#241 – Finding Your Purpose With Dr. Grant Tate

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the episode today, we have Dr. Grant Tate. Dr. Tate, welcome. Well, glad to be here, Thank you so much Thomas for having me on the podcast. I’m very glad to have you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Yes, I operate in Charlottesville Virginia in the USA and I have a small consulting company that I’ve had for Well over 20 years. We work mostly with small businesses, typically high tech and I’m working in organizational change, we offer coaching and personal development programs, and one of the things I say is that I’m a hot node hunter and a hot node hunter means that I look for people who are the change agents in an organization when I’m working with them, and if you can identify those leaders and they, by the way, may not be the executives of managers, then you can probably create some good, good things.

The last 12 months I’ve been generally working on my book, that’s “Hand on the shoulder, Finding freedom in the confluence of love and career”. It’s a memoir, which is a little different from a business person, but it’s been a great self development process for me and it’s generated some really great conversation with my clients and my friends. Well, thank you for that, of all the things that I could ask you about, what tends to be your passion when when going on podcasts. Well, one of the things I think is really important, during the pandemic, group of us, my colleagues across the country and in Europe, in fact, decided we would get together in a weekly forum to talk about what’s going on and we tracked how people were feeling and I should say also we invited clients. So we had a mixture of consultants and clients, and a very diverse group and we tracked what was going on as we went through the pandemic and I derived from that a couple of questions I think are really important that everybody particularly leaders need to ask.

First is, who am I? What do I stand for? What is my leadership style? What are the principles that lead my everyday work. And the second question is, what is my role now? In other words, where everything is under change, where the future looks very untidy, let’s say, how do I lead my people? How do I lead myself? And I might comment that I think my book is really my search to answer those two questions. And so what we found is that managers in organizations who were the designated managers weren’t necessarily the leaders that emerged in this difficult time. The other important finding is that what people need in an organization and you can say this at any time, but it’s particularly true in the pandemic is where we headed, people needed a sense of stability when everything looks like it was floating, and so that was particularly important.

What do we do about it? Well, each of us had our own thing, but I worked with my individual context primarily to help them be the kind of leader that we really need when we’ve got people that are remote. We have people that, and even now, a mixture of remote and in office work and that’s just thrown things into a whole different kind of leadership style. So in relation to the questions that you mentioned at the beginning, do you have a, shall we say, a formed answer on the question, “Who are you?”. I guess the question is how do you find it? If I don’t know, how do I find it? We have an exercise, I call the role map. And essentially we ask people to got a big sheet of paper and at the center, write your purpose in life and then from that define your different roles around that center circle. Father, friend, coach, whatever it might be, and then from those points, write the various activities.

And then if when you look at that map, ask yourself what do these activities have to do with my purpose? And if the answer’s nothing, are you helping somebody else’s purpose? It might be a reasonable thing to be doing that. But also if it has nothing to do with your purpose and is counterproductive or taking too much of your energy, get rid of it. An example might be a destructive friend. But you also run into people say wait a minute, I don’t know what to put in that center circle, what is my, what is my role, primary role? What is my purpose? What am I all about? And one of the sort of procedural answers to that is, okay, look at the rest of the map and see what purpose you’re living and someone who’s spending all of their time and something that’s destructive for instance or something that’s not productive then the question is why are you doing it?

What can you do to basically center on the things that are really important to you? And I was just reading an article that came out from Gallup this morning about the number of people in the workforce, this is a global survey that are not engaged and they had five primary reasons for that lack of engagement, and then they said, but the central theme among these five is a bad manager, you’re a bad leader. And so what’s going on with that bad leader? Does the person, is the person insecure? Do they lack the skills? Do they not know what they’re doing or is the person not know who they are to be able to comfortably and authentically help other people be successful, and that’s fundamentally what it’s about.

And it takes self examination. There’s no easy path. You have to go deep and you have to think and one of the things we can do in our coaching process is to help people work through that process. And so the theme of the book, hand on the shoulder, I’m in the process of rebranding because my company is called Bridge Business Transformations, but I’m rebranding to use hand on the shoulder as the new brand, which is basically what does hand on the shoulder means. It’s those principles that guide you and it’s the thing that you build your career and your leadership style and your relations on, and that should be a deep, profound sense of who I am. Well done for putting it all down into into the book. May I ask what your purpose is?

