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We are always faced with these types of questions: What do I want to do? What should I be doing?

Do you know what you want to do with your life and what you would like to become?
Because personally, I might have a vague idea but not much more, and I believe that most of you are not sure either. University is a step in life where you try to find an orientation, you try to define what you would want to do and who you are as a person. Even once you are part of the working force you will continue questioning yourself and your choices: Is it the right career path for me? What do I want to be doing in five years? However, those questions are always complicated to answer, they demand a certain honesty about yourself and a level of introspection beyond what we are used to in our day-to-day lives. Fortunately for us, we have two brilliant men coming in St. Gallen to help us answer them. Stephen Shedletzky and Matt Whiat are holding a 7-hour long workshop about “Finding and Developing your Own Purpose” on the first day of the IGNITE conference.

Stephen Shedletzky is currently working with the Start With Why project, that aims at building a better business world where people are inspired, feel safe and are fulfilled by their employment.[i] Whilst Matt Whiat is currently working for Barry-Wehmiller, a company with more than $2.4 billions in annual revenue and 11’000 employees across the world. What’s so special about this business is that it has shifted its company culture from a financial orientation to a people-centric focus. They have changed the way they treat their employees using the concept of Truly Human Leadership.


What is Truly Human Leadership? And why is it so important?


The concept consists of two simple questions:  How should companies and leaders take care of their employees and team members in order to bring the best out of them, and what does it mean to care?

 Truly Human Leadership is a leadership style that aims at recognizing, celebrating, trusting and thanking your people, not only for their achievements but also for their efforts and their day-to-day work.[ii]




“Our Idea in leadership […] is to create an environment […] where people can discover their gifts, develop their gifts, share their gifts and be recognized and appreciated for doing so..."    


                                              - Robert Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller

Yes, the idea sounds obvious, but nowadays the vast majority of workers believe that the company they work for doesn’t care about them. In fact, Gallup has collected data which shows that only 13% of employees around the world feel engaged in their respective businesses.[iii]

 This means that most of your colleagues or classmates will one day be part of an organization that doesn’t value them as they should be or doesn’t know how to show it. Returning home after a long day at the office and feeling unappreciated and useless might be one of the worst situations one can find himself in. Especially when you know that we will spend such a big part of our lives at work. Each and every one of us probably has a friend or a family member working in a toxic working environment, and has seen the pain and frustrations it can cause.

Is it really too hard to ask for a workplace where you feel at ease, recognized and empowered? That is what Robert Chapman, Matt Whiat and their teams stand for; they believe that the employees within a company should be cared about and treated like family. [iv]


“Everyone of our team members was brought into this world by some mother and father who hoped the best for this precious young child. […] We as leaders have an obligation […] to continue to allow that life to be everything they were meant to be..”                          

                                                                        - Robert Chapman

The result of this new leadership approach is impressive, not only for the lives and feelings of the thousands of employees but for the company as well. Since 1988, Barry-Wehmiller has been growing by 20% annually on average. Financial stability and success is also important; we do still live in a competitive world where profits are a key indicator of success. In the end, it seems as though caring about your employees makes them care about you as well.


The Barry-Wehmiller University


Now that this concept had shown its results, and want to spread this people-centric company culture, Robert Chapman, with the help of Matt Whiat and others, launched the Barry-Wehmiller University. There, they teach classes such as Communications Skills Training and Leadership Fundamentals. It was originally only conceived for their own employees but the University now seeks to share their ideas to the world and to enable a global change in the way we do business. They believe in building a business world where people are inspired to go to work, where people feel safe in their positions and where people feel fulfilled by what they do. Two of the IGNITE Team members were fortunate to attend one of Barry-Wehmiller workshop in Germany and were completely enthused by what they learned, as well as Barry-Wehmiller’s relentless commitment to creating a truly human-centric organization. Robert Chapman, in collaboration with Raj Sisodia, has also captured their transformation process in the book Everybody Matters, which I highly recommend if you want more insights on what it takes to shift the company culture of such a big company.


Who is Matt Whiat?


Matt Whiat is currently a partner and co-founder of the Barry Wehmiller University. In the past he had worked for more than 20 years in the US Army where he held different leadership positions in the US and abroad such as; serving the United Nations for a peace-keeping mission in Liberia, working with NATO partners in Afghanistan and commanding a basic training squadron.

 Matt first became enlightened about the idea of people-centric leadership after having to escort Simon Sinek into Afghanistan. Simon’s work on leadership and company culture[v] truly inspired him about the place and the role of a leader in this world. Later on, he met Robert Chapman whilst organizing a TEDx event for a military academy, and decided he wanted to join him to build a better business world. And what better was to do so than by teaching people about what ideal leadership should be?




“Time is the currency of leadership, spend it recognizing and celebrating your people for the achievements, for the effort and for the example that they are being..”                                                                                                                                   - Matt Whiat

Matt’s idea about leadership really revolves around family. He thinks that there is no reason to care about your employees in a different manner than you care for your loved ones. We should be proud not only for their success but also for their efforts and we should support them through their failures. I don’t know about you, but that’s one way I would like to be treated at work. Try to think about your past working experiences, do you believe that your boss truly cared about you? And if not how would it have affected your work knowing he did? In my opinion, this type of attitude boosts motivation; feeling that your work is appreciated and useful makes it so much easier to spend time doing it.

The Workshop

On the 16th of November, Matt and Stephen will be in charge of a 7-hour long workshop aimed at finding and developing our own purposes. It might seem like a long time, but trust me, for such an important task we will need all of the time we can get.

In their careers, everyone knows What they do and most know How they do it different or better than others. Very few people and organizations, however, can clearly articulate Why they do what they do. When we clearly understand our own Why - our purpose, cause or belief - we can gain a greater sense of meaning in our work and play, contributing who we are at our very best. And when we are at our best, doing work that matters to us, the natural result is greater fulfillment. This is not only good for us, but contributes to the vision and the long-term progress of the organizations and communities with which we are a part of.

In this workshop, participants will:

  • Gain advanced knowledge of the Golden Circle - a concept popularized by Simon Sinek

  • Work in partnership with their peers to help one another discover and articulate their Why

  • Learn what makes a simple, inspiring Why and write their first draft

  • Explore some simple ideas to begin putting their Why into action

  • Understand the meaning and implications of living one’s career and life from their Why

  • Learn how to support one another in bringing our Whys to life

We all have a purpose in this life—let’s put some words around it.  Doing so gives you the opportunity to make choices in line with what you believe and are passionate about, regardless of your profession or position



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