When I was asked to write my why I knew the summary line as soon as the question was asked. I like helping people solve problems. Whether it is building a house (which I have personally done in Philadelphia, PA, Berryville and Oakton VA, and Santa Clara and Dodge Ridge, CA) or building a startup like GSI Commerce (1999-2008), or transforming a business, like Michaels, Harbor Freight or The NY Times or donating time and energy to assist those in need. The essence of these disparate situations and companies are the teams of human beings involved; the shared vision of the team aligned; and the focus on undertaking the goal.
When I went to college I was enrolled in ROTC, and in my sophomore year, we were called upon to assist with the aftermath of a hurricane. The neighborhoods were devastated, and we watched people comb through the rubble to find pictures, keepsakes, or any memories of their lives pre-hurricane. We were showered with appreciation, thanks, and tears for our help, which included setting up a shelter and providing soup, water and dry clothing. The feelings that I amassed from being able to help in a small way were immense and everlasting, to this day! I was changed by that deployment and since then have sought ways to give back, share experiences, and assist friends and strangers alike.
After I obtained my commercial pilot’s license, I donated time and an airplane to flying blood products for the American Red Cross to the places and people that needed them, either routinely or in crisis. Being a part of something larger than oneself provides continuity of support to those in need. I benefited from those moments of giving. Time is but one gift. The gift of sharing wisdom and learning from life's experiences and mistakes proves priceless.
Professionally, the benefits accrued from a job not just done, but well done, still provide tremendous joy and a sense of accomplishment. Providing others with the ability to feel what I feel is even more powerful. I thrive in assembling, participating in, or leading a team because I know more can be achieved with a team rather than by one individual.
Large or small organizations differ only in the size of the team(s). The collaboration, joint learning, brainstorming, and decisions that identify the tasks to accomplish; that is where the work is for any organization, regardless of size. As a team walks the path of common successes and defeats, they forage a bond of purpose, which creates the culture upon which success and accomplishment are built.
I find nothing more rewarding than a challenge completed. And, after 30 plus years on all sides of the table in small and large organizations, government, and industry, for-profit and non-profit, it all comes down to the people of the organization. Assembling them into a team(s) that share a common vision and purpose is the key to success. With a shared vision, the process(es), data, and technologies can then be assembled as the building blocks they are, to realize the mission and vision and solve problems.
To circle back to my why – coaching, mentoring, leading, following, listening, engaging, challenging, and educating people to realize that WE are stronger and more accomplished together than separately. The mutual benefit of sharing for the betterment of all parties provides me with a tremendous sense of purpose and accomplishment. This answers the question for me, I hope it resonates with you.
Helen Keller said it best, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."