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Leading “On Purpose”

By Brant Menswar

I have spent the better part of the last twenty years in the music business. I lived the dream of being a real-life rock star, signing record deals and traveling the world performing with the popular blues/rock band Big Kettle Drum. In the summer of 2017, we traveled to Los Angeles to record our fifth album, I Thought You’d Be Bigger, with the incomparable Carla Olson, who has played with The Textones, and produced Barry Goldberg, Percy Sledge, Gene Clark, Joe Louis Walker, Eric Johnson, Mick Taylor, and Paul Jones, to name a few. Part of being purists and wanting to capture our original “tone” meant that we drove from Orlando to L.A. to bring our own equipment to the studio. Over a hot, sticky week we recorded with legendary musicians (Bob Dylan’s band!).

After we wrapped up recording our parts, we began the long journey back across the country, reveling in the aftermath of such incredible musicianship. At about six in the morning, after a night of driving, we crossed the New Mexico state line. The sun was coming up, making it hard to see over the steering wheel. We were the only car on the road for miles…well, one other car was on the road. A police car.

As the officer walked up to the window, I frantically asked my band mate why on earth I had been pulled over. I knew I hadn’t been speeding. Was a taillight out? Were my tags expired? Did we have a dead body in the trunk?

“You know you were traveling in the left hand lane sir?” the officer asked.

Um … okay, I thought. What’s the problem? There isn’t another car in sight.

“It’s against the law in this state to travel in the left-hand lane, unless you are passing,” he said.

The good news is that I professed my ignorance and he let me off with a warning. And I quickly adopted the right-hand one as our lane of choice for the remainder of our drive home.

Here’s the gist of my story: I knew the direction I was heading and my ultimate destination. I was being intentional—but I wasn’t acting with deliberate intention. Instead, I was zoned out, headed in the right direction but in the wrong lane, unaware of the rules. That describes how many of us choose to live our lives. We turn a blind eye to our own bottom-line standards, so we don’t have anything to hold ourselves accountable to. If we knew our own rules, would we deliberately break them? Most of us don’t like breaking rules. The first step in following our own rules is to be aware of them and to be conscious creators of our own reality.

As an unconscious creator, you may eventually head in the direction you want to go, but you’ll never get there on purpose. When it comes to leading within an organization, I find that many know what the goal is but they aren’t leading with deliberate intention. In order to do that, leaders have to identify their core values, those 5 or 6 non-negotiable values that guide their decisions. When you discover your core values, you create an even more powerful opportunity: the chance to choose when and where they appear.

Legendary illusionist Harry Houdini famously said, “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.” This sentiment begins to explain why it’s crucial to place your core values front and center in your life. People’s views of the world are filtered through what they believe. When you strategically choose the times and places your values appear, you help craft the narrative that others are constantly creating about you, and you maximize your impact on them.

To lead on purpose, not only do you have to know what your non-negotiables are, you have to help those you lead find theirs. In doing so, you present the best opportunity for people to feel like they are valued members of the team and are doing what they are meant to do.

Many organizations I work with struggle to engage their employees. They try all the usual suspects: bonuses, commissions, awards, vacations and so on, but still have trouble holding on to top talent. One of the main reasons people leave is a lack of alignment. Every day, employees try to align what matters most to them with what matters most to the organization. This is a potentially frustrating endeavor for a few reasons.

If employees haven’t discovered their core values, they will be trying to align with a moving target. Even if their organization’s values are written in stone, constantly changing personal lists of what’s important wreak havoc on the ability to align with the broader company vision. This can lead to feelings of unworthiness and instability on the part of employees.

High performing teams use deliberate intention to align personal and organizational values.

When someone contributes with deliberate intention and they can see their impact on the work at hand, their unique purpose within the organization is amplified. The results are reduced turnover, increased innovation, more productivity and, most important, happier employees. The positive ripple effect on company culture can inspire others throughout the organization.

Investing in helping employees discover their core values is often looked at as a soft skill, and not one that influences the bottom line. Companies would rather invest in building the key performance indicator–friendly hard skills needed to do the job. However, the latest research shows there is no better way to engage and motivate people at work than through their sense of purpose. If you are struggling to hold on to top talent, it may be because they think you don’t care about what truly matters to them.