 

Side note: In a few of my blogs I have mentioned Reach as an example of a leader in the NFP sector. I have no formal ties in any manner to Reach. I have however been blessed to participate as an observer in a significant program they run. I was awed by the impact on over 300 youths that participated and profoundly touched. I have huge respect for so many NFP’s of such a wide scale and believe the breadth of opportunity for connection with commercial organizations is virtually unlimited. But I confess a great respect for Reach.

I have dealt with a large number of not-for-profit organizations and their intent is not necessarily any better or different from each of the many fabulous well-meaning organisations, Reach know their space so well and seek to be proactive in the use of their intellectual property that goes beyond the traditional NFP thinking. They get youth, they get the millennial generation and use that knowledge not only to be a positive presence for their constituents but also use the IP to gain support for their cause. They create their own self-fulfilling cycle of providing and receiving support.

The Start

I have decided to start 2018 with my first blog revealing a little of my own personal journey in discovering my Purpose.

Firstly let me paint a picture that I am sure many would be familiar.

I had always held conceptions of what my career and life would hold, notice I put career before life. I always felt that I would be happy in life if my career all worked to ‘plan’.

I started my career in the ranks of a large organization, got a few promotions but wasn’t satisfied with the pathways they offered. So moved to a higher position in another company and repeated this process again and again.

In fact, when I look at my CV, this is a recurring theme and resulted in more moves than is the norm for my generation. Probably more akin to millennials, who are predicted to move 15-20 in their career. Well, maybe not as much as a millennial.

I felt I was always searching for fulfillment but really couldn’t define what that meant, other than some shallow materialistic goals and grandiose titles.

I had a couple of major career ‘crises’ when my roles ended not necessarily in a manner I would have chosen, which served only to heighten the self-questioning of my path.

Well-meaning friends and self-help books gave that perennial advice ‘follow your passion’….but what was my passion, WHAT WAS MY PASSION!!!!!

So while back in the hunt for another round of that ‘hamster-wheel’ career I came across this poem.

Reading Jan18

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

“There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk”

Chapter One

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost . . . I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault . . . It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall . . . it’s a habit . . . but, My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

 I recognized the ‘blaming others for my woes’, that I didn’t have the courage at the time to challenge what I then believed to be the right, ‘safe’ path but gradually grew aware that I was repeating the same story over and over. I needed to write a new story! So what I drew from this was not only the futility of repeating the same career ‘hole in the sidewalk’ but on a positive note grew to understand my own unique learning to get to where I am.

It wasn’t an overnight thing but it was at some point that I decided to change the street I walked down.

Don’t sweat the passion stuff. I had always had fleeting relationships with different passions, which is great because that was part of my story and learning. The street I needed to take is taking me to my Purpose.

My Purpose gives me joy in creating exciting partnerships so that both parties can gain from and contribute to each other. The work that so many committed and amazing Purpose driven not-for-profits achieve by contributing to our world’s common good can be an amazing partnership with commercial organizations who understand the benefit of shared-value. I create that connection so each can gain from each other’s strengths and be better for it and jointly create a better world.

Never feel that it is too late to question your path if you keep falling in that hole, you too have your own unique learning that can still be drawn on in your ‘street’.

It’s not all about them……

Since posting my last blog I have been fortunate to talk to a number of leaders who inspire purpose within their own organisations and actively engage social purpose based partnerships.

These leaders recognise the value of maintaining a strategically aligned relationship with targeted not-for-profits.

I’ll go into greater depth over the coming posts about the shared value that both the commercial and not-for-profits gain from aligned relationships. However an interesting consistency in each of the conversations with these leaders struck me that I hadn’t considered previously, that I will return to shortly.

I have to go in to a bit of business case spiel here, bear with me.

While there is overwhelming evidence of companies that embrace a sense of purpose consistently outperform their competition, the leaders I spoke to were not initially motivated to initiate social partnerships with an expectation that there would be an immediate direct bottom line benefit.

They are acutely aware that their customers, stakeholders and employees have an expectation that their company must be a good corporate citizen, contribute to the society they operate within and demonstrate not talk values. Their motivation to partner with a not-for-profit that has a sensible strategic alignment with their business’s culture and objectives is pragmatic and sensitive leadership. With a modern workforce that demands a greater sense of contribution in their roles beyond just profit (65% of the millennial workforce declare they would actively seek out employers who satisfy this demand) then that leadership sensitivity is well founded. The pragmatic outcome is greater staff retention, improved acquisition potential and commitment.

