Walking Our Talk Does Require Authenticity
So much time, money and energy is invested in branding and very little in walking our talk, or in other words, live our purpose and values through actions. Did you know that the word brand is from the ancient North Scandinavian term meaning “to burn”? It actually refers to the practice of using branding irons on livestock to burn the farm’s name onto hides. It is also used in the practice of craftsmen engraving their names into products and personal belongings.
But it’s no surprise that the real work of bringing meaning and purpose in organizations has been increasingly delegated to a fancy campaign. And we have created layers upon layers of complexity in how organizations are run when the opportunity is to create whole living systems that flow.
In the old world that is breaking apart, we split organizations based on functions. We even labeled some Divisions. I remember someone saying to me once, I work in the Inclusion and Diversity Division with a straight face. Authenticity cannot be branded, no matter how hard we try. People can see through the pretense and instead of feeling engaged are increasingly disengaged.
Organizations struggled, and continue to struggle, with communications because 1) there is a function that is responsible for how information is managed, sourced and spread; 2) we split most functions into internal and communication and had two different people head each one; 3) communication plans split into audiences and mostly practice one-way communication and totally ignore building trusted relationships and community, and 4) the digital tools that could have created two-way dialogue were delegated to communication functions that didn’t understand how to integrate them into the fabric of organizations. The metrics communicators are measured by also rarely focusing on effectiveness and the extent the organization is living its value and purpose.
Engagement is a metric that mostly gets tracked in the antiquated annual survey, and its decline is consistently reported by organizations like Gallup, year after year. And the truth of the matter is that people have had enough. They can tell when leaders are going through the motions and not living the values. They are wary of fancy tag lines or purpose statements created by agencies that have to interview them for input. Delegating the heart of the business no longer works in the long-term.
Timeless Technologies Are Waiting to Be Tapped
Imagine that instead of creating a fancy brand with all the bells and whistles, open conversations took place. And no, not another Zoom meeting with talking heads and slides. There are these timeless technologies that we have left on the side of the road when we hire someone to help us discover our why. Where did our why go to in the first place? How did we forget it and get so obsessed with finding our purpose?
Just like we need to do our inner work first, isn’t it time that organizations started to take a deep look inside? Maybe it’s time to take down the beautifully worded mission statement hanging on the wall or website, and actually, make sure each person can live it?
There is a whole world of work that is waiting to be created and it won’t be wrapped with a beautiful ribbon and shiny paper. The work is deep inside and sometimes we need the help of an experienced facilitator but we can never hand our responsibility outside ourselves.
Walking Our Talk is So Needed Right Now
This week a dear friend called me in distress. She is a shining star and incredible leader who has done breakthrough work for the company and helped so many people in amazing ways. Yet, she found out on a call, out of the blue, that all of a sudden her job was eliminated. And just like that after over sixteen years, she is not needed anymore. Which division is responsible for all these heartless decisions that never show up on the purpose bandwagon?
It reminded me of Peter Vander Auwera, who shared his story in one of my books: “I was awarded the Chairman’s Award at Microsoft. When you win this award, you get special treatment at the sales convention. Every day there is a nice present in your room, you get upgraded to an executive suite, you get a limo picking you up at the hotel, and you go on stage with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Half an hour before I was to go on stage to receive the award, the head of the region came to see me and said, “I just want you to know that we have changed the priorities for the next fiscal year, and we will not continue your project.” My job was no more.
I got this prestigious award from Bill Gates, and at the same time, I lost my job because of a headcount issue on an organization chart. But they did find something else for me. My country manager did his very best and arranged for me to get what is called a “bubble head,” which is a temporary hat for a year. But I was so pissed off, and at that moment somebody from SWIFT, a global member-owned cooperative and the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services, called me about joining them. My wife was eight months pregnant and the SWIFT headquarters was two miles from my home. I got a nice package. I got an international job. I left Microsoft.”
Owning Our Identity and Purpose
The same companies that are crying over The Great Resignation are chopping human beings off their payrolls. This is why The Great Questioning is happening as we own our power, discover our own purpose, and find the organizations that actually walk their talk to align with. Leaders will increasingly find that despite beautiful purpose statements and videos on the why people are increasingly disengaged and unhappy. And the way forward–walking our talk–is readily available.
We are each being called to have a deep purpose more than a job and a paycheck, and then connect with an organization and people who are serious about walking their talk, and living their purpose. Being grounded in reality and a deep connection to Nature means we take care of ourselves, each other and the land that helps us thrive. There are no divisions, just gates of opportunity, waiting to be struck.
Trends come and go, just like brands, but our words in harmony with our actions can live on this beautiful planet through purposeful creations and treks. Imagine a world where more of us show up as who we really are and thrive. It’s amazing when we do and it is possible!