Purposeful Driven Discussions with Mark Herbert

Every year, I travel to Oregon to visit my business partner, Mark Herbert, to discuss cross border challenges and to hold meetings with his team, my relationship with Mark and his team is a good example of a ‘special relationship’ that has grown from strength to strength over the last decade. We always discuss US to Europe and the effects on business and personnel who hold office.

Mark and I had quality time to discuss many subjects and in particular working in an increasingly fast-paced and ever-changing world, and the rationale behind my new book ‘Purposeful Discussions’.

Mark Herbert

We decided to take a road trip to the beautiful town of Brownsville, originally known as “Calapooya” after the area’s original inhabitants, the Kalapuya Indians, or “Kirk’s Ferry”, after the ferry operated across the Calapooia River by early settlers Alexander and Sarah Kirk.

When Linn County was created from the southern portion of Champoeg County on December 28, 1847, the Provisional Legislature named Calapooia as the county seat. Brownsville was named in honour of Hugh L. Brown, who settled there in 1846 and opened the first store. In the mid 1980s Brownsville assumed a modicum of international notoriety as the location set for the film ‘Stand by Me‘, directed by Rob Reiner. The film was shot in and around the community in June and July 1985 (and Richard Dreyfuss, whom I blogged about 2 weeks ago, plays in it).

It was a hot day driving through some of the back roads in Mark’s Porsche convertible, I started to ask Mark about purpose-driven outcomes in business, to which he responded: ‘Great subject Geoff, you could question to wonder too openly, or intensely, about the meaning of life sounds like a peculiar, ill-fated and unintentionally comedic pastime. It isn’t anything an ordinary mortal should be doing – or would get very far by doing. A select few might be equipped to take on the task and discover the answer in their own lives, but such ambition isn’t for most of us.

Meaningful lives are for extraordinary people: great saints, artists, scholars, scientists, doctors, activists, explorers, national leaders…. If ever we did discover the meaning, it would – we suspect – in any case, be incomprehensible, perhaps written in Latin or in computer code. It wouldn’t be anything that could orient or illuminate our activities. Without always acknowledging it, we are – in the background – operating with a remarkably ungenerous perspective on the meaning of life.’

I responded by saying ‘it is my belief that an important part of empathy is the ability to trust and be trusted. When your employees feel that you care, then you have earned their trust. If they trust you, they will take more risks with you and be more open with you. People will talk openly with you only when they trust you. As trust builds, there will be more sharing of information, feelings, and thoughts. The more you share, the easier it is to relate to one another. Building trust is something that takes time and effort. It involves both you and the other person in the relationship. The level of trust is what makes each relationship unique.

So how do you build a trusting relationship with someone?

Mark answered by exercising five ways to build trusting relationships:
1. Learn to trust others
2. Earn the trust of others
3. Share information, thoughts, and feelings
4. Show weakness and take risks
5. Be personable

It is true, if you want to develop your organisation’s culture around purpose, it’s hard to imagine anything more critical to your success than trust. Yet, unfortunately, trust is sorely lacking in workplaces in the US and Europe, if fact across the globe, reflecting society’s growing distrust of business, government and other vital institutions.

How big is the trust gap? I recently read The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, which found that just 37% of respondents find CEOs to be credible spokespeople, down 12% compared to 2016. Trust in employees is also falling. Edelman found that 48% of respondents found employees trustworthy, down from 52% in 2016. In fact, for the first time, a majority of global respondents say that they no longer trust “the system” – government, media, business and institutions – to work for them.

It’s clear there’s a crisis of trust brewing. Yet, there’s hope for companies that pursue purpose transformation, for it is only by being trustworthy that we can gain the trust of employees, customers and others who are invested in mutual success. In my continuing series of interviews around culture and purpose, I spoke with five experts on workplace relationships who shared their ideas on why trust is integral to purpose transformation.

Mark went on to say ‘organisations, values play another vital role’. “Values prevent teams and individuals from giving into that short term, numbers-oriented mentality, which is so prevalent in many publicly traded organizations,”. “We have to give up the notion that it’s okay for work to be unsatisfying; that it’s simply an obligation versus something we feel fulfilled and passionate about doing. We as individuals have to change our beliefs; that’s what really changes the organisation.”

The ability to trust your team to embody your values is the foundation for a successful purpose transformation. After all, you can expend a lot of energy defining purpose and values, but if you can’t rely on your team to embody them, then it won’t impact how teams interact with customers and each other, and it won’t impact how business gets done.

Values should drive decision-making, especially around hiring and retention. Organisations must hire people who believe in the organisation’s purpose, and who embody the values you want to see in the organisation.

I continued to question, ‘so how do you build a trust-based workplace? Mark responded, inspiring trust is about walking the talk and great storytelling, “As a leader, you build trust by making yourself available, listening to questions. You have to listen to your customers and your people, and recognise the questions people have.”

Final thought, it might not seem like trust would be such a crucial component of building a purpose-driven organisation. But in truth, it’s trust – between employees and managers, managers and executive leaders, and customers and those within the organisation – that gives purpose and values the power to transform.

To be successful in today’s dynamic business environment, leaders must work toward building relevance, managing business fundamentals with a balanced approach and guiding employees through open, two-way communication. Those leaders who leverage opportunities to adapt, innovate and learn can make ever-changing times invigorating and advantageous for themselves, their employees and their organizations.

A great quote by Howard Schultz sums up our thinking on this incredible roadtrip, when he said:

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”

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