“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”
Howard Scultz, former CEO and Executive Chairman of Starbucks
On May 11, 2018, GreenSeed Contract Packaging hosted Andy Swindler, a purpose coach and founder of Lead From Love. A burly man with an easy smile and a logger’s beard, his mission was to open our minds to our collective purpose.
As you know, we are a packaging operations company. One might think we should know our purpose. We put natural, healthy food in flexible packaging. Simple, right?
Life is rarely that straightforward.
Here’s the backstory. We enter quietly into the conference room. The walls are painted a stormy gray. Our sky is nine can lights in a white drop ceiling. A glass wall stands between us and a silent hallway. A digital screen connects to Andy’s computer.
The image: a brilliantly burning bonfire with sparks dancing toward the night sky.
On the other side of the wall, we hear an orchestra warming up. Bam, bam, bam, go the hammering notes of machinery in motion followed by the beep, beep, beep from a forklift alerting people to step aside.
We are a wall away from products being made, packaged and shipped by people working to bring natural, healthy food to market.
On our side, we were 11 people a world apart from one another. Most arms are crossed. Radio silence. Each of us listen with an edge of concern about saying the wrong thing. Would we be judged?
LEAVING YOUR DAY-TO-DAY ROLE IS UNCOMFORTABLE. IT FORCES YOU TO LEAP OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE. THE GOOD NEWS: THAT’S WHERE WE GROW.
GreenSeed President David Gray speaks first. He talks passionately about our path here. There was great adversity. It was hard. We weren’t always sure we were making the right decisions. Our secret sauce was failure. Fail often, fail fast and learn, he says.
Then he puts it out there. We will move forward, together, inch by inch. Our strategy is not about being perfect. It is to personally expand — all of us — and to move beyond culture and language barriers — all of us — so each department is an incubator of knowledge and culture.
We will be a conscious company living its purpose, a true 21st century company, he points out. Our values will guide us.
We pair up. Andy tells everybody to learn one new thing about the other person. People start to open up like an envelope torn open with amazing news inside. At many companies, people are asked to leave themselves at the door. Not here. Not today. Not ever.
We sit back down. People start to lean in a bit more. It’s safe and a little more comfortable for all 11.
INNOVATION CAN BE CROWD-SOURCED FROM EVERY PART OF THE COMPANY BECAUSE INNOVATION EXISTS AT EVERY LEVEL OF THE COMPANY. THE CAVEAT: IT COMES ONLY WITH THE FULL EXPRESSION OF OURSELVES.
Andy enlightens us. We are attentive and learning now. He explains that business is how we can make the biggest global change. In the last 200 years, global poverty has gone from 90 percent to 10 percent. Why the leap? Free market capitalism. The next stage is the conscious company, the healing business.
He asks: Can people leave at the end of the day better than they were when they arrived?
For the first time, Andy is not the only one talking. Kirk pipes up and says there is a freedom at the company to be yourself. He says, I can be quirky and honest. Are we a family? He hesitates and smirks. We are distant cousins. That’s why I can give all of me.
Hector points out that it helps with problem-solving because you don’t have the fear of saying the wrong thing or being yelled at. Brad says interacting makes a difference.
The 11 begin to look outward. Only half the arms are crossed. They begin to see the win-win-win trifecta of a purpose-driven culture. Win for the person. Win for the company. Win for the customer.
THE PERSON DOING THE JOB HAS THE BEST IDEA OF HOW TO DO IT, NOT JUST A SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE WITHIN A COMPANY. THE GOAL: ALIGN THE ACTIVITIES YOU DO DURING THE DAY WITH YOUR PURPOSE AND THE ORGANIZATION’S PURPOSE.
We switch gears now. We get personal. Andy asks: What do you love to do? Had he asked when everyone walked in, you would have heard crickets chirp. Now, voices tumble over one another.
Food – Seeing new cultures – Golf – Being outside – Freedom to have fun – Helping others – Make my family happy
Then one GreenSeeder says something really profound: I don’t know what it is, but I know when I’m not on the path to it. Purpose is a path to a hidden purpose. When I stick to the path, I feel most centered. When I stray from the path, it doesn’t feel right.
People’s layers are peeling away. Side comments percolate, heads nod, smiles emerge from all 11 around the table. The formula has flipped — quiet isn’t filling the space; the space is spilling over into the quiet.
PURPOSE CREATES A TRAJECTORY. PURPOSE IS OUR NORTH STAR. YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE LIVING YOUR PURPOSE. IT FEELS LIKE THERE IS NOTHING ELSE YOU SHOULD BE DOING IN THAT MOMENT.
Why is purpose important, Andy asks? Because you do it with passion. It comes from inside. Living your purpose impacts every part of your life: you earn more, you learn more, you lead better, productivity rises, romance gets a boost (one person blushes), you have less risk for chronic illness. Then Andy throws the last stat out there: 55 percent of customers will pay more for a product with a purpose.
At this point, nobody’s even glancing at their phones. And, even more significantly, one hand reaches in for a bagel. Another takes a cinnamon roll. Someone else peaks over the brown pastry box and grabs a fruit-filled pastry, Andy asks a question about building an environment of confidence. Hector and David chime in at once.
Like it has for generations, food speaks to the togetherness of all 11 and their search for purpose on this spring day.
THE DAYS OF SOMEBODY HAVING A JOB FOR 30 YEARS ARE OVER. WE CAN HAVE 7 CAREERS OR MORE IN OUR LIFETIME. FINDING YOUR PURPOSE HAS AN INCREDIBLE IMPACT ON LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE.
Much more is talked about, but one compelling question Andy poses is this: What is love? He points out that it is equal parts challenge and support.
He teaches us four principals he has authored (cool!). We relate them to GreenSeed’s values.
Learn to learn speaks to how we seek to learn first.
Learn to love speaks to how we are social givers.
Learn to laugh speaks to us as idea liberators.
Learn to lead speaks to our earnestness in being people defenders.
Then Andy asks us to envision our lives six months down the road.
People stand right up, attentive. Only one arm is crossed — that’s it! People are eager to share. Hector has a twinkle in his eye. Brad leans in on the chair and talks passionately. Sam starts ticking off a list of points on her fingers, confident and smiling as she uses her hands to describe this amazing life.
As a wrap, the group gathered for a picture, putting their hands on each other’s shoulders to symbolize the one big word they learned the value of that day, a word seldom talked about in the workplace, but which has definite roots in the food business because food nourishes people, and brings them together in good times and bad. It heals the heart. The word shows up in our work — especially for natural and healthy foods manufacturers — and defines our collective culture as an industry.
And the word is “love.”
How does love impact your company culture? What is your purpose? What do people you work with think?