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Level Up Ep. 6: Leading Within Your Purpose with Anna Hall

“Purpose transcends ego.” This was one of the many quotable quotes that came from the discussion between James and Anna Hall, the Chief Purpose Officer for Connected Living and the inventor of the Purpose Equation.  In this episode, James delves into the topic of purpose and how it relates to greater leadership effectiveness.

Anna also shares some of her techniques by walking James through his own purpose equation. This is sure to be an episode that you bookmark for you to return to more than once.  How do you define your purpose?  Do you lead in a way that invites the people on your team to live within their purpose?  Vulnerable insights ahead. Let’s dig in.

James: Hi, this is James Lee. Welcome to another episode of Level Up leadership podcast. I am super excited to have my guest on today, Anna Hall. We’re going to be talking about purpose. I love this topic and I couldn’t think of a better person to walk through this conversation with me than Anna Hall. Now her daytime job, I hope I get this right, Chief Purpose Officer for Connected Living.


Anna: You got it.


James: I mean, that is awesome. That purpose is in your title…


Anna: It’s the best title ever. And the fact that I work at a technology company that makes purpose such a priority is; I’m very lucky that I get to do that.


James: It’s astounding. So I love that. I’m about to have this conversation with you, Anna, and you’re, you’re going to take the reins over here and just a little bit. But what I want to do is set up the episode for everyone who may be new to me, this podcast, or to Anna. I met Anna, I guess more officially we met kind of recently in terms of one-on-one conversations and phone calls and Zoom calls. We’ve been kind of LinkedIn buddies for some time now. I love that during the pandemic, one of the positive side effects is that people have had more live conversations and if we were to look, I’m sure we’ve been connected on LinkedIn for years. But it was only recently, certainly in the midst of all of the COVID era that we reached out to each other personally, and created a friendship beyond kind of LinkedIn. So I’m so happy for that.


Anna: I am too.


James: So today we’re going to talk about purpose and and as a preface to, Anna’s going to kind of walk us through this. I would love for you to share, kind of set the table here, Anna, you know, kind of your methodology more than I do, obviously. So I’ll let you set that up, but let’s start with hopefully a softball question which is, why should we be talking about purpose at all? Why should leaders, particularly leaders in senior living or any kind of mission-driven service, why should we care at all about purpose? In terms of our day-to-day work? Let’s ground our episode with that question.


Anna: Three things come to mind right away. For anyone, and this is both in business and in personal life, it is essential to be in touch with one’s purpose. First of all, in order to lead others or be part of a team to get things done, you have to know yourself. And so discovering one’s purpose is also a journey of self discovery and self-actualization, and when one deeply understands like your own personal why, you know, what gets me up in the morning? What gets me excited? What is it about me that’s special that I bring to the world? How do I fuel myself so that I have the energy to fuel others, right? And to motivate others. It has to start with knowing yourself. And when you know yourself, then you can recognize purpose in others. And as a leader, understanding and seeing and celebrating each person’s unique purpose gives you the tools that you need to create an exceptional team where everyone is working at their highest capacity and loving what they do. That sounds a little pie in the sky, but isn’t that the goal?


James: Pie in the sky is a wonderful pie. It’s my second favorite pie after pecan pie. But we should be talking big level. So I love that the kind of first distinction is that purpose matters because it helps you to know yourself.


Anna: Number two, motivation motivation. My whole impetus for researching purpose was after 20 plus years in senior living really focused on engagement and creating both group and individual person centered programs, I saw a disparity or a difference between people who seem to be motivated to keep going through challenges and changes in condition and changes in health and circumstance, environment, all those things. And then people who kind of petered out or who didn’t have this internal drive. And it’s no judgment on the person. It was more of a curiosity, like what is this thing? Right? And it’s not something that people are doing. It seems to be deeper than that. So I wanted to figure out what motivates people. And that led me to learn the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is; I’ll give you $10,000 more if you take on this project or even recognize you and give you a metal, if you do something that kind of motivation is a fantastic temporary, short-term motivation, but to really keep a team and yourself going, you need to have motivation that comes from the inside. That’s, that’s limitless, that’s bottomless. And that comes from purpose is the source of that.


James: Yeah. It seems like purposefulness and intrinsic motivation feel like more natural pairings than extrinsic motivation and purpose. You’re saying that both, both are important to motivators, but purpose is probably a little bit more rooted in that infinite pool of motivation, as you said.


