Our lives are a journey to an ultimate destination with many impactful stops along the way. From time to time, we meet people on our journey who help us become who we were created to be.
I have always wanted to be a teacher, not for the summers off, and certainly not for the pay, but for the impact. At the early age of 5, my parents divorced, I went to live with my grandparents, and attended a private school. As my parents were figuring out their individual journeys, I found myself being influenced by my grandparents and by my teachers. The way that I viewed my teachers, and the role they played in my life, had a significant impact on who I was becoming. I knew then that this was the impact I wanted to have on others as I grew up. I wanted to become a teacher so that I can play a small role in helping others become who they were created to be.
While finishing my bachelor’s decree in secondary education, and working at Costco in marketing to put myself through college, I was presented with a challenging decision. It turned out that I had a natural ability to educate and influence not only our customers, but my co-workers. Costco gave me an opportunity to become their marketing manager at the young age of 21, which came with a salary that paid much more than a teacher, and travel perks. As a song says, “So many times it happens so fast, you trade your passion for glory.” And so I did. I parked my teaching career and entered the corporate world. I would spend the next 15 years climbing the corporate ladder of leadership with Costco, Macys, and CVS Health working in marketing, operations, and eventually human resources. It was in HR that I discovered an immense love for people, and yet another opportunity to help them become who they were created to be. It was here where I also discovered purpose.
We often ask the question “What do I love to do?,” but how often do we ask the question, “What am I good at?” Over the seven years I served in leadership at CVS Health, I would ask this question often to those around me, “What is it that you think you are good at?” My mind would race to ask more questions that identify where this person could best serve in the organization, and how they could better drive their performance by harnessing their talents and abilities. During these years I rapidly digested everything there was available in this space, StrengthsFinder (Clifton/Buckingham), DiSC (Wiley), Situational Leadership (Blanchard), etc... using all that I learned to help others become who they were created to be in every possible interaction. I was often reminded by two of my leaders whom challenged me because they always saw the best in me, Steven Watkins and Kenneth Gregory, that my most proficient competencies were engaging, inspiring, and influencing people. For those of you familiar with Markus Buckingham, his work revealed that others most see me as a teacher and a stimulator. Turns out I became a teacher after all. The question now was, to whom and what?
Whom was I meant to teach, and what was I supposed to teach them? I felt strongly that the “whom” were leaders who had a passion for people and a hunger for purpose, and the “what” were my insights from the diverse experience and the library of knowledge I had digested over the last 15 years in the corporate world. So in May 2016, I decided to take a leap and I called a dear a friend of mine, Brad Seitzinger, who for years prior had seen something in me that I had not seen in myself. We met for lunch and I shared with him that I was leaving my corporate career, that I was going to live off of stock options for a few years, and do some writing, coaching, and speaking. I laid out my plan, that I wanted to work with organizations who were passionate about their purpose and their people, and pour all that I had in me into them to help them become who they were created to be. If you ever have an opportunity to meet Brad, you will quickly learn that he listens with an uncanny level of depth, while thinking, and note-taking all at the same time. After what I’m sure seemed like an eternity of me talking and him writing vigorously all over our paper tablecloth, He looked up, and said “Davin, I think you should come here. You will find the culture you are seeking, and the opportunities you will have to help others will be endless.” And he was right.
Brad gave me a tremendous opportunity and introduced me to an incredible organization. While I had been a client of Northwestern Mutual for 10 years, I never truly knew or appreciated what happened behind closed doors, and my words here will not do justice. Behind these doors are people who have a level of commitment to see the lives they serve protected and provided for in ways unparalleled in their industry. They live to help others spend their lives living. They know their purpose, they lead with purpose, and they invest in their people to help them achieve their purpose.
Brad and I met often, and each time we met he made me a better listener, and a better coach. During one of our senior leadership sessions, which we called “Capstone,” I gave a presentation on “How to speak with influence” and another lightbulb went off. I knew in that moment that I wanted to continue to grow myself as a coach and a speaker, and then pay it forward by helping to develop other coaches and speakers. I wanted to create a ripple effect of influence. It was out of this moment PurposePoint was born. I wanted to create an entity the focused on helping individuals and organizations become who they were created to be, to help them fulfill their purpose.
While my time with NM has come to an end and my journey moves forward to focus fully on the mission of PurposePoint, a piece of NM will always remain in me as my time there showed me what it truly means to lead with purpose. On some level, I’m sure Brad always new that my time dedicated to NM would not last forever, yet he invested in me all the same. He chose as a leader to help me become who he saw that I could become, not because he was looking for ROI or retention, but because that’s what leaders do. I will always be grateful to NM for giving me my start in this arena, and for Brad, who’s focus was always on helping me to become who I was created to be.
“Who are we helping our people become?” This is the most powerful question every leader and every organization should be asking. If you are not, you will soon be asking, “Where are our people?”
As it was once overheard in this conversation:
CFO: “What if we invest in our people and they leave?”CEO: “What if we don’t and they stay?”
Sure they may leave if you in fact help them become who they were created to be; many to eventually become leaders or CEO’s of other organizations. But one thing is for certain: You won’t have to ask where they are because they will likely be shining the spotlight on you.
(Dedicated to Brad P. Seitzinger, Managing Partner | Northwestern Mutual)
Written by: Davin Salvagno