People First! Alaina Love, "What's Your Passion & Purpose?"

Morag and Alaina Love ask the question, "What's Your Passion & Purpose?"

Welcome to SkyeTeam's People First! In this series, we explore the people side of successful business and careers. We all have a story to share, a leadership journey that we are experiencing.

We'll be interviewing authors, business leaders, thought leaders, and people like you to uncover the latest ideas, resources, and tools to help you become more effective at work - and in life. As it turns out, the secret is cultivating winning relationships. Business is personal, and relationships matter!

So, sit back, and grab a coffee as Morag and Alaina Love ask the question, "What's Your Passion & Purpose?"

Chapter Layout:
0:00 - Open
1:23 - What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?
2:09 - What flavor of Doctor?
6:21 - Navigation
10:25 - Ramifications
12:17 - Passion & Purpose
15:25 - This Isn't Everything
17:40 - Archetypes
21:12 - Fix Me
22:40 - Living Your Passion
24:48 - Inclusion
29:38 - Leading You
31:05 - Final Thoughts & Wrap


- [INTRO] Welcome to Skye Team's People First with Morag Barrett.

- So welcome to the latest episode of People First, where we explore the leadership journey that has brought our guest from where she was to where she is and we'll take you to where she's going. And my guest this week is Alaina Love who is the CEO of Purpose Linked Consulting and the co-author of the Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results. Alaina describes herself as a recovering HR executive, an executive coach, a global speaker and a leadership expert. And she's passionate about everything, well everything to do with passion. And her passion archetypes, and we'll learn more about archetypes, are builder, transformer and healer which is most apt. And I'm also honored to call Alaina a friend and a fellow member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. So Alaina, welcome to People First.

- Thank you so much. It's such a pleasure to be with you today.

- This is going to be such an interesting conversation because your journey has been windy and windier than many. But as with every episode, I always start with the origin story. So when you flash back to when you were a young girl, you're in elementary school, the teacher comes up and says, Alaina, what do you want to be when you grow up? What was your answer?

- I wanted to be a doctor. That was my answer. I remember in grade school, reading this book about Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman doctor. And just falling in love with her story. And since I've read, someone's written another book about her and her life and how her journey came to be. But I remember reading about it and thinking to myself, I want to be that, I can do that. And so that's where I began my journey and it's sort of stayed on a path of healing, but not in quite the way I expected when I was seven years old.

- Okay so medicine and being a doctor, that's a broad spectrum in and of itself. So what flavor of doctor did you want to be and what flavor of doctor do you end up being at the beginning of your career?

- You know, it's really interesting. I ended up studying medical technology originally, when in my undergraduate studies which is a field that basically has you doing all of the research studies on a patient when a patient comes into a hospital, the laboratory studies, clinical chemistry hematology, microbiology, that sort of thing. And that was great preparation. It led me to getting into Tufts University School of Medicine up in Boston. And I went to med school there. And while I was in school, my initial thoughts were I think I really like hematology cause I loved solving problems. I didn't know whether I wanted to do that, oncology, forensics but it was sort of all that investigative, you know interesting forms of medicine for me that were, I thought fascinating. And I thought, you know I'm not quite sure what this is going to turn out to be but I'm just going to going to go on this ride and explore all of these fields of medicine as I'm a student and start to figure it out. But I knew that I deeply loved the connection with patients. So it was going to have to be a field where I felt like I had daily close patient interaction and it wasn't just, it was definitely for me, it wasn't surgery. I wasn't going be a body and fender person, go in and fix something and I'm done. I needed a longer-term connection. But during my first year of medical school, my sister passed away. And that happened in the spring of my first year. And I came home from medical school that summer. And the day after I got home from medical school, my mother died. So I ended up with these two enormous losses in the span of four months. And my mother had a business a garment manufacturing business. She owned a factory. She was making men's coats and jackets and had started off as a sewing machine operator. That's what she did to put me through school, you know, as a kid, to put food on the table. And eventually she ended up partnering with the person who owned the business and then bought him out and owned it herself. So I woke up one day with the loss of my sister and mother, a mortgage to pay, 50 employees all of whom were looking at me, wondering if they were going to have a next paycheck coming and a decision to make about what I was going to do. So I took a leave of absence from medical school to run this business. About which I knew absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing. I wasn't even allowed to have a summer job working for my mom at the factory. She used to tell me it was no place for a lady and I was not allowed to work there. Boy was she right, I learned. But the important part of that experience was that out of that tragedy, I learned that there was something other than science that I was good at. And that, and I learned that I was very interested in business. Because when you have a business like that every mistake you make, you see at the end of the week in your payroll and your income. And so you learn very quickly how to navigate what can be some pretty choppy waters in a business with very, very tight margins.