Anna: Exactly. Yeah. Purpose is always with you. It’s part of you, it’s who you are. And so if you can understand your own purpose and celebrate it, then you don’t…life’s life is hard. We have challenges. We have disappointments, we have joys and celebrations, but purpose can be your constant through that roller coaster of life.


James: I love that. Number one was: know yourself. Two is motivation. Third?


Anna: Resilience. Which kind of goes back to both of those, right? The resilience to keep going when things get hard, or when things happen that we don’t expect. And also excitement, which goes back to motivation as well. You know, people who have an internal locus of self worth and self understanding, which I think is self-actualization, can deal with changing external circumstances when they have an inner strength. That, again, I’ll say is purpose to keep us going.


James: I love that. It’s simple enough to provide structure for this conversation, but I can tell this could get real deep, real fast. So, know yourself. That’s kind of like, who are you? Motivation. What drives you? And number three, resilience. What sustains you? So awesome. That’s a great place to start and what I, what I’m hearing and I’ll mix it a little bit with my own thoughts of purpose, right? Is that, you know, if you don’t have a sense of who you are, what drives you and what sustains you as a leader of other people, you won’t be able to tap into that for others. Right, exactly. And it speaks a little bit to, you know, something that I also strongly believe in, which is a strong emotional intelligence. In fact, a big part of this podcast and my leadership philosophy is around this concept of a harmonious relationship between your head skills and your heart skills. And part of what I might put into that category of heart skills is emotional intelligence, purposefulness, and more than having a purpose, it’s understanding your purpose and harnessing it and using it to drive you forward. Right?


Anna: Yes. Purpose, a clear sense of purpose literally gives us clarity, right? To know, helps make decisions, easier, even career decisions. Oh, I have an opportunity to take this job or to take on this project or to become a new manager. And, you know, these decisions don’t have to just be an on-paper decision, right. When one can look inside of oneself and really see, is this me? 


James: It begs the question, Anna, are people good at defining and understanding their purpose?


Anna: No. That’s why I had to make the purpose equation.


James: I think I agree with you, but I’m interested in your answer. Why are people not good at understanding and kind of defining their own purpose?


Anna: There’s a lot of components that create our purpose. And so the purpose equation is a framework that helps each of us look at ourselves from many different perspectives to put our pieces together, to create that pie in the sky. But also there’s just; a lot of people talk about purpose. And I found that when we’re talking about purpose, you might mean one thing, I might mean something else. The biggest revelation that I’ve had in my research and learning about purpose and helping people discover their purpose is that purpose is not something that we do. And a lot of people think, oh, my purpose is to become a “fill in the blank.” A job, or a role in your life. Right? And then when people retire or change jobs or lose jobs, they feel like, oh, I’ve lost my purpose. Yeah. And the thing is, purpose has…what we do, roles that we play are outputs of our purpose. So that’s the biggest misunderstanding, I would say that people have about purpose is they’re looking outside of themselves when really purpose is an internal view, that changes your perspective of the rest of your life in a really awesome way.


James: So, purpose isn’t where you’re going. It’s why you’re going.


Anna: Yeah. I have to share an analogy.


James: I love analogies. 


Anna: So one f my clients shared this with me and it’s so good. I’m going to pass it along. So a lot of us think, so we’re going to, let’s pretend that we are space X and we’re about to watch this rocket cause we’re trying to get to Mars so that we can cool populate it. Right. So a lot of people would think that, okay, so our purpose is to get to Mars. So then Mars is the right. The destination is the purpose. And everybody’s working to get to Mars. When in fact getting to Mars is an output of individuals and then a team having a purpose. In order for that rocket to reach Mars, it’s got to make 30,000 corrections in course. That rocket has to have enough fuel to reach Mars. So, purpose is the rocket. It is not Mars, right? This rocket is on a journey and this rocket needs input, which is fuel, which I would say is joy. That’s a whole nother topic. And then the output of this motivation and excitement and meaning, meaning is really, I think the goal of life, not happiness, it’s meaning. What keeps that rocket going is purpose. So that rocket could go anywhere right now. It’s going to Mars, but tomorrow might be going to the moon and then it might be going to Saturn.


James: Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s a great way to kind of think about it. I love this distinction, that purpose, isn’t something we do. What we do is the output of our purpose. I, you know, that that kind of distinction is, I think it’s important for leaders to kind of tap into this. Cause we talk so much, you know, when you get operationally focused or sales focused or execution focused, a lot of conversations can get around like here are the numerical values and the quantification of that output. But if you think about how often we as leaders engage in the topic of purposefulness from a work perspective, not a product perspective, right? We sometimes we talk about purpose and senior living as the thing we create. But even this distinction is like, we don’t give seniors purpose. We understand their purpose. We help kind of, we help with the output, but they bring the purpose to the table.