Similarly instilling a culture within an organization that is acutely aware of and attached to their society has many positive benefits. A workforce that views their world in an empathetic and caring manner encourages people centric thinking, innovation, creativity and a far keener knowledge of consumer expectations.

Further intangible but nonetheless real benefits to having an organization that sees itself as a citizen within it’s community, is improved customer loyalty, brand value and reputation, stakeholder engagement and new business opportunities.

Thus endeth the business case lesson, I promise!

What struck me in my conversations was that while the leaders talked of the ‘business case’ impact, the motivation that their employees felt from social purpose engagement, the positive impact of the combined empathy that the human connection had instilled into the organisation, what the leaders gradually let slip was what it meant to them.

Dont just stand there

They talked of the impact of listening to or working with people, kids, and families whose battles and strength in life far outweighed their day-to-day management issues. They were visibly affected by the positive impact of courage, stamina and will. They were motivated by the sense of good that there is in people and those supporting not-for-profits that have no where near the resources these leaders are used to yet achieve amazing results. These social purpose relationships clearly had not only a humanising impact on them and how they related to their people but also an inspiring one to be better leaders themselves.

I have been fortunate to witness many of these stories and understand the impact of the relationships between the corporate sector and not-for-profits and believe absolutely that if managed properly the WIN-WIN is huge and multifaceted. Don’t under value the mutual contribution that great partnerships can achieve through their individual strengths. That’s why I started Purpose Built, to help facilitate these relationships.

My….Self?

In an intimate moment between them, the grandfather with the wisdom of a long life passes on to his grandson words learnt through a life of learning…’be true to yourself”.

The grandson looks around in bewilderment and asks…..”be true to myself…but who am I?”

The question of who is my authentic Self, is with us through our lives. We seek our authentic self at times of introspection, others seek our true identity also whether, our workplace, our friends and partners. In a time where our ‘Self’ can be both influenced and manifested in so many ways with social media personas, a business presence, societal demands and so on, what Self is true?

In our quest to seek some Purpose in our lives it is reasonable and right to consider the alignment with that Self, to create authenticity in what must be one of the most important functions we have in our lives.

As we travel through the labyrinth of experiences and teachings, good, bad and otherwise our learning’s influences our character and piece by piece create the unique creatures we are.

Depending on your religious or spiritual beliefs, many also embrace the concept that we are born with ‘history’ and this too is an important influence and to some the core of our Self.

Arguably the influences of our Self, begins before we are born as we inherit ancestral and genealogical traits from our forebears that trickle into our character. We are reared and live in different cultural environments where behavioural norms of one can be quite different to another.

I suspected before I touched on the subject of ‘authenticity’, that I was taking a bite out of a very large apple. Creating a Purpose that aligns sensibly with ‘who we truly are’ whether for a business or individual is critical for it’s sustainability and real impact. So this will be a conversation I will continue into the future as well.

We are told that to understand ourselves fully we must look within and while I respect this self analysis, I wondered isn’t this introspection looking at our Self through the rear vision mirror. Where we are today is an accumulation of all our past learning, but does it stop at this point?

Self is not static and in fact it evolves by continual learning throughout our lives. Again whether for an individual or a business it is from ‘learning’ from every experience that continually evolves who we are.

Rehersal

For a part of my career I worked with an amazing well-known theatre company (not on stage I might add). I would often relay to potential business partners that one of the most stimulating aspects of my time there was to observe the Director and cast recreate a story that had been told, sometimes thousands of times before, to create a relevant and enriching performance. A group of actors who invariably didn’t know each other prior, would be led through an iterative process by their Director and tap into their creative, intellectual and experiential selves to bring about these works.

This work would then be presented to a group of people, an audience, that would give immediate and critical feedback, through applause, of varying degrees of enthusiasm.

My business partners would observe this process, be challenged by a different paradigm and creative approach then interpret techniques that they could use in their own workplace. My client’s Self had gained from a unique learning from outside their regular world.

Herminia Ibarra, the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning at Insead Business School wrote in a HBR article recently;

‘the benefit of what I call outsight – the valuable external perspective we get from experimenting with new leadership behaviours – habitual patterns of thought and action fence us in. To begin thinking like leaders, we must first act: plunge ourselves into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with new ways of getting things done. Especially in times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow experience – not vice versa. Action changes who we are and what we believe is worth doing.’

