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The Power of Religion Events

I was recently at an event at a client — a type of event my team has nicknamed a “religion event” in that it had some of the stopping power of religion — and a very interesting thing happened. It was an event to celebrate a major anniversary in the life of this company. But rather than get up and talk endlessly about the history of this 35-year-old institution, the company’s president started his remarks by instead posing a question: Where were you in 1969? (The year of the company’s founding.)

I was recently at an event at a client — a type of event my team has nicknamed a “religion event” in that it had some of the stopping power of religion — and a very interesting thing happened.

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It was an event to celebrate a major anniversary in the life of this company. But rather than get up and talk endlessly about the history of this 35-year-old institution, the company’s president started his remarks by instead posing a question: Where were you in 1969? (The year of the company’s founding.)

Rather than a long and boring PowerPoint, he instead brought up a picture of himself in that year — at age ten. And proceeded to tell a story of what he was like at that age — his passions, his obsessions, his interests. And as the story unwove it was absolutely clear why he today holds the post he does — it is the sum total of his life’s passions.

In my book Unstuck, I offer up advice about such events. This one was such a great example. We assume in business that adding more and more rationale to our case is what moves people to action — it comes from a prove-it-and-they’ll-do-it approach to leadership (pour on more facts, more detail, more plans, more steps, more instructions, and you’ll lift the performance of your team). When in fact, what business needs more of is purpose — talk about why you do what you do, and you unlock true human potential because you’ve captured people’s /desire/ to perform, not just their man-hours.

In this particular case, by talking about his own passions, this leader at this event was able to get his team to think about their own. The response was amazing.

What are ways you’ve used such approaches to lead? What advice, insight, methods have motivated your teams to do their best work?