The Peace in His Eyes
Not long ago, I had the chance to participate in an interview with Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase, named by Fortune Magazine as one of America's Most-Admired Companies.
What I remember most from the interview was when Jim recounted a conversation he had had with Bill Marriott about the challenges that come with extending the life of successful brands. He recalled having a "great encounter with Bill," who looked at him at one point and said "Here's who we're not." Jim went on to describe the "peace in Bill's eyes" and how he decided, then and there, that he wanted that peace in his eyes too.
Here is a link to that interview, which was conducted recently on The CEO Show. (For those of you who are very short on time, the segment I'm referring to falls between minutes 15:00 and 16:30.)
In this holiday season, I figured the theme of peace was timely. Maybe, even necessary, given the tumult we face today on so many fronts. I also figured that if we're ever going to achieve greater peace among all of us, we first need to achieve greater peace within each of us.
What Bill "knew" about peace
One of the insidious forces at work within us, whether individual or organization, is a near-constant pull to be what others want us to be, or what we think they want
us to be.
For example, an individual aspires to build successful relationships with different groups: at work, with family and friends, with their spouse or partner, in their community. In the process, it's easy to slip into different skins in order to be seen to fit in.
Or, a company aspires to expand its business and, so, works to attract more and more customers, even if they don't all fit a strategically relevant profile. In doing so, the organization often stretches its brand to the breaking point.
Bill Marriott knew that the only way you can define who you are is by also defining who you are not. It's all about taking stock of yourself -- the person, the company -- and letting go of those things that simply aren't you, no matter how much you wish they were.
It's part of growing up.
How to get that peace in your eyes
Although I don't know this for a fact, I'll bet that Bill Marriott and his team spent many hours determining who the company wasn't and never would be. An innovator and leader in lodging, Marriott would never be in the cruise ship business, or get into theme parks, even though the growth prospects might be terrific.
I'm also willing to wager that, at some point, Bill went through the same exercise for himself, deciding who, or what, he wasn't as a CEO, as a human being. He engaged in the process of letting go of the things that didn't fit naturally into the frame of the man he was, and is.
If you'd like to find the peace I'm talking about -- for yourself or your company -- follow these three steps:
- Recognition Make a list of the things you know you in your heart you are not and will never be. In my case, for example, as much as I'd like to imagine it, I am not a hard-charging entrepreneur. I am not a 'natural with the numbers.' I'm not an operations guy. And the list goes on.
- Acceptance Once you've taken stock of the things you're not -- in particular, the things you might have wished you were -- it's time to own the outcome. Get comfortable with the result. Accept what you've learned. No qualifiers. No maybe-somedays. Let things go.
- Discovery This is the fun part! For every item you let go of, something powerful, even surprising, is likely to emerge. If I am not an entrepreneur, I am indeed a creator of new ideas and practices around the art and science of identity-based leadership and living. I may not be good at numbers or operations, but I am a keen and curious observer -- a discerner of possibilities and opportunities.
Getting to that place of peace in your own eyes isn't as tough as it may sound. In fact, the experience is liberating and the payoff is amazing.
Like chipping away at the proverbial block of clay, the more material you remove, the more you begin to see the remarkable statue the block contains. For people and organizations alike, that "statue" reveals what makes you, you. It shines a light on your uniqueness and potential; probably, not as expansive as you might have liked, but far deeper, more powerful, more authentic --
a foundation you can trust.
Forging that foundation is what Bill Marriott did and Jim Hackett has pursued. That foundation is the secret for building a great brand. It is also the secret for building a meaningful life.
At this time of year, when we talk about "peace on earth," I hope you find the peace you deserve. If you're in a sharing mood, go to Identity Beacon and, by name or anonymously, let folks know some of the things you're really not -- and some of the things you really are. We'll all learn something about ourselves along the way.