I would tell business leaders the story of the theatre company because often learning’s can be found in amazing and different places, with people that are from vastly different worlds and experiences to us. It is why I have always found it so rewarding for all to create partnerships between not-for-profits and commercial organisations, each with their own unique IP.

One of the most profound if not always conscious teachers we will have in our lives will be our partners. Whether personal or business, if authentic the relationship can have a wonderful impact on our learning and thus on our Self and Purpose.

‘Blurriness’

A couple of weeks ago I was very fortunate to be invited along to a day held at the Reach Foundation, as I grew to appreciate aptly named ‘The Heroes Day’. Reach is an amazing organization that supports teenagers facing a wide range of challenges in their lives. I’ll revisit Reach in later blogs, who they are and what they do and why I find Reach people inspirations in conversations about Purpose.

At the end of that day of observing the 450, Year 9 students coached to find their hero within, I took part in a conversation with some of the facilitators, who themselves have not long breached the age group those they led.

Names are not important here, but the story relayed of one great young woman there, her troubled life up to where she found a Purpose and an anchor at Reach affected me. What struck me was a word she used to describe how a person in her life, a teacher, had not allowed the confines of her ‘job description’ or normal expected lines of disconnection stop her from rescuing this troubled, beautiful young girl.

This now strong young woman spoke of how that teacher had gone beyond her ‘job description’ to drive her to school, make sure she ate, cared for her beyond the normal ‘guidelines’ required in her role to ensure she was safe, educated and had a chance at a future. This teacher operated in the words of this saved soul, in a ‘blurriness’ in the ‘rules’. Her purposeful intent, care and objective to give this young girl a chance in life was more important. This teacher clearly had a Purpose beyond the guidelines of her traditional teaching role, and it is because of that Purpose that she gave someone that ‘leg up’ that often is all they need, just a break.

PB Fence

I got to thinking, how often do we challenge our own ‘boundaries’ within our own personal lives and workspace to achieve our higher Purpose. Now I’m not suggesting anarchy in the work place, where there is often valid reason for structure (or is there). But ask yourselves, if the restrictions weren’t there, or weren’t quite as rigid as you think, would you pursue your Purpose further.

I wonder also whether some of our boundaries are self created, do we fear what others may think of us if we stray from the ‘expectations’ of our tribe, do we avoid perceived conflict, do we fear that our actions are seen as selfish and frankly are they a ‘comfort zone’.

So as part of our pursuit in seeking our own Purpose we must be realistic about the barriers we have or choose to be restrained by, and our honest conviction in challenging them.

The boundaries, rules, ‘the way we do things’ are often there for sensible valid and social reasons but just ask yourself if you allow a little ‘blurriness’ into your life, what might you achieve, what hero is within you that you can impact someone else’s life and in turn your own.

Purpose vs. Mission

All these Statements!

As I discuss the benefits and strategies for creating a socially Purpose driven company with CEO’s and with people seeking their own Purpose, I am often asked what is the difference with Purpose and Mission.

I have interacted with some fabulous companies that have eloquent Vision, Mission and Values Statements. Largely they are designed to connect with their employees’ logical or cerebral sense of shared direction and wish to encourage commitment (note I didn’t say inspire….I’ll come back to that).

‘We will be the best……Our goal is to increase market share by X every year…..We will exceed our customers expectations….and so on’.

The What, Why, How?

For some time now the shift in workplaces and in our personal motivation is fed more by the ‘why’ we do things rather than just the laboriously crafted Mission Statements of ‘what’ we do, or Vision Statements of ‘where’ we want to be. We need reason.

Occasionally, I come across a company that along with their other ‘Statements’ proclaim a sense of Purpose. While not as common, nor necessarily a new concept. One of the ‘nicer’ ones I have seen as quoted in a HBR article is from Van Arsdale France from the Disney Corporation in 1955 while preparing a presentation on his company’s Purpose….

PB Disneyland

Arsdale France presenting to Disney executives spoke;

‘And now our theme: the purpose of Disneyland is to create happiness for others. And you see, the beautiful thing about saying, “We’re going to create happiness’, was then I could say, “Look, you may park cars, clean up the place, sweep the place, work graveyard and everything else, but whatever you do is creating happiness for others”

So we are starting to ingrain an emotion here! Something the harder Vision and Mission Statements try hard to do but well…….’increasing market share by XX’….yawn.

