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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Episode 9 - Is Purpose Too Popular? What About Mattering?

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

This is the full transcript of Episode 9 of the Sticky From The Inside podcast, where Andy Goram and Professor Zach Mercurio discuss the problem with Company Purpose getting too popular and the thing that came before it, mattering.

In their engaging conversation on Company Purpose and Mattering, the pair discuss the fact that purpose is not new, it's something that's innate in humans. Why purpose gets into trouble when it's used as a tactic and not a genuine driver of why you exist. When proclaiming your purpose is akin to being a bad comedian. How questions a toddler can answer may help. The differences between having a purpose and being purposeful and what that really means. Why these things are common sense but not common practice. The difference between the meaning "of" work and the meaning "in" work, and a whole bunch more stuff. Plus of course 3 fabulous Sticky Notes that summarise the key takeouts to help you improve!

Two guys with headphones and mics talking about company purpose
Zach Mercurio (left) and Andy Goram (right) talk Mattering on the Sticky From The Inside podcast

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tonnes more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it. So, if you want to take the tricky, out of being sticky, listen on.

OK, so here we are again for another episode of Sticky From The Inside and I am literally sitting on my hands, though I'm so excited I am joined by Blogger, researcher, keynote speaker, consultant, if that's not enough, stick in a PhD and someone who's the author of a bestselling book on the power of authentic purpose called The Invisible Leader, and someone who passionately believes that every single one of us has a greater purpose in life just waiting to be discovered, practiced and proclaimed.

And that's what helps businesses and individuals do today. I'm so happy and delighted to introduce you all to, Professor Zach Mercurio. Hi Zach!

00:01:55 Zach Mercurio

Hey Andy! Thanks for having me.

00:01:58 Andy Goram

Oh! Chuffed, mate. Absolutely! If I could be any more British, I'll on say words like chuffed, and Tickety-Boo.

00:02:04 Zach Mercurio

I like that. So what's the synonym for, chuffed?

00:02:08 Andy Goram

Delighted, maybe, something like that, yeah?

00:02:11 Zach Mercurio

Gotta have a better word – Americans. We’re so boring.

00:02:13 Andy Goram

Oh, come on, you're alright, you don't do too bad.

00:02:15 Zach Mercurio

Right, right, that's alright.

00:02:17 Andy Goram

Today we're going to talk about, when we first had a chat, you said to me that there was a worrying thing, you were worried at the prospect of purpose in business. Getting a bit popular. And when I heard you say that I was like, check myself, “What? The guy who talks about purpose is worried it's getting popular!” And who's gone mad here, me? “Did I hear that wrong, or is Zach having a having a brain fart or something?” But no, you were serious and so a lot of today's conversation will get into that, but just in case any of my listeners aren't familiar with you, Zach, can you just give me like a brief kind of synopsis of why we're going to be listening to you today? What's made you kind of one of the thought-leaders on Purpose?

00:03:03 Zach Mercurio

Yeah about, well, more than 10 years ago now I was in a job that extracted energy.

00:03:16 Andy Goram

Oh dear!

00:03:17 Zach Mercurio

Right and like made me worse when I left. Whereas you know, I think jobs... because we spend a third of our life there should make us better when we leave then when we come in, right? And I felt worse. And one of the reasons why was that I was in sales, and all we would talk about in these sales meetings where targets, quotas, sales goals. But then I would go out and meet human beings, right? Who had vivid, important lives, who needed us and that disconnect was a bit soul extracting, if I could say.

00:03:48 Andy Goram

Dementor time, yeah?

00:03:50 Zach Mercurio

But it was during that time that I, you know, I started just noticing other people who do normal work, routine work, bus drivers, mechanics, cab drivers. And I would notice those people who exuded joy, and you probably meet them in your everyday.

00:04:08 Andy Goram

Hi, I'd like to think so, yeah.

00:04:08 Zach Mercurio

And one of the things that I found as I was noticing them, is that these people really focused on how they contributed. They focused on that bigger reason versus what they did. And that led me to research and become obsessed with how we learn that.

00:04:30 Andy Goram

Obsession is a good thing mate. Be proud.

00:04:30 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, I was getting obsessed with how we learn to focus on our contribution, not just on our achievements. And what I've learned, is that we are wired to contribute, we’re wired to seek purpose. And when we're in environments that don't elicit that seeking system or don't satisfy that seeking system. As Psychologists call it, it can cause depression, anxiety, stress, burnout.