Anna: We can help with supporting outlets or paths for the output. And we can also help to fuel the purpose right? To give the rocket fuel. And there’s specific ways to do that, but nobody can give anybody else purpose. This is knowing oneself. And let me say this, celebrating oneself, because when you know yourself and you can love this thing about you, your purpose stack, so to speak, then it, again, it fuels the motivation and the resilience. And also know, a lot of times we talk I’ve seen things about leader saying, well, you know, I might not want to hire someone who’s smarter than me, or who has this skillset because it could make me look bad. But when one is living in purpose, this comparing oneself to others kind of melts away. Because you can feel your own power and your own strength and your own excitement. And then when you see that in others, it’s exciting. It’s not a competition. So comparing oneself to others is such a toxic thing that us human beings do and living in purpose can really help to diminish that.


James: That’s a big lesson. I think one that I can also I’ve internalized and I think, you know, I can, I can certainly atest to, you know, a lot of people rumble with this idea of ego, right. And ego you know, I also want to state that ego is not a good or bad thing. It is just a condition of you. It’s a condition of humanity, humanity, that ego in the sense that you’re concerned about what happens to you, that’s not in it of itself a bad thing, but having too much ego or letting that kind of be the forefront of all of your actions that obviously, you know, drives pretty poor relationships. So in that sense, purpose can be kind of the antidote to ego.


16:17 Anna Hall – Purpose and Ego


Anna: I think that purpose helps to even transcend ego. I think, you know, ego, I agree it’s not a good or a bad thing, but it can cause blocks in purpose and it can cause, it can house fear because we naturally want to protect our ego. So if we’re too much in our ego, it can cause us to not take risks, to not overcome our fears, to stay in our comfort zone. Like for me doing this podcast and talking about purpose and being on video two years ago, I would have said, no, thank you. Like there’s way too much room for error. Right. And, oh, well, I’ll do that when I’m 10 pounds thinner. And you know, when I’ve done 50 more hours of research, then I’ll do the podcast, but I’m living in purpose. And I’m saying, you know what? I know enough that this is not about me or how I look or how I sound. My purpose is to help other people understand that within them is this amazing gift. And that most of us actually are who we want to be. Yeah. There’s just a lot of things blocking our view, our true view of who we are. 


James: That’s an amazing insight, Anna. And I think a good way to think about purpose. You said purpose helps you transcend ego. That also means that it helps you transcend vulnerability or kind of lean into vulnerability. And if you about it this way through the lens of senior living, or again, any mission-driven pursuit where you’re taking care of people, how on earth can we do the best version of that if we don’t live within our purpose? Right? The job itself is just something we do if we don’t tie all of our actions back to purpose. So I love that. That was a great lead in. Speaking of vulnerability let’s segue from a kind of a general topic of purpose. And I’m going to put myself in the hot seat here. And that was part of the intention about doing this podcast is that I’m going to level up and I want to help other people to tap into that by sharing my own journey. So this is that hot seat moment. So I think you’re going to walk me through a little bit of this so that I can internalize and personalize this. So let’s dig in. 


Anna: Okay, awesome. So the purpose equation incorporates; I’m a certified life coach, and so it incorporates coaching techniques. So I will ask you questions and we will explore you in the present moment. And that’s really important because when one is living in purpose, purpose is not static. It evolves, right? So we’re going to explore who you are right now in terms of living in your purpose. And here’s the other thing, I’m not a magical wizard. I do not know what your purpose is. But you do. So my role is to help you discover it. And as humans talking out loud, and then hearing reflected back to us, what we say helps to bring clarity. So what I’m going to ask of you is to one, as you said, be vulnerable. It’s a sign of strength that you’re willing to expose yourself in such a way and know that you can survive it. So that’s vulnerability. Thank you, Bernay Brown for teaching us.


James: That totally. Yeah. If she listens to this podcast, or if, you know, Bernay Brown, send her this podcast, we’d love to meet her.


Anna: Thank you, Bernay. And then the other thing is I will all reflect back to you and occasionally I’ll summarize, and here’s the thing. This is not about me. I’m doing that purposefully so that you can reflect and say, oh, yes, that’s absolutely right. Or, you know, that’s not quite it, it’s actually this. So everything that I’m saying is just to lead you on the discovery of your purpose.


