Relationships at Work - the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture Podcast

The Importance of Purpose at Work with Stan Phelps

February 20, 2022 Russel Lolacher Episode 9
Relationships at Work - the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture Podcast
The Importance of Purpose at Work with Stan Phelps
Show Notes Transcript

In episode nine of Relationships at Work, host Russel Lolacher chats with multi-author and keynote speaker Stan Phelps, on the ingredients of an organization with purpose, and its impact on the employee experience and workplace culture.

Stan shares his experience with...

  • What purpose means for employees and an organization
  • What is the benefit of purpose
  • Where you can find your company's purpose
  • The role of belonging in a purpose-driven organization

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Russel Lolacher
And on the show today, Stan Phelps in here is why he’s awesome. Author or co author of let’s see, okay, I have to take a deep breath before I get into your library here, Stan, purple, pink, golden diamond, yellow, green, red, blue, silver, gray goldfish books. I think that’s 10. Man. I think that’s 10. So his books, everything from personalization to attracting customers to word of mouth to employee engagement and purpose. Hold that thought because we’re gonna get into that a bit later. He is a TEDx speaker on glue, which is giving little unexpected extras. The man loves an acronym. He was part of IBM’s new way of engaging futurist program. And fun fact, he wrote a book about bar tricks, riddles, jokes and stories. 101 of them. The man is a renaissance man. Hi, Stan, welcome to the show.

Stan Phelps
Yeah, thank you for having me, Russel. Yeah, lots of 10 different colors in the goldfish series. Not that I’m counting with 2.0 and industry specific. There’s, there’s 16 Different goldfish books. So a little rainbow sir, a hell of a rainbow. That is that is you’re like, I see the rainbow. And I’m like, I can do better. I can I can add more colors to that. So and just as a footnote only, I’ve only ever written one really good book, which you’d mentioned is called bar tricks, bad jokes and even worse stories. Oh, yeah, yeah, I saw that. I’m like, oh, I need to have that in my heart. And in my library, I need to have that.

Russel Lolacher
So today, we’re talking about purpose, you dove into this in two of your books, red and green goldfish. So as purpose is defined, the reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists, one’s intention? That’s my Google definition of purpose. How would you define it? If we’re talking about the workplace?

Stan Phelps
I agree with that definition, I would say simply, it is reason for being right. And as it relates to your organization, your the workplace is, typically whatever the founders kind of founding premise was for starting the company. And to steal the franchise. It’s the rate. Am I gonna say it right res on Dontre? That’s, yeah, that’s yeah, I’m not much. Yeah, it is. It is, it is just your reason for being you know, and again, a lot of a lot of times it is it is found within why, you know, kind of the founders vision for the company, who do you serve? And why do you exist? Who’s the whose responsibility? Is it to be a purpose driven company? Is it the organization to give employees a purpose? Or do they have to bring that to the table on their own? I think it starts with the organization. You know, it that that to me is a key driver, in terms of, of onboarding, and recruiting the right people into the organization that they can feel like they’re part of something. But I also believe that it is the responsibility of the employee to find purpose in what they do. Each and every day and in in in their role, how do they contribute to that overarching reason for being vision mission can’t go ignored if we’re talking about purpose, because I have you here purpose statements as as something within organizations, but there also, is that vision, that mission? Are they interconnected? Is it just one feeds into the other? What’s the relationship there? I think the words mission and vision, get interchanged. And I think that’s wrong. I think you have a purpose or purpose slash vision statement. So to me, that’s the North Star of why your organization exists. It may be something like the North store that it obviously guides you. But it may be something that you actually never actually achieve, and get to that place. But it became becomes that kind of lofty star in the sky, to me, and a mission is just whether its annual or three year or five year, the mission can change. Every so often. It’s just almost the tacking that you do as you go on that journey to achieve that vision and purpose. I think there’s a big difference. I think a lot of times people get confused between the two.

Russel Lolacher
You’re not wrong. I always ask it. I think I mentioned this before the podcast. If I approach somebody I’m like, so what’s your vision statement? And if they’re like, I don’t I don’t know. I’m like, by definition if you don’t know it’s a horrible vision statement. It has to be short, memorable, inspiring future state like there are characteristics to a great vision statement. And it’s amazing how many people are like, I don’t know what it is, well, then how can you feel connected to it? If it means nothing to you, or you can’t, you know, at least tell why you’re inspired by it. So I couldn’t agree more. So let’s get more into purpose around the employee engagement side of things. How does the employees purpose feed in to their engagement? What is the benefit to them to being in a purposeful organization?

