It was supposed to be all about getting away.
The annual “Platinum Club” retreat was a treat for the company’s top sales performers — several days at a swanky resort in the Dominican Republic with fabulous food, drinks, music and outdoor sports. It had been a great year, and they had earned it.
Normally, the on-site resort staff at such places stays in the background and works the seams of the activity, replenishing drinks or serving tables or handling luggage. However, the CEO struck up a conversation with one young woman who seemed to stand above the rest. Shaira, as it turns out, had just graduated top in her class at a local high school and was working at the resort in a tenuous attempt to save money for college and to support her mother. Her dream was to get a degree in business and start a travel agency to attract tourists to her home country and help build its economy.
Except most people in her country could hardly afford that. Certainly not Shaira.
The CEO decided they could do something about that. He made the appeal to the group, asking that they gather around the idea of paying for her first-year tuition and expenses of about $4,500.
They came up with twice that much.
It was probably an easy bet, given the drive and determination of this young woman, but it’s a sure bet that they have changed her life. Moreover, it lifted the whole group. Now more than just good memories of time away, they seemed to understand the impact they could have on one life and what it meant to rally as a team around that.
There are Shairas all around us, if we take the time to notice, and even get outside our comfort zone. Equally, though, this experience reminds us of the value of purpose. Purpose is a calling larger than ourselves, more durable than our own passing wants. Writ large, it has the marking of a movement as much as a motivation.
It is convention now to associate purpose with the Millennial Generation, soon to represent nearly 75% of the U.S. workforce. Studies by Pew Research and notably by DeLoitte’s annual Millennial Survey bear out that this segment wants business to be more centered on purpose, to have an ethical core.
I’m not convinced the 30-Somethings have a corner on this yearning; I think it is woven into the human spirit. They’ve just spoken to it and acted on it in remarkable and determined ways, and insisted it have its voice and a central place in a company’s vision.
Business has the opportunity — now an imperative — to plumb its soul to discover a purpose in what they do, how they do it, and why it matters. It may be there already, just lacking voice, or you never thought to draw it out; if it’s truly not there, go find one.
To do less is to fall short of the raison d’être that can enliven the best in us and change the world.
One person at a time.