To have a sense of purpose is one of the things we crave most in our lives as humans. We want to feel like we are working towards something we believe in and that the things that we are doing create some form of impact. In the past few years this concept has gone from being an idealism to a must have for many of the humans in our workforce.
Honesty who could blame them? When we ignite that elusive sense of purpose, that is truly where the magic happens. Who wouldn’t want to feel like that?
In realising this drive towards purposeful living, employers around the globe have worked hard to define what theirs is in the hope that by being clear about it, talented people will take on their purpose as their own. For some businesses it is easy to define a clear purpose that people can get behind (renewable energy I am looking at you haha), for others it can be a little harder.
Whilst hard, it is super important that companies establish the clarity needed so that people can understand their collective purpose, that part I am fully on board with. Though rather than hoping that talented people will take theirs on as their own, what they should be hoping for is that those talented people find a way to align their own purpose to the collective one. Sounds like a small difference I know, but the output is night and day in terms of performance.
You see my friends, like a lot of things, a REAL sense of purpose can only come from within.
The thing that drives humans to do the unimaginable and to innovate beyond any of our wildest dreams, is the fire in our bellies because we truly believe in the value of something. It connects into something deep within us that resonates and causes us to act.
Deep down within us all we instinctively feel how we might be able to do good things in the world, what we aren’t so great at is being connected enough to ourselves to know what that is. If a business has done a good job of defining their purpose, there’s a chance the right sparks of inspiration can ignite those dormant notions within us and cause us to light up, ready to bring our very best to the thing we are doing.
For many years now I have managed to feel a sense of connection to the businesses I have worked with. I have fallen in love with the people, the mission and the values. If you’ve read my blogs over the years, you will have no doubt seen me enthuse about what I am up to in some way shape or form most of the time. When I am invested in something, I tend to go all in. It’s actually harder for me to not to fall in love with something that it is for me to fall truly madly deeply.
When I first decided to join the Launchpad, I have to be honest and say I had some trepidation around the idea of joining BP; big company, new sector and so on. As the interviews progressed and as I kept meeting more BP folks, a common thread started to weave amongst them all, that thread was one of goodness. At the time, I wasn’t even really aware of it, I just came away from every meeting thinking to myself; I don’t know what it is about this thing but I want to be a part of it.
As a double agent in the business world who also holds space in the yoga community, I also experienced quite a few raised eyebrows when I announced I was joining a BP business, and frankly a bit of judgement. I chose instead to trust the steady voice inside myself saying; this is a great move for you Penfold, lean in.
Now just like me in my own life, this is not a company that hasn’t made mistakes. But just like me in my own life, this is a company that has always given its best based on what it knows and what it has. And just like me in my own life, this is a company that makes love the foundation of everything, placing the human experience at the heart.
Ben Horowitz talks about this idea of War Time CEO vs Peace Time CEO in his book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” (fun and informative read if you haven’t read it), and what our leaders are being called to lead through right now is definitely something closer to war. It’s brutal out there and I am thrilled to see people leading with love.
This past week we have seen the emergence of some phenomenal leadership from Brian Chesky at Airbnb as he schooled the world on lead through adversity, make tough decisions and remaining people centric and true to the lifeblood that is driving your business. In his open letter to colleagues about the significant workforce reduction, he mapped out a completely human letter and process for the way that people would be informed. In a true act of kindness in the face of adversity, he minimised opportunity for unnecessary worry in those who weren’t directly impacted. He led with love.
For anyone who follows me on LinkedIn, you will no doubt have seen me fan-girling our new CEO at BP, Bernard Looney. He, with the support of the entire organisation, has also placed people very firmly at the heart of BP’s response to the crisis we are living through. His first message to everyone was “family first” and he has since done everything he can to offer support and provide the transparency he is able to at a time where peoples’ worries cross a myriad of different levels. He leads with love.
In watching this unfold, I realised that what connected me to BP in those early in interview stages was this very strong sense of deep care for people, and one that very much echoed my own. Now I am not going to say that I am not excited about the incredible potential for innovation we have at the Launchpad, to build new energy businesses and shape shift the way we energise the world, but for me that’s not the thing.
For me the thing is people. It is having the chance to try to craft a great human experience both within the Launchpad and that of the businesses we are supporting to grow, and to do that with a feeling of total alignment with the business that enables us to what we are doing. We lead with love.
I have spent a lot of time over the years searching for purpose, only to find that my experiences were crafting one for me that I did’t really need to search for. I found my purpose when I found my way back to myself. I found my purpose when I realised I could take the learnings I have made in my own life and use my own experience of growth to help facilitate that experience in the lives of others. I found my purpose in love.
I truly believe it is possible for every human to find their own perfect storm of purpose, and boy am I fired up to see how many humans I can support to get there.