And so, I'm on a mission, in a variety of ways to create environments that are soul-regenerating instead of soul-extracting.

00:05:12 Andy Goram

I'm loving this. A man on a mission. I do love a man on a mission. I mean, I've talked about this with some other people on other episodes about Purpose getting a bad rap and getting confused and all that kind of jazz, but no one has sort of really dug into your point of view that worried that it was getting popular. Where's this concern come from, Zach? Why are you worried that purpose is getting popular? Explain that to me.

00:05:40 Zach Mercurio

I saw a popular article that said that purpose is the next big thing. Purpose has been the next big thing since humans became conscious. Right, so there's a part of our brain that's wired to seek meaning in chaos. I mean, we're purpose seekers by default. But there's also part of our brain that's hard-wired for contribution, to make an impact, right? There's no... in our brain, my brain, your brain it's the same and our brain rewards us when we contribute, and we're rewarded as a species 'cause we continue, right. And so we...

00:06:17 Andy Goram

Generally, humans want to help people, right?

00:06:20 Zach Mercurio

Exactly! It's actually innate, right? So, this idea of purpose being new. This idea of focusing on your contribution is misguided. Where I think purpose is new, is some businesspeople have started using it as a tactic to get people to produce more self-oriented gains?

00:06:35 Andy Goram

Yeah. It's interesting because I think McKinsey is just recently have published a report saying the top 30 businesses across so many industries have said purpose is the number one differentiator for them going forwards. It's the new thing.

00:06:53 Zach Mercurio

And it is right. It is a differentiator like anybody can copy what you do and how you do it. But at your core, if you uncover it, no one can really copy your story. Your unique contribution in a market or in a community

00:07:06 Andy Goram

100% agree that yeah.

00:07:07 Zach Mercurio

It is your ultimate differentiator. The problem is the moment in which purpose becomes used as a tactic to achieve and acquire more for yourself it doesn't become purpose anymore; it becomes a tactic. And I think that's where purpose is becoming diluted and you know, we dilute and hollow out this idea of purpose when we equate it to a statement or a slogan or a brand, right. Before you proclaim a purpose, you have to practice your purpose. So, you know, Patagonia, for example, everybody uses them as an example.

00:07:49 Andy Goram

Yeah, they do.

00:07:50 Zach Mercurio

But they don't go around running around saying “We do no harm. We preserve the environment.” No, they donate their $10 million of tax savings to environmental groups. They're the first to shut down all their stores in the United States, after the coronavirus lockdown and at the same time continue to pay their people. On Black Friday, they shut all their stores regardless of how much money they're going to lose, 'cause they want people to get outside, right and volunteer for environmental groups. They prove it. And then they proclaimed it. Their brand expressed what was already there. That's where the magic happened.

00:08:25 Andy Goram


00:08:26 Zach Mercurio

People are trying to do it the other way around. Everybody wants a shortcut to proclaim I make this big impact, without actually doing it. And so, I'm trying to get past this idea of purpose as a statement, as an idea, to this idea of purpose, as an everyday practice. Otherwise, just don't tell me you're purposeful, and go on making money. You know I don’t care...

00:08:48 Andy Goram

To me it’s a bit like...well I agree, I think... I do care.

00:08:52 Zach Mercurio

I do care.

00:08:53 Andy Goram

I know, I know you care.

00:08:52 Zach Mercurio

What I'm saying is that like I do care but what I'm saying is that just tell us like you just want to continue to make money.

00:08:58 Andy Goram

Be open.

00:09:01 Zach Mercurio

If you don't tell us you're purposeful. Right, you know if you're gonna do it, do it. That’s the change.

00:09:06 Andy Goram

It's like the comedians, you never hear a comedian, not a good comedian come onstage and say, “Hey! I'm funny.”

00:09:13 Zach Mercurio


00:09:14 Andy Goram

They get up, they say their stuff and we judge whether they're funny.

00:09:16 Zach Mercurio


00:09:16 Andy Goram

And then maybe the poster down the line will say, hey, this guy is funny, you know, simply.

00:09:20 Zach Mercurio

Exactly. That's a brilliant way of saying it.

