Jan. 20, 2022

The Purpose Economy and The Science of Purpose & Fulfilment at Work with Aaron Hurst |Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

The Purpose Economy and The Science of Purpose & Fulfilment at Work with Aaron Hurst |Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Aaron Hurst, Co-founder, CEO of Imperative, the peer coaching platform, Founder of the Taproot Foundation, and the author of The Purpose Economy. Aaron Hurst shares why in the purpose economy value lies in connecting to employees to purpose through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth, getting a greater sense of meaning, building community, and having a more significant impact. Aaron also talks about the different purpose drivers and how leaders can better connect their organizations and teams with greater purpose.  



Some highlights:

- Aaron Hurst shares the biggest myths about purpose mindset

- How purpose can be a competitive advantage

- Impact of purpose on the individual, organization, and society

- How to more effectively connect people with their purpose

- Aaron Hurst on the different purpose drives for leaders

- The role peer coaching plays in relating to individual purpose



Also mentioned in this episode:

Brené Brown, Author of the books “Atlas of the Heart”, “You Are Your Best Thing”, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, and many more




Connect with Aaron Hurst:

Aaron Hurst Website

Aaron Hurst Twitter

Aaron Hurst LinkedIn

Imperative Official Website

Taproot Foundation Official Website



Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

MahanTavakoli.com


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 

PartneringLeadership.com



Transcript

Mahan Tavakoli:

 

Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Aaron Hurst. Now, those of you that follows podcast know that purpose is something that is truly important to me. The teams that I guide and coach and the organizations I work with and the recurring theme of the podcast, because I truly believe all of us need to tap into that inner core purpose for ourselves, our teams, and organizations. More so now than ever before.

 

Now, Aaron is the purpose economist. He's the co-founder and CEO of Imperative, which is a peer coaching platform. He's the founder of the taproot foundation and a catalyst of 15 billion pro bono services market. Author of the groundbreaking book and a top-rated Amazon book that I absolutely loved and read a couple of years back the purpose economy.

 

And he is also the producer of an annual workforce purpose index. So when we talk about the rise of purpose economy, we are in many instances referring to much of the groundbreaking work that Aaron has done, which is why. It's such a privilege having this conversation with Erin and I am absolutely so excited to have this shared with you.

 

As you look to tapping into your greater purpose, your team's alignment with purpose, and having your organization be more purpose-driven. There is a lot to be gained from this conversation and also Aaron's book. I also absolutely enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming. mahan@mahantavakoli.com  there's a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com. Really enjoy getting those voice messages. Don't forget to follow the podcast on Tuesdays conversations with magnificent purpose-driven leaders from the greater Washington DC DMV region and on Thursdays with brilliant global thought leaders such as Aaron. 

 

And finally, don't forget to follow this podcast, and those of you that enjoy it on apple, leave a rating and review. So more people find the conversations and benefit from them. Now here's my conversation with Aaron Hurst.

 

Aaron Hurst. Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Likewise, really looking forward to it.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I'm really excited because you have been on the leading edge even back six-seven years ago when you wrote the purpose economy. How your desire for impact personal growth and community is changing the world. And I find in more of my conversations in the community and with a lot of leaders. There is a greater need for understanding, purpose, and how to become more purpose-driven. So we'd love to engage in that conversation with you. 

 

But before we do, wanna know where about's you grew up and how your upbringing impacted who you've become Aaron.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Absolutely, so I was born in Aspen, Colorado. My grandfather was the CEO of the Aspen Institute for about 25 years. And my parents lived in a teepee in the mountains up there through there for two years. And then as we like to say, we're wandering Jews. We moved from there to Arizona, to Colorado, to Halifax and Arbor. But the extended family's always been a New York, which is very anchoring to who I am. my parents are 100%. Although as a teenager, I would have disagreed like 100% like who I've become. My father is a Ph.D. In organizational development focused on higher education. He and I would geek out and I always loved those conversations. And my mom didn't finish school, but really wanted to be a therapist. So, she found a different path, which was being an astrologer or an astrologist, because it was just about having conversations with people, just about achieving what you want to achieve in life.