That purpose is really helping people find theirs? And I talked about hot nodes. One of the things that I tried to do in my practice, whether I’m working in an organization or working with independent people is to help them decide and find out who they really are and therefore what are my goals and where am I headed And a good example that I don’t, I’m some somewhat active in the political realm, but I occasionally have the chance to coach politicians. And uh, I had the occasion to work with a young woman recently that she had, she’s had the skills she’d run before and lost but wasn’t quite sure where the path was. And by the end of the process, she was very clear on her goals and objectives and it’s just recently declared to to run for a a seat in the legislature and called me recently and said I found my path and I and I think she’ll be really good at that win or lose.

You’ll be really good at that because she’s the kind of person who’s a strong individual, believes in doing things right and knows how to work with people of all different backgrounds and and thoughts. Well, I can certainly see how that would be rewarding, helping people sort of find um find the right path, as you put it. There was something I wanted to pick up on within. I think maybe notes from the book or it was a phrase which I believe that you used. And the term was inner freedom. Would you mind elaborating on what that term means to you? Yeah, it’s it’s interesting. I’ve done probably more research after writing the book than before, the writing book called What do we mean by freedom? And the first thing I’d like to say is what it doesn’t mean. And that is it doesn’t mean that you don’t follow some of the basic rules of good relationships and what’s good for society.

In other words, we by the station of who we are in society says that there are certain ground rules that we have to have to follow. Doesn’t mean we can’t be creative. But that inner freedom is really that I can be who I am in the environments in which I’m working and living a good example of that is that one of the things that my wife and I say to each other quite often is the precious gift we give each other is the ability to be ourselves and and my quirks and my idiosyncrasies certainly come out every day. But she knows how to work with those. And I know a lot about her. So we can express ourselves. We can have the freedom to explore the freedom to express our emotions. And that’s okay. And and I think that same principle applies to if we’re working in a if I’m the leader of a group, then am I acting on the stage or am I myself?

And can I be myself and let my people know uh who I am and what I believe in? And the other thing is within that within an organization on my team, diversity really counts. And therefore I shouldn’t expect people to be like me. There are processes, we have to follow. These are some of the restrictions we have and working in a in a team, but at the same time, we want people to be able to express themselves, to have the freedom to create, the freedom to express ideas. And then the uh had tried to mold those into a team sense of direction. There’s a question that I sometimes ask, certainly not to know what your thoughts are and that is. If everyone spoke their mind, would the world be a better or a worse place? Your thoughts on that? Uh there are thoughts that each of us has have every day that might be quite destructive.

I don’t think we ought to just use those. And sometimes there those thoughts are just a result of uh, our inner concerns, our our anger perhaps. And so my my my question to moderate that is civility and civility does count. We have an art. We’ve had, I would I started to say arguments and I really mean arguments at the city council here in in the city where people were very disruptive and for months, the city council got almost nothing done. And there they and the explanation was, we’ve been suppressed too long. You know, uh, we don’t believe in civility. Well, maybe expressing the anger is a good thing to let out people if they’re feeling that, but at some point you have to say therefore, what are we going to do?

What can help you get through that? So, um, I think if everybody just went around expressing their rage for instance, then I think we’d be in a in a lot of a lot of trouble. So, I mean, even if you take what just happened here in the United States about a gunman shooting down people in Chicago. Uh, that’s an expression of some sort of rage or dysfunction, and there is that that’s certainly not positive. So, the answer is moderation. I certainly like the civility aspect of it. I mean, in this um, hypothetical scenario, if he was expressing his mind before he did that, then perhaps people would know which would be kind of a positive for prevention purposes, but it would also be quite painful for those who perhaps didn’t want to know the truth about other aspects.

But I should have a proper sort of conclusion as to why I’m asking that question. I just find it an interesting question to ask really? Well, I think it’s an important question because if, if you find people are upset and this, I don’t know the complete story none of us do yet. But he expressed his rage and his concern on social media ah over the past year or so. Now you might ask who saw that? Maybe nobody who could help him, but if people saw that and said, well this is just some wild and crazy person. Um and should we just ignore that or should we really find a way to help this young person? And I, I think we should, on the second part is people are having difficulty and that now relates to the team activity, which is, someone says something that might be totally out of order or express rage in a meeting.

