What is your life’s purpose?
My life’s purpose is to self-actualize (find and release my own true voice) and to create a corporate work culture that helps others do the same.
How are you living your purpose?
I am trying to live my purpose by staying intentional every day. We must be the change we wish to see and therefore we must first focus inward on ourselves. Beyond that I am working to create an “employee centric company” at Hancock Lumber, where the first priority of the corporation is the people who work there. Work should be meaningful in more than just economic ways for the people who do it but nationally only a third of all workers will describe their work experience as “inspiring” or “engaging.”
At our company, we have made the employee experience our top corporate priority. My goal as CEO is to disperse power, share leadership broadly, and strengthen the voices of others. I believe work can become an exceptional place for adults to self-actualize. As a result, our engagement scores are close to ninety percent, meaning that nearly nine in ten employees at Hancock Lumber self-describe themselves as engaged by their work.
Finally, through my book writing, blog posts, and public speaking activities, I am trying to spread the message that a new leadership model based on dispersed power is the optimal approach to deepening human engagement and building world class organizations in the 21st Century. This was the inspiration for my latest book, The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership.
How did you find your purpose?
Well, I never saw it coming – that’s for sure. Our company, Hancock Lumber, was established in 1848 and I am the 6th Generation of my family to serve as CEO. In 2010, at the peak of the national housing and mortgage market collapse, I acquired a rare neurological voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia which made speaking difficult. Suddenly, I had to figure out how to lead while speaking less.
Then, in 2012, I serendipitously began traveling to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota – a place I have now been over 20 times. Pine Ridge is the poorest, most isolated, and traditionally disenfranchised of all the Sioux reservations on the Northern Plains. At Pine Ridge, I met an entire community of people who felt like a piece of their true voice had been taken or stolen.
These two events created five personal learnings.
o First, through my own voice disorder, I understood what it was like to not feel fully heard.
o Second, through my time at Pine Ridge, I realized that there were lots of ways for humans to lose their voice in this world.
o Third, I began contemplating the very purpose of a human life on earth and concluded that it was to self-actualize. We are all here on earth trying to find our own true voice – to live it authentically and share it with the world. Each voice is a never-to-be-repeated gift to the collective consciousness of humanity.
o Fourth – unfortunately – across time, leaders of established organizations have done more to limit, restrict, and manipulate the voices of others than to liberate them.
o Finally, it then occurred to me that the partial loss of my own voice (which I had only previously thought of as a liability) was actually a blessing, a calling, and an invitation to lead differently in a way that strengthened the voices of others. Additionally, at Hancock Lumber, I had the opportunity to not just contemplate a new leadership model but to actually deploy one. That’s when I got really excited about dispersing power, sharing leadership, and strengthening the voices of others.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
The biggest step in finding is seeking. If you seek with intention, you shall find. But this requires transcending the external noise of a busy world and realizing the path to growth lies within. Also, it comes in small pieces and we must be patient and brave enough to follow a path that we can’t fully see.
I recommend following your voice. I believe our future bumps into us all the time but we are often too busy or focused on an overly scripted plan to notice and adjust.
For example, in August of 2012 ,I picked up a copy of National Geographic magazine and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was on the cover. I read that article and was so taken by that community’s story that I planned a solo trip there. One trip turned into over twenty visits, two books, a new set of friends, a new culture to appreciate, and a brand new leadership paradigm. All of this happened because I was willing to take a risk and follow something small that spoke to me.
Staying in our lanes is really poor advice. We all need to create time and space for that which calls to us. Being selfish is selfless. When we do what makes us light up , that’s when we give the most back to the world.
Connect with Kevin Hancock
Contact form: https://kevindhancock.com/contact
The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership
Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse
Kevin Hancock is the author of The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership. The CEO of Hancock Lumber Company, one of the oldest and best known family businesses in America, he is a recipient of the Ed Muskie Access to Justice award, the Habitat for Humanity Spirit of Humanity award, the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen award, and the Timber Processing Magazine Person of the Year award. Kevin’s first book, Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse, was the recipient of The National Indie Excellence Award and the Independent Author Network Book of the Year Award.