What we’ve been inspired by

Articulating purpose

Last week in our blog, ‘The Why of What we Do’ we shared some of the work we have been engaged in around defining and articulating the increasing need by teams and organisations for a new, or refined, sense of purpose backed by clarity of objectives and sharper leadership responsibility.

So, by the time we found a space to read our latest copy of Harvard Business Review (yep, we still subscribe to the magazine versus online – helps to keep us engaged and hold it front of mind) there was a real feeling of reinforcement of some of our own recent client experiences in reading the article by Stewart Butterfield – CEO of Slack the global operation with more than 2,000 employees and 100,000-plus paid customers who say they haven’t lost our start-up mentality. Their vision is a world where organisational agility is easy to achieve, regardless of an institution’s size, and that agility is what they aim for themselves.

We really enjoyed the additional bonus of reading an article actually written by the CEO versus an interview – the power of hearing it straight form the leader’s own head and heart was refreshing.

So rather than spinning it into our words here are some extracts straight from Stewart we especially liked;

‘I will never forget the energy, focus, and determination I saw from our employees over the next few weeks. It was as if everything I had ever hoped to accomplish for our team—a clear sense of purpose, widely understood shared objectives, and appreciation for the importance of our work, all inspiring genuine collaboration—was happening magically, by itself.

Of course, we will all remember this pandemic period for the rest of our lives. And like everyone else, I’m worried about loved ones, deeply concerned for the millions whose lives have been upended, preoccupied by the strain and craziness of quarantine (some days more than others), and profoundly uncertain about how things will unfold.

But for us at Slack, the time has also been indelibly marked by the experience of coming together to help one another, our customers (old and new), and so many groups on the front lines of this crisis. It was that month, March 2020, in which the company itself demonstrated the agility that we aspire to bring to our customers. I think our story offers lessons for other corporations and institutions, not just in times of crisis but whenever they need to adapt to unexpected changes, move quickly, and strategically scale up.’

Less but better

A book we’ve also been delving into is Essentialism by Greg McKeown…

We have mixed feelings about it but parts of it resonated and echoed some of the sentiments around purpose expressed here:

‘Motivation and cooperation deteriorate when there is lack of purpose…I have found a consistent realtity: When there is serious lack of clarity about what a team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress and frustration. When there is a high level of clarity, on the other hand people thrive.’

McKeown suggests the way forwards for teams in acquiring clarity of purpose is ‘to decide on essential intent’ – at Maier we would describe this as ‘conscious intent’ and indeed is at the heart of much of our work.

Essentialism was written pre pandemic – we’d suggest that the relevance, the need for clarity of purpose,  as we find our ways back into our worlds of work is now even more acute. The below video offers a 10 minute summary of the book, if you’re curious to know more.

Back to Stewart Butterfield for some final thoughts;

‘I’ve always believed in the adage “Never waste a crisis,” and during this one I’ve tried to encourage Slack’s executive team, employees, customers, and investors to lean into that idea. Covid-19 has created an opportunity for us and others to become more agile, to take on changes that once seemed daunting, to reimagine organizational culture, to rethink work plans and productivity, to learn from and rapidly correct mistakes, and to reposition for future growth. Perhaps most important, Slack has refocused on our core goal—to help our customers work more efficiently and more productively.

What leaders must do above all else in times like these is remind people of what’s important, emphasizing an organization’s foundational tenets, its purpose and mission, and the impact it can have, and constantly expressing gratitude for the hard work they’re doing to execute on those things. As I wrote to Slack employees on March 12, “We can emerge from this stronger than ever….We will look back at this time and realize how much it redefined our belief in what we can accomplish as a team….Everything you’re doing matters. I’m so proud of this company, and all of you. Let’s go!” ’


Read the full article, here.