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Embrace your calling

December 10, 2014 / by Alvin Ung

One Friday afternoon I experienced a usual yet unusual meeting as I met Nur Hamurcu; managing partner of &samhoud Asia, an international consulting firm specializing in change management, for a leisurely lunch. We hit it off. Subsequently, Nur suggested that I meet for three hours with his team of consultants at their office.

“Why are we doing this?” I asked. “So that we can share our stories and connect with one another”, Nur replied. Intrigued, I said yes.

When I arrived at their 41st floor office at the Intermark on a late Thursday morning, the air crackled with intensity. The &samhoud consultants were debating a session flow for a conference in Singapore. Paper printouts were strewn across the table. A ton of work came crashing in overnight, Nur explained. I expected him to cancel or cut short our meeting, which seemed low in priority compared to the urgent tasks at hand. Instead, Nur pulled in another senior consultant and led us into an adjoining room. After closing the door, we began by talking about the state of leadership in companies and Malaysia. We talked about the leaders who inspire us. We took notes as each person shared his personal values and audacious goals.

“In our company, we have a higher purpose. Together, we build a brighter future. And we aim to achieve breakthroughs by inspiring and connecting people.” Nur said. “That higher purpose gives us clear direction on our day-to-day work. Our higher goals is crucial to our daily business, how we run our organization, how we help people, how we transform organizations and how we give back to society.” We reflected on how greater leaders say “Yes” to their calling, even when the path ahead is uncharted.

When the meeting ended, I was stunned to see that we had met for four hours. What an unusual meeting! Outwardly, it looked so usual – three guys in office attire in a conference room. But when was the last time you invested three hours of your time to share about philosophy of leadership, your calling in life, and how you can work together to create greater good in Malaysia? And would you do this on a day when things are crazy?
Well, the amazing thing is that &samhoud has translated its organizational vision into business results. Along the way, it won “The Employer of the Year Award” in Europe in and the #1 Great Place to Work in Europe in 2010. The company simply does this by encouraging its 150 employees to develop and realise their own personal vision.

My singular encounter with the Asian team of &samhoud convinces me once again that you cannot achieve extraordinary results in an ordinary manner. The ordinary way is to focus on your career, elbow around for promotions and devise a 10-year plan headed for the CEO’s office. But the great leaders Interviewed for my book Barefoot Leadership, do not plan their lives in that way. Instead, they described their work as a “calling”.

We find a few fine examples here in Malaysia. Ex-principal Phua Seng Tiong, who successfully revamped two bottom-ranked secondary schools, said she was “called” to the teaching profession. Paul Sinnappan, a micro-finance guru, heard the call” to serve the poor in rural Selangor and he successfully built a team that inspired 200,000 people to save RM60 million. Hartini Zeinuddin said she was “called” to reach out hundreds of street children in the Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur.

Embracing your calling or higher purpose is not merely for community or religious leaders. The most talented young men and women in the world today are seeking after significance in their corporate jobs. Susan Peters an, GE’s vice-president of executive development and chief learning officer writes: “Tomorrow’s leaders want more than a career – they want a calling. They want to do things that matter, and they’re passionate about making a difference on the job and in their communities.”  When we embrace our calling, we work with wholehearted passion that’s not just driven by organizational KPI’s. We tap on our most deeply held values. We choose to look beyond ourselves and serve the greater good.Discovering our calling in an authentic manner requires reflection, action and time. It doesn’t happen overnight. At least that’s the way for most of us. We’re stil looking. And that’s a good thing.

Barefoot Leaders – the ordinary Malaysians I met when I researched my books – stand for something beyond the profit motive. They design products or serve causes that create greater good. They make it possible for their followers to find meaning from their work, and to feel great for the companies they work for.
Ultimately, the decision to embrace our calling requires love, courage and sacrifice. “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” says award-wining author Frederick Buechner.

Alvin Ung is a facilitator, coach and author of the bestselling Barefoot Leadership.

Do you want to know more on how &samhoud is stimulating colleagues to find, formulate and, most importanty, live their ‘calling’? Learn more about &samhoud’s approach to personal vision or get inspired by stories of our personal development projects with clients and in society. 

 This posts consists of excerpts from “Embrace your calling”, as published in THE EDGE MALAYSIA (March 5, 2012).



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