 

That had a big influence that just having my grandfather at the Aspen Institute. A lot of my family has social impact-oriented. Has made a big impact. And then finally my parents actually well, both of Jewish descent were part of a Tibetan Buddhist community. And that combination of the Jewish idea of repair the world and that, that sort of our responsibility as human beings with a more Buddhist sort of reflective practice. And mindfulness practice, I think also merged in creating my perspective on the world. So leave it there I could go on for hours, but those are the headlines.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So you had that with your parents and just went to underline with your grandfather who led Aspen Institute for 25 years- a well-regarded institution. He also played a key role in starting the Peace Corps.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yes, absolutely. He came back sort of his, big, hairy, audacious goal was coming out of World War II is how to prevent World War III and he saw that there was a need just to build, understanding between cultures and that we needed to do that. And not as tourists, but through serving. 

 

He came up with the idea of a program where Americans would go abroad and live in service in the developing world and around the world and pitched that to Kennedy, and a couple of years later we have the Peace Corps. Which is very much an inspiration of my work how do you bring people together from different cultures? How do you help bridge different sectors, different countries, different cultures that absolutely has influenced how I think about- you know the role I want to play in the world.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You had that grounding in purpose era and from your grandfather to your parents. Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit from? You started your first business when you were 16.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

I don't know where these things come from. My dad was entrepreneurial. They're both pretty much entrepreneurial and they both did side hustles, I would say. So this is around that energy to me.

 

I see problems and I'm, trying to figure out solutions and then become obsessed with building them. So to me, it's almost like it's a mental model for approaching the world. I didn't know the word entrepreneur probably until I was in my early twenties. It wasn't the word that was used. My grandfather de facto really founded the Aspen Institute and built a number of other organizations. So I think there's always this energy around addressing problems in the world and getting them off the ground.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What was it where you got to put that entrepreneurial spirit, to channel and found the Taproot Foundation?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

I think I've been really lucky and I think there's been key things that have happened in history that have had an influence on my ability to look at ways to create, needs for Taproot Foundation. 

 

I started right around when 9/11 happened and there was a huge surge in professionals' desire to do something that was meaningful and relevant. A lot of them looked at these kinds of challenges and it was like, I want to be doing something that matters but the Taproot foundation does channel that energy into having people do pro bono work. 

 

So it's taking the idea of volunteerism which corporate volunteerism has been largely ineffective for a very long time. And instead, we need to give what we know. We need to have professionals actually doing marketing and tech and HR. That's what nonprofits actually want. And that's what we need to help them with so builds out a whole structure for how to build out a sort of workforce of people doing pro bono work. 

 

They started working with companies and helping them build their own pro bono program so that they could add that level of sophistication. That worked at the white house to create the billion-plus change campaign with Jean Case, which was a challenge to corporations to actually pledge pro bono work in the world instead of just philanthropy or volunteering, and then also partnering with the BMW foundation with Marcus Behrendt to basically find entrepreneurs around the world who are excited about the same mission and support each other as a network to turn it into a global movement.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

As you said Aaron a lot of times organizations feel like they're doing a favor to nonprofits by saying okay, we're going to come over. And paint the walls or create a volunteer project for us. And they want to be thanked for it. It actually gets in a way of the nonprofits doing their job. But with Taproot, you were able to connect the nonprofits with the resources they needed and grew to $15 billion in support.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

As an overall marketplace, Yes. In terms of what we were built, I think we realized early on that we could figure out how to show that pro bono is possible and then become the advocates to start to build a market around it. But yes, absolutely. Your point about the corporate volunteering one of my favorite quotes during that time was a focus group of non-profit leaders and a woman said if I get another volunteer, I'm going to go out of business. That was a good model and I always try to challenge business leaders to also say, if you suddenly had 50 people say, I really want to help your business. We're going to come in Saturday at 2:00 PM for three hours. What could we do to help? Like just radically change the trajectory of AT&T. I'm not working Saturday to begin with and secondly like there's not much of anything you could do. 

 

So there's actually a nonprofit in the DC area that had a room that just, they use to get painted by companies so that they had some way to help them feel like they're making an impact, but not actually creating work. So it just became like a repeatedly painted room. 