James: Okay. That sounds good. Good, good ground roles. Cue vulnerability. Got it.


Anna: And here’s the thing, finding purpose is really fun. So this is going to be fun. This is not therapy. I’m not trying to fix you or find anything that’s wrong. Purpose is about finding everything that’s right. So here’s the question. Would you rather go for a ride in a limousine or a spaceship?


James: Spaceship.


Anna: Okay. Tell me about that choice.


James: For me, a spaceship is about exploration. I love being in a limo. Don’t get me wrong. There are moments where I think feeling celebratory, you know, I don’t necessarily equate limo with like, you know, glitz and glamour. I think that’s about celebration, but between the two when I think about a spaceship, it’s a lot of unknown. It’s about exploration and it’s about seeking things that you’re not already familiar with. So at first glance, spaceship.


Anna: Where are you going in this spaceship?


James: Metaphorically, I guess, metaphorically? Because I don’t actually own a spaceship. If I’m in a spaceship, where am I going? You know I don’t remember the exact quote. But I think about journeys this way, that wherever you go, the purpose of it is to come back. So I’m going to say that I’m going home or I’m returning home. But the exploration is to get somewhere, to see my home in a new light, to appreciate it differently. And that echos from just, you know, when I grew up in, I grew up in a small town, Alice, Texas. It was population 20,000 less than that when I graduated, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. You know, I couldn’t wait to leave and go expand and become this person I was going to be. I couldn’t wait to travel and go to great schools and marry a great person and have a great career, all of those things. But what I have learned in life and career is that all of that pursuit that you think is about getting away from home. It’s really about returning back to that place and having newfound appreciation for it. And not just being okay with it, but being proud of it. So if I’m going somewhere on a spaceship, I don’t know where the middle is, but the end is home.


Anna: It sounds like that’s become a theme in your life. You said seeking new things, exploring the unknown. Seeking new perspectives, but then also using those journeys and those adventures to see already is in a new light.


James? Yeah, that’s right.


Anna: Okay. How long is this journey going to be?


James: This gets harder each level. How long is this journey? How long is the journey? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe this is a journey that because home isn’t like, it’s not one trip, it’s not one trip around the sun. So I guess, you know, I’m thinking about it, the journey itself, there’s probably lots of legs of this journey. Some of them are shorter, kind of sprints. The journey probably is, you know, my last day alive on earth. That’s probably the end of that journey. And maybe a lot of rotations or trips in that rocket. So if maybe it’s a cop out answer, but it’s my honest one is that this is a lifelong journey.


Anna: Ooh. How does a lifelong journey coincide with returning home?


James: Hmm. Well I think that quote, I’ll have to figure it out and after this episode, I’ll go find that quote because it just keeps coming back into my head the more that we talk about this, but it’s something to the effect of you know, the, the journey is not about getting to the end, it’s about returning home and seeing it for the first time. And I think that really aptly describes how I look at life and career and, you know, everything is that the concept of a lifelong journey and how it kind of syncs up with this conversation is that eventually all of my work is about what I’ve already had all along, which is my family, my personal relationships and my own self view of myself. These are all things that I had before the journey. I’m just going to take them with me and hopefully the journey makes those kind of self-reflections more important.


Anna: I’ll pause here and say, you just touched on some core values: family and relationships. All of us have, I’ll say a stack of core values. Like every human has some basic core values. What the purpose equation does is help you see which core values are pulling on you in terms of your attention at this point in your life. And so how do family and relationships interact with you in terms of your consciousness and your focus on an everyday basis.


James: Yeah. You know, the thing I have thought about family and relationships is that it can become a very cop-out value. And what I mean by that is it’s so easy, I think for people to just say everything I do is about my family. But that your actions don’t end up aligning with that, you know? And so for me, the quest of like family and relationships, is that, not that it is a everlasting value and I never question it, but it’s, it’s trying to make sure that that remains a forefront value. And I think that’s the relationship I have with that concept is that if everything I do is for and about me and my family, I need to hold myself to that standard. And that there have been plenty of times in my life when I have a spouse that that is my value, but my actions and my investment of my time and all of those things have said the opposite. So I think if I’m living in my purpose about making sure that everything I do returns to me as an integral member of my own family, it’s putting that first. And that’s a quest. It’s not easy. In fact, I think I screw up more on that than, you know, than anything else. And probably most leaders would if they’re honestly, self-reflecting sometimes all of that pursuit, all of that ego laced kind of accolades of your professional life. Sometimes it gets in the way of your personal values. So for me, it’s not just about having that value, but it’s holding myself accountable to that value.


