It’s funny how big life changes can change your perspective on life. Whether it’s losing a loved one, having children or maybe even winning the lottery, we tend to reflect on what our true purpose in life should be. As I reflect the last twelve months, I left the stability of the corporate world to start my own business, shared in the pain of a miscarriage with my wife, and welcomed my second daughter, Kaia, who is now three months old. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what a “purpose driven life” really means to me.
Wait a minute. Isn’t this a blog about “people and culture”? What does a “purpose driven life” have to do with that? Stay with me as I elaborate.
Loss of Purpose at Work
At one point in my corporate career, I was working for a very desirable company. The industry was sexy, the people were fun, they were ground breaking in their ideologies, and the onboarding program was superb. The company’s culture was about integrity and performance and they that took pride in hiring people that were top-class. Everyone was passionate about the brand, the product, and the growth potential of the company. But like anything that seems too good to be true, something changed and everything went downhill.
The leaders would tell you that it’s ok to fail and make mistakes as long as you learn from them. However, you would end up taking accountability because that’s the only option you have if you want to survive in a culture of individual performance and integrity. When something went wrong, people were left to fend for themselves, even if it wasn’t their fault. The team abandoned their teammate because that blunder could affect their individual performance bonuses. As a result, the team would turn their heads away and just let that individual sink. Individual performance overshadowed teamwork.
In this non-supportive work environment, I started to question what my purpose was. I knew how my individual goals were linked to my department’s goals, but I couldn’t see how my contributions mattered to the company as a whole. The company had regular town hall meetings but they never shared their results. I was left to wonder about the impact of my individual efforts and sacrifices for the company. My performance started to falter in this environment and I became disengaged. I lost my purpose.
Loss of Purpose at Home
This disengagement affected how I was at home. I wasn’t being a supportive husband to my wife. I lost patience with my eldest daughter, Naima, who was a toddler at the time. Sometimes I wasn’t sure who was acting more like a toddler in a disagreement – Naima or me. Clearly, I wasn’t happy.
I’m a big believer in gender equality but coming from a traditional Asian family, the perspective is that a man’s purpose is to work hard at a stable job and earn as much money as possible to provide for their family. I was unconsciously (and dutifully) playing that role. I had a stable job and I was earning money to provide for my family but I still felt unfulfilled and unhappy.
This unhappiness affected my relationships with my wife and child. I soon realized that I couldn’t continue to live my life like this. I would end up driving away the most important people in my life just by virtue of being a jerk. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I decided to take a risk and sacrificed the stability of a corporate job, financial security, and health benefits to start my own quest of rediscovering my life purpose and to find true happiness.
Declaring My Purpose
I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process. I learned that my purpose in life is to be a supporting and selfless husband, a loving father to my two girls, and to give back to my communities. They are the schools that I graduated from, the small business owners and leaders who may be trying to figure out what having employees mean, the young professionals who are early in their careers, and the groups that support the fight against cancer which ultimately claimed my mom’s life. M-Power People enables me to achieve my purpose and that is why I am ultimately happier in life.
So how does having a “purpose driven life” relate to “people and culture”?
I encourage business leaders and owners to engage with your people beyond the scope of their job. Find out what their purpose in life is, what communities are important to them, and how you can help them to achieve their life’s mission. If your people haven’t discovered this yet, then start by asking them what they are driven by. Everyone is driven by something.
Fit the job to the person rather than fitting the person to the job. A person’s responsibility should not remain static and it should continue to evolve over time. Continually work with them to refine their responsibilities and make adjustments to enhance their purpose in the workplace.
Help people focus their energy by creating and owning their development both professionally and personally. Play a part in their accountability of their development. Empower them by guiding them to come up with their own answers rather than by telling them what to do.
Recognize and reward them not only for their individual efforts but also for their cohesiveness as a team. Celebration creates a healthy and positive environment.
Most importantly, the greatest gift a leader can give to their people is their time. Mentorship is a key ingredient to people’s success at work and in life. A leader’s feedback, done genuinely and with specific examples, can inspire people to achieve their purpose.
Do all of these things and your people will appreciate that they DO matter to you and to the company they work for.
Guiding your people to realize their purpose will improve their lives personally and help them feel fulfilled and engaged professionally.