Let’s put an anchor down in a world that’s in chaos

There is a reason and a why behind every project that should serve as a starting point and constant motivation to deliver the best every day.
Read time 6min 00sec

Take a look around and describe what you are seeing in the world. There’s heart-warming goodness but also chaos and trauma.

The chaos tends to consume us, most likely from a mistaken sense of self-preservation − a superpower is firing artillery toward civilians in central Europe, the economic fallout from this is squeezing us at the pump, community protests appear to be gaining momentum, devastating floods have shattered a city and lives, and the eye-watering unemployment rate reminds us the country is far from stable.

We are human. Of course, we care; we must care. But then we also have responsibilities to those in our families and work environments. We may ask: What does this mean for me, my job security, or my children? How do I find a purpose amidst so much chaos? Without the ability to throw down an anchor and use purpose to build a legacy, we risk losing direction.

When viewed from high above, enough people behaving like this presents a serious risk to communities and the country at large. It’s no different in a business that is also an ecosystem of different people performing different functions all designed to fulfil the same goals. Like the business of running a country, in a business, purpose must underpin everything everyone does, every day, lest the organisation as a whole loses direction, impact and competitiveness.

Let’s start with the bigger picture. In moments of self-pity and anxiety in a difficult and challenging world, we are at risk of being distracted by things that don’t make an immediate difference to the role we are meant to play today.

It may not come naturally to find purpose in the so-called mundane. But it starts with adopting purposeful living as a human being.

Let’s use an analogy of a leader who is feeling despondent by external factors that he or she fears have a bearing on his or her personal job security. This leader may answer − when asked − that they are responsible for a hundred families.

Consider that each family is made up of five or more people, who may − in turn − have an impact on, or be responsible for, even more people. The magnitude of this leader’s anxiety, paralysis, or directionless meandering, becomes plain to see.

We all have a role in our homes, families, businesses, communities and country at large. Understanding our role and performing it with purpose adds up.

Let’s say the leader in our analogy appreciates his or her role as a provider of jobs, and through purpose and discipline is able to provide 50 new jobs. A thousand more leaders like this would have created 50 000 jobs, directly eating into the country’s unemployment rate and affecting the socio-economic fabric we are all weaved into.

However, like a giant tapestry, each thread must be weaved with purpose or the big picture will unravel.

We can put amazing targets on the table in our planning meetings, such as growth and profitability, but we must always ask how we can motivate a consultant or employee working on every project to do more than what is required of them and to be personally invested in what they are doing.

How does one do this? By way of analogy, some time back we were involved in a large data project − it was highly complicated and needed many moving parts in place. It required consultants and team members to each play their part for it to work. “It working” meant an opportunity to identify illicit money flows, which in turn provided the opportunity to attack corruption and bring credibility to the country. When we went back to the account team we realised they had been doing the work without understanding the “why”.

The customer was incredibly passionate about this project, and so the team needed to be aware of this, so when the purpose was made clear, the light bulb moments were a sight to behold. From that day it became evident this is how we should be approaching every project with every customer, every time.

The burning question then became: how can everyone attach a part of themselves, with meaning, to every piece of work? Not every job will be part of a large nationwide initiative to attack corruption. But, what if it is about building an ecosystem that enables the customer to serve its customers better, which in turn has a real impact on the lives of people in communities?

There is a reason and a why behind every project and rather than diving headfirst into execution, the starting point is always: why are we doing this?

Zoning into the individual

A very good habit is getting people who are engaged in anything to ask: how will this add to my legacy as an individual, as a human being? In other words, how will what I am doing now add to the footprint I leave behind in the world?

What you are doing now could be a work project, it could be a birthday party you have been tasked with setting up or even a church function − it doesn’t matter what it is, but what matters is asking yourself the pertinent question about how this affects your legacy as a person.

It may not come naturally to find purpose in the so-called mundane. But it starts with adopting purposeful living as a human being. It is about committing yourself 100% to everything you do and then doing it with 100% discipline. It’s the opposite of living an ambivalent life and just doing things for the sake of it, because once you realise that your legacy is constantly being written you will want to commit fully.

By living like this you are contributing positively to your legacy and the impact you want to leave behind. Seen this way, purpose and legacy are two fundamental pillars that should be used to hold up everything you do, from your family to your work to your community. It provides a template for how you should fulfil your designated role in the tapestry of your life.

Relating this to business and ROI

The first impact is on the customers you serve. If you go into a project with this approach, customers will be exposed to asking these difficult questions, it will help them formulate their why and their purpose.

Secondly, it will connect your people with the greater project purpose so that when they wake up every morning they have a real “why” to connect with the project. That’s how you deliver innovation that matters.

Collin Govender

Managing director of Altron Karabina

Collin Govender is managing director of Altron Karabina, having first joined Altron as group executive for shared services. He is known for his strategic and highly pragmatic approach to leadership, as well as an innate sense for driving team outcomes and driving people to realise their full potential.

Prior to joining the Altron Group, Govender was vice-president for sales and service management at T-Systems. Instead of following a conventional route into enterprise IT, he entered the workforce with a Durban-based logistics company, where he was tasked with everything from running cables, building networks and developing code. He later moved to Johannesburg, where he spent 17 years at T-Systems, a German multinational IT services and consulting company.

Looking ahead, Govender is focused on connecting individuals with their purpose in the new digital environment – and finding ways to align purpose with sustainable business practices.

See also