‘Igniting potentials’ is my life’s purpose. For the longest time, I know I have a purpose in life. Deep inside, I know I’m not a mushroom that grew in the dark under a massive tree. Our life is not like a paper boat floating in a river. The boat is dragged to where the water decides to take you.
We all have a purpose. We are all here for a reason, and it’s not just to take up space. We are not on earth to consume air, food, and water. Are you aware of your purpose? When I ask this from my workshop participants, I get two general responses.
A few participants pause for a few seconds and shyly say ‘no.’ They don’t know their purpose. They feel they have one, but they don’t know what it is.
The second group replies, ‘yes.’ This group then continues to state their purpose. It usually takes a bit of time to describe their purpose. Sometimes, they would cite examples to drive the point. However, when asked to state their purpose in a sentence, they would pause. A blank stare would ensue for a few seconds. Some try but fail to explain their purpose in a clear, straightforward manner.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Albert Einstein
The second key to articulating your purpose is to simplify it.
Let’s go back to my purpose, ‘igniting potentials.’ Two simple words yet so powerful for me. If you take the two words apart, it does not mean much. Together, it helps define what fulfills me. Put together; they possess power that fuels me.
Before I was able to articulate my purpose, I always enjoyed mentoring individuals with great potential. Leadership or motivational workshops I design and facilitate energize me. I feel alive during and after my workshops. I enjoy doing public talks. I currently run a program called Servant Leadership for free. I gladly do this for my Fellowship group. If money is not an issue, I am confident that we will gladly do our purpose free of charge.
There is an approach to help you articulate your purpose. I ran this framework last week with two of my mentees. Their reaction was nothing short of amazement. They said that decision-making for them became more manageable. They now have a basis when making life decisions. They have clarity. They can identify which things in their life is aligned to their purpose and what is not. One of them said it was liberating.
How about you? Are you clear about your purpose? Can you state it in two simple yet meaningful words?
If you are interested in articulating your life purpose, reach out to me. Better yet, I may write an instructional article on how to do it yourself.
“GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT. AND THAT IS ONE OF THE KEY REASONS WHY WE HAVE SO LITTLE THAT BECOMES GREAT. WE DON’T HAVE GREAT SCHOOLS, PRINCIPALLY BECAUSE WE HAVE GOOD SCHOOLS. WE DON’T HAVE A GREAT GOVERNMENT, PRINCIPALLY BECAUSE WE HAVE A GOOD GOVERNMENT. FEW PEOPLE ATTAIN GREAT LIVES, IN LARGE PART BECAUSE IT IS JUST SO EASY TO SETTLE FOR A GOOD LIFE.” -JIM COLLINS.
What I noticed after returning back to the Philippines.
“Good enough is not enough” was screaming at the back of my mind a year after returning from a 20-year overseas contract. In our language, this is translated as ‘Hindi pwede ang pwede na.’
I am blessed with the opportunity to work with different companies back here after being away for a long time. A few months after my return, I was catching with a high-school classmate over coffee. Most people my age tend to harp about how great our high-school life was. We also compare notes on what our classmates are currently doing. We updated each other on the lives of our classmates from the same batch.
My classmate suggested that I go into the “slash” business – “training slash mentoring slash management consultant.” He said that I could use the knowledge and experience I gathered working abroad. It took me some time to land a few clients. I was away for so long that my social media followers are mainly from the Middle East.
As I gradually got into management consulting work for small to large companies, I noticed a pattern emerging among employees. What I saw was not particular to the rank and file only. My observation applies to management as well.
I am not generalizing. Some employees genuinely live up to their fullest potential. Sadly, that is the exception instead of the norm. I am confident that several readers will react to this article. I apologize, but I am writing things as I see them. We can either be defensive or take it as constructive criticism. Of course, I am praying that most of the reader will take the second path.
Many employees, staff and management, like to appear “busy,” particularly in front of their superiors. However, they are using only a tiny part of their full potential. For short, they are contented with mediocre work.
That has always puzzled me until today. I had the chance to work with other nationalities for twenty years. Certain nationalities try their best at everything they do. They also make sure to work on their personal development so they can keep raising their performance bar. On the other side of the fence, some nationalities are okay with mediocre work. Work that’s just good enough to submit to their superiors.
I am not making a sweeping generalization. The majority of certain nationalities do their best most of the time. In comparison, others do their minimum most of the time.
I am not saying that try and do everything perfectly. That will result in the ‘analysis paralysis’ effect. Jeff Bezos of Amazon used the famous 70% rule in decision making. When he has 70% of the information he needs to decide, he goes ahead and decides. Getting all 100% of the data takes a lot of time and effort. The delay in the decision-making process causes more harm to organizations than good.
Why is that?
Having meals with employees during my consulting engagements prove to be informative. Chatting over lunch or a snack reveals the true heart of people. Here are some of the ‘water cooler’ comments.
“Go ahead and submit that report; that’s good enough for sir …’
“Why do I need to do my best? It’s not like my manager notices anyway.”
“I’m just here until I find a better job, so why bother?”
“Last time I suggested an idea, I was publicly humiliated. It’s better to agree with what my boss recommends.”
“I did not finish my college education. I don’t have that kind of skill.”
“I have so many things assigned to me. I do not have time to work on improving that.”
There are as many excuses as employees, if not more.