The emotional impact of Purpose.

 In the case of Disney, the emotion ‘happiness’ as the ‘why’ they do what they do is a far more palpable uniting yet individual driver than the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of a Vision and Mission.

So why is this ‘emotion’ thing such a big deal. If my company or my work is so cleverly focused on making the best widget or being the top dog in my industry what is it with this emotion stuff?

Funnily part of the answer sits within the ‘big end of town’. Why do nearly all major corporations now have….not just individuals, but entire departments that look after their people’s wellness and seek to positively impact communities and the environment. Why do company’s like Westpac shift their Mission Statements to focus not exclusively on their customer’s but on their people?

I know it is a resource thing, but many large companies, not all, but many get that ingraining social purpose (both internal and external) makes good business sense. Leaders get that the inspiration of social purpose can have a multiplying effect. This is a Purpose Built intent, to help those companies that don’t have those ‘departments’ embrace and leverage social Purpose.

(I’ll talk more about how Purpose Built can demonstrate a clear business case for social value and responsibility in a blog in the near future)

Depending on the study, over 65% of the millennial workforce, now demand greater social contribution and personal fulfilment in their workplace.

Another emotion…..Fullfillment! We are on a roll! So could it be that Purpose really is the emotional driver of the ‘Statements’.

So where the very important Vision and Mission Statements are cerebral drivers, Purpose is one of the heart. Good leaders get that to have a motivated, creative and committed workplace you must connect to the heart.

Where does this leave you my friend as I have spent all this time talking about companies?

It is interesting, there was some great research that came out of NorthWest University in the US recently, that found that no generation was more eager to give back or has a greater sense of reason and contribution over the other. We all seek a place in giving back or contribution. However the lesson from the Millennials is that they will stand up and demand Purpose. Do you?

And my final point….the emotion of social Purpose inspires. To quote the often and justifiably referenced Simon Sinek…..

There are leaders and those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire!’

Why Purpose?

Not another latest trend!

 When I decided to concentrate conversations on the concept of ‘Purpose’, I was conscious of the amount of chatter currently around about this topic. We have all been through phases with ‘buzz words’ or trends such as ‘innovation’, ‘mindfulness’, ‘empowerment’ and so on. I was concerned that this ‘Purpose’ thing might be thought of as just another fad.

Now let me say from the beginning all the above practices are fabulous, if the worse they do is make us think differently then the principles are worthwhile. But they are not new and nor is Purpose, so to consider them as just a fly-by-night latest trend, would be a mistake.

The Purpose of Purpose Built…

 I have worked with some amazing organisation’s both ‘for profit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ that were at their best when all their strengths were aligned with their true Purpose. Or even more socially inspiring when the strengths of ‘for profits’ and ‘not-for-profits’ collaborated. Similarly I’ve met many successful individuals who are keenly aware of why they are here and follow their own Purpose in their way.

This is where I made the decision to create Purpose Built , a company that focuses on facilitating inspiring relationships between ‘for profit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ organisations to achieve win/win social and business impact.

Aristotle wrote:
‘At the intersection of where your gifts, talents and abilities meet a human need, therein you discover your Purpose’.

 

Purpose doesn’t have an end point…..

The reason I think Purpose is so important for us all is that I believe it umbrellas all of the ‘buzz word’ practices; it is the essence of authenticity. Purpose is enriching because it is not static it allows us to grow, learn and develop constantly. Purpose is not in itself a destination. Purpose is using all your talents, skills and abilities to create a ‘way’ you live not just what you live for.

PB Man on Rope
Your strengths tell a story…..

Some time ago, I read some of Marcus Buckingham’s work. He conveys that concentrating our energies on what we are innately good at, in what we enjoy, where we find our natural flow, will lead to greater success, fulfilment and happiness. If we focus on our strengths that seem to come with ease, rather than force ourselves to function through our weaknesses we create our own unique purposeful way.

Your passions, and there may be many in your life, your vision or mission if you are a leader in a company, will be met when you live or function with Purpose. Your ’flow’ will be realised as Aristotle said, ‘when your gifts talents and abilities intersect and meet a human need’.

That is why PURPOSE, and why I want to share the gifts, talents and abilities I’ve grown to realise as mine and the conversations with many other Purposeful leaders with you.