‘You know what p****s me off the most?’, said Pat.
We were sitting in a meeting room at the large offices of a multi-national. Pat is a smart executive, well dressed in his 30’s, who has strong self-awareness and wants to make an impact in the world. He’s a great asset to any team – hard working, intelligent and innovative.
‘I joined this company believing they really wanted to make a difference in the world. I really thought they were different. But it was all BS.’
‘What do you mean?’, I replied.
‘They have a mission statement on the walls around the offices. It’s not real. Most of us don’t buy into it because we know the head people don’t . They run workshops with us about values, culture, vision and purpose. But the reality is that for all of the values they talk about – most of the leaders do the complete opposite – motivated by greed and self-interest. I’m completely disillusioned.’
This type of conversation is happening more and more.
There is a change in what people expect from their leaders. They are demanding more authenticity, and they want to be attached to a business that has more meaning.
For many companies, having clear values and a strong CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is more about marketing and ‘being seen’ to do the right thing. Yet people are getting tired of the illusion. Maybe it’s being caused by the breakdown in trust with our religious, political and economic leaders? Maybe there’s an increase in consciousness?
Whatever the reason, as someone who helps companies to create meaningful goals and cultures my experience is that we are facing into an explosion of genuine meaning.
People are craving what they have lost in their personal lives. Identity, meaning, purpose.
The natural replacement is the arena where we spend most of our waking time – work. Plus more and more, people on a personal level are asking themselves key questions. Questions like:
– What’s my purpose in the world?
– What do I want my legacy to be?
– How do I want to spend my life?
– What is genuine success to me (& not what others expect from me)?
And a side effect of this questioning is a growing intolerance for what they see as ‘BS’.
I was speaking with a senior executive connected to someone in one of the biggest brands in the world. They’d just left and come clean about the culture in this global entity. It sounded like bullies in the schoolyard, a culture based on fear, self-interest and maniacal obsession with profit – the complete opposite of what their marketing machine promotes.
Hearing that story has turned me off buying their products, because I don’t want to support that kind of machine.
And that’s a simple example of the power of genuine meaning. If it’s there, you’ll attract great help. But increasingly, if people get a sniff you’re ‘full of it’, they will leave the bus in droves. And with so much choice in the market today, it’ll be easier than ever.
A strategic advantage for the future is creating a business that genuinely lives by it’s values, it’s purpose, it’s vision. A business that deliberately seeks to create an environment where people can express their talent, in a way that connects them to meaningful impact. And also in a way that makes profit. Plenty of it. And genuine meaning at work should go hand in hand with profit. In the future, I believe it will be one of the keys to sustaining growing profits (& that’s for companies of all sizes).
Pat has since targetted a company that he thinks will fit with his values better.
‘I just hope it’s not all BS again!‘, he said.
Me too Pat, me too.