Purpose Matters in Business

“Lean in to Purpose”  – Jonathan Mildenhall

I was recently at a conference where Jonathan Mildenhall was a key note speaker. For those of you who don’t know Jonathan (and I don’t expect you to), he was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Coca Cola and is now the Chief Marketing Officer at AirBnB. His marketing pedigree is not the topic of this message, but his passion for building “purpose driven companies” is.

His presentation was fantastic. In fact, as he took us through a journey of his career and some of the hallmark marketing campaigns he has overseen with Coca Cola and AirBnB, you could clearly see the impact that purpose has on those two organizations. And its not that these two companies are charities – far from that. But their commitment to purpose helped drive both to notable growth and brand success. Consider the following elements of Purpose from each of these companies:

• Coca Cola: To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
• AirBnB: Creating real connections/friendships between likeminded people

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Actions Speak More Loudly Than Words

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about that quote for a moment – “What you do speaks SO LOUDLY I cannot hear what you say”. Simple yet prophetic. Truer words have never been spoken.

While researching quotes specifically for this leadership message, I thumbed through dozens, but this one struck a chord. An artist with a pen, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a master at communicating thought. A poet, lecturer, and essayist – his writings often centered around key ideas such as individuality, self-determination, self-reliance, and the capacity of the individual.

That’s why this quote caught my eye. I, too, believe in the capacity of the individual & our ability to achieve great things, when we put our mind to it. I believe both in the importance of self-determination and self-reliance. But, I also believe in something more – our ability to influence the action and behavior of others (both positively and negatively), and the significant responsibility it accompanies. Continue reading

No Substitute for Hard Work

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi

I’ve been pondering this message for some time – writing about the importance of hard work. It seems so cliché these days to write about the obvious benefits of hard work – and even more cliché to start a leadership blog with such well-used quotes as those from Vince Lombardi. What’s more, I’ve worried about whether my message will offend those who might interpret this message as an affront to their work ethic.

But this message is important. It’s time to put the softer elements of leadership aside and speak to the heart of the matter – and quite simply it is this…most people don’t put forth the effort that is truly required to be successful in their life pursuits. Whether that’s at work, with family, with friendships, or in our hobbies, too many of us think that we can shortcut that process and still succeed.

Newsflash! Nothing in life comes easy. More importantly, nothing in life is worth having if it isn’t earned. “No pain, no gain” – isn’t that how the saying goes? Why then do so many people long for success (professional, financial, etc) but fail to put in the effort required for that achievement? Continue reading

A Purposeful Brand

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” – Howard Schultz

I was sharing dinner earlier this week with several of my colleagues, and the conversation turned to the topic of work, motivation, and ambitions. One of the more rewarding aspects of my job is to understand what motivates my fellow team members – and to make sure we honor those elements as we build our business.

“To be honest, I just love helping people find work”, one of our recruiters said. “The beauty of working in staffing is that you get the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life every day”. Prophetic words that spoke volumes about what motivated her behavior.

And I can tell you this statement was a genuine as the day is long. I know this because I saw it in action. Earlier that day we met several of our consultants during a client visit. One of those consultants pulled our recruiter aside to inform her his assignment would be ending prematurely. I wasn’t part of that conversation, but I did witness the follow up. Continue reading

Focus and Simplicity

“Mastery comes from a monomaniacal focus on simplicity vs. an addiction to complexity” – Robin Sharma

“What you stay focused on will grow” – Roy Bennett

I have always been a student of success in business and have long admired those who are able to achieve profitable growth even in the most difficult of times. Many of my past leadership messages have spoken about the importance of culture in driving this success. So too have I written about attitude, an important element of culture. But today I want to discuss the value of focus and simplicity as two of the most important elements of success in business.

Over the last several months I have spent a considerable amount of time researching this topic. In addition to looking at the qualities that drive our most successful (and least successful) branch operations, I’ve also looked outside at some of the more successful companies in our industry. Believe me when I say this wasn’t a casual effort – I have mountains of data behind this. In the end this exercise has led me to one inevitable conclusion – teams that live and bleed focus and simplicity achieve disproportionate growth, have higher staff engagement/satisfaction levels, and provide better service for their customers.
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The Importance of Grit

“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice. Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals—and it is what turns talent into skill, and skill into achievement.” – Angela Duckworth

One of the members of my leadership team recently shared with me an article/blog post from Daniel Pink (www.danielpink.com) on the importance of grit in driving individual and team performance. The article included excerpts from an interview with Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who recently published a book on her findings and observations on the topic of grit [Book is entitled “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”].

At any rate, it got me thinking – what is grit, and how can we as leaders leverage this to drive superior performance? Is it something that’s inherent in a person’s character, or can it be learned/developed?

Simply put, grit is a measure of an individual or team’s determination to a cause. It’s a mentality fueled by a relentless persistence to succeed. It reflects the tenacity and perseverance individuals will endure to see things through. Continue reading

Politics Can Kill a Business

pol•i•tics
noun  /ˈpɑl•əˌtɪks/

a. the activities of the government, politicians, or political parties, or the study of these activities:
b. the activities of people who are trying to obtain an advantage within a group or organization: – Source:  Cambridge Dictionaries Online

I don’t know whether it’s the negative energy coming out of Washington these days or the inherent nature of so much change in this world, but it seems I’ve overheard numerous discussions lately about “Politics”.  Yes, I’ve had my share discussion around Politics of the governmental type, where in the ‘noble pursuit of public service’ upstanding men and women work together for the common good. To be fair, in today’s Politics there doesn’t appear to be anything “noble” or “for the common good” when it comes to our government these days.  But I digress…

Politics clearly exist outside of the government and in every form of our lives – in work, at schools, in social clubs, in community organizations.  And in the truest, purest sense Politics can be a good thing – where individuals with similar interests align together for appropriate representation within the larger group.  If done correctly, an effective and respectful political structure affords the opportunity for differing interests to find the appropriate compromise(s) that are necessary for the group to succeed. Continue reading

The ‘Softer’ Skills are Just as Important…Maybe Even More

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think” – Albert Einstein

“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.”  John Stuart Mil

As I write this week’s leadership message, I sit 30,000 feet above the ground on a flight to Washington D.C.  I’ve been invited to participate in a series of workshops tomorrow with The Hope Street Group, an initiative chaired by the U.S. Department of Education that strives to bring together the right institutions towards the common goal of developing tools and solutions at the complex intersection of workforce supply and demand.  In other words, The Hope Street Group wants to develop a better way for our country to both understand the specific skills needs of our employers while bridging the gap for the development of the proper skills of potential job candidates in our communities. Continue reading