So why is purposeful leadership important? I believe there is nothing more fulfilling in life than having a purpose. That’s why we love to give and help others. That’s why we give money to worthy causes. And that’s why parents find having children so rewarding, inspite of all that lack of sleep!
Having a clear purpose and mission has helped me deal with huge amounts of uncertainty in my own business. When I don’t know if I’m able to pay the rent next month or next week, my purpose is what keeps me going and gives me the resilience I need continue the work and go over and beyond what is expected of me.
When I was not aware of my higher purpose in my previous role, I would only do what is expected of me and was out the door ASAP.
I was engaged but only just and my results were good enough but not great.
We all know about the rate of change impacting organisation as well as the uncertainty that it brings. To deal with constant change, having engaged employees is not enough – we need passionate and purpose driven teams who feel they are on a mission to help their stakeholders and know that they are making a bigger contribution than just doing their job. Purpose is the only constant when everything
around us is changing.
This might sound pretty far fetched for most working in large organisations, but it ultimately comes down to leadership. Purposeful leaders inspire their teams beyond their tasks to constantly remind them of the difference their work is making to a stakeholder.
Isn’t it great when a colleague or a clients tells you how the work you are doing is helping them? Or making their life easier? Feedback is so important so we know we are making a difference especially when things are tough.
So why do you do what you do? Have you clearly defined your purpose and mission? How have you communicated this to your stakeholders?
As an early stage entrepreneur, cash flow is a bit like a roller coaster ride. I’m taking steps to remedy that but in the meantime, that’s the
way it is.
As I reflect more on it, I realise that running out of cash is my biggest fear! And it has been so since I jumped into HiB full time a year ago.
So what impact does the fear have on me when I let myself get over whelmed by it? I tend to get anxious, which can lead to a restless
sleep thereby impacting my productivity the next day.
It’s now been more than a year since I have adopted my mindful practice of meditating every day, which has been a godsend. I’m now able to better observe my thoughts before I get too absorbed by them.
When the fear hits, I remind myself that nothing has actually happened yet. The thought has arisen because of what might happen(such as going broke and not being able to pay the rent). But right now, that has not happened. And probably wont happen either.
With mindfulness, the fear is still there but has less impact on me as I’ts helped me be more resilient by becoming more aware of them and not letting myself get lost in a rabbit hole! The key is to remind myself to move my attention from What MIGHT happen to what I need to do NOW.
What has also been liberating is being able to be authentic and let my stakeholders know what is going on for me. Their support has been incredible! (A special thanks to Nathalie Mcneil from Novartis, who has been incredibly supportive!)
The more I embraced my mindfulness practice, the less I’m worried about what my stakeholders think of me, and as a result, I’ve felt as if a burden has been lifted and the fear dramatically reduced.
So how do you manage fear in your leadership when it creeps up on you? How many of your fears have actually come true? What impact does your fear have on your stakeholders and team and are you able to express it in a way which engages them
rather than pushing them away?
Recently a friend was sharing the challenges of dealing with a very over bearing and uncompromising stakeholder.
This made me think of a time when I came across a stakeholder who was challenging to deal with. In my mind, I used to judge him for not supporting my initiatives or always questioning them. I felt very intimidated when I was with him and was fearful of challenging him on his thinking!
The really hard part for me was realising that I was part of the problem because being too timid, too shy, too quiet or too “nice” can be the same thing as being too outspoken, too aggressive or too demanding. I didn’t have clear boundaries around what I would accept and what I won’t.
I’ve learnt that if I’m dealing with a difficult stakeholder, I need to change the way I engage so my boundaries and expectations are clear.
And that sometimes means I need to do or say things which I find challenging. So I practised and rehearsed my conversation around how
I would approach the stakeholder and made the conversation about me, rather than him. Being vulnerable by admitting my challenges around engaging him, helped him understand me better which in turn gave me insights on why he came across as intimidating.
So are you aware of your boundaries in business relationships and what behaviours you won’t stand for? Do you take ownership of a problem by being innovative and finding new ways to address it rather than pointing fingers?
