Have you ever had a month that was a blur? I would say that May was definitely that month for me. My son, Jake, graduated from High School, which for those of you with kids who are launching into the “real world” means senior pictures, iconic moments, parties, family gatherings, and a senior trip. Before heading off to his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma this fall, the senior finale was his graduation trip to Mexico. I went as a chaperone, along with several other parents, to ensure that all 25 seniors stayed alive and well and got back to the states safely. Mission accomplished!
Just before the senior trip, I was asked to speak at a leadership conference by one of our global clients. The topic was Psychological Safety on High-Performing Teams, with around 200 leaders, and the location was Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. Not bad, right? I flew directly from Mexico into Honolulu and dived right in with the leadership team. The agenda was packed full of really great exercises and experiences. This organization does amazing work saving cancer patients’ lives, so their Noble Purpose is, obviously, incredibly important. But, as with any company that is publicly traded, has lived through a pandemic, continues to try to get good talent, and is plagued with supply chain issues, they have had their struggles over the last two years. The great news is they have an incredibly competent leadership team and employee base and are working through those challenges with grit and grace.
As with any client work I am a part of, I did a quick “post-game review” as I flew home from the gorgeous Hawaiian islands. I reflected on the high points of what really resonated with me from this gathering that other companies and leaders might be able to learn from. I wanted to share with you today three of my observations:
Spend the money to get your people together. Like many of you, this company had a “built-up” travel budget for the last couple of years which allowed them to pull out all the stops for this corporate event. They were able to mix strategic meetings, tactical discussions, get-to-know-you sessions, and intact teamwork with fun events such as a beautiful sunset cruise, amazing food, and a lively luau. Even with all of that, do you know what the #1 comments were from most people at the conference? They went something like this…”We needed to get together. Some of us hadn’t ever even met in person. The efficiencies that come from 1:1 impromptu discussions will absolutely pay off. I never understood how my job impacted these other areas of the company so much. We missed one another. Can we do this every year? It was fantastic!”
Keep core purpose and core values central in all you do. Throughout the conference, the main tie back to everything they did was their Core Purpose. It is a good one! “We help people with cancer and rare diseases live longer, better quality lives.” Everything they do drives towards this purpose which is extremely inspiring. They consistently talked about and tied in their Core Values which essentially are the guardrails of their behavior. They strive to be extraordinary, they pursue their goals with determination and integrity, and everyone counts. They made it simple and relevant to the people that dedicate their lives to this company. The teams had such a blast making a montage of videos representing each of these core values. At the end of the last day, one of the comments from their board was “I’ve never seen a company as effective as you are in embedding their core ideology into the culture.”
Share the customer’s experiences with employees. One of the most poignant moments of the conference came when the physicians that actually work with the patients and the patients themselves voiced how the work that these leaders do day in and day out has positively impacted their lives. The patients did an amazing job painting the picture of what could have happened and what actually occurred thanks to employee efforts. The team members had tears in their eyes as they listened to how their core purpose has come to life – saving people’s lives. Some of the various employees (such as sales teams or patient-facing teams) hear these stories often, but they get so busy they neglect to pass on this incredibly inspiring information. Slowing down to allow this storytelling to become a part of the folklore of the company can create a synergy that drives those going after the goal of healing cancer to go above and beyond. It can be magical!
So is there anything that resonated for you in these three key lessons? If so, what can you do to make magic happen for your team or company? I saw the benefits of the focus given to these three initiatives come to life right before my eyes – it was uplifting and I came away inspired. Keep in mind for your team, it doesn’t have to be a huge initiative…it can be a small tweak here or there that makes a really big change for the better!