So here I am, writing my first blog post for my very own consultancy. I want you along for the journey, so a little bit of self-disclosure seems a good place to start. After all, most people I’ve spoken to wonder aloud: why in the world would anyone leave the security of a very well paying, managerial position, in a high-flying software development firm (complete with my own office and assigned parking) to start a consultancy in a field that many executives consider non-essential?
It started with an itch, something that began to grow deep inside me over my years in corporates – something that Simon Sinek defines as your why.
Simon Sinek, in his famous TED talk and New York Times bestselling book Start With Why, says that every person’s career operates on three levels:
In his book, he explains that our experiences shape our beliefs and drive our purpose. Simon believes that by evaluating your experiences, it’s possible to figure out your why – and even summarise what drives you in one simple sentence.
In order for me to understand why my gut so loudly and clearly pushed me toward this new endeavour, I had to take a step back and look at my life story to date. It was time to apply in my own life what I’d been coaching others on. This time I would be the one doing the introspection. Happily, it was my wife (a branding consultant and corporate communications expert in her own right) who took the handbook Find Your Why and helped me analyse and articulate my why.
The net result was this: I want to inspire inclusion so that people feel they belong.
I was shaped by experiences I had as a child, and experiences I had as an awkward adolescent. Experiences that left me feeling like an outsider despite circumstances beyond my control. And I wasn’t the only one looking for a place to belong. It took many years to develop the confidence and abilities to start creating places that were inclusive. Looking back, I realised that whether I served as an officer in a cricket club, a board member of an NGO, a volunteer on a municipal ward committee, or hosted a meet-up group – my purpose was the same.
And now, despite uncertain economic times, I choose to step into the world of self-employment to launch Culture Advantage, because I want a means to actively pursue my passion for inspiring inclusive workplaces where the best can thrive. Workplaces where people want to give their best because they feel they belong. This venture is simply another how to my why.
Every company has a culture. But there’s a misnomer about what a healthy culture is. Many think that a healthy culture is defined by superficial fun things like the occasional social event, an in-house barista or bean bags to lounge on. Not quite. I believe that a healthy culture that drives business success is one where people walk through the door each morning excited to get to work, and leave each day feeling that their contribution was valued.
Google, Southwest Airlines, SalesForce, Virgin and Apple – these are examples of great organisations that are intentional about cultivating a healthy culture that enables their business vision. Why are they intentional? Because it does not happen by accident. But so many organisations, mired in the tyranny of the urgent, are perplexed when they never seem to reach their full potential.
Sir Richard Branson said “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” Employees who feel valued and cared for will become loyal champions of their employer brand and will go above and beyond without being asked. This is loyalty.
And you should want that loyalty. Why?
There is a clear advantage for organisations where the well-being of their people is prioritised. These organisations out-maneuver and out-innovate their competitors; they command the greatest respect from within and outside their organisation; they have the highest loyalty and lowest turnover; and they have the resilience to withstand nearly every storm or challenge.
This, is the culture advantage.
Who wouldn’t want that?
In my next post I’ll explore what exactly a healthy culture looks like.