 

So it's very dysfunctional because of the potential for money involved. Non-profits I think it got perverted.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Now, what was it that got you to think about the purpose economy and then eventually write the book, Aaron?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

A couple of things. One, so I talked to him about 9/11 and really given the sort of growth and the idea for people's need for meaning. I think they have a recession in '08-'09 also had a really big impact on people starting to really want greater autonomy in their lives. You saw the rise of a lot of these things from Uber to Etsy, etcetera, where it was about removing yourself from a corporate setting and actually being able to have the autonomy that you want in life and saw that through the intersection of these two things, is very powerful in terms of how it was changing the overall market.

 

I think the second one was my uncle had written a dissertation at Stanford in the seventies called the Term Information Economy and it really predicted the rise of Silicon Valley if you will, as we think of it today. And I think that just as a frame really inspired me to think there are different economic eras like the technology-based Silicon Valley era is not permanent. There will be another one. And in fact, if you looked up a lot of the trends he saw on the rise of the information economy, I was seeing those same patterns happening in our society. 10, 15 years ago where people were just, they were looking for something different, they're spending their money in a different way and realized that we were at that critical moment.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Aaron, is that a luxury of the wealthier people in the developed world? Or are we all going through this need for a greater purpose?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

It's a complicated answer. The answer at the end of the day is everyone's going through it. I think it's fundamental human nature. And one of the biggest myths about purposes, it's only for the wealthy. I think anyone who's traveled abroad into the developing world finds plenty of people with tremendous amount of purpose who don't know where their next meal is coming from. It's much more mindset than it is about sort of economic realities. the autonomy that a lot of people have makes it much harder. Frankly, like working in a call center, it is very hard to find purpose in our work. you just have so little autonomy. You're just reading scripts over and over again. So the more and more robotic and lacking autonomy. The more that is the case, I would also say a lot of the things that we see in our society today that are extremely dysfunctional are also coming out of this quest for purpose. I would argue a lot of the extremist politics we see in our country is actually a need for purpose. By being able to have a sense of belonging to a group for having something to fight for and care about is trying to meet that need, because if they're not finding that need met elsewhere. This sort of move towards extremism as a way to get that need met. 

 

So I think this rise in purpose, isn't all rainbows and unicorns. It's a fundamental human need and it's coming out in positive and negative ways. Just like technology has positive and negative.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That's interesting. So would you say that on a societal level and on a Countrywide level, we need to have a purpose to channel the energies of the people to the same way organizations and individuals need to?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yes. If people don't have a place to channel that, they'll find a place or they'll just basically become shut-ins and just shut down and lead to a lot of the issues we have in this country around depression, obesity, mental health issues, etcetera. 

 

So, yes, 100% and I think faith to a certain population, serves that need for a lot of folks that sort of diminished or become radicalized. There's not more of a mainstream. The mainstream faith community is much smaller than it was in the past. I think it's been harder for people to find purpose and work to a larger goodness in part, because of just switching jobs constantly, and they don't have a community around the work and we become further and further removed from the actual end-user of whatever we're producing. 

 

So you and I are having this great conversation. We're not able to actually interact with the people listening to this podcast. And therefore, like my sense of meaning from this- is diminished because they're not sitting in front of all these people and seeing, and interacting, and knowing whether or not it makes an impact. It's like talking into the void and I think a lot of jobs are like working into the void.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

There are a lot of different factors that go into that greater need for purpose. But a big part of the focus is on the need for organizations to have purpose. You say that in today's world, running an organization without an intentional emphasis on purpose is like running an organization in the early 1990s and failing to implement technology.

 

Now, one of the challenges that I find Aaron is that there is a lot of platitudes given to purpose from we work wanting to elevate the world's consciousness to Boeing consistently talking about safety, being one of the top areas of purpose and focus while they were intentionally looking the other way with respect to safety, to VW saying environment and environmental impact was key to their purpose as they were cheating on their emission scandals to Wells Fargo saying the financial health of there consumers was key to their purpose while they were setting up fake accounts. 

