The Power of Purpose

Greetings. In the last few years, I have become enamored with Lush Cosmetics—a British company that sells intriguingly fragrant soap that looks like cheese. Not only have I become a reliable customer for their “fresh and handmade” personal care products, but I also bring groups of business leaders to visit their stores here in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and even Kuala Lumpur. Visits intended to give leaders from a wide range of industries a sense of what it takes to create a business that is loved and respected by almost all of its employees and customers. Granted, many of its customers are relying on their parents to buy their soaps, lotions, perfumes, shampoos, bath bombs, and other products but that’s a different story. What interests me most is the “power of purpose” in this global company that is widely regarded as being innovative, caring, collaborative, customer-centric, socially and environmentally responsible, and successful.

Let’s face it, having a clear and compelling sense of purpose is vital to business success—especially today. Yet too many companies fail or neglect to make clear why they really matter, the core purpose they are trying to achieve, and the role that the folks who work there and the folks who buy from them play in making important things happen. At Lush, they wear their purpose on the walls of their stores and even in the ink that adorns some of their employees. It is a purpose that is all about products that are natural, good for you, not tested on animals, and good for the planet. All made by real people whose pictures and names appear on every package, unless a product comes without a package as a way to reduce the use of unnecessary material that is likely to end up in landfills. And purchased by customers who care about the products they buy and use. It is also a purpose that inspires the company  to invest a significant amount of its proceeds to support nonprofit organizations around the world that are working to improve the lives of children and low-income communities, and the welfare of animals—organizations recommended by employees.

All of which begs the questions:

“What is your purpose as a company, organization, or individual?”

“Is your purpose something that inspires all of your employees, customers, and stakeholders to be passionate and knowledgeable advocates for your brand?” and

“What value do you really provide?”

If your purpose is not as clear or compelling as it could be, you might want to take a field trip to your nearest Lush shop where the colors are intense, the fragrances are strong, everything can be sampled, customers are loyal, employees are engaged, turnover is low, the sense of purpose is everywhere, and the soap looks good enough to taste.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 5.49.52 PM

Cheers!

To a New Year Filled With Success

Greetings. While it is hard to believe that 2017 is already here, the start of the New Year provides a great opportunity to reconnect and thank you for being part of the life of our company in 2016.

It also seems, in these less than certain times, like the perfect moment to start a new conversation about the importance, or rather the “necessity,” of being curious and open-minded in the year ahead—a year that will be filled with remarkable possibilities for innovation and growth if we are able to see the best in everyone around us.

In a world in which new ideas and business models are quickly changing our industries and organizations, we will all need to step outside our comfort zones in order to re-imagine how we can deliver greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. And the best way to do this is by being more open to the world around us and more willing to connect with, and learn from, people with different ideas, insights, backgrounds, and points of view.

2017 image

So here’s hoping that you and your colleagues will take the time to explore and connect with new people and new ways of thinking in the year ahead. And if you could use a little help in sparking a new conversation in your company or organization, please do not hesitate to ask.

But most importantly, giant thanks again for everything you have taught me during the past twelve months and best wishes for your most open and successful year yet!

Cheers,

Alan

Seven New Year’s Resolutions

Greetings. As I head back to the gym and grab a quick salad after a holiday season filled with lots of family, friends, food, and an occasional premium-quality malt beverage, I am keenly aware of my resolutions to exercise more, eat less, focus on the things that matter most, avoid taking on too many extra projects and volunteer assignments, live in the moment, and stress less about the things I can’t control. It must be a pretty good list, because it is almost identical to the list I made last year and at the start of every new year. And, with a bit of luck and a bit more effort I am guardedly optimistic about making real progress in the next twelve months.

The way I see it, resolutions are incredibly valuable…even when we can’t achieve them as completely as we would like to. Valuable in focusing our attention and best efforts on the important stuff. Valuable in giving us a better understanding of our real potential. And valuable in enabling us to better appreciate our own strengths and humanity as well as the strengths and humanity of others who are often very different than us.

Which suggests that making New Year’s resolutions might also be a good idea for leaders and organizations. Resolutions that focus our attention and best efforts on the most important stuff in our world. Resolutions that give us a better understanding of our full potential as enterprises. Resolutions that enable us to see the strengths, humanity, and value in all of our colleagues, associates, members, partners, and customers.

new-year-resolution-400x400

So here are my suggestions for seven important corporate resolutions that will, with the right attention and effort, drive greater innovation, collaboration, growth, and business success in the year ahead…

Resolve to:

1. Be more curious about the world around you.

2. Be more open to the ideas, insights, and perspectives of others, including strangers.

3. Imagine how your company or organization could become much more meaningful and valuable to your employees, customers, and anyone else you have the privilege to serve.