As I listened to Kaitlin Stoddard from HubSpot share the biggest lesson she has learnt as a Customer Centric Leader, I realised that there can be nothing more engaging for employees and leaders in organisations than great customer service – be it for internal or external customers.
Why? I believe we exist in this world to serve others and that’s what customer service is all about! Our purpose is to be of service to our family, friends and the community in which we live. Raising a child, helping a mate out or joining the Surf Life Savers club – we get a kick from helping others. This is what creates fulfilment and enriches our lives.
So how can we bring the same feeling into the workplace to create a sense of purpose and improve employee engagement?
At work, I’ve learnt that I need to put my agenda aside and find a way to of achieving what I need, not by taking, but by giving. I need to achieve my objectives by helping my stakeholders achieve their’s first. This has shifted my thinking from being outcome focused to being service focused. I now put less pressure on myself and my engagement has increased when I go to meetings because my only intention is to help someone. And when I do so unconditionally, the outcome follows!
The key to bringing a sense of fulfilment to my work has been by creating deeper connections at work – being vulnerable and authentic in my conversations have certainly helped! I can only care about a stakeholder if I can relate to them, which in turns helps me better serve their needs.
So how can you build deeper relationships with your stakeholders to go beyond what is expected of you and feel a sense of fulfilment when helping them? How can you create a feedback loop where you can see the impact your work is having on others so you know you are making a difference?
It can be challenging to make all aspects of our work meaningful but if we can constantly remind ourselves why we do what we do and who we are serving, it might take our engagement to the next level?
I recently met with the highly energetic Tim Ebbeck, the former CEO of Oracle Australia who is a big follower of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said “To lead the people, walk behind them.” Tim will be speaking at our Authentic Leadership event on November 30th.
In this video, Tim shares the importance of leaders standing up and speaking up for what they believe in . At a recent contracting gig I did, one of the leaders thought my dress code was casual and not professional enough (I was wearing jacket and tie but it was not a one colour dark suit!)
I’m pretty sure I didn’t look like a slob and more importantly, I believe it’s how I treat and care for my client that determines my relationship with them and not if I wear a suit or jacket/tie! Yet I couldn’t say that. I just froze, nodded my head and walked away. Looking back, I realised that it was because of my fear of confrontation which prevented me from speaking my truth and standing up for what I believed in.
Since then, I’ve asked myself how I could have been more authentic in my approach and I came to realise that I needed to be more curious and try and understand why the leader felt that way. Maybe he had had a bad experience with a customer who had given him a hard time?
As Tim puts it, I’ve learnt to be “firm on the issue and soft on the person’ which has helped me speak my truth. Finding that inner strength to speak up has come through lots of silent reflection time and better understanding my fear of confrontation, which was because my parents used to fight about money when I was a kid. I’m learning that being authentic is truly an art – too much can be damaging and not enough, can have no impact.
So how authentic are you with your team or stakeholders? Are you always sharing what is on your mind and not listening enough? Or are you not sharing what’s really on your mind? Can you “be real” with them without rocking the boat? And most importantly are you aware of the fears that might be holding you back from speaking your truth?
After all, isn’t great leadership about how we have the tough conversations?
I asked one of our other speakers Mark Bilton (ex)MD of Gloria Jeans Coffee and MD of Thought Patrol to share his perspective on authentic leadership in a short video which you can view here.
Listening to Mark made me really reflect on creating a culture of honour. I had mentioned in my earlier post how I wished I had a closer relationship with my father and because I rarely got to spend time with him growing up, I only chose to see the side of him which I didn’t like. All his friends would tell me what a great guy my dad was and his sense of fairness in business.
Until I understood myself better, I was not able to honour or acknowledge him for his part in making me the leader I am today. Since his passing, I have now learnt to honour and acknowledge his great qualities which I have adopted.
This process also helps remind me of the importance of honouring the great work that my stakeholders do with their teams
and clients. As I write this, I realise that HiB is about honouring great leaders and thinkers who truly care about people in the workplace. To create a culture of honour in the workplace, all our contributions need to be acknowledged and great leaders are doing it with their teams and stakeholders all the time.
So how do you honour your team or stakeholders? Do you acknowledge their contribution in meetings or emails? And if so, how often?
There is no such things as too much acknowledgement!