Anna: Here’s the thing about purpose. There’s, there’s a, there’s a word in our language that is so important and that word is should. A lot of us live in the land of shoulds. And anytime you hear yourself saying, well, I should do this, or this should be important to me, or that should be my value, question it right away, because it’s probably not right. And so what the purpose equation does is help us to accept and integrate what our actual core values are now for you, I’m hearing consistencies in the conversation about home, returning home, seeing new perspective, like almost like life is a journey for you so that you can gain those new perspectives on home and family to enrich your home and your family. So for you, you probably will, tell me if this is the case. How did it feel to be out of alignment with your core value of home and family?


James: I think at first it felt almost righteous in the sense of like, well, I’m doing all of this work for us. You know, I’m doing this work for myself, I’m doing it for my future family. And now that I have a child with another on the way, you know, a lot of these kinds of thoughts of overworking or having, you know, multiple interests or pursuits, it can feel like, it can quickly spin out of control. And I realized that there was a moment, you know, I do talk about this with others of, there was definitely a career moment of burnout where I wasn’t good for my team. I wasn’t good for my family. I wasn’t good for myself. My friends, I wasn’t good in all of my core relationship circles that  really mattered to me. And I was justifying my burnout because, you know, I thought, well, I’m doing all of this so that I can enrich these relationships. But you know, that kind of reckoning to realize, no, I’m actually a little bit out of alignment here. I think, you know, one, having an amazing partner in my wife who supported that belief of like, you know, if you’re not centered with yourself, then nothing else really matters. IZt helped me to be okay with, you know, this whole kind of attitude of like, you have to stick it out, you have to finish the race, you have to live up to your commitments. I think that’s good. And that’s well-intended, but oftentimes people can stay in a bad situation because they’ve got that fixated in their mind of I’ve committed to this, and I need to stick with it and see it through to the end. Should. There’s a red flag. I gave myself permission and, and my wife in particular encouraged me to have that permission of it’s okay if we don’t have the next step exactly figured out. We know that we’re out of alignment right now. So let’s remove ourselves, let’s remove you from the situation that’s causing that. And you’ll be a better leader. You’ll be a better husband. You’ll be a better father. All of those things will naturally be the consequence of taking yourself out of a situation that is not in alignment with your values.

Anna: Yes. And you know, so much of life is about learning and exploring, but it’s also exposing oneself to these possibilities so that we can go through a process of elimination. And I think even wisdom is a result of a process of elimination. So what the purpose equation, I’ll have a list of 19 values, based on years and years of research, and that could change cause I’m always learning. But part of, part of what you can look at when we go through the exercise is say, well, all of these things are my values, but what is my priority? So some of the examples of other core values are friendships, family relationships, love, civic engagement, learning, creating, there’s a whole long list. And so when you go through the experience of picking, you know, your top three, I always tell people, your other core values that you didn’t mark as essential.  They still love you. And they’re still there, but this is your lens on the world. Your purpose lens is I would say. So then you might ask, well, how do you know if you’re in alignment with the value? You know, how can we tell the difference between a should and a want to or this is who I am? One of the best ways to do that is one, you can feel it in your body. So this comes back to knowing oneself and self-awareness, if you feel a tightness in your body or like a pit in your stomach, that’s definitely an indicator of a should. And an indicator of, yeah, this is part of like how I am as a human I am constructed is when you say family is a core value, you feel joy. You feel excited. That’s an indicator that purpose is living there.


James: I’m so glad I’m recording this so I can come back to it. And listen through this kind of thought process. But I really liked this inflection point also of one of the ways that you can kind of assess whether you’re living in your purpose. You know maybe a lot of people listening to this episode may think gosh, this sounds like a lot of hard work and a lot of introspection and, you know, vulnerability, and I’m not quite ready to be there with anybody. But if somebody were taking this conversation and applying it to themselves, maybe some of that gut feeling tests that we’re talking about here is that, you know, if the conditions of your life are causing a feeling of a pit in your stomach, that’s probably a red flag. That’s a should in your, in your terms. But if you’re feeling joy, that’s not a should. That’s an, I am, that’s a who you are and it’s, you know more authentic. So joy versus would you say that there’s kind of an opposite of joy?