 

So the work purpose is thrown around consistently without the follow-through. So what makes purpose-driven companies truly purpose-driven versus these platitudes?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

That's marketing and I think a lot of early on, a lot of people- and I get it the parallel with the information economy is you're sharing were a lot of people felt like just having a website. Made it to you like a technology company. And we know that's not how that works. I think similarly, a lot of folks felt like with this purpose of economy, all they need to do is find a cause and associate with a cause, and that gets you there. And as you shared that doesn't get you there because it's not lived and it's not authentic.

 

What I see is purpose- really is much more around purpose mindset, which is something I've read about in the purpose economy. And, We've seen further research on the concept and it really is actually built off of the work of Amy Wrzesniewski at Yale of just looking at how people have different mental models for the role of work in their lives.  Some people see work as just, it's a financial transaction.

 

I do it cause they have to do it. Other people do it as a way of identity for identity and ego and others do it. We call it purpose mindset, which is seeing work as a source of meaning for themselves and an act of service to the world. And you find these people on every profession, every country, every demographic. But to me, a purpose-driven organization is hiring and cultivating that mindset within its workforce. That workforce is significant to your point, less likely to do things that are not aligned with the values of the company, and that they are much more I think aligned as a culture around what matters and it's actually been a detriment to the purpose movement over all that it's been so associated with marketing and causes. 

 

What this really is actually, I was talking to someone I thought about if I get renamed the book for the purpose economy, it's almost like the psychology economy. We went from meeting our basic sustenance needs that the agrarian economy sort of industrial, it was much more around our to mobility. I mean, Mobility is probably the biggest, and then information economy is all about information and knowledge. I think what we're entering now is uptime on psychology. It’s the dominant sort of way of thinking about adding value. 

 

So if you think about some level you know, the total, these technology companies are starting to do more and more. It was they're actually building addiction. So that's sort of when it goes to the negative side of that psychology like on the positive side, we're seeing so much more emphasis on wellbeing, so much more emphasis on mental health etcetera. It's that application of psychology and mass as a core business strategy is so fundamentally different than it was in the past.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Now, you also mentioned Aaron, that there are different things that people look for from work and they're divided into three groupings. And one of them primarily looking for purpose does that, therefore, there are certain roles that wouldn't be as purpose-driven is it that certain organizations wouldn't be as purpose-driven.

 

So how do you work in the fact that different people look for different things from their careers?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

I think there's a lot of different ways to look at it. We did some initial research, We had strong signal, but it wasn't conclusive given the size of the sample. But what appeared was that the people who have a financial or money mindset typically are people who have low levels of trust and others in society. They don't believe that there's the ability to actually have a symbiotic relationship. They see the world as transactional because there's a lack of trust there. People who tend to be more of that sort of career, that identity-based mindset. We found tend to have issues around their own identity and self-esteem, and that they were using work to make up for that lack of positive identity and put in psychological terms self-love. It's less than it's a diversity issue. As I see it, I think it's much more of an issue of where people are in a mental health curve.

 

Do they trust the world, which is something typically formed very early in life? Did they have the love and support where they feel a sense of who they are in of itself does not defined by their job? It's defined more broadly and then at that point, they can then have a healthy relationship with work. I think about it more as do you want to hire people who have a healthy relationship with work? Some companies don't like their basic take on it. It's I want people who don't trust the world and are just gonna kill each other over kidding sales numbers. I'm just going to churn through that and that's what they want to do. They basically are preying on mental health issues to build economic value. I think others use the ego thing to their advantage. But I think if you want to be a purpose-driven organization, you have to start with, I want to hire and cultivate people who have a healthy relationship with work and to create an environment where the three needs for fulfillment are met. And it was actually, I don't know if you saw this but Edelman did a study and found for the first time the number one reason people are leaving jobs today is a lack of fulfillment at work. They're looking for something fulfilling, and our research really identified that fulfillment comes down to your relationship. Your impact. So am I making an impact? And the impact is not solving climate change impact is simply defined as my work matters to someone other than me. And it's not even that it's actually, I perceive that my work matters to someone other than me. You don't actually have to be making an impact you just have to perceive it and then grow. are you stretching yourself? Are you growing?