00:09:23 Andy Goram

It's the same stuff, right? So, I mean, you've intimated to it already, but so how do we avoid this kind of pseudo use of purpose? And how do we get back to really using it for what we really want it to do?

00:09:38 Zach Mercurio

I think it starts actually at the individual level, right?

00:09:41 Andy Goram


00:09:41 Zach Mercurio

As individual leaders. As individual contributors. As human beings. There's a big difference between having purpose and being purposeful, right? So, being purposeful is contribution-centered thinking, being, and doing. Having purpose is knowing what your purpose is, right?

So, when you think about being purposeful, I think about how you look at the day ahead of you and purpose is where your resources make an impact. So, consider your calendar. Your diary for the day. In what ways are you going to impact people today versus how are you going to get through the day, or how are you going to get so and so out of people, right? That's a purposeful perspective.

Looking around you in your community. Being able to ask questions like, “What bothers me?” and. “What are some strengths and skills that I have that can do something about that?”, right? It's looking at someone else and being able to show them how their strengths make an impact, right? Noticing people. Creating a community where everybody not only knows their contributions but believes that they have something to contribute.

So, I think it starts with that and once we get there and we start shifting that mindset, then I think the organisations and communities around us start to shift as well.

00:11:06 Andy Goram

I like that. I mean, something’s just dropped into place for me having heard you said that.

So, I read your Spark blog and I read the bits and pieces that you talk about and you tell some great stories. And you told the story the other day, or a few weeks ago about chats that you have with your son in the car about school and what they've done and having those conversations.

00:11:26 Zach Mercurio


00:11:28 Andy Goram

And I now understand why you're kind of asking those questions like, “Who did you help today?” and, “Who helped you?” That's what's behind those sort of conversations, right? A greater awareness of how you help other people and...

00:11:40 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, so most of us operate by default, from a results-oriented mindset. Like we think I'm going to do this thing and I'm going to achieve this. We operate from an “if then” mindset, right? If I get through the weekend, then I'll be happy. If I get this job title, then I'll be successful. If I get this much money, then we’ll be good. We’ll be successful right?

And the problem is when we live in that “if then” argument, the problem with being motivated by achievements is that you can achieve them right. And then what?

00:12:10 Andy Goram


00:12:10 Zach Mercurio

You know right? And purpose fills that... purpose and contribution fills that “then what?” And the example I use with my son, is we tend to ask really bad questions of ourselves, that actually strip us of purpose and mattering. We ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

00:12:27 Andy Goram

Great question

00:12:28 Zach Mercurio

Instead of, “What kinds of problems do you want to have solved five years from now?” We ask questions like, “What do you want to do with your life?”, instead of, “What do you want your life to do for other people?”, right? It starts in these individual, interpersonal contexts in education, in our families, and I realised when I was asking my kid, “Hey, what did you do today?” All I would have ever gotten was some list, right, of like statistics about his day. No wonder he didn't want to, you know, talk to me. If you hired me to come in as a motivational speaker and I said, “What did you do today?” You would be like, “Who is this guy?”, right.

But instead, asking “Who did you help?”, it directs his attention to what he's proud of. To his usefulness. To that, he matters. The same is true when we ask questions of ourselves. “Who did I help today?” “How did I matter today?” “How am I going to make an impact today?” It directs our attention and what we think about we become, right. So, if we want to become purposeful, we have to start thinking purposefully. So, rooting out those anti-mattering questions and anti-purposeful questions.

00:13:37 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah.

00:13:38 Zach Mercurio

That tell us our worth is hinged upon what we get, for what we do. Instead of, why we do it.

00:13:46 Andy Goram

This is not my phrase, is not your phrase, old Stephen Covey gave it the whole “It's common sense, but not common practice”, right?

00:13:55 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, right.

00:13:55 Andy Goram

And when we talk about... when I talk about purpose with people or values, behaviours, that kind of mIndset stuff it just feels like it's just common sense, right? But why? Why is it not common practice? In the research and the findings you've done and the people you speak to, why is it not so much more common practice?

00:14:17 Zach Mercurio

You know I've been doing more research on the experience of “mattering”. So, what comes before purpose?

00:14:21 Andy Goram

Yeah, ok. Cool.