4. Take the time to know your colleagues better, discover their real talents, and find more opportunities to share knowledge and possibilities.

5. Take the time to understand your customers more deeply and find more opportunities to make them smarter and more successful even when they aren’t paying you to do it.

6. Communicate more effectively and more often with those around you.

7. Make an even greater commitment to the health and well-being of your community.

We win in business and in life when we resolve to be more thoughtful, innovative, caring, and remarkable in the year ahead.

Cheers!

Strangers in the Workplace

Greetings. Most of us enter the workplace as strangers, unless we were one of the founders of a brand new company or we joined an established organization where we already had a number of friends. As strangers we faced the challenge of getting comfortable, fitting in, and, we hope, making a difference. And our organizations faced the challenge of helping us to get comfortable, fit in, and, they hope, make a difference. But they also face the opportunity of quickly creating involved and committed team members. And if they understood the real power of strangers, they would be way more successful.

I remember the first day when I arrived to start a strategic planning project with a brand-new customer who was trying to figure out how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace. I was certainly a stranger there, except to the people who had interviewed and hire me. But as a consultant, I typically begin every assignment as a stranger, and one of my initial goals is to quickly understand the customer’s world as I build a set of meaningful relationships. I have a real advantage because my role gives me access to almost everyone, which isn’t the case for most new employees.

While I was waiting in the reception area prior to my first set of meetings, I met a young man named Jeff who was there on his first day to start a new job. After signing in, he was met by someone from human resources who gave him his employee badge and laptop and took him to his full-day new employee orientation—the first stop in what he hoped would be a long and successful career. And maybe it will be. But I recall seeing him several times in the weeks that followed—passing by his workspace, or running into him in the break room, on the elevator, heading out to lunch, or sitting at the back of the room during an “all-hands” meeting. Each time I asked him how things were going, and each time he gave me the same answer: “Okay, I guess, but I don’t feel very connected here. Maybe it’s just something that will take a while.”

“Kind of strange,” I thought to myself. I had found him, in our brief conversations, to be friendly and interesting, if somewhat reserved. But he had apparently been left on his own to accomplish the work he’d been hired to do—work that he might be uniquely qualified for but that certainly did not get at the heart of who he was and his full potential to make a difference. And I started wondering a few months later if he and his company had missed the chance to connect in some meaningful way, and whether we allow too many of our colleagues to become strangers in our companies and organizations. Strangers because we choose to treat them that way. This may not happen in every workplace, but it does in many of them, and especially in larger organizations where it’s easier to get lost in the shuffle.

I also thought about the reality that we don’t always find the time to let everyone know that they really matter. That we will never reach our full potential without them. That everyone’s job is just as vital to our success—no matter how long they’ve been here or what they do. And that everyone has a lot more to contribute to our success than simply going through all of the awesome stuff in their in-boxes.

And that in order to build organizations and cultures that can consistently innovate, collaborate, and bring real excitement to the customers we have the privilege to serve, we must find better ways to engage and inspire all of our people from the moment they arrive. And better ways to discover their real gifts and passions.

Corporate employee

We win in business and in life when we make the effort to welcome and connect with, and learn from, all of the strangers who enter our lives on the lonely and awkward day when they arrive.

Cheers!

The Power of Connection

Greetings. As you all now, I have a strong belief in the importance of strangers in our lives. I also believe that each day we pass by more than a hundred people who could change our lives, even if it was only for a moment. But in our haste to get to the next meeting, or run an errand, or simply get home from a long or short day at work we rarely take the time to connect. In fact, we rarely look up to catch their glance. So I was struck when I recently learned about the work of a New York City photographer named Richard Renaldi who also has a passion for connecting strangers and for unlocking the discomforts and possibilities that make us all human.

His work is fascinating. He identifies “random” people on the street and “asks them to pose in pictures together as if they were family members, friends or lovers.” And the results are quite surprising and inspiring. Results that were summed up quite simply and brilliantly by one of the women he photographed when she noted:

We are probably missing so much about the people all around us.”

Follow this link to learn more about his work and to see a short and thought-provoking video of the things that happen when total strangers come together. Then try to imagine how you and your colleagues might do a better job of connecting all of the strangers in your company or organization as the real key to greater collaboration, innovation, business success, and creating a more inspiring workplace. After all, you too are probably missing so much by failing to really connect with, learn from, and grow with the people around you.

richard renaldi

We win in business and in life when we take a chance and connect with strangers. And when we dare to believe in our own humanity and the humanity of others.

Cheers!