Love & Purpose

Last week brought us the the heart of leadership (and the loss of the Patriots in an epic Super Bowl). This week brings us Valentine’s Day. The day of LOVE. I am reminded by the great quote from one of this centuries best leaders (or any century), John Mackey of Whole Foods: “the biggest challenge that corporates face today, is that LOVE has been locked in the closet.”

Purpose starts with the heart—with a passion for improving the lives of those around you. When the iPad was introduced, Jony Ive, Apple’s head of design, talked about his passion for creating things that seemed “magical”—that were so far beyond what any customer might have imagined, they seemed like wizardry. You don’t achieve this by paying attention to customers, by putting them first, or even delighting them. You do it by setting out to amaze them—and it all begins with an attitude.

You have to be achingly eager to do whatever can be done, within the limits of physics and economics, to raise the quantum of human happiness in the world.

“Yes,” you say, “but in business, we have to be pragmatic. We have to focus on things that can actually be accomplished.” Fair enough, but often, we are blindly pragmatic. We are so conservative, so utilitarian, so process-focused, so data-driven, so obsessed with meager efficiencies, that we can scarcely dream of doing something “insanely great”—to borrow one of Steve Jobs’ favorite phrases.

Radek Sali the former CEO of Swisse had this wonderful vision of an organisation being focused on its four Ps — People, Principles, and Passion, coming before Profit — and that goal of making people healthier and happier. “My philosophy is if you invest in people who are passionate about what they do and are driven by high principles, it will deliver a great profit outcome.”

Radek believes that people are learning, growing, improving in the workplace. “We call it ‘LGI’ at our workplace; it’s a bit dorky, and it puts a smile on people’s faces. But it’s a whole lot better than when the negativity comes, with the fact that, hey, we should have done that a whole lot better, and who actually got it wrong?”

“When you say, LGI — this is a learn, grow, and improve moment, it sticks with people’s mind. It’s a bit of a positive reinforcement of the fact that actually, what you’ve done might need to improve a little bit, but hey, it’s okay to learn on the job.”

Swisse conducts yoga classes as well, and they have what is called an “H&H” day – Health & Happiness day. For those people that are performing, they get a day off in a month, where there isn’t a public holiday. “Why shouldn’t you have a long week-end every month, right?”

What it does, it encourages people to perform well, and they’re given an incentive to do so by getting that day off.

Also, it’s reduced a lot of sick leave, as a result of all this health activity — also their wonderful products, too! But it’s part of a whole balanced lifestyle. Part of that balance is also taking time out and having a bit of a break.

Swisse encourages meditation as well. In fact the executive team spend twenty minutes every day meditating. “It becomes like brushing your teeth; it’s something you do. Looking after the mind is such an important thing. It keeps us on our game, and it’s our most important tool in the workplace.”

Their vision is about making people healthier and happier, and it’s really making sure that they give every person the ability to celebrate life every day.

Swisse sign off every email with CLED down at the bottom: “Celebrate Life Every Day”. It puts a smile on your face. “A little bit dorky but it’s all about making sure we enhance people’s lives with the benefit of taking proactive control of your health.”

For me, the point of Radek’s story is simple but profound: empathy is the engine of disruption. That’s why I often worry about just how de-humanized our organizations have become. Listen to the speech of a typical CEO, or scroll through an employee-oriented website, and notice the words that keep cropping up—words like leadership, solution, advantage, focus, momentum, differentiation and superiority. There’s nothing wrong with these words, but they’re not the ones that inspire human hearts. And that’s a problem—because if you want to innovate, you need to be inspired, your colleagues need to be inspired, and ultimately, your customers need to be inspired.

In one of his last presentations as Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs said his company lived at the intersection of “technology” and “liberal arts.” If he had been the CEO of a different company, Jobs might have talked about the intersection of construction and liberal arts, or airlines and liberal arts, or banking and liberal arts, or energy and liberal arts. To Jobs “liberal arts” was another name for “the humanities”—the encapsulation, in poetry, prose, art and music, of what the ancient Greek philosophers called the just, the beautiful and the good.

The best innovations—both socially and economically—come from the pursuit of ideals that are noble and timeless: joy, wisdom, beauty, truth, equality, community, sustainability and love. These are the things we live for, and the innovations that really make a difference are the ones that are life-enhancing. And that’s why the heart of Purpose is a desire to re-enchant the world.

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