 

So we need to have all three of those things present in our work meaningful relationship. I feel like we're making an impact in growing. So as I think about as a leader. How am I measuring those things and how am I cultivating all three of those things in the culture has a lot more to do with purpose and then whether or not you have a cause driving your business.

 

Mahan Tavakoli:

And one of the things you repeated to say, Aaron, and I totally agree is that it is not a function of the role of the individual people at all levels in an organization can be purpose-driven or not. I give an example of my brother and I go on a ski trip that person helping put our bags under Hertz bus in Denver. He was really purpose-driven and in conversation with him, he felt like he was helping people have a more fun experience on their vacation. So it is not just professionals working in a certain environment that are the ones that need purpose or are motivated by having that kind of purpose.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

In our research, we found no profession had over 50% of people who are purpose-driven. Including healthcare, including education. So you think about someone as a doctor like there's a purpose-driven motivation for that. There's an ego-driven motivation for that. And there's a financial-driven motivation for that. The nonprofit sector is not majority purpose-driven. It's really important to understand that otherwise, we fall into these ideas of classifications of purpose versus none. Where we do see a big difference is gender and age. So women are more likely to be purpose-driven than men. And the older you get, the more likely it is that you're purpose-driven which goes counter to like the stories around the rise of the purpose of the younger generations. It actually is that as people have greater mental health and have let go of these sort of other ideas about work that's actually where you start to see that increase. My line is if you want to hire someone, you don't know anything about them, but their age or gender. Go for a woman over 50 and that's like your best bet. Just based on mental health. 

 

So that's where we stopped we saw that globally, too. We did a study with LinkedIn, the countries where women were much more integrated into leadership in industry. We saw much higher levels of purpose and countries where women were not accepted in that role you sound much lower levels. And the US was sort of dead center in the middle of those. I think there's a lot about this is moving from a male, but white male-based economic model to actually recognizing that traditionally female characteristics are now actually, what is creating value and where's where the future lies.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You also talk about how we can look for people that are purpose-driven. What are your thoughts and perspectives on? If a leader believes that they are purpose-driven and want to recruit senior team members and others that are also purpose-driven. 

 

What are ways to determine whether people truly are rather than just saying purposes important to them?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

I think there's questions you can get out around relationships, impacting growth for example. So looking at questions are you still in touch and have relationships with people from your previous roles, right? In your previous jobs, you don't want to ask it as a leading question. So it's what is the impact you made that you're most proud of in your last role? What is the impact you'd want to make here? Tell me how you like intentionally grew. on your last role and how would you want to grow in this role?

 

These kinds of questions start to pretty quickly surface what someone's motivations are and how they see the role of work. You can also ask people like point-blank, how would you define success? And it's interesting what comes up for people? I would say with any of this though, it's social science, it's not binary science. I would never use any single input to make a decision. I think you need to check it from 30 angles before you would want to make a decision based on that.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You also talk about purpose-driven leaders being three types, impact, values, and craft.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yeah, this is really interesting. traditionally in our society, we think of leadership as tied to impact. So it's largely about people who are driven. 

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Because that's how I would have expressed purpose until reading your book and understanding it. I always connected it to impact. Sorry, go on. You're right.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yes and I think that's because we're tying it to cause and tying that marketing definition of purpose that's all about impact. And that is roughly a third of leaders. Another group we find are values-driven leaders who are purpose-driven. So for them, it's about doing the right thing. It isn't necessarily about the end impact. It's about always doing the right thing. However, they define what the right thing is and that is in my mind, a purpose-driven leader. They're very values-driven. They're very much about alignment. They're about doing the right thing. They can operate in any kind of business or organization and people follow them because of that. Because they know they can trust that person. 

 

So typically, like the impact, one is inspiring the values. One is like trust and empathy that you tend to see a lot there. And then the final one is craft. And this is the one I think is least understood, which is some leaders, they lead through the belief that they're creating something of value. They're doing a craft. You think about a musician like I would say playing music, you could define as purpose purposeful. And it's not just because there's an audience that enjoys it, but that the actual beauty of the creation and the process of it is creating meaning in the world and creating meaning for them.

