A line from our ethos always stuck with me “we are humans being first and companies second”
The full line is actually “It’s about helping our clients understand what makes them tick – as human beings first and as companies second.”
It always took a little moment in meetings, presentations and workshops for clients to get that. It elicited a pause.
Some understood, and seemed to feel immediately reassured that someone had called it out on their behalf. But some wanted the safety and comfort of business jargon, a catchy phrase on an objective truth or some lovely facts & figures. Neither reaction was right or wrong.
Weirdly, I think in the future we won’t need to explain it. To some extent we have been using work and business to hide from the fact this simple statement is true, and with it comes the stark realisation of the fallible nature of everything we do and everything we are.
Being Purpose consultants, with a distinctly individual bent, and experts in emotional communications (film and the like), we often find ourselves holding a mirror up to leaders, individuals, and businesses, resulting in a range of responses. Whether it is a one to one interview on fatalities from poor health and safety practices, or re-gearing a business towards a new direction, our work has centred on finding the deeper, inner most part of ourselves and communicating the better angels of our nature. I always enjoy this element of our work; connecting with people on a human level, where the noises of daily business are drowned out and human intention comes into undeniable focus. If out of nothing other than the sheer curiosity of human nature.
I joke with peers and clients when asked “what causes a business to look at it’s purpose.” I say that there are sets of triggers; typically ranging from a rebrand, M&A, ESG pressure to new leadership. But I add that there is always simply “spontaneous introspection”. Normally we giggle around the possible causes of this – an epiphany, a vision, a personal event, an enlightenment…. We veer into scary territory and the joke ends.
Over the past few weeks and into the next few months it feels as though many people are going to go on this journey. Spontaneous, or at least triggered, introspection. En masse. Asking themselves what really matters, what really makes them happy and what really makes their work meaningful.
While we deal with the difficulties of rapid change, and step into a new normal, the thing that gives me confidence is that the better angels of nature will come to the forefront. The distractions, excuses and business-as-usual will take a back-seat and our focus will become clear. I am hopeful the right leaders will say the right things and business will rise to the challenge beset upon us.
Operating and serving in the space of ‘purpose’ has meant navigating accusations of lofty ideals and nice-to-have strategies. But those with a higher cause, a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for I suspect will weather this storm better than those who do not. If only on individual level.
The quote that keeps popping into mind is from Viktor Frankl, as it provides me comfort and inspiration:
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
I am inspired by the emotional connection we can still have remotely, the power of what business can do and contribute, but crucially by the hidden leaders (at all levels) tucked away in businesses providing direction, guidance and reassurance when things are trying.
I am curious and hopeful that individuals keep their higher cause front of mind during this period of confusion. And I am grateful that my colleagues and clients are the humans they are.