Stan Phelps
Well, I think we all we all want to feel like we’re part of something that’s bigger than ourselves, right? That we’re contributing to something that’s bigger than ourselves. Whether we want to admit that or not, I think that is a huge driver. As it relates to engagement, though, it’s a pretty lofty part of engagement. I see it kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, like you have stuff that are kind of the building blocks at the bottom, the foundational elements, right? And it’s just like, I know, we, we spoken in the past about customer experience, you know, if you don’t get some of the basics, right, you know, doesn’t matter what you do to try to wow, somebody. It’s almost like hygiene, right? If you’re not doing the the basic stuff to kind of manage things. So that’s where the the foundation is, the middle of the pyramid. For me, Russell really relates to how do you create a sense of belonging. So that’s, that’s like feeling like I’m recognized, feeling like I’m part of a team, feeling like I have the flexibility to do what I need to do in my role. The top level though, of that pyramid, and Maslow would call it self actualization. It’s the things that you do what I call to help your employees become, how do you help them we I call it becoming. So that’s training and development. That’s things like, paying it forward? Like how do you do things, and further, it’s beyond just the company to give back to society. And lastly, empowerment. And I think at that kind of top level, and it’s so important, really is where purpose lives. If you can create that strong base, if you can feel like you’re part of a team and feel like you belong, then the last part is, how do I connect? And how do I give back? And how do I develop? So it’s a win for the company, it’s a win for me, and it’s a win for society.

Russel Lolacher
What is the leader or executives role in, in helping with that?

Stan Phelps
We talked about kind of the bottom of that pyramid, one of the biggest ones on the bottom of that pyramid? I see it, it’s what I call the green goldfish of transparency. Right? So how, as a leader, are you opening kind of the window of information? How do you? How do you make it very clear when you’re making decisions that it’s attached, that people understand kind of your intention, but also that you’re making those decisions based upon the purpose of the company. And and so I think your job as a leader, is to create that environment where people understand that you’re operating with a sincere interest in their well being, that you’re making decisions on behalf of that purpose. The goldfish book that relates to us is called the Red Goldfish. As a leader, it’s about the actions that you take, and how do you do the little things that reinforce that purpose and actually bring it to life.

Russel Lolacher
Organizations are so good at slogans and so good at the words, but following up on those actions that people are paying, your staff aren’t dumb. They’re paying attention to things of what you’re doing and what you’re not doing. So that leads me to my next question is what is getting in the way for people to be in purpose driven organizations? How are our leaders? How are employees getting in their own way to reach that purpose?

Stan Phelps
So I think, to dial back, I think we have to understand how organizations and modern corporations have developed, right, I think I wrote about in red goldfish that we’re at what I call the 4.0 of business. And so, in the 4.0 of business, you If you put purpose at the center of everything that you do, now, if we rewind, the clock in the modern corporation has not been around for more than 150 years, right? But for the first 90 years, the 1.0 of that corporation who came first Russel, it was the shareholder. Right, your job as a leader was to do everything to maximize what the return to that shareholder. And so that was the 1.0, that everything that you did above and beyond that was unnecessary, right? Or, you know, you know, so the 2.0, in the, I would say, the late 60s and 70s, really took hold. And that was a realization that, maybe you should actually put the customer first. Right, and that, if the purpose of a business is to actually create and keep a customer. And if you do that correctly, what what is the byproduct of that, wow, that’s, you’re gonna have, you’re going to maximize your return, and you’re going to be profitable. Sam Walton once said, he said, there’s only one boss, and that’s the customer. And he or she has the ability to fire us simply by going and spending their money somewhere else. Now, in the 1990s, I think the 3.0 of business came into the fore. And that was the idea that you can focus on the the customers all you want, but at the the essence, who is delivering that value to the customers. And that’s your employees. And you can’t have happy, enthuse customers unless you have happy, engaged employees. So starting in the 1990s, a lot of smart companies said, Well, we’re actually going to put our employees at the center of everything we do, right. And if we have them engaged, and we can reinforce the culture with them, then they provide a better experience to the customers. And ultimately, that leads to the bigger profit. Well, 2010 or so I think we’re at the we’re at the genesis of maybe actually, we need to put purpose at the center of everything we do. And start with kind of our why. And that kind of reinforces our who, so the employees that we hire, the how, how we deliver that experience. And ultimately, if we can do those things that’s going to be able to maximize our profitability. So what I did Russell, this, my co author, Graham Newell and I, we looked at over 300 companies that had a very clear purpose. And we wanted to figure out what archetypes are out there? How can we see similarities in various types of purpose. And then more importantly, we looked at this idea of a red goldfish being how do you bring that purpose to life? What are the little things that you do to reinforce? So your purpose just doesn’t on the wall of your company, right? Your purpose is in the little things you do for your employees, for your customers and for society, to bring that purpose to life.

Russel Lolacher
So say you’re an organization that you’re not quite sure that you are a purpose led organization. I mean, a lot of people say it. But at the end of the day, how do you know you are? What are some traits of a purpose led organization? And a follow up question to that is, where do you start to find out if you are and go in that direction?