 

We find that this is the sort of misunderstood category. Purpose-driven leaders are the ones with that leadership is about how do we do things the right way. It's not what is right, but what is the right way of doing things and honoring the craft, which is core to our DNA as well, socially, at least. So it's a good question for your listeners that just which of those do they think they are? Where do you, when you're faced with a challenge at work, what do you go to first? Is it that like, what is the best way to make that impact? what is the right thing to do? Or what is the right way to do it? And you'll find a pretty consistent and like how you jumped to that question.

 

Mahan Tavakoli:

Those are beautiful questions and great ones to think about because I found myself jumping to impact pretty quickly. The values part resonated with me. And I found craft really interesting because I would have typically placed that in being purpose-driven, but can really see how it connects with purpose. So understanding how different people also see that purpose is really important for us being able to lead effectively.

 

 

Aaron Hurst: 

It's also about being inclusive, right? I was giving a talk and it was in Pittsburgh and was talking about this and someone just started crying. I was like, What's going on? And it's I feel like I've never been understood as a leader until I've seen this definition of a craft-driven leader. Like someone finally sees who I am and what drives me and finds a value in that. Unless we can sort of understand that diversity we're basically undervaluing certain types of leaders and not helping them feel seen and celebrated.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So Aaron, when leaders are looking at their organizations or their team's purposes, not a "yes, we are. No, we aren't." It's somewhere on a spectrum. How do you typically tell people whether, when you're looking at your own organization or guiding others, to try to determine how. Purpose-driven they truly are. Are there tools, are there methodologies for looking at the purpose drive of teams and organizations?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yes. That's the work we do now at imperative that I will step back from that. And just say, a lot of it is just asking yourself what is the state of relationships for people? Are people building meaningful relationships in the organization? And that can be measured through traditional surveying to people feel like they're making an impact that matters to them. And do people feel like they're growing personally and professionally, and if you're getting high marks on all three of those to me I would describe overall organizational culture as being one that's purpose-driven. That would be the number one thing I would look at. I would then look at the next layers, which is is that consistently happening or is it only for your white employees? Is it only happening for certain segments of your workforce? So I would then the next layer is are you seeing that evenly distributed as it should be, obviously by functioned demographics? et And then I would just get to mindset. I think one of the biggest things I see, and I struggled with these things as well.

I'm not just going to write a book about something doesn't mean I actually do it every day. Is this sort of scarcity versus abundance with mindset.

 

And I think the number one thing I see in non-purpose-driven companies, no matter what their rhetoric, if it's fundamentally a fear-based, scarcity-based mindset it is really hard for purpose to take hold in a culture because you tend to always be about protecting turf, protecting against the failure versus seeing the abundance in the world and what's possible. I think those things just in general are really, really critical. I think that's a lot of with Microsoft's transformation has been around such as being able to bring that abundance mindset removing fear and instead, bring it up love for each other. Love for the customer. 

 

Yes, in terms of tools, the key things we found really are first, how do you help everyone start to know what fulfills them? And we found that if people don't know what fulfills them, they have low probability of being fulfilled. So the first thing we did is we built an assessment tool that determines this purpose of each employee.

 

So they can start to understand, like what drives them. As someone shared with me, we don't tell them where their houses are, but we tell them what neighborhood they live in. There's still a lot of work to find your house, but it's at least getting them in a neighborhood instead of just being like where in the world do you want to be? And you're like, oh, it's too much. Like I can't get my head around it. We're helping them get to the right neighborhood.