00:14:24 Zach Mercurio

Right, so before purpose, if you want people to know their contribution and to be contribution centered and know their impact, they first have to believe they have something to contribute. If you want someone to use their strengths to make an impact, they first have to believe that they have strength. The same is true with us, right? We've missed this whole part before purpose of creating communities and organisations in which people feel noticed, they feel affirmed, and they feel needed.

Now notice somebody right? Ask their full names. Know who their kids are, their spouses. Know their names, know what their dreams are. Every time I say this, people are like, “Yeah, it's common sense.” And then I ask people, “How do you strategically remind yourself to do that every day?” “Well, I mean, it's just common sense.” These things are too critical of human needs to be left to intuition. So developing habits... when you meet somebody, that you’ll ask about their families or friends; that habit, right? When I meet somebody, I will ask them their full name and who relies on them and who they rely on. That's a habit, right. When we can create those habits, we start to create the conditions of mattering.

And why is it not common practice? I think it goes back to the fact that we get so caught up and we're taught and educated that we have to achieve, achieve, and achieve for our worth. We have to survive survive, survive for ourselves. And our attention narrows on ourselves overtime and we become these little insular creatures that are just trying to survive in the worst way possible. Think of one living organism that survives without a purpose. Right, without an outward contribution.

00:16:08 Andy Goram

It’s not happening.

00:16:09 Zach Mercurio

And that's what happens. We slowly start looking inward on ourselves, and that's where I think society and organisations and individuals start experiencing despair, right? And Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search For Meaning, said “Despair is suffering, minus meaning.”

00:16:28 Andy Goram

Wow. Bleak.

00:16:31 Zach Mercurio

So, I think we have to get the other end of the equation, right? Meaning, so despair is not just simply suffering.

00:16:36 Andy Goram

No, that's some really good stuff there. I think, like this commonsense thing. I mean, I think lots of people, in my experience, when I go into businesses and talk about similar sorts of things, I think there's a lot of people fooling themselves or cheating themselves that they're doing this stuff. But... like the guys who walk around a factory floor, introducing themselves, talking about the football game last night, or how someone's kids are and everything. A lot of the guys who do that aren’t even thinking to do that, they're just doing it. But when I've interviewed staff members, line workers, whatever, the impact, the 30 second spotlight time that a manager, or boss, has when they walk around the factory and has a chat with him, and he’ll walk in and he will know the names of your kids and your dog, is huge.

And yet, when you want to sit down with some businesses to talk about how are we going to get engagement up? How are we going to build motivation? How are we going to build culture? What's the complex...Talk to some people. Have some conversations, get to know them personally. You know like you say, and I, we're going to dig into this, notice them. You know, make them feel like more than just somebody stood on a line. It's not some great huge mystery and complex thing to sort out. You know it starts with some of the very, very basics that people take for granted, right? And yet they're so important.

00:18:04 Zach Mercurio

Yeah. We’re so attracted to these big things, right? So attracted the big event, the employee banquet, the awards, big compensation packages, all of this stuff will motivate them. But yeah, I mean time and time again research finds that when people feel seen, when they feel known, when they feel needed in those little moments of mattering, that has way more of an effect on motivation, performance, well-being and fulfillment than does an end of the year awards banquet.

00:18:34 Andy Goram

Yeah, huge. I mean I love this word “mattering”, by the way, I really... I have not stopped using it since I've spoken to you.

00:18:40 Andy Goram

Oh good! Keep using it, keep spreading it.

00:18:43 Andy Goram

...and listen to what you've got to say about it. Because at the end of the day, whatever that stat is that 65% of people at work don't feel appreciated, right? I mean, that's a... it's a huge number. Very similar to that presenteeism figure as well, right? People just showing up, taking a check and going home, and I think if you treat people like that, that's what you're going to have. You're just going to perpetuate that cycle. Whereas, if you do treat people differently, you can expect a different result and you can expect a different relationship.

But one of the things I really like about how you talk about stuff, when we talk about meaning for a sec, the difference between the meaning “of” work and the meaning that's “in” work. And there was a little bit on LinkedIn the other day, about some guy talking about stuff and went straight into the "of” and “in” and I loved that, so, can you explain that for people just so they get it?

00:19:34 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, one of the self-fulfilling prophecies that's really dangerous for leaders is to ever think that somebody is just there for a paycheck. A human being is much more than what they receive at the other end of a transaction. And you may think, and this is where we've really screwed up Maslow. Because Maslow is misinterpreted. We think that someone has to have all of their basic needs met to desire something.

