As management, we can (or should) spend a lot of time working on the business, rather than in it - our superpowers should be put to use working on our goals as a company. The main thing to ponder here is what those goals should be, and how we decide on what to aim for. As is often said, real achievement comes when we learn what to say ‘no’ to, more than what we say ‘yes’ to.
The thing that made Remote come alive for me was getting to the root of our purpose. In fact, everything that I’m talking or writing about at the moment revolves around it. In retrospect, it seems obvious that we shouldn’t have even started if we didn’t know where we were headed, or why we were headed there! But like so many other businesses, we started, and worked the rest out as we went along.
If we’re to have our team members onside and working in the same direction, they need to know which direction that is. And we calculate that direction when we have worked out the purpose of the company. Why do we exist? What are we here for? Where do we want to make an impact?
Like many companies, we started out by working around what we do, rather than why we do it. All of our energy when it came to innovation and improvement was revolved around how we do what we do.
In his excellent and influential book, ‘Start with Why’, Simon Sinek shows us how some of the most successful companies in the world are able to grow and have impact in a variety of ways because everything that the company does is in alignment with the company’s reason for being. Their WHY is at the root of all they do, and because of this, the companies attract both clients and employees that share a resonance with that WHY. The purpose needs to be established first, and from that can flow the values that dictate how the company behaves. Those values, as we’ll see later, free up managers from having to micro-manage, and empowers employees to be more productive and innovative, and inspires their sense of autonomy and creativity. All good things.
So where do we start?
This very question is one of the reasons why I was inspired to write this book - a sense of meaning and purpose is the centre of gravity for so many important elements to a fulfilled life, and a successful business. Knowing our own purpose, and that of our company can empower and multiply all of our efforts, and inform our decisions.
Let me share a personal example.
During my own journey of personal development, I was introduced to the concept of finding my purpose through two books, that by coincidence I read consecutively. Sinek’s ’Start with Why’ was followed by ‘Body of Work’ by Pamela Slim.
Early on in the book, Pamela says this, and it made a great impact on me:
“To create a great body of work, you must first identify your roots. [Soul calling, your 'why', your thing that underlies all you do] To make a strong and lasting impact, you must rely on them.”
The idea that I must rely on my roots - on the thing that I was born to do, my ‘Soul calling’ was at once so utterly obvious and at the same time profound. She invites you to look at the disparate paths of your life, all the things you’ve done, all the projects you’ve engaged in, and what you were trying to do with those projects. They can often see random and unrelated to each other until we examine the ‘why’ beneath them. You sometimes have to ask ‘why’ several times to get to the root purpose.
When I did this, I was surprised and delighted to find that the purpose was the same in every project I engaged in that felt meaningful; every project that had a sense of alignment and fulfilment within it. It took some time to really get a full sense of my purpose, but after some deep investigation and soul searching, I realised that I had found it. Here’s an excerpt from a blog post from a few months ago; the communication of my purpose fell out onto the screen as I wrote, and when I finished, I knew that I had it:
“I believe in personal growth and transformation. I believe that we all have the potential to become the very best versions of ourselves. I believe that the same can be said of organisations, that we have the potential to level-up our businesses and workplaces to achieve things that we never imagined possible previously. I believe that when we know what our goals are, we can examine our processes, and find the main obstacle to that goal, and work to remove it, creating new levels of flow and efficiency and effectiveness and achievement.
And then we can find the next biggest obstacle, and remove that, and do it again, and then again, and this process of continual improvement and evolution can be practised at an individual level, and at an organisational level, creating great works, streamlining business processes and creating greater profits and a happier workforce.
I believe that in discovering and practising these methodologies, the impossible becomes possible, and the possible becomes probable. We can leave a dent in the universe. We can create meaningful work. We can make it all not just worth it but something that makes us want to get up early in the morning and start our day, because the possibilities are just SO EXCITING.”
A few months later, I realised that my unique talents and skills (I call them superpowers) line up perfectly with this mission. I’ll talk more about superpowers later, but until then, here’s an excerpt from my journal, the first time I realised what my unique talents are:
“I can hold ideas and information and procedures in my head, and see how they work. I love to learn and understand new concepts, and then explain them to others, in the way that they need to understand.
I love to help people to learn and grow from this knowledge. I’m the bridge between the information and those who need the information.
I can see how things are working, and how to modify them to work better, embracing this process of continuous improvement, adapting to new information and changes in the environment. I like to share my ideas and vision, and pass the task to others to carry out, explaining how things should look and work.
This combination of researching and understanding and arranging and explaining how things work and improving existing processes and procedures is the core of it all, along with the visualisation and helping release other’s potential using these methods, is the core of my purpose.”
This potent combination of purpose/soul calling/why/mission along with the utilising of our superpowers is something so utterly unique to each of us. When we an discover both of these things, and when we can arrange our days so that we spend as much time as possible using our superpowers to achieve our life mission, our days are transformed, and our lives are levelled-up to a space where previously impossible goals seem possible, and then probable, until suddenly those goals are achievements, and we’re on to the next step.
When these two aspects came into focus for me, so many things shifted at once. Life seemed to speed up; I seemed to spend most of my days filled with the kind of excitement that I used to get the day before my birthday when I was young. The field of possibilities seemed to open up and the profound and impactful realisations happened every day. The possibility that we at Remote could genuinely have a positive impact on the world began to feel real for the very first time.
Once Jeannie connected with her purpose and mission too, it became obvious that Remote’s purpose and mission was the combination of both of ours:
We believe that everyone has the right to work in an environment where they are valued as individuals and collaborators. Creating happy workplaces where they can achieve their full potential.
Everything we do is aimed at helping remarkable teams achieve meaningful work that has a positive impact in the world.
Our vision is for a culture of business and economics where meaning, purpose and impact drive sustainable global transformation.
For the first time in our careers, we realised that our business had a mission. That mission is centred around helping individuals and organisations to become the best versions of themselves and produce meaningful, fulfilling work. We’d been doing it with our software and web development work from the start, but now that we were aware of our bigger mission, we saw other possibilities for ways to achieve the mission, outside of the direct domain of software development. Other ‘whats’ that still align with our ‘why’. New ways to work with the environment that we install the software in - the culture of the organisations themselves; cowering spaces and centres of learning and clarity, spaces where people can get the headspace they need to find their own purpose, and produce meaningful work in line with that purpose. Retreats where we could combine that meaningful work with extended learning and exploration sessions. Even our own Remote Journal seemed an obvious thing to create - something we would have never have even considered if we’d continued to focus on our ‘what’ instead of our ‘why’.
We joined Daniel Priestley’s KPI Accelerator program — a business strategy course for entrepreneurs who want to ‘make a dent’ in the universe — and connected with many other entrepreneurs who were also focused on their purpose and mission. Daniel encouraged us all to align our companies with an aspect of the UN Global Goals. As we naturally resonated with Goal number 8 - ’Good Jobs and Economic Growth’ - we felt the empowerment of the alignment of our internal values and purpose with our company’s, and in turn our company’s values and purpose with others in line with the same global goal, and the sense of global alignment and energy was palpable.
And as I began to share these ideas and techniques with others in the company, the atmosphere lifted, and our productivity shifted gears, and our sense of pride in our work and our abilities to take on new challenges became huge. There were lots of other aspects of this change, and I’ll be writing about them over time; the results of this change are the main focus of both my writing and my work at the moment.
I hope that you are able to make similar changes to your business, and align with all of us in the same direction.
With many people and businesses aligned with their purpose and working together for positive change, we have the immense power to make real global impact.