What do you do about it? Just say, hey, that’s not acceptable or take them aside quietly and say, let’s talk and I want to hear what you’re concerned about. Have you got a favorite part of your book? My favorite part of the book is really the the last part where was I the the upward spiral. Uh but at the I guess the transition part the court where I really hit bottom in some of my personal relationships and what was my recovery process and who helped me through that uh favorite in terms of pleasure but uh importance the most important part. And one of the things that I learned from this experience is I described was that at a time when I had the serious breakup relationship I had nobody to turn to. I had had worked myself into a corner of my professional life and my personal life where I didn’t feel I could confide in anyone at the time.

And one of the promises I made to myself that will never happen again. And so it that certainly was the most meaningful. One of my my friends who have me on his podcast. Thought the turning point of the book was the chapter where I said I was driving from Paris to the Netherlands and I said the cool French breezes in the is coming through the windows and I am free. And that had gotten to the point where the the guilty voices that stopped. I had made a decision to go explore new adventures in Netherlands. And it was a great sense of relief that I could get in a rover Renault van with all of my belongings and six bottles of French wine and drive to the Netherlands. It was a great moment, yes. Sounds like it was quite a therapeutic process for you.

Yes, absolutely, absolutely. And I just, one complete side note is that the graphics on the book are really cool. Is there any any story behind that? So, Absolutely, absolutely. The the woman who designed the book and the cover, uh a young woman named Victoria Sting, go works for Holland publishing, the publisher of the book Uh interviewed me about 30 minutes and had, I don’t know if she had even read the book, she scanned it and shame Came back in a week with 11 alternatives. Well, they cover and I went through, I was going through those and I came to number five and I said, whoa, that is really radical. Then I kept going and Came back to # five and said that’s gotta be it. And then uh my wife came home after work in the afternoon and I said, let me show you something. I showed you the 11. She so clearly it’s number five.

But the interesting thing about the that fixed ingo did not detect is that I wrote my master’s thesis and Electrical engineering on the, basically the mathematics beyond chaos theory and in chaos theory, we have something called fractals which are the graphic representation of what’s going on in a uncertain, chaotic situation. And uh, she, she picked that up. Yes, But the other other piece that she did was we have 108 stories in the book. And so the very short chapters I’ve found has been a, in a really positive thing for readers because they can pick it up and read a story and each story to a certain degree can be a mini case study for people like me. And would you say for people who let’s say have particular trouble finding their purpose with the book help them.

Yes. Well, I’ve gotten that feedback from lots of readers so far. one of the things I’ve said is that if if one of these conversations I’ve had with people about the book, oh, is the only result of me spending the time to write the book, It was worth it because here in my office I’ve had people come that and they usually acquaintances, people, I know people have coached and we have an hour and a half or two just discussing the principles of the book and my reaction has been, wow. The other thing fascinating is that where people are coming from, if they’re coming from the corporate world for instance, and they are particularly interested in the corporate stories. But then I have some of my readers and in Netherlands and one in Japan said, well, I’ve learned about a lot about the United States. I didn’t know well I didn’t realize that would be how come, but perhaps some of the stories in small town America at the beginning of the book are, are interesting in that respect?

Well, I think, I think a lot of, I don’t know what percentage I mean, have you got any theories about what, what number of people as a percentage actually know what their purpose is or who have even considered it Less. Less than 5%. Wow. Well, just so even even just discussing the topic is probably a positive, positive thing to do then. Right. Right. Yes, very, very definitely. And, and you know, I, I guess another way to look at it is finding your purpose is not something you can sit down like as we do in a strategic planning thing. Uh, it’s it’s a lifelong quest really, it’s it’s not an answer. It’s a developing central theme of what am I all about. And uh, and that, that applies to situations as well when we’re thinking about, well, I have a difficult decision, what’s what’s really important, uh what’s important to me and what’s important to the people around me.