 

 

And then the second piece is that the number one driver of fulfillment is relationships. I think of it almost like as a multiplier, it's like impacting growth times relationships, not relationships plus impact post-growth. Because if people don't have really strong, meaningful relationships, no matter the impact or growth, they don't end up being fulfilled. It doesn't really work. And I think this is the biggest challenge today in a workplace is with remote and hybrid work. Meaningful relationships are very hard to build. And the companies are struggling with us and it is the biggest thing that next year that leaders have got to figure out how to do. And that's been the inspiration behind what we built with the pure coaching platform, which is basically connecting peers and then having guided conversations that we find that for three sessions with a peer across the company, people say they've built a meaningful relationship. Zoom calls are not building relationships in general. And the watercolors never worked to begin with. They were exclusive, they were shallow and they tend to only have people from one floor of a building interact. They provided some values and same people, I think it's the wrong metaphor.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You had a post on LinkedIn and if I could have given it a huge heart, I would have given it a big heart, Aaron about how useless these water cooler conversations are, where I know a bunch of organizations that were, they started zoom water cooler conversations, not asking themselves. Was there anything happening around the water cooler in the first place now for us to recreate a more awkward version of it over zoom. 

 

But point though, you started talking a little bit about imperative and what you are doing to help that peer coaching happen within the organization. So people understand their purpose more and connect with their purpose better. How does the process work? is it within the entire organization, people in different divisions and groups connecting with each other or within teams, how does the process that imperative work?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

The way we've optimized it for right now is organizations typically about a thousand employees or more. And ultimately it's about having an across the entire organization or you've got networks if you think about at by level. Because one of the things we found is that for this to work, there has to be very high, psychological safety. So the second people are at different levels it becomes performative. Being able to have peers actually enables high level of empathy and trust between people. So you create these networks of folks and then every quarter they're getting matched with another partner in that network. You might be a manager in engineering the first quarter, you might get matched with a sales manager, and all of a sudden you brought together two groups that don't normally talk to each other and started to build those bridges. Maybe the next time it's a finance manager or an HR manager, an ops manager. And you're building those relationships over time. And all of those relationships are focused on is helping each other. 

 

Basically, hack your jobs around your purpose. So the conversations are all around. How well are you aligning your work today with what really is fulfilling for you and then holding each other accountable for taking actions to actually make their job better? So it goes from this idea that management makes your work fulfilling to actually putting people in the driver's seat of their own fulfillment and experience at work.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Now, this connects very well with the organizational purpose. as you've also said, we are living in a world where people are transitioning jobs faster and faster, and a larger segment of the population is part of the freelance economy and it's going to become even more so. 

 

How can those folks connect with their purpose, understand fulfillment in their roles?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yes, it's really hard. That was one of the studies that came out of Michigan. They showed that for freelancers, a number one problem wasn't time management or money. It was about finding meaning you don't have the social structure around you for meaning creation and you need that. My recommendation for someone who's got a freelance career is to find other freelancers and they don't have to be in your same category, but find a way to create the equivalent of a support group or a regular interactions where you're able to talk about how are you making your work more meaningful, talking through your challenges, talking through what inspired you. You can't just get that from your clients. You really need people in a similar position as you who can do that. And I think there's a lot of hunger for that people. Yeah, I don't think people should be shy about asking other people if they would be willing to get together and to talk about tricks for how to make their work more meaningful.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That's something that more and more of us are going to need. Now, what has happened over the past year and a half is that to a certain extent, the crisis pandemic has accelerated a lot of trends, including this need for purpose and the purpose economy. How do you see the future of work over the next few years?

 

Where are we headed to from here?

 

Aaron Hurst: 

There's a lot of people asking that question. I'm trying to figure that out. first of all, a couple of different answers to it, depending on which group of people you're talking about. I think there's a very different reality for people in frontline service jobs, there are for desk workers. And I think that's in some level it's becoming more and more divergent. Although it looks like we're seeing a rise in with all the turnover on service level jobs. 

 

We are seeing an increase in both compensation, but also the benefits are there's right now between Walmart Target, Amazon, like a war for talent at the fulfillment center and store level. And you see they're increasing their hourly, starting with Amazon having done that. And then they're adding these educational benefits, etcetera. So I do think that there's, segment of the workforce, For the rest of folks that I imagine happening is given market forces is specialization.

 

So right now we specialize around our products' core competencies, etcetera. I think we have to specialize around work environments. So I think ultimately you're going to have companies that figure out how to do work from home really well. And they can basically attract the people who want to do that. And they become exceptional at it. And then you'll find the folks that are saying no, we're an office-based culture. And they figured out how to make that exceptional for the people who want that. So I think we're going to see more and more specialization. You're just going to see large parts of companies leave to go to the side that they want. Based on whether it's that's possible.

