Have you ever sat back and thought about what you are most proud about in YOUR career? If you can’t think of one that really stands out…what is stopping you from making that moment happen…or what would inspire you to do something exceptional?
I am fortunate that I can think of one above all others. I wish I could inspire more people to do something like this or to recreate the magic somewhere else. I also recognize that even though it came with some bitter sweet repercussions…I will always remain proud of the difference we made in the lives of others…and that’s what matters most!
As the story goes…..it was August of 2012 and I was running on the treadmill one Saturday morning…..overthinking the events of the week as I was apt to do. The Olympics were in full flight and I was following a lot of the gymnastics competition at the time. Jordan Weiber, whose Olympic dream was dashed when she did not make the individual all-around competition, had to find the mental strength to recover and focus with her teammates for a common goal of a team medal. The team did rally around a common purpose...and the US Women's team won Gold that summer!
It was a testament to inspiring leadership and a cause bigger than any one individual on the team.
As I was running…gasping for breath and trying to find the courage to finish the five miles….I thought about how this applies to Corporate America as well as the company I worked for. The apathy from the organization at the time was palpable. I realized that no one really cared about earnings per share, market share, or Wall Street.
They cared when there was a higher purpose to what they did and they felt they were making a TRUE difference in the lives of others.
The example that came to mind was when the company did charitable activities like donating water to local shelters in the crushing heat of the Arizona summer. Everyone could relate to the water drive and see they were making a difference (as the wall of water grew). It did not take much to contribute and the team figured out HOW they were going to do it – once they got the WHY. The HOW came in different forms…it came in bringing in water, it came in bringing in money…it came in giving their time…it came in just caring… We didn’t tell the team HOW to do it – we gave them the WHY and the rest took care of itself. It showcased the age old adage of….”if it’s important to you…you will find a way. If’s it’s NOT important to you…you will find an excuse”.
So….what if we could connect business results to making a difference in the lives of others? We were wasting so much money on foam fingers…stress balls…golf shirts…that no one wanted. Even more incredibly we were paying for offsite storage to hold all this stuff when we couldn’t give it all away.
What if we redirected the money to a charity for one quarter rather than junk no one wanted? It was this moment in time that spawned “NOBLE CAUSE”. We went on as a team to work with our partners…our sales teams…and Make-a-Wish Arizona on a strategy to grow the business AND give back. All the team had to do was care enough to do their job better for kids facing life threatening medical illnesses. The marketing message to our clients was:
”What’s YOUR Wish?
A faster network…longer battery life for your PCs? Not only can we fulfill your wish with our products & services…we can also help families TRULY in need of a wish”.
Pause there for a second…pretty cool…right???
We also created a competition between the inside sales teams and gave them each a family to “fight for”. The more they sold…the more families they could help.
When we kicked off Noble Cause during the holiday season I saw more…
to grow the business than I had EVER seen in my career.
People were reaching out to us from all areas of the organization with great ideas and offers of help. People started talking about fulfilling the wish for a family (like Gracie who had Leukemia and wished to be a princess) and less about all the reasons they could not sell something to someone they have never sold to before. They were NOT saying I am too busy to help or I’ll get to that in a few days. We got things done in hours not weeks. There was a buzz and a positive vibe….a feel good about what we were pulling together.
I have to admit that I had moments of doubt about our ability to execute. Was this a stupid idea? Am I the only one who will care? Are we able to truly work together for a common goal or are we too jaded? I can tell you that I was humbled by the teammates who motivated me by just saying – how good they felt about the contribution they were making to the cause…a NOBLE CAUSE.
I learned a few things about myself during that time:
1) My ability to motivate others (and keep myself motivated) during a time where we were forging new ground and making things up as we went along
2) How to take an idea and put it into practice. It wasn’t always sunshine and roses and not everyone “got it"…or supported it…but you cannot let that de-rail you from making a difference.
3) How rewarding it is take a risk and see it succeed. In the end…..we grew the business…we increased morale and WE made a difference in the lives of others. Rather than wasting money on ridiculous things that we often shower sales team with we redirected the money to Make-a-Wish. Just one quarter’s worth of focus meant we helped a LOT of kids & families.
4) Even though I was ultimately punished by the organization for my good deed –rather than being recognized – it wasn’t about me…it was about the families we helped and the results we generated. I developed a tougher skin and gained some grit.
5) How humbled I was to be offered a seat on the Make-A-Wish Board where I served for 2 years. I am a nobody who believed that through grassroots efforts we could make a difference. It was always awe inspiring to sit around the table with the other board members – they were truly amazing leaders in our community - the best of the best.
I am proud of EVERYONE (too numerous to name) who made it all happen and who helped make this crazy dream come true. We also made it built to last and repeated it several years in a row based on its success. It also expanded to include other charities...WIN-WIN-WIN!
I’ll finish up with…a book I read recently called “The Art of Work – A proven path to discovering what you were meant to do” by Jeff Goins (I highly recommend it). He really pushes us to think about what our true calling is. I can honestly say that Noble Cause is what I am most proud of in my career and that it had a HUGE impact on my life. I haven’t got it all figured out just yet…but I believe that this is a key enabler to finding what I was meant to do. I think that my wish is to motivate others to take risks…dream big…and be passionate about making a difference. I think MORE companies can do this too!!
There are a lot of ways to connect business results to a higher purpose…Noble Cause is just one way. What will YOURS be?
Leadership questions of the week for YOU:
- What has been the moment or cause that you have felt best about in your career?
- Why do you think it felt so good and how can you implement those actions to recreate that with YOUR team?
- Why is it important that we have the right rally cry to get everyone jump started into action?
- How would you finish the following sentences:
o Before I die I want to…
o To be personally successful I would like to…
Thanks for reading….and remember…YOU make a difference!
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