Most people think that it’s safer to let others make the decision. This is particularly true for employees that got burned making the wrong decision. Instead of being processed with empathy by their leaders, the leader uses the mistake to flex their superiority. The employee will never take it as a learning opportunity. An employee that’s publicly humiliated will refrain from trying to do extraordinary work. This is also true for people who witnessed the public beating. They would not want to be in his shoes.
Sometimes, the work is not explicit. Employees are thrown into an assignment and expected to swim like an Olympic champion. We promote people to their level of incompetence if we do not empower them. People need the tools of the trade.
If your boss promotes you to be a highly paid carpenter but does not provide you with the proper tools and knowledge, you are bound to fail. Why do we throw a subject matter expert on one topic to fly with another job requiring a different skillset? It simply does not make sense, yet it happens a lot of times.
Then there is the round peg on square holes. These are employees that are placed in roles outside their level of expertise simply because they were available.
Some employees are not satisfied with mediocrity. Some people I had the chance to work with believe their work is their worship. They think that running at full potential is an excellent way of thanking God for their skills and opportunities. Employees like these probably make up 10% of an organization.
These are the people who are not afraid to jump ship. They are confident in their skills. They give their work everything they have. To top it off, they make sure that they continuously sharpen their saw even if the company does not invest in their development.
How about the rest? How can we help the others get out of the mediocrity shadow? Let’s see.
Make sure that our employees are round pegs in rough holes. Employees should have the right skills for the right job.
Make sure that they have psychological safety. Employees should be able to suggest ideas or give their opinion without fear of a public backlash.
Make sure that high-performing employees are publicly recognized.
Make sure to process mistakes or low performance in private. Keep the discussion on the event. Do not attack the employee’s character.
Assign your best leaders to mentor your high-potential employees.
Develop your direct reports.
These are only a few examples of what we can do to help move our employees from mediocrity to greatness.
Do not let employees wallow in mediocrity. It is our responsibility to develop them.
“A LEADER’S JOB IS NOT TO DO THE WORK FOR OTHERS. IT’S HOW TO HELP OTHERS FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT THEMSELVES, TO GET THINGS DONE, AND TO SUCCEED BEYOND WHAT THEY THOUGHT POSSIBLE.” SIMON SINEK.
I am fortunate enough to witness several kinds of leaders through the ’80s, 90’s until today. Leaders I had the privilege to work for comes in different colors, sizes, and shapes. They come from diverse backgrounds, education, and temperament.
For over 30 years in the workforce, I have witnessed how the different leadership styles affected employee morale, productivity, and the organization’s success.
I started work during the Theory X era. Theory X states that “employees require heightened supervision, external rewards, and penalties.” A few elderly leaders would even go to the extent to say the employees are generally lazy. If their boss does not drive them, they will not work. They claim that employees only work if someone is watching over them.
It’s incredible to watch time go by and see many leaders in todays world still having that old Theory X mindset. It’s like they never moved forward with the times. In the past, most works were labor-related. In todays work, jobs require “knowledge” workers.
Stuck in the past, I call them. However, it’s not only the “seasoned” leaders that think this way. Younger Gen-X and the more experienced Gen-Y also carry the notion that employees are simply company tools. These tools will not work correctly if not closely supervised. Employees need supervisors looming over them.
From an employee’s perspective, this is a living hell. Employees are not propertly managed. Meaning they are not developed for their potentiality. They are the first to be blamed when something wrong happens, even if it was a leadership shortcoming. Employees are required to work at all times despite their struggles. Employees are not properly compensated. In the confines of meeting rooms, leaders sometimes talk about them like they are disposable commodities. In public, employees are heralded as the companies most important asset.
You will see employees waiting for the highly paid leaders to leave before they can call it a day. They fear that the bosses will think they are not busy. They will wait for an extra hour or two before heading off home and missing the chance to play with this child before bedtime. They miss tutoring their children because it was already traffic when the leaders go home in their expensive cars. The employees will have to fall in line to take the public transport going home.
They hold back on properly paying their best people. They will wait until a high-potential employee submits their resignation before offering them higher pay or better benefits. Employees put up with this simply because most of them think they do not have options.
I am not generalizing. Do not get me wrong. However, it is unfortunate that this is the situation in most companies. A great workplace should be the rule and not the exception. As Simon Sinek said, “people have the right to love coming to work.”
The sad workplace environment sparked my obsession to study great leaders I came across in my career. It is my mission to learn, apply then teach others the best leadership styles. It is why I am writing articles about great leadership. This is why I run leadership workshops.
I believe that most terrible leader is bad at leadership because they do not know better. It was something they learned or observed from previous bad leaders they had. A former manager used to say, “Monkey see, monkey do.”
Terrible leadership is like a genetic disease that is passed down from one generation to another. Of course, there are still a few genuinely evil leaders in the mix. However, most of them do not know better.
I have witnessed in so many instances employees promoted to leadership positions that are not properly equipped. Newly minted leaders are expected to “magically” morph from a great employee to a great leader. Really? Is it that simple? Come on, guys!
Almost everyone can list several excellent leadership competencies; having a clear and communicated vision, focus on their people agenda, developing direct reports, recognizing outstanding work in public, reprimanding in private, and so on. Yet, very few leaders behave this way.
I know that mentoring future leaders, educating them on leadership competencies, writing articles and books, blogging may not make much of a dent. However, I am at peace that I am trying to do my part.
I will always say that Great Leaders develop people. Great people build great organizations. Only with this can we have great workplaces. I would love to see this one day.
Jordan Imutan Visit my website for more articles www.servantleadersph.com firstname.lastname@example.org (email) @jordanimutan (social media)