But human beings are both what they basically need and what they inherently desire, at the same time. So, for example, when somebody is getting a paycheck, they also desire dignity. They also desire at the same time, meaning. They also desire significance. Name one person in your life you've ever met, who doesn't desire to be significant to someone else.

00:20:25 Andy Goram

I don't think I can.

00:20:27 Zach Mercurio

I don’t care... whatever pay scale, right? You can't think of one, right? But we treat people like they're just there for a paycheck and this is where the distinction between meaning “of” work and meaning “in” work is really important as you mentioned. Meaning “of” work is why people work. It's the place work takes in their lives. There are many meanings of work. Some of us work because it does give us a sense of purpose. Others work for a paycheck and to provide and just to put a meal on the table. All of those are valid meanings “of” work. But meaning “in” work is what people experience when they are there. And that's the public health concern that I'm concerned with. Because there's two dangerous notions of work that are out there right now. One is that work should be a religion, and you should find your sole purpose and fulfillment in it. That's dangerous. The second dangerous idea is that work is something that you should begrudgingly trudge through for 1/3 of your life, just to be able to enjoy the remaining 1/3 of your life that you’re awake for.

00:21:26 Andy Goram

That's just a nuts concept though, isn't it?

00:21:28 Zach Mercurio

It's nuts, but we expect it. There's a new movement of people that encourage it. Like just go, you know, “go get the paycheck”. And we create work environments that promote that, especially on the frontline, especially in large organisations with a large percentage of frontline workers and it's really dangerous, because how we make meaning and work inevitably spills over to how we make meaning in life. We cannot, even if we want to, you can't just shut off your meaning-making brain when you walk in.

00:22:00 Andy Goram

No. And again trying to find the massive, lofty, huge solution for everybody... It's not like that, right. Because when you're talking about significance, you are talking about the very basics, or my interpretation is, that you talk about the very basics of listening to people, making their voices heard, giving them respect. All these kind of like, again common-sense, natural things, but this is what we mean by adding meaning in work. So you're not just a unit, stood on a line in a manufacturing factory. You're Andy. Who's part of the team, right?

00:22:44 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, right?

00:22:47 Andy Goram

Andy’s got his own, but his own kind of skills and weaknesses and habits and passions. And it's about recognising those things, right, in day-to-day stuff.

00:22:59 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, I embedded myself with a group of janitors for a research study. Every one of them said they worked for a paycheck. None of them said that they experienced meaningfulness because of the money they got, right. Every one of them worked because they needed money, right? But they all said that's not why I want to keep coming to work.

00:23:20 Andy Goram

And what sort of things did they say?

00:23:23 Zach Mercurio

They all talked about helping another person. So, helping others, seeing their impact. So, seeing a room that was dirty become clean and then seeing the effect of a student walking into that and just noticing them walk into that classroom that they just cleaned. And thinking about what was going on. You know one of the janitors said to me, “The most meaningful part of the job is also the part I hate the most.” Interesting, right? Because their purpose isn't always pleasurable. And she said, “I have to clean the dormitories and clean the bathrooms on Monday morning after the weekend.” You could imagine that.

00:24:00 Andy Goram

Oh gosh!

00:24:02 Zach Mercurio

But she said, “Every time I do that, I say to myself, I'm cleaning these bathrooms so that these kids don't get sick,” right?

00:24:08 Andy Goram


00:24:09 Zach Mercurio

It's that “so that”, that makes work meaningful. I mean, all human beings want to feel needed, to feel indispensable, to feel part of some bigger whole. And doing that is a leadership skill that can be learned. And creating that environment that makes it easy for people to feel need, is a skill. It's not something that is just intuition.