 

Hybrid. There's generally the worst of both worlds. It's super hard because it is exclusive by definition and it leaves people worried about whether or not they're like part of it. It's really hard to build belonging. In that context, when you have an uneven experience that way. And what I've seen mostly with the conversation around it is this being sold as flexible.

 

But it's not really flexible. It's more, like, these two days you can work from home. These three are expected in the office. So it's not truly a flexibility. It's more diverse, but that's all of a sudden employee has to support two different offices for themselves. They can't have a consistent solution for childcare because that doesn't align with childcare needs. So I think this hybrid model, as it's generally being rolled out is not working very well. I think the hybrid model, which is we have space that people can come into to collaborate. But it's not like Tuesday through Friday, we want you in the office. that's challenging a lot of ways, I think as a culture.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That's an interesting perspective and I appreciate it where you're saying there's going to be more in-person companies and companies that will operate remotely and not as much of the hybrid even at this point, seeing some of the challenges some of the hybrid clients are having it is truly the worst of both worlds. There are certain factors, including the fact that we build stronger relationships. When we see people, when we bump into them, which is in the back of the minds of the people that are working remotely. So it causes a lot of additional issues and challenges. So the hybrid that is being placed by many as the ideal scenario is the worst of worlds.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

Yes, I'm hearing overall we're just going to an office and then getting on their zoom anyway, because someone in the meetings, not on the same floor, then on the same building. I'm in Seattle and think about Amazon, I think about 30 buildings downtown. Like just because you're only going to all in the office doesn't mean you're going to see each other except for over their platform, which is a chime. It ends up being like I travel all the time just to get on zoom anyway, for 90% of my meetings. It's like, why did I come in?

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Aaron, I wonder, in addition to your own book, are there any other leadership resources and books you recommend as leaders are reflecting on their own leadership journey and leading their organizations to become more purpose-driven.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

I find that it's very much specific to the person in the situation. I'm like what's going to resonate. A book that I really love and there's been a couple of other books sort of built around it, but the book of centralism I think, is really powerful to in helping you think about when is it that you really spend your time on what truly matters? I'm not guilty of this as well. We fill our time with a lot of things that don't need to be done the way they are you know, I think any of the Brene Brown books are fantastic. I think they resonate with a lot of folks. 

 

So I don't think there's a shortage of books out there. And I also find most books you can read the first chapter and get it, which is why it tends to be more of a fan of articles. I think a lot of businesses, especially consultants have a good idea and they needed as a calling card. So they built a book around it. But I find most books. You could read a chapter at most and you get it. I read a lot at MIT and HBR. I find they're like great sources for thinking more so than a book.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

One of the things I love about your book Aaron is that you didn't write the book to promote Aaron Hurst. You were writing a book to help communicate a change in the economy and for people to think about things differently, a lot of times business books are written, as you said, as a business card or to promote the person that has written a book.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

It was an entrepreneurial need. Like it was you see something and you have to express it versus I've got a business. I need to create a book to support that business. And I think my flaw in the writing of the book was I didn't do it. Business books usually do, which is that like one chapter over and over again. It's really probably three books in one, one that looks at the economic trends. One that really looks at the individual's psychology of purpose and another one around organizations and even more broadly, how do you create movements in this new economy? From a commercial standpoint, I probably shouldn't have turned it into three books or four, and then just had the say, I could just cut and paste the same content over and over again for each of those.

 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Value perspective though, it is three books in one, and I truly appreciate it. And I really appreciate the conversation with you, Aaron. I have in addition to reading your book, followed your writing, the great work you're doing at imperative. Love both your humility and the way you're approaching, trying to figure out how purpose fits in within organizations and how we can help people find their own purpose and have greater fulfillment. It is both the right thing for organizations. And the right thing for the individual. So you're not only having an impact on the organizations you're helping impact and make the lives of the individuals in those organizations better and I find that energizing and really appreciate that Aaron.

 

Aaron Hurst: 

My pleasure. It was fun.