Guest blogger Robert “Cujo” Teschner, CEO of VMax Group and author of Debrief to Win, is committed to teaching and encouraging businesses to build stronger teams that can thrive during and despite disruption. Cujo is a combat veteran, former fighter pilot, and cancer survivor uniquely equipped to speak to the topics of purpose, accountability, and teamwork. You can hear more of his story at our upcoming free, live Storyline Webinar – learn more and register here.
“Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are.”
– Teddy Roosevelt
I spend a lot of my time talking about purpose – specifically, a team’s purpose, an organization’s purpose, and how necessary it is for a group of people to be on the same page about a project’s intent to implement the plan, learn from the process, and accurately evaluate the project’s success.
The question, though, is so much bigger than simply nailing down a particular project's practical, tactical purpose. What are you all about as an organization? What were you, as a human being, put on God’s green earth to do?
Or is that too big of a question?
If I learned anything during my time in the military, it was that your own internal sense of purpose needs to be strong when you’re marching off to battle or sending someone else off to risk their life in the fray. If you’re the CEO of a tech company, you might not be able to recreate a life-or-death sense of urgency for the people in your organization or even for yourself – but there’s a need for purpose, no matter where you are, that is undeniable.
As leaders, we want to help create a world full of people who give a damn. Learning doesn’t happen without commitment. Growth doesn’t happen unless you care. So, where do we start?
Offer people the space and safety to care.
We want our teammates to care about our mission, and we really want them to invest their hearts and energy in the company’s goals. Anyone can show up and be a drudge for the paycheck. What transforms that work zombie into a committed, on-fire team member? Along with the clarity of Purpose, it’s having the Psychological safety to be themselves.
When you, as a leader, foster a teamwork environment of positive growth, you give the people in your company permission to become more human in how they do teams. When you eradicate fear from the equation, your teammates get to be themselves. When your teams can focus on building one another up instead of cutting each other down – for example, by flipping the script on accountability and utilizing rhythms like healthy, positive debriefs – you open up a space that allows the human souls powering your organization to invest, rest, and care. They won’t spend their days worried about checking their tasks mindlessly off the list to avoid reprimand; they’ll focus on real learning, growth, and powerful teamwork and will more easily be able to expand into and embrace their daily and overarching purpose.
Focus on what’s useful.
The reality is that most work tasks are purposeful and useful for the soul, even the most mundane – in fact, often the most mundane are the most meaningful. I think about our political leaders with all their power and decision-making opportunities and how absolutely soul-damaging that can be. In the long run, the people hauling manure for customers’ lawns may have a better deal. They’re serving a concrete purpose that does no harm, only good! And an absence of that kind of practical daily focus is a detriment to our mental and physical health if nothing else.
I led a purpose-oriented session with a company focused on the real estate business a while back. I watched grown professionals become moved to tears as they really, deeply delved into the impact their work made – the children growing up in safe and comfortable homes, the families whose lives would be shaped by the memories formed in those rooms. Do you want to talk about purpose? Just make sure you’re doing something good and useful, and good people who desire usefulness will join you.
Don’t forget the big picture.
All this discussion of purpose aside, I’m not convinced any one of us will leave too much of a mark behind us here on this world. Once upon a time, I was tasked with introducing former President George W. Bush to an assembly, and the only thing that stopped me from hyperventilating was the reminder that he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like me. Most of us don’t remember or care who ran the Assyrian Empire. What are our achievements in the broad scheme of history? The eternal impact is what matters most.
As I faced my own mortality during my cancer journey, all I could think about, besides how I was about to leave behind my pregnant wife, was the mismanagement of resources I might soon have to explain to the Real Big Guy upstairs. Blessedly, I was given another chance at life, and for my part, I know I want to use this time to do better every single day. For me, that manifests itself by way of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s daily Examen, by me praying “Thy will be done” each time I step onto a stage to speak, and with my commitment to building a world where our work can be an extension of that commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
That’s what we were created to do.
Interested in learning more from Cujo’s inspiring story? Join our next live Storyline Webinar on September 27th at 2pm MT/3pm CT. The webinar will include a live Q&A that you won’t want to miss! Register now.
September 14, 2023