Anna: No, I think Joy’s a spectrum. Yeah. I think it’s, I’m thinking about that. I think it’s a spectrum. I think there’s levels of joy, you know, there’s degrees of joy, but one thing that just came to mind, I want to make sure I say is, you know, I’ve gone through a lot of, kind of guilt about this whole concept of joy and thinking, is joy even legitimate beyond a certain economic segment or a certain culture? Is thinking that I should make life choices based on joy. Is that like a first world problem? But you know, I’ve done some research and I’ve talked to a lot of folks and it turns out that joy is a natural emotion that we can all feel. And here’s the best thing about joy: when living in purpose, joy is all around us and it has nothing to do with material things. It has nothing to do with achievements. Right, right. It has to do with understanding oneself and then having this clearer view of the absolute beauty and awe that is all around us and in others. Yeah. So joy is not joy is part of being human. And I think that part of the problem we have right now, even in our society with all of the political unrest and everything that’s going on is that we need to all feel some more joy so that we can fuel our purpose and have a clearer view, lens, and direction of where we need to be going both as individuals and collectively, to live a better life and to have a better life and have a better future.


James: I love that. You know, it makes me think about, again, that the word that I’m having the most conflicted relationship with in our industry of senior living right now is passion. And I think a lot of people mistakenly, just like a lot of people mistakenly use purpose as like the thing you do. I think a lot of people mistakenly attribute passion as something it’s not, but maybe joy is something better to strive toward than our version of passion joy. Joy feels accessible, you know, and, and I think like when you’re setting goals, you know, smart goals is attainable, right. And joy to me feels attainable everyday. It feels attainable in the morning at lunch, you know as well as an overall passion sometimes. I think in the way that we misuse passion it’s like, we give you passion or, you know, you have to be passionate about all of these things. I don’t think that’s true. You just have to understand your purpose. And if you do, you’re going to do great work.

Man, you said this wasn’t going to be a counseling session, but it feels like, you know, a lot of a lot of productive emotions kind of, you know, coming to the forefront here. I want to see if I can kind of take this and move it to something that; I may have interrupted the process here of like what you would normally do to talk to somebody. That’s part of, that’s part of my joy is going with the flow. But I want to be able to take this concept, something, you know, like earlier, you said it can feel a lot like a pie in the sky kind of conversation, but ultimately, I think it’s the right conversation. It goes back to my fundamental kind of life principle of that. If you are taking care of yourself, if you’re improving your own skills and abilities and understanding that all of your other values, all of your other relationships are enhanced by it. And so I think that one of my, I don’t know if it’s a core value, but it’s certainly a life principle is that if I’m improving myself, I’m improving my ability to connect with the people that I love. And that’s what Level Up is really about for it’s a, it’s a call to people that working on yourself and like this topic, like spending time to devote to understanding your purpose, what drives you, what sustains you, who are you, what is your am instead of your should? I think these things ultimately lead to you being a better leader of people and isn’t that what this is all about, right? The purpose of leveling up is to help other people. So this is our attempt and Anna Hall and James Lee of having that conversation of asking people to have conversations about purpose.


Anna: Could I summarize a little bit what I’ve learned about your purpose? 

James: This, yes. This is what I paid for. By the way. I’m kidding, I didn’t pay Anna. She volunteered he time. Yes, I’d love to hear it.

Anna: So for you, it sounds like home and family has always been and is now a core value and something that brings you joy and happiness and excitement. For other people, it might not be, it might not be like a priority thing, right? What were you gonna say?


James: I would say I would say that’s 95% true. The word I would change is always. It hasn’t always, you know, this is the vulnerability part. Not just recently, like in terms of my core family unit of my wife, my daughter, my soon-to-be son, those feel very natural and easy for me to kind of group them into a forefront value for me when it comes to family. But when I examine home and I have to incorporate my family that I was born into my parents, my brother, my cousins, my grandparents, some of whom I, you know, didn’t know the good stuff, the bad stuff. I think there’s a reason that as I was growing up, I felt this kind of push to leave home because you’re going to be better. You’re going to have a better life than, you know, than this home that you were born into. What has been a reconciliation for me and I think is kind of the proceedings to me becoming a better, more purposeful person is to go back to that idea that I was running away from and realize it’s all the good stuff. It’s all the good stuff of who I am, came from home. Whether I was proud of it or whether I was rejecting it. This whole thing kind of came to a head for me when you know, my father passed away last year from cancer. It was a quick and devastating kind of thing for me, not just because it was my father, but because I had had this complex relationship with my father. 

