Alignment and Purpose
What does your Friday night routine look like? Dinner at your favourite restaurant? Movies and popcorn with the family? Clubs, travel, or just prep for the Monday meeting?
A friend of mine, John – his routine is different than many. He’s out of the office by 1 pm on most Fridays, giving him time to gather all that he’ll need for the evening activities, items like sandwich bread, deli meats, fresh fruit, prepackaged cookies, and bottled water. After prepping dozens of sandwiches in a kitchen on the second floor of his company’s building, John loads the food and drink into his cart, and heads over to a city park. No, this isn’t a family picnic. For the next three to four hours, John walks among the homeless in the park, offering food, company, and conversation. Many will take the provisions and immediately step back into the twilight. But a few will stick around and talk to John…about their circumstances, their families, their fears, maybe a hope or two. John listens. And because he listens – instead of judging and prescribing what needs to be done to fix all the problems – he is trusted. Men and women open-up to John about addiction, estrangement from family, PTSD, good decisions, and bad decisions. What is John’s motivation for engaging in this unorthodox Friday routine? Well, that’s worthy of a longer conversation. The takeaway for now is that John’s company supports his work, giving him the time, and these days the material support, to continue his Fridays in the park. John is an accountant by day, and a humanist by night.
Whether we realize it or not, we all want to work for organizations that align with our values and purpose. While we may not personally benefit from the goods and services our organization produces, we can be satisfied with the work we do if the companies values align with ours, and, ideally, those we work for give us the bandwidth to engage on the things that matter to us. When companies enable team members like John to flex time into projects that make a positive impact in the community – John “sets a table” among his homeless neighbours on Friday evenings. Some of John’s colleagues’ mentor high school students on weekends. Several are teaching middle schoolers how to code. In addition to providing its employees paid time off to engage in these philanthropic ventures, John’s organization offers seed money to make the ventures sustainable.
Family is important to me. I associate myself with organizations who understand that raising a family and rising in the corporate world are not competing emphases. In my mentorship of ascending executives, I stress the importance of aligning their personal leadership actions and behaviours and those of the organization as a whole with the values and priorities of our most critical resources… Our people.
One of the great takeaways from the pandemic, was the realization that we can do important work, while also caring for the people we love and engaging in the kinds of things that matter the most. Give your employees the space to make their sandwiches. Give parents time to be parents. Ensure that there is alignment with your organization’s mission and your team’s values, priorities, and purpose.