- Wow, so science, business, and the human element, I mean you talked about the clinical, the patient connection but now here you are literally in the deep end, you are now obviously early twenties but I would imagine your 15 workers span the generations. They're all looking to you for answers. How do you navigate that pressure, the grief, the desire to keep your mother's legacy going? No doubt if you're anything like me, the self-doubt imposter syndrome, how do you navigate all of that, Alaina?

- You know, I think that there was so many changes happening for me at the same time that I didn't have a lot of time to worry about imposter syndrome. I knew I didn't know what I was doing. So there was absolutely no concern that I was fooling anybody. I knew that I had a lot to learn. And the first thing I did was hire someone who knew the business to help me in the beginning of the process, to help me understand how to run the floor, how to run the business, et cetera. And I learned everything I could learn as quickly as possible from that individual so that I could run it myself. I, with respect to the grief, it took me a long time to process that. I mean, it was months and months and months after my mother died, where I really feel like I finally let myself feel that grief. And then it oozed out over some years after that, you know you're just so busy trying to figure out how to stay alive. You know, I was what I call on a high wire, no net and trying to carefully make it to the other side without crashing and burning. So, but at the same time it was, it was just an amazing period in a lot of ways. There was so much to learn. It was just every day, something new, something different that I had to figure out about what I was doing, about myself, about other people that there was a degree of fascination with all of that as well as fear as it was happening. But, you know, I just didn't have time to wallow in a concern about what I'd lost or what I didn't have or what I couldn't figure out. I was too busy trying to figure out that how am I going to support this bad habit I had with three meals a day. I got to sort that out. And so I, you know, I ran that business until I could find a buyer and that took a few years and then sold the business and then had this tough decision to make, do I go back to med school or do I stay at home in an environment where I felt like I had some foundation? Cause everything felt pretty rocky after those two deaths in my family. And so I chose to stay home and I ended up applying for a research position at Merck pharmaceutical company. So I started there as a research scientist in the field of immunology. And began initially studies that were on compounds designed to modulate immune responses in diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. And I was responsible for setting up a research assay in mice. That was meant to mimic a delayed hypersensitivity reaction in the human body. So, you know, how people respond to and produce antibody responses to certain compounds. And so I learned how to do that somehow. And by the way, I should say, I was deathly afraid of mice and I was doing a mouse assay. It's like completely One of those people would a mouse ran across the floor I would stand on a chair and like somebody do something there's a mouse, right?

- So are you still afraid of mice?

- Not anymore, I had to get over it. And I remember having that conversation with myself during one day. I'm in the animal room and I've got to set this experiment up and I have all these mice and I'm thinking to myself, you better get over this because you need to eat and you need a pay check. So you've learned.

- So I'm curious, that expertise as a research scientist and understanding immunology and, and, and. When you overlay that with what's happening globally in 2020 and 2021, does that help you to have more confidence or does it help you to be slightly more afraid maybe because you understand the ramifications of viruses and how, help me understand?

- Well, you know, it's interesting. My first reaction if you remember back in early 2020 they were saying things to us like you don't need a mask. And every hair on the back of my neck stood up when I heard that. I thought to myself, "Oh yes, we do. We need masks. We need to stay apart." You know, keep our distance from other people, et cetera. We need to wash hands. We need to wipe down surfaces because we didn't know anything about the virus at that time. Really we knew very little in terms of its transit, how it transmitted. And you remember back when everybody was afraid of cardboard boxes, you remember that time? So we've gone through a lot of learning about this. And so I think it helped me to understand it more and to be more cautious and to recognize that there's a lot we don't know, and a lot more to be discovered. And I still believe that's true. We're seeing all of these variants which is what viruses do. It does what viruses do, their job is to figure out how to survive so they can continue to infect and reproduce. So if viruses killed off all of their hosts, they wouldn't be around very long. So they've got to figure out how to survive.

