Three Takeaways from Bill Novelli on Let Go & Lead | Gagen MacDonald

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Three Takeaways from Bill Novelli on Let Go & Lead

Jun 14, 2021

Bill Novelli is the founder of Business for Impact at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He’s always asking, “What’s next?” A master of reinvention, his career has taken him in a number of directions, from his work in impact-focused social marketing to co-founding public relations firm Porter Novelli to serving as CEO of the AARP. Bill’s latest book, Good Business: The Talk, Fight, Win Way to Change the World, challenges all of us to change the world for the better and is a blueprint for tackling today's critical issues.

Below, find three takeaways from Bill’s conversation with Maril on Let Go & Lead, and listen to the full episode here.

1. Young careerists want purpose as well as a paycheck.

As someone who helped create the concept of social marketing, Bill is an early pioneer of personal purpose in the workplace, and a unique authority on the widespread shifts in employee expectations we’re seeing. In today’s business world, after a reflective, tiring year, Bill sees more employees than ever seeking jobs that line up with their personal senses of purpose. And as remote work solidifies as a norm for many businesses, these employees are set to have more leverage to pursue these personal senses of purpose than they’ve ever had. This is particularly true for younger careerists, who see the personal and political realms as far more intermingled than other generations, and who seek to see their personalities and values reflected in the spaces they choose to occupy. But as Bill points out, there are more entrepreneurs over the age of 50 than younger — it would be a mistake to think that this heightened need for purpose will stop with younger generations.

The increased competition for top talent that remote work is fostering does not have to be a bad thing. Companies that fail to convey an employee value proposition beyond material compensation will struggle to retain talent, but on the flipside, companies that manage to clearly articulate and live a sense of purpose that’s bigger than a paycheck will find themselves with larger and more diverse pools of talent than they’ve ever had.

2. It’s never too early to ask what the goal is.

Bill regularly tells people in their 20s to think about what their goal is, and he believes it’s never too early to start considering it. In making decisions about what’s next, it can be easy to overprioritize stability or complacency, or to be tempted by the prospect of change for change’s sake. But just as an organization needs a vision to successfully transform, personal transformation can’t work without intention around where you are in your career, where you want to go and what gives you purpose. Of course, necessity will always be the mother of reinvention to some extent, but to know when change is necessary — and to follow through with it successfully — you can’t just know what isn’t working in the present. You have to also have a vision for what will work in the future for you. Better to start asking soon.

3. Powerful coalitions don’t require unanimous agreement.

In fact, they thrive without it. Bill believes deeply in working across the aisle, and in finding common ground to get things done. In today’s politically charged times, with more topics that bear the potential to cause major in culture than ever before, many businesses are wary of trying to unite large groups of employees along real lines of common purpose. Bill’s experience is a reminder of why it’s still worth trying. In the podcast, he tells of working with cigarette companies to make an impactful social marketing campaign around high blood pressure, and reminds listeners that many of his more socially impactful campaigns came from task forces of “strange bedfellows.” If people are united by self-interest and invested in making the same change, they can get meaningful things done, regardless of the topics on which they disagree.

Listen to Bill’s full conversation with Maril now!

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