Stan Phelps
I think it again, it starts with the vision of the founder. What’s that origin story of why they set out on a journey to create the organization. So many times hopefully the the organization still has connections with that founder. You know, we talk about in the book, the the how of how you do this. That’s one of the things we talked about is going back to the earliest days, to try to connect with the reason for for it coming to life to find that purpose. It’s maybe going out and studying other organizations to under To stand similar organizations to understand their purpose, right, you might see some commonality. But as we talked about it, and what we found, you know, you fall typically into one of eight different archetypes. What it’s probably important initially is just to understand what’s the archetype that we feel like we’re part of. And then let’s look at organizations that are also part of that. And then we can define what our overarching purpose is.

Russel Lolacher
What is a ideal organization, you would say that is completely purpose driven. And as shown, this is how you do it.

Stan Phelps
So we got, well, I’ve, I have so many.

Russel Lolacher
Oh, I know, that’s why make it tough on you.

Stan Phelps
One of one of them, one of them is what we call the guide. That’s the archetype. So you know, the Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid is kind of the, the the symbol of the guide. And so to me, the prototypical guide company is is someone like Google? Right. And from its earliest days, when the organization came together in the 1990s, was their person purpose was simply to take the world’s information, and make it useful and accessible to all. And so everything that they do, at least for the first 15, to 20 years of the organization was really guided by that simple purpose. And they do a lot of little things that they kind of eat their own dog food, to try to make, again, up until recently, to make things really accessible even for their own employees as it relates to how Google operated. And they did a lot of little things to bring that principle to life.

Russel Lolacher
It’s amazing for employees and workplace culture, when they see on the wall and in the actions of their leaders, that you have that purpose. And so that, you know, everything you do is in relation and in spirit, and in service to that one purpose. I see so many people I talk to you going, what’s the value of your work? Or like, I don’t know, how is it connected to what the organization’s trying to do? I don’t know. I don’t know. I, I can’t see employees being engaged in a culture where they feel like they are just punching a clock, because they’re doing what they were told to do that day, not following this. Vision, this purpose.

Stan Phelps
So here’s the thing, people, you know, research shows this people identify in three different buckets, as it relates to what they do one, at the base level, some people see what they do, as a means to an end, literally just a job. It’s put food on the table, a roof over my head, I punched the clock, nothing more, nothing less. And that’s about a third of people that have that. The middle third are people that see what they do as more of a career, they see a little bit more of a long term, they’re invested, they’re a little bit more engaged. If you can tap into people that are part of the top third, it’s those that have, I would say almost more of a calling. There’s a bigger reason why they do what they do. And those people would almost do what they do, even if they weren’t being paid. And I and I love this. You know, if you look at people that work for you, almost like volunteers, right? I’m leading a board right now, for the National Speakers Association. If you can work with people that are volunteers, there’s nothing that’s keeping them there. Right, other than feeling that they’re tied into something bigger, and then they’re giving back. And Ted Coine a who wrote the foreword for green, he said, We need to almost look at our employees as volunteers, right, that they could. And this is so appropriate, given where the labor climate is right now, because people have tons of opportunities. I’d read a stat the other day, two out of every three people are potentially thinking about their next role right now. So if you’re not giving them a reason to feel like they’re connected to the organization and part of something they’re gonna find it somewhere else.

THE FINAL TWO

Russel Lolacher
Thank you, Stan. I have we’re almost at a time so I have a quick two personal questions that I asked all my ghost guests. Ask all my guests, beings, all of them all of them. The first question is, what is your best or worst one story employee experience you’ve ever had. I’m always curious, because it’s always has long term impact. So the best or worst experience,

Stan Phelps
The best experience I had, I was fortunate I worked for Adidas, we’re everywhere else in the world that’s listening to this “Adidas” for almost nine years. And a few times I had to, to kind of pick up and move with the organization. And that’s, that can be a rough time how you kind of guide that is absolutely key. So I think, you know, one of the reasons why I stayed there for nine years was a, I felt like there was opportunity, but be I felt like I was being taken care of, especially around you know, one was a coast to coast move from Portland, Oregon to New York City. And then the second one was actually an overseas move to working in the the global offices in Amsterdam. And both times they did a great job of supporting me for those moves. And I look back and I go, that’s when you feel like your company has your back and they’re acting in your best interest. You do the same for them.

Russel Lolacher
Not just a financial support, but a cultural support to when you’re moving making moves like that. And last question, stand right before you walk out that door. What is one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work, either with co workers, colleagues, leaders, anything.

Stan Phelps
I think the simple thing is if you’re a leader, or even if you’re a great co worker or teammate, it’s scheduling a little bit of time each day on your schedule to just spend a couple minutes to check in on checking in on and maybe write a short note to somebody that’s on your team.

Russel Lolacher
Love that. Love that connection. Thank you so much, Stan Phelps. If you want to know more about Stan. Well, it’s easy you Google stanphelps.com. Real easy to find. And he’s also on Twitter at @StanPhelpsPG. What does the PG stand for Purple Goldfish demands written 10 bucks about it. Thank you, or more 16 We got up to 16 Thank you so much, Stan, for having the time today and always a pleasure talking to you.

Stan Phelps
Thanks Russel