- So it's interesting. Because if I take, cause I'm not a scientist, but if I take that virus analogy, it has crossed my mind in the past that we as humans are a virus. And I've certainly been reading, emotions are contagious much like a virus. So when we start bringing that back to again, I mean there are so many layers we could unpack, and we only have a short conversation. We going to have to have come back for another one. But I'm thinking about your work now around the idea of passion and purpose in the workplace. What was the inspiration behind that and how do we help leaders to create a passion and purpose that's infectious for good. Cause we've certainly seen passionate purpose that is infectious for not so good.

- Exactly, we have.

- Unpick that question in any way you wish.

- Well, it's interesting. My journey to this work was really a personal one. It was going to work for a large company like Merck thinking that I was going to be there forever. I loved the company. I loved the people that I worked with. I loved the things I got to work on. And it was interesting to me and exciting to me until it wasn't. And I made various shifts in my career which was the beauty of working in an organization like that. And when I looked back at all of the shifts I've made, many of which left people scratching their heads. Like how does a research scientist move into human resources for example, when I discovered the work that I'm doing now it all made sense. Absolutely all made sense. And so I made these jumps around and crazy transitions but there was a constant theme with it when I looked back on it now. I always loved work where I was transforming something. I always loved work where I was building something new. And I always loved work that had an element of healing associated with it, where I would work with a dysfunctional team or group of people and I would be figuring out how do we get these folks working together effectively, understanding themselves and respecting each other and really doing what needed to be done in order to advance the business in a positive, as positive way as possible. And so my decision to really pursue this work came from a meeting that I had with my boss who was giving me a performance appraisal. And he told me I was in the succession plan to replace him. And he was reporting to the CEO. And so that was pretty heady experience. I was the only woman in that function in the HR function ever to have reached that level. And I was the only person of color. So I felt like I had a lot of people counting on me to be successful so that they could follow in my footsteps. But I made the decision after him sharing that information with me and me not feeling ecstatic about it. I made the decision that I didn't want the job. That while I thought I had been working all those years for it, it wasn't what I wanted. And that there seemed to be a waning disconnect between what I thought my purpose was and what I thought my passions might be and what I was being required to do every day in my role. So I made a decision to leave and, you know and to reduce my annual income by 100% overnight. Do not try this at home.

- I tried that one too, 14 years later Skye Team is still thriving, but I feel you, because that takes courage and vulnerability to your point, we're on a career track. I was the same in banking. My first one, keep your nose clean, work hard, and I had a career for life. But something inside was saying, no, this isn't everything.

- Exactly, and that's what I felt. And after I left, I thought to myself, okay, if the organization could lose someone like me, someone who thought I was a lifer, that you'd carry me out of there in a box, who else were we missing? And as HR professionals, what weren't we doing that we needed to be doing to keep people fully engaged and fully connected and feeling like their work was an extension of who they are rather than just an economic means to an end. And so that really set me off on a journey to doing a lot of exploration and a lot of research of my own. I took my research nerd hat back out again. And I started doing studies, looking at people who were high potential in their organizations, people who were deemed to be folks that were going to be potential C-suite candidates. And I wanted to understand what would it take for you to stay? What are the experiences you need to feel fulfilled here in this role and in this organization. And I found as I was doing these interviews over and over again, I kept seeing these patterns of passion showing up repeatedly. And then I realized, you dummy you've been looking at these passions, all your career. You've looked at showing themselves to you and the leaders and teams that you've worked with throughout your career. You just didn't know what you were looking at. So I began to codify those.

- Yes, well, I find it fascinating because one of my previous guests Sarahbeth Berk has written a book called More Than Your Title. And she talks about hybridization in careers. And of course tends to get labeled with the job title we have right now, leadership development expert. And we lose sight of no 15 years of commercial finance. I understand what it takes to run a business. And in your case, you're the ultimate in my mind archetype of this hybridization, because it's the medicine, it's the business, it's the