Paul Fisher, Director, Lean Growth, took a few moments to reflect on his first few months working at The Garage Group after his years working in Bigcos like P&G, E&J Gallo, and Coty. Read his reflection on finding his why and what it means to be able to help others find theirs.
It’s Friday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio. The low hum of semis cutting the ether, speeding across the Brent Spence bridge echos in The Garage Group office. As they drive commerce, delivering goods North, South, East, and West, The Garage Group helps companies innovate like startups to grow their businesses. We just finished a Lean Concept Development session and I’m getting a brief respite to reflect on my first couple of months here.
Questions like, “What have I learned?” and “Why is work so fun?” dance in my head. The simple answer is, work is fun because it’s meaningful and fits my purpose and values.
“Why?” is a simple question. It evokes many answers. Kids ask it frequently. It’s one of my favorite questions! During a recent round of golf with my dad, I asked him why about five times in a row to understand his thinking on a subject. He said, “What are you? A kid?” Asking why is valuable. When asked enough, it gets you to the core of an issue. Often, I ask “why” even if the answer seems obvious. The reason: answers aren’t always obvious. For any company, big and small alike, asking why they do something and defining why they exist is a must for success. At TGG, we help companies define their why, which is really fun.
Getting to why requires healthy discourse. It requires one to speak up. People have told me I’m bold. This presumably is because I like to speak up and offer my opinion. This isn’t always the case, though. Many times speaking up is difficult for all of us. Fear drives this. Fear of being judged a fool. Fear of being wrong. All sorts of fear keeps many of us from speaking up and engaging in valuable conversations that would drive growth, especially when we get comfortable in our jobs. The past two months, I have helped a couple of companies embrace a growth mindset, embrace fear, and learn to productively discuss how to grow their companies. It’s really cool to see them progress and be at a place that encourages people to embrace fear and express themselves.
Speaking up is easier in the right environment. A strong culture with trusted confidants and comrades empowers you. It empowers you to share, take risks, propose new ways of doing things, and, ultimately, grow. I’ve witnessed the creation of transformational growth opportunities from all parts and levels of companies when they have an empathetic culture. When this doesn’t exist companies struggle. Working at The Garage Group puts this front and center. We are sharers and operate with an open hand. In a few short months, I’ve witnessed our passion for bringing outside perspective in and helping our clients blaze new trails. It’s energizing.
Fear stinks. It can poison wells. Everyone feels fear. What matters most is channeling it into growth by trying new things. I love trying new things. I climbed an 11,000-foot mountain the first month I moved to California. No, it wasn’t on the same level as Everest. It was, however, a half day, several thousand foot climb in the wild Sierra Nevada Mountains. I was afraid. I worried about falling off a cliff, getting mauled by a mountain lion, and even getting lost and starving to death. Nonetheless, my friend Nate was with me. He’s an experienced climber and mountaineer. I trust him. After starting our trek, I feared failure most. Nate encouraged me along the way, but I leaped. This mentality permeates The Garage Group. What I’m finding more interesting working here, though, is how we encourage our clients to embrace new approaches and try new things. Seeing their teams address fear head on helps them grow.
Last, resilience is something I love seeing. Watching people roll with the punches and accomplish goals they’ve set is cool. It can be difficult though. Oftentimes business can be really tough. Quarter after quarter of mediocre results and minor setbacks take their toll. Tests and studies don’t come back the exact way you want. It adds up and can permanently set you back. Equipping our clients with tools and approaches that help them stay resilient is energizing. Many of us have been in our clients shoes and know what it’s like to see business plans stumble. Channeling empathy to help them succeed is energizing. Cheering them on and helping them stay focused on why they are tackling new and different approaches to what seem like the same problems makes work at The Garage Group fulfilling.
The past few months have been extremely educational. I’ve learned new frameworks and approaches to problem-solving. Skills already part of my toolbox have been combined with new skills. Embracing “Lean Startup” thinking, innovation frameworks, and consumer Jobs to be Done is really fun. Combining these new found skills with my love of asking why and trying new things adds spice to life and aligns with who I am.