And I think the other thing that of course, thinking about the late today’s political situation is Americans are very individualistic and one of the things you have to say, it’s not all about me, it’s what is my purpose as part of my community, of my state, my country, my family and how does how those relationships relationships affect who I am and then how do I then behave and every day activities and relationships that really is central to that. And and so we have when we’re not on that theme, we, that’s we have cognitive dissonance. I’m acting on the stage. And I can say that when I was in the corporate world where I was just, you know, driving towards my ambitious target then I was good at it, but I kind of lost me in the process touching on your corporate or business experience for a moment.

I think it would be I know a disservice to the viewers if I didn’t ask you about your experience there, because I’m sure you’ve encountered many, many businesses and there’s probably a theme about perhaps common mistakes that businesses make. Have you got any thoughts around that topic? Yeah, very much so. I think uh well, I let me just comment about my corporate experience. I worked for IBM And I had 15 management or executive jobs and I replaced two people. In other words, I was starting organizations or changing organizations. And one of the chapters in the book deals with the turnaround job I did with regard to a big software lab. And in other stories, all about starting the personal computer. I didn’t start it, but I was one of the early people in in working on the personal computer, which was a big change for the company. But the the central idea I think of organizations is basically boils right that back to the people is selecting the right people and then helping them drive in their jobs and helping them develop good relationships with people when we’re changing an organization, which is one of the I I was directive organization for 30,000 person division as part of one of my jobs.

But the key thing was who are the leaders who are the people who can create this change and who are the people who are the people that can help others in the organization. That’s absolutely absolutely crucial. And so people is the first sense uh there’s a sort of a central idea of empathy turns out we can measure it. Have we use a set of assessments to empathy is one of the measurements and the question has always been, if someone is registered low in that measurement, can we help them? The answer is yes. Takes a little time. We can’t just say, hey thomas you need better empathy, but through through putting up your antenna, focusing and trying to understand people, listening to them, you can develop that even to a point where he can measure the change.

So in our coaching process we tried to identify those things. First thing we say is focus on your strengths, but at the same time you focus on those things that are keeping you from accomplishing what you need to accomplish in life and in your job. And let’s and let’s try to identify identify those obstacles and then see what we can do to help and do in your experience. Do businesses tend to have a purpose and also does the book, would the book help someone if it was specifically for businesses also? Well, yes, I think so certainly uh you know, the, the stories about the corporate world and solving problems and that sort of thing has a lot of lessons. I attended a session last week and one of the people there was, it was, he was full of questions about business and we, there was a lot more of that than I expected in that conversation in the hometown where I grew up.

But he was very interested in what, what was going on in the corporate world and how that that affected what we were doing. And um, and so if I, you know, even if I look back at those situations, it’s not about all about me as my skills as an engineer or my technical skills as a manager, it was all about the people that were important to those situations, who are the people that I’ve worked with, try to create the kind of change we needed, the people that were really a source of strength and wisdom and that’s really important. And the other guideline is choose people that compliment who you are in your strengths in other words and and compliment you have the strength you don’t have. And if I go into a company and there is a mechanic runner, which I mean is somebody who’s got a very narrow view, all about profit or whatever.

Then you have to ask, where is the strategist, where’s the thinker and if you have somebody who is all about strategy and a really good thinker of the concept concepts of the company then where’s the person who can take those ideas and put them into effect? And the, we talk a lot about diversity in in this country and all over and but diversity and ideas is really important. And going back to your earlier question, those ideas, uh, people with those ideas need to have the, the, the ability and the freedom to express them in terms of helping direct where the business is going and regarding the writing process. How was that for you? Well, it was interesting because they started the book was, I got a call from the publisher Representative one Day and said, hey, I’ve seen your writing. Have you ever thought of writing a book? And I said, of course everybody has.

And then we went through three different sessions talking about the concept of the book. Uh, and I said, I didn’t want to write the 50001st business book because that’s how many business books are printed every year. And and it turned out to be a memoir. But then after we decided, We set a 6-month schedule. I had a project manager and an editor and we had regular meetings to every every and in one case every week and all the cases every two weeks where we went through, here’s what I’ve written. And now let’s edit that and let’s move the next one. I set up a about hey, a juro site and excuse me, Hello site. Where I said here all the chapters in progress and I can move those two end progress and my editor to look at that, see exactly where I was. And when she and I got together, uh, we, uh, I just talked about whether you need to change strangely enough for a fellow who’s done a lot of strategic planning.