When people kind of assume that the loss is steeped in this like profound, loving relationship, that’s not true. There’s a lot more complexity to it. And so my father and I, we had a pretty quick moment of like, all right, are you going to take this last whatever time you have, it ended up being about 14-15 months from diagnosis to when he passed away. But at the time, we didn’t know how long that time would be. And so the question we asked ourselves was, regardless of whatever, set everything up, are you going to take this opportunity to redefine your relationship together, to reconcile, to have joy? Those were specific purposeful things that we decided let’s do it. And I think that in alignment with things that had happened in my career, my own journey of like eventually leading up to working for myself on behalf of other people, all of those things I think came together at a right time. 

I miss my dad. I am glad I got to have a goodbye with him in as protracted and meaningful as we were able to I find joy in the work that I’m doing this episode that I’m recording with you is a part of my work. It’s part of the work I’ve created for myself. And all of that feels in alignment right now. I don’t know if it’s perfect. It probably isn’t, but it feels aligned. And I trust that that alignment whether we call it purpose or whatever you would, you would call it purpose, I’ll call it purpose. That alignment allows us to be better leaders and to better lead other people who are trying to just show up to work and help somebody else. So it’s affirmative to why I’m doing this work at all, this conversation and I hope that more people who are struggling with things as tangible as occupancy or revenue or expenses or employment shortages, all relevant things that are causing us pain points right now in our industry, I hope that this episode in part allows people to, to kind of say, okay, this is a part of my work life. But I need to always have purpose forefront in my mind. I need to talk about purpose with the people that I lead. I need to give them permission to have this conversation. It’s not circumventing your responsibilities to those kinds of measurable KPI that keeps us awake at night. But I think in a real way, it’s serving all of that, right? If you’re doing this work.

Anna: Well, I mean, take a sales role. So the main job there is to sell apartments, right? So you have three different salespeople. They might all be fantastic at selling apartments, but I bet each of them does it in their own way. One of them might be very much aligned with family core values. And so they’ll get to know the resident and the family, and they’ll listen, and they’ll talk about family. Another salesperson might be super competitive and that’s kind of built into them. So, you know, for that person, you want to give them goals to reach, whereas the other sales person, no, it’s like go out and develop those relationships. So purpose, it is the core of everything that we do and, you know, we are all unique. There’s a lot that we have in common, but if you’re not relating to your employees, and to your team and to your residents, and to your friends, in the realm of purpose, then you’re really missing out on the joy and the ultimate success that one can have. And to me, success is not defined as reaching Mars, right? It’s how many alterations can you make on that journey of life so that you can continue this process of becoming. And for you, James, you know, seeking new perspectives and going into the unknown is something that you enjoy. There are other people because of their personality traits, which are also part of the purpose equation, where familiarity and routine and knowing what’s coming next, allows them to really excel and live in their purpose. Whereas other people, because of their personality traits, if they don’t have challenges or novelty, or things that have never been done before, and it’s their job to try to figure it out, if they don’t have that, they’re going to be bored.


James: You’ve essentially described my wife and I. She is that person that she derives joy from like creating a sense of stability for all of us. And that’s a beautiful thing. As a kind of counterweight to that, I have that explorative kind of personality trait that between the two of us, I think work well together. And maybe that’s, maybe that’s a great way to think about a team, you know? I shy away from people just saying, you know, hire for culture fit because what it ends up being is hire for people who think like you. And I think that if we’re routing our conversations more around purpose and leaders aligned to that kind of challenge for themselves of like, let’s stop just interviewing for and coaching for these performance outputs, let’s really try to understand, if I’m hiring somebody and they seem to have a very strong sense of their own purpose and why they’re working, I don’t care what job they do. Come be a part of my team because somebody that self-aware is going to be a great leader of other people. 


Anna: The manager can understand a person’s purpose, right? First of all, when you hire a person and you understand their purpose, there’s the company purpose, which is very important as well. Everybody’s got to have this same sense of meaning, but you can then help a person, no matter their…purpose can come out. There’s a lot of different outputs of purpose. So a great manager will understand how a person intrinsically, inherently naturally operates like purpose is your inherent operating system. How you see the world, how you interact, what’s naturally important to you. What, even what grabs your attention for you, James, the fact that that quote about home grabs your attention. Why is that?


James: Yeah, that’s a great question.


