Updated: Apr 22, 2020
"Dig deep! Power up that core! This is all about core strength!"
Maybe you, like me, have an imaginary coach in your head, yelling these words as you eek out one more sit-up on the yoga mat in the living room. These days, I'm thinking a lot about the Core, but not the kind that gets stronger with sit ups.
I'm thinking about a Core Strength that is a personal center, a spiritual foundation. The deep strength that, when aligned, has the power to stabilize in times of great change and uncertainty.
And I'm trying to power it up for my business.
"Right now - and in any time - it's critical for business leaders to lead from their core," says Glen Dall, Apex North CEO. Not only does this mean that those at the head of the company must set their own fundamentals as leaders, it challenges them to define the core of their company, extending outward from there.
Core Purpose: Why You Do What You Do Business leaders have always led in challenging times. And throughout time, every downturn or crisis has led to innovation and opportunity unthinkable before that moment. Think of the infrastructure which arose from the Great Depression - roads, bridges, National Parks. In unstable times, we can't change our Core Purpose. In fact, it must become even stronger, burn even brighter, to light the path to opportunity.
"When I was a CEO and times got tough, I needed someone I could turn to, trust, and who could serve as a mentor. A person like that would have been invaluable to me," Glen reflects,
"And now to be that person for CEOs, business leaders, entrepreneurs who need it, is incredibly rewarding. It's why I get up and work every day. It was my core purpose when I started Apex North two years ago, and it's the same today."
Core Values: How Will We Act? In normal times, living out the answers to the question 'how will we behave?' carves out the culture of your company. It unites teams with trust, accountability, and strong communication.
In times of struggle and uncertainty, these continue to be the sails of your ship, just as they are when your company has the winds at its back. On the course charted by your Purpose, a set of strong and actionable Core Values pulls you through with clarity and alignment.
One Apex North client, whose core values include emphasis on daily ingenuity and authority in their field, filled out a SWOT chart in a session recently. Unsurprisingly, those Core Values showed up under Strengths, as a quality the team already possesses that will help them to survive (and even thrive) in this new and uncertain environment. At the end of that day's session, members of the leadership team commented that they felt "hopeful," and had a "better understanding" of the quarter ahead.
Core Vision: Where Are We Going? Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Apex North client sessions have all started with the same question, posed to each leader of the leadership team: "one year from now, how do you want to be remembered?" More than an icebreaker, it invites the team to a collective long-term vision. In every session, the answers seem to emanate from the same core desires: Calm. Confidence. Empathy. Help.
With this vision in mind, the teams then revisit the core fundamentals set forth in their very first sessions. Why do they do what they do? What are their core values? What's the long term vision? As the answers to each of these questions is read aloud from the One Page Plan, virtual heads nod, thumbs-ups flash, even an errant 'clap' emoji might appear: the team is as united around these core fundamentals as they were a year ago or more. The Core Vision (or, as Glen calls it, North Star) still shines bright.
"I like that metaphor of the North Star, because it's always there," Glen tells his clients, "this is a difficult storm we're going through, but when it calms down and the clouds peel back, we'll see the stars again. We'll re-orient to our North Star, and we'll likely find that it's still the place we want to end up."
"The 'how' we get there will certainly change, because our economy and daily behavior is changing, but at the end of the day, everyone still wants to get to that place. It's incredibly motivating."
Leading from The Core means, at the end of the day, trusting the strong base you have chosen for your company. With these fundamentals present and strong, you cannot fail unless you choose to.
And unlike ab workouts in your living room, defining the Core of your business isn't something you have to do alone, or be your own coach for. There are plenty of resources to help you along the way. Reach out if you need help getting started - the sooner you do, the stronger you'll be in the face of uncertainty.
The more you strengthen these Core Fundamentals, the more you can move forward with calm, confidence, balance, agility, and strength.