The larger organization of the book was the most challenging. I could write the stories that was relatively easy. But how do you put those stories into a meaningful, larger picture. But so it was a fascinating process. And then actually the, the question of going back and looking at some of those things and you ask yourself, oh God, what could I have done better? You know, there are lots of lessons there for a writer who’s in the process of contemplating your life. Are you proud of what you’ve created? Very much so. Very much so. I’m not sure shooting for big best seller, but I, my wish is that it helps people Good. Well, I’m sure based on everything you’ve said, I’m sure it will. Um, in terms of the promotion of the book, which is an important part of being an author. Have you found that? And what are your thoughts, Well, obviously having these kind of conversations helps.

I am using social media, even Tiktok to talk about it. Uh it’s a even Tiktok because a lot of stuff that is not too serious out there, but I found that it, that that medium works. I am oh talking to, you know, local groups particularly. I probably will will have forums later on the website and on the shoulder dot com, which promotes the book also as a section where we are showing out developing new coaching process, hand on the shoulder uh of finding your own freedom. And that process is I will be describing on the site in more, more detail. But basically, it’s it’s a process where we start first with a person with diagnosis, what’s going on in the person’s life. What do you what do you what do we know about you, the assessment process and then talking about goals and direction, defining that, go, putting meat on the skeleton.

And finally ended up with a sense of direction and purpose and knowing where, where are they going? And I’m pretty excited about that. We implemented by this medium and I found that particularly it’s, it’s it’s in many cases more effective and having someone sit here in my office, of course, we can’t have coffee, but you know, uh one of the, one of the things that’s important is that we the assessments we do. Yeah, gives us a In some cases, a 70 page report. And so this medium is very effective in going through the data that helps set the ground rules for here’s what we know about you and now what you know about yourself based on that. Let’s talk about your strengths. Let’s talk about your obstacles and how how can we develop a plan to get you where you want to go based on that foundation.

Have you got any case studies that you’re particularly we say proud of in relation to how you help people find their purpose and answer these tricky questions excluding the politician. Of course. Yeah I have I have not published those yet but the answer is yes quite a few. There’s some of the case studies would be 10 years long because some of my clients have been 10 year clients and I work in uh biotechnology companies here in town. one particular little case study that I found quite interesting was one of my friends of Ceo said Hey grant I think we have a communications problem and could you do a survey. So I went in and we did assessments in the survey and I came back a while later and said yes you have a communications problem and here’s what it looks like. And then we had a discussion and then at the end of that I said look there are a couple of choices.

I can sell you a very expensive communications workshop or you can start daily huddles which do you prefer. He started daylight husbands supplemented that with a weekly summary and a monthly summary of what was going on and what they were trying to get done. And We went back in six months and the communications problem had diminished almost nothing. That’s that’s that is yeah, Quite an effective one the other. Um, we just did 25 Excuse ME, 21 personal assessments with a group in Amsterdam and I talked to each person and interestingly enough it was a group of international people from Finland to to Korea who are working in that organization. The leaders primary purpose was self development. I want to give everybody an opportunity to have this conversation and we talked about the assessments for about 45 minutes and then the rest of the discussion was about you know, given this and what you’re trying to do and what you want in life and your job then what what what are some, what are the two or three most important things you can work on?

And it was I think a very successful process, thank you for sharing those. I mentioned before hand that there’s a typical question I asked in an episode and based on your introspection and especially what the book is all about. I’m sure you have a good answer. So what does success mean to you? Uh success means that that the people I work with can find their own success and the kind of balance and uh reward in life that they are hoping for. And and I that’s the way I keep score actually, I think of who those people are. And uh it’s a it’s a growing list and I’m proud of that. Oh, where they can find me is the easiest way is hand on the shoulder dot com. And that will have all of my contact information and something about the book who I am and what we’re trying to do.

So your success is actually other people’s success. I suppose that does come back to your purpose, but it is interesting, because I’ve not heard that answer before. Yes, well, yes. Absolutely. And so that’s the great reward. If someone say to me, you really helped me. Is there anything that I should have asked you about today? Well you asked a lot of good questions, nothing pops into mind, but I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and I look forward to keeping in contact. You’re doing good work. I appreciate that, and for everyone watching or listening, please review the links in the description and Grant, thank you for being a great guest today. Well, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.