How can purpose help us in these uncertain times?

Theresa May’s brokering of the latest extension to Brexit Day means the only certainty is more uncertainty. Ben Renshaw, an acclaimed leadership expert and keynote speaker at the Festival of Global People, explains how leaders – and individuals – can best manage in times like these.

Relocate magazine summer 2019 issue
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.Working alongside an impressive number of successful international companies, it’s fair to say that Ben Renshaw knows a thing or two about transforming organisational cultures and the role of purpose. So much so, he’s written the book. Eight in fact. Together, his titles, including Lead, Purpose, and Super Coaching, articulate Renshaw’s belief that everyone has a purpose and that to discover and lead with purpose is the greatest opportunity in life.

Linking purpose to global mobility

Igniting day one of Relocate Global’s Festival of Global People on 14 May with his keynote address ‘Developing Purposeful Leaders’, Renshaw said, “Purpose is very individual, but it is important that everyone has a clear sense of what is important to them.” Having worked with major brands such as IHG and Heathrow Airport, he is aware of the challenges that modern businesses face and the need to deliver results faster and cheaper in an uncertain, disruptive and digital world.Renshaw asked the audience to think about their true purpose and how that impacted on leadership and on relationships at work. He talked about leading with purpose and the importance of receiving feedback.“How well do you know the passions of your managers and your team?” he asked. “Purpose is about where you are at your best. Discovering that is about being reflective and identifying peak moments in your life when you were performing so well that things seemed to flow.”

Watch highlights from the Festival:

The leadership of the future

Renshaw was also a panellist in the ‘Change, Trust and Engagement’ session on 15 May chaired by organisational development and agility expert, Dr Linda Holbeche.He said it was fundamental to the survival of any business to deliberately attract and listen to different opinions and new ways of thinking. “It’s time to redefine the role of the leader,” he explained. “If you really think about it, the fundamental role is to engage. That’s a different mindset.”Renshaw talked about the “sweet spot” of finding a leader who was both a high performer and a collaborator, which was an ideal combination. “High-performance research is about focus. Most people are very rarely present. Most of the time we are distracted by noise, both internal and external. This takes away from our ability to focus.” On the subject of focus, delegates were challenged to think about how much time they gave themselves to pause and reflect. What time did they give to considering their own purpose and their personal and professional priorities?At the Festival of Global People, Renshaw’s straightforward perspective was both refreshing and timely in the context of current Brexit-related parliamentary and political melees. Offering certainty and a firm base from which we can all frame the practical, day-to-day challenges arising from Brexit and other external factors, his insights were highly relevant for companies operating over international boundaries, globally mobile employees and their managers pondering the status of future assignments.

Doing the right thing

Asked if a lack of purpose could explain the latest renewal of uncertainty, Renshaw said that any vision – political, organisational or personal – needs to have clarity about why it matters for their endeavours.“The government is clearly dealing with a very complex scenario,” he said. “I start from the point that almost everybody wakes up with good intentions about doing the right thing.“When it comes to issues like Brexit, we can understand it by making a distinction between management and leadership. Government is essentially in the management bucket. Leadership is about hearts and minds.
“You could say we have arrived where we are with Brexit because there’s a huge leadership gap,” added Renshaw. “This is about political leaders’ ability to really connect from a place of care and empathy with the people they lead. This has consequences, as we are seeing. People are exasperated.”

Read an overview of Day 1 and Day 2 at the Festival of Global People

Vision – and reality

Fortunately, when it comes to leading through uncertainty, there are certain principles that help to make sure it is done well. Using the road to the referendum and its aftermath as an example of what can go wrong, Renshaw observed “the referendum gave us a rocky foundation because the first step – clarity of purpose – was lacking. Exiting Europe was not a strong enough vision.” As Renshaw explained, having a clear purpose lifts goals “to a higher plane” and a place where everyone is united behind a common purpose. “It enhances people’s lives and enables people to be far more productive.”

Being vulnerable as a leader

To create purpose and so be able to frame uncertainty in a meaningful way, leaders need to be more transparent and build trust. Taking Theresa May’s premiership as an example, Renshaw acknowledged that much like business leaders, “politicians can’t be seen to be vulnerable, because it just sets them up for the opposition.”However, a fixed mindset does not work in times demanding flexibility and agility. “Leaders have got to get out there, understand what the problems are and empathise,” said Renshaw. “It’s about engaging in meaningful dialogue. It’s so important to connect with people during uncertain times. This creates the conditions for psychological safety and in business environments where it’s ok for people to fail, not least, because that fosters innovation and creativity.“Jeff Bezos of Amazon is one leader who does this really well. He is very vocal, leads from the front and, if he makes a mistake, he admits it and owns it.”

Have your say!

What is the purpose of Global Mobility now and in the future and how does your purpose support this? Email us at with your views and the best responses will receive a copy of Ben Renshaw’s book Purpose.

Relocate Festival of Global People 2019

‘Life is a risky business’

As we’ve seen, uncertainty around Brexit is already curbing investment levels in the UK and outbound. Asked what advice he’d give to individuals and organisations dealing with uncertainty, Renshaw said we all need to be able to live with it as a matter of course. “Uncertainty is here – it’s all around us. It doesn’t matter where we are on the planet. We need to help people be equipped to lead with purpose and work through uncertainty in a constructive way.
“The only way we progress in life is if we face the fact of uncertainty and understand that risk is never far away. If we follow our hearts, most of the time when we take a risk they will pay off. We just need to trust the outcome.”

About Ben Renshaw

Speaker, coach and leadership expert Ben Renshaw has written eight books, including Lead!, Super Coaching, The Secrets of Happiness and Balancing Work & Life. His latest book Purpose: The Extraordinary Benefits of Focusing on what Matters Most (published in 2018), considers probably the single most important question you can ask: what is your purpose? He explained that we are led to believe that our purpose is connected with how much we achieve, the accumulation of possessions or attaining status in society. However Renshaw believes that nothing could be further from the truth and his book provides the guidance and tools required to discover and lead with real purpose.Renshaw explained: “What if you had an internal compass guiding your decision-making? What if you were clear about your big ‘why?’ giving you a compelling reason for doing what you do? What if you were in touch with the meeting point between your passion and talent? This is what your purpose offers. When you are on purpose, you unlock the necessary skill-set to fulfil your leadership potential and thrive in today’s complex and disruptive world.”

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Learn more about the 2019 Festival of Global People and the Relocate Awards

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