Anna: It’s part of your purpose, right? So I would even, I’m skipping around a little bit, but I’d say going back to home into you, even this desire that you felt to go away from home, even kind of points to the fact that home and what it is and what it’s not, has always been part of your lens. True. And part of your purpose then is also to seek a new perspective on that. And then, oh my goodness, you started a consulting company to help people basically live in purpose, level up their skills. And by doing this, you’re open to go into the unknown, into new situations all the time to help people figure out where is my home? Who is my company? Who am I? So what you’re doing is in complete alignment with your purpose. And then for that manager to understand the purpose, the operating system of their employees, they don’t have to spend as much time managing or motivating because they can align that inherent purpose to the goals or the purpose of the organization. It comes work can become a lot more fun.


James: Joy is the operating model, right? Not just not just an output, it’s just how we travel. It’s how we work. Man, Anna, this has been such an awesome conversation. When I stop recording this episode we’re probably gonna have more conversation. I’m just, I’m so glad that we’ve connected and that we get to have these conversations every once in a while. I would be remiss if I didn’t leave an opportunity here for you to share with others. If somebody is listening to this episode and thinks, you know what, this is an alignment with me. It’s an alignment with how I want to be as a leader. I want to bring this in for myself and for other folks. I know you have a, obviously a full-time job, but you know, you’ve been a great resource on this for me. How can other people get in touch with you? What’s the best way for them to do that?


Anna: Reach out to me on LinkedIn. I do have a full-time job, but I have evenings and weekends, and this is, this is truly my passion. And luckily for me, my purpose and my passion align. I would be remiss to not drop one more word on this podcast. And that is meaning. If you want to boil down purpose, all of these things, we’ve talked about shoulds and fears and ego and joy and excitement and motivation, all those things. The word that I would ask people to walk away with is meaning. What is it that naturally draws a sense of meaning for you? And I’m going to be bold and say that I think the reason that we’re all actually here is to seek and create meaning for ourselves and for others. But again, this journey of meaning must start inside. Otherwise it’s a crapshoot. 


James: I think that that’s an amazing takeaway from this conversation. And I hope that as people are listening to this episode and other episodes of Level Up you see that the ultimate goal here is not just to talk about soft skills or hard skills or head or heart, staying in one camp. I think that the effective leader is going to challenge themselves to learn all of the skill sets that are going to help you get there. And my, my kind of contribution to that fund is that it’s not just solely based on, can you read a financial statement? It’s not solely just based on, are you good at having relational conversations? You gotta have a little bit of both. And, and in, in that equation, I would say that, you know, this stuff, purposefulness, emotional awareness you know, being able to have tough conversations, all of those things, we would label soft skills, the heart skills. I actually think that it’s not one, one plus one equals two it’s one times, you know your emotional skills. I think your emotional intelligence skills actually are the multiplier in leadership. So if you want to increase that multiplier, reach out to Anna, have this conversation read on it. There’s so many ways that you can engage on this topic. And I hope that this episode was a lead in for you to be able to do that. Anna, this has been amazing, any parting words from you for our listeners or for me to wrap up this therapy session, which you said it’s not. But any final words from you, Anna?


Anna: Notice, yourself, be aware of yourself as you’re walking through your day. When you listen to this podcast, think about, are there little things that just make me smile and think that those little things, aren’t little things, they’re everything, they’re the big things, pay attention to them. And then also notice what brings others joy. And then we can create a really amazing way of interacting and relating to each other. And it’s one relationship at a time. One moment of joy leads to a next moment of joy that can help us get through the hard times and the great times. James, thank you for this opportunity to do my very first podcast. So much fun. And thank you for being vulnerable, because I think you’ll help a lot of people to see, you know, how would I answer that question and how would it be different of all the times I’ve helped people discover purpose when I asked that question, I’ve never once gotten the same answer. Never.


Anna: Well, that’s a good sign. That it’s the right question. Thank you for being a guest and I can’t believe you haven’t been a podcast guest before. You’re probably going to get a lot of invitations now, and I hope so this is a conversation that needs to be happening a lot more for everybody listening into this episode, thanks so much for joining us this week. You can find more information about this episode and others on LinkedIn, follow me on LinkedIn or go to the website, bear, which is where I host all of this and write articles on it. This has been an amazing conversation. Thank you, Anna. For listeners, hope you are living in your purpose today. I usually sign off my newsletters with a lead. Well, my friends live your legacy today, and I think today in this episode, it’s a great way to wrap up this conversation. I hope you’re living your legacy today. Have an amazing day serving others. We’ll see you next time. 

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Level Up Ep. 6: Leading Within Your Purpose with Anna Hall