00:24:34 Andy Goram

No, I think it's.... I think you’re right. For me, it's things like managing for trust, right. To me that's a skill. Some people are more in-tune with that, it's natural. They build relationships based on all of those factors. Whether it's Paul Zak’s factors, or Lencioni’s factors whatever it might be, there's a whole bunch of stuff, but it's a skill to be able to manage for it, and sometimes, like the stuff we're talking about, you need to shine a light on this stuff for people and rub that rearview mirror so they can see that blind spot a little clearly and go, “OK. OK, so here are the things you need to do. You need to show respect. You do need to listen. You need to give him focus. You need to empower. You need to kind of stretch. You need to be there. You need to let... all these different things, some will take for granted. I'd like to think I would take it for granted. People who’ve worked for me in the past will be shouting at their iPods and will be going, “No! You were rubbish at it.” Yeah, I've learned lessons, right. But I think some guys would be mortified if you actually pulled them up and spoke to them, and said, “Well, you're not really promoting or managing for trust right now, because you're not doing X, Y & Z, they just wouldn't recognise it.

00:25:47 Zach Mercurio


00:25:48 Andy Goram

And I think, you know, we owe it to people to give them the best shot at being their best selves. And sometimes that's pulling this stuff out right? And helping them get on the bus.

00:25:57 Zach Mercurio

I'll never forget the best leader, team leader that I worked with. I would go around her team and we were just interviewing them as part of an organisational culture diagnosis and they kept saying, “You know, she's just amazing. She just gets me. She just always has my back”, right. I went and talked to her, I was like “How do you do that?” And she reaches down into this filing cabinet and pulls out this ratty old notebook. And in the notebook, she shows me that whenever one of her team members talks about something personal, she writes a note down to herself, about their hobbies, about their kid’s name, about the projects they're working on.

00:26:37 Andy Goram


00:26:38 Zach Mercurio

And she says “Every day when I come in, I look at that and just make sure I'm checking in on things. If so, and so's Dad was sick, I make sure I know when his appointment was and I check in on that.” Right, but the lesson is that she doesn't... she didn't just wake up and was a good relational leader and had some relational strengths. And if you're listening and you're not great at that, it's not that you're never going to be good at that. It’s that she had a habit. She had a thing. She had a notebook and she wrote in it every day, and she looked at it every day. And I think, great leaders, like great athletes, constantly come back to the fundamentals. They don't overlook the fundamentals of what humans need. Of caring, of noticing. And all of that stuff breeds the other stuff.

And if you look at like NFL quarterbacks here in American football, then you look at them practice. They practice the mundane things like footwork, over and over and over again 5, 6 hours. Are you practicing the fundamentals of being human, as a leader?

00:27:43 Andy Goram

Yeah, I mean and it's never over. You've never won. And if you're a winner, if you're number one, you should be training like your number 2, because number 2 really, really, really wants it.

00:27:54 Zach Mercurio

And I've talked to some like athletic coaches and they say the athletes who fall are the ones who stop working on fundamentals. I think it's the same thing with leaders. Like the leaders who lose their teams, lose their organisations, they've stopped working on the fundamentals of being human.

00:28:12 Andy Goram

I totally believe that. And I'll stretch it, probably too far, but I think this is where things like values and behaviours also come a cropper. Because they start with huge energy and the leaders set the vision and they've created these things. And then, Oh! Job done, jobs done...

00:28:31 Zach Mercurio


00:28:31 Andy Goram

Let's move on to the next thing and what happens? It's kind of yesterday's news. It's not constant. It's not refreshed. It's doesn't matter anymore. And I think, you know, the job of that leader, unfortunately, maybe, but rightly so, is to repeat repeat, repeat. Refine, refresh, repeat. Just keep this stuff going. Keep it alive. Show that it matters.

00:28:55 Zach Mercurio

Can you imagine, for those of you who have kids? I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old. Can you imagine if I like was like, “Alright kids, our values are, we're going to be kind to one another"? Our values are, we're going to share. OK, so remember those. I’m going to put him up on the wall and let's go get 'em.” And then there's no accountability as we go. There's no conversations, it's just, “Well, those are the values. Hey, look kids.”

00:29:22 Andy Goram


00:29:23 Zach Mercurio

It wouldn't work. That’s why it doesn't work in organisations. Because humans... and humans learn through viewing other humans doing things.

00:29:31 Andy Goram

I just love these sorts of conversations, Zach.

00:29:34 Zach Mercurio

I know, right?

00:29:35 Andy Goram

Love it, I could just go on...

00:29:36 Zach Mercurio

Like just like we're encoded. So, one more thing I've been thinking about and I'm glad I'm talking to you. Is just like we're encoded to learn language. If we weren't around people who were speaking, we'd never speak. Just like we're encoded to discover purpose. If we're not around people who are purposeful, we’ll never become purposeful, right?

00:29:56 Andy Goram


00:29:56 Zach Mercurio

So our environment and leaders, who are listening, in teams, the environment is so critical to create the behaviours you want to see.

00:30:06 Andy Goram

Yeah, it's been said, goodness knows how many times about leading by example and being consistent and all these things.

00:30:12 Zach Mercurio

I know, right? This is where the problem is. I'm getting mad that that's popular, right? I'm mad that that's become a thing “lead by example”. Be a good human consistently.

00:30:24 Andy Goram

Look, I think one of the good things of where we are at in the world right now, is that we're talking about this stuff more openly.

00:30:30 Zach Mercurio


00:30:35 Andy Goram

And I think, and I, I pray that the humanity that seems to be coming in, creeping back into business is going to stick around. Maybe again, stretching it with Larry Fink's kind of letter to CEO's this year. With like I mean, I know he's talked about sustainability and what have you for a while. But I mean he nailed his colours to the mast this time round, right?

00:30:54 Zach Mercurio

He did, he did. Especially right now.

00:30:56 Andy Goram

So to me, if guys like Larry Fink, because we, I, always get people throw the profit thing at me when I start talking about purpose, right? And the money-making aspect about, “It's all over-worthy, the fluffy stuff, you know, business have to make profit!” Yeah, of course they do, or they won't be businesses.

00:31:16 Zach Mercurio

Of course, they do.

00:31:19 Andy Goram

And actually, if they don’t have money, they can't go and pursue that purpose that you want to kind of drive at anyway, right? So, to me that they're both hand in glove. It's just a way of delivering profits, right? That’s a good way for everybody.

00:31:33 Zach Mercurio

Yeah! And it's like we live in this like, linear World, or this either-or world, when it's really circular. Because you have profit because of purpose. Like it's just basic value creation. But you have profit because of purpose and you're able to deliver more purpose because you have profit.

00:31:53 Andy Goram

Yeah. I don't see the two as kind of, you know, sitting in separate or sleeping in separate beds.

00:31:56 Zach Mercurio

Not at all.

00:31:59 Andy Goram

This is together. These are partners.

00:32:02 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, you only have an effect because you have a cause. I talk about this often. Like you see, people who just pursue the effect. You try to get the financial result without intensely pursuing the contribution, the value creation, the purpose that results in the effect in the first place. I mean, how many of us have been on teams where we strategise about how to meet a quarterly goal without strategising about how we're going to better contribute to our customers to meet the quarterly goal? It's just those little shifts in thinking that are more purposeful and help us derive more meaning.

00:32:39 Andy Goram

Absolutely, my friend. So, look with all this stuff that's going on right now, and you wrote your book couple of years, or so ago, is it now?

00:32:48 Zach Mercurio

Think it was three years ago

00:32:50 Andy Goram

Wow! Three years ago. So where is your focus right now? So, what's coming? What's coming next? I mean, is it around, mattering and significance and stuff? Or are you looking at other avenues?

00:33:01 Zach Mercurio

Right now, I'm really concerned with before purpose, so I'm really concerned with ...

00:33:04 Andy Goram

The prequel!

00:33:07 Zach Mercurio

Yeah, like if people don't believe that they matter, then it's very easy for nothing to matter. It's the factor in motivation that's been slightly forgotten. And it's become forgotten because it's so common sense. And when I, when we think about mattering, there's three components that create a moment of mattering, right? It's feeling noticed. Feeling affirmed that your strengths are valued, and they make an impact, and then feeling needed. Feeling like you're indispensable.

And all of this stuff on essential workers that have come out in the last year, it's sort of funny to me because it's as if we're not all essential. And we are right. So, this idea of, I think being an essential thinker, is what I'm really trying to embed into leadership. That what if you showed everybody how they were indispensable, regardless of why they're there, regardless if they're there for a paycheck, great, but the key is that they're there. And if they are there, as a leader, I think your ultimate responsibility is to be responsible for the environment in which a human being, with a life as vivid and complex as your own, spends a third of their life. That's the ultimate responsibility of a leader.

00:34.25 Andy Goram

Oh Yeah!

00:34:27 Zach Mercurio

And that’s... then it goes back to the fundamentals of being human, and that's really what I'm focusing on, is how do we bring those back? How do we teach those? How do we practice those? How do we eliminate the word soft skills and make sure fundamental human-to-human interaction is a hard skill again? And for me, that's starting with mattering right now, but I'm still concerned with bringing purpose back to Earth, you know.

00:34:49 Andy Goram

But I think conjoining these two things of mattering to purpose. I think that's a smart thing.

00:34:54 Zach Mercurio

And I'm also like really working on this distinction between having purpose and being purposeful. Like what does it mean to have a purposeful mindset? What does it mean to live from a contribution, legacy-centered Mindset and so, there’s a lot of work to be done.

00:35:14 Andy Goram

You are doing a lot of work, my friend. I don't think work is something you're shy of on this topic and if I had my way, I would talk about this for goodness knows how long. I've just literally looked at my time and I'm like, “Oh my God, times, kind of running out!”

Listen. We talked about simplicity. We talked about common sense in this stuff. I have this bit in my podcast called Sticky Notes. It's mainly due to my clearly onset early Alzheimer’s 'cause I can't remember a lot of stuff, so I like to keep things simple. So, with my guests I ask them to do three pieces of advice that people can take back to...I was going to say the office, but then that might be true for some people, or maybe the corner of their living room wherever it is that they're kind of working that they can use to have a think about and improve. And in this case, think about mattering, you know, that's our topic today. So, if you were to give three sticky notes to my listeners Zach, what would they be, my friend?

00:36:12 Zach Mercurio

The first is, make a list of the people that you see every day, and ask yourself, do I notice them? Do I know their names? Do I know their families? Do I know their friends? I'm talking your delivery driver. Start there. Start with your partner, your kid. Do you know their strengths? Have you affirmed them and then have you told them that they are needed. And just think about your every day and try to identify who needs to be noticed? Who needs to be affirmed? Who needs to be needed?

The second sticky note that I would put up is just a question. My toddler question, right? And who did you help today? And who helped you today? Put that... on your wherever... your ceiling , I don't know before you go to bed.

00:36:57 Andy Goram

There's such a cool question, I love that.

00:36:58 Zach Mercurio

And look at it and try to answer it for yourself every day. And then the third sticky note I would say, is to write down how you want to be remembered. And I don't mean it in your life, but I mean that day. What kind of impact do you want to make on other people when people walk away from you? Or walk away from a conversation or leave the zoom conversation. What do you want them thinking, feeling and being motivated to do? And I think those three things, if you have them visible and you do that every day, try it. If anybody who tries it for a month to do those three things, let me know. Because what we know is that just like a gratitude practice, this is kind of like a meaningfulness practice. Your brain starts making different decisions about how you approach your day. And I think that's where all of this starts.

00:37:53 Andy Goram

Those are some great sticky notes. I love that last one as well. I'm gonna, yeah, right, because people can tend to think about purpose as the, you know, the million-year challenge right, not day-by-day.

00:38:04 Zach Mercurio

Right today. How do you want to be remembered today? I mean, do you want to be remembered by someone who is too busy? Or do you want to be remembered right? No, but how... so think about that and then think about how you approach your day.

00:38:17 Andy Goram

Oh mate, that's brilliant. Thank you so much for those. I'm sitting here going, “look I've gotta finish a podcast”, but I'm now starting to think about the sticky notes, so that's a good sign.

00:38:27 Zach Mercurio

That is good. Yeah, me too and I do want to say like, this, all of this is an aspirational exercise, right? We do things to become who we want to be. Like, for me, I research purpose in meaningfulness but every time I do a podcast, I'm teaching myself too. It's a constant. Like you said earlier, it's constant. If you think you've arrived, you're probably further away from where you started, you know, so it's a constant learning exercise.

00:38:52 Andy Goram

And that, my friend, is a great way to finish it. Zach, thanks so much for your time, mate. I really enjoyed your company and thanks very, very much.

00:39:03 Zach Mercurio

You too thanks for putting this out into the world.

00:39:05 Andy Goram

Oh! You're very, very welcome. Guys, that was Zach Mercurio. If you want to check out a bit more detail about some of the things and concepts that we've talked about and find out about Zack’s book and all other good stuff it's all in the show notes, so please check them out.

So, that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something maybe, that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast until next time, thanks for listening.


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