Relax and breathe. No need to feel defensive. It isn’t a trick question. But it can be a revealing one.
If you’re not sure, ask someone: a colleague, a partner, or a co-worker. Meanwhile, I’ll share my answer with you. Then please post your thoughts and stories here for our marketing moments of Zen.
I was asked this question recently in a Mastermind discussion. And honestly, I don’t know how I would have responded 15 years ago. But now with plenty of history and well, a few gray hairs, it took only moments to explain.
In fact, the answer hit me point blank at an AMA Professional Chapters Council (PCC) meeting a couple of years ago. During my three-year PCC term, I got to know very well a great group of nine volunteers, personally and professionally — including Tracy Sullivan, past president of the Austin AMA chapter. At the close of our last meeting the year Tracy served as PCC president, she ceremoniously gave each council member a distinctive gift with a special meaning. Some were serious, some were funny. But each token unquestionably captured the essence of its recipient.
When my time came, Tracy handed me a beautifully wrapped package that I almost didn’t want to tear open. Inside was one of those great beefy-cotton T-shirts, in navy blue, with writing on the front in big white letters: “Why Are We Doing This?”
Around the table everyone nodded, some laughed, and several shouted in agreement. Then in all seriousness and much affection Tracy pronounced, “Cynthia, this is the one phrase I will always think of when I think of you. And I will always be grateful that you were here to keep us on track by continually reminding us to be conscious.”
Moments like these don’t just fly by without a pause to reflect. Later I thought about not only the past three years, but the years before and since. It became clear that one way I show up is “Always Searching.” It really bugs me in any situation to not see the big picture or if something just doesn’t make sense. After all, the big picture provides the context to determine the true value of our marketing efforts, yes?
I find that if we keep asking the question, “Why are we doing this?” — openly and honestly — the answers get better and better. As the answer to each question enlarges the context, our shared purpose can become more meaningful and our actions more precise.
The question continues to work for me. Now when I show up wearing my shirt, usually at the gym, it never fails to spark a conversation. And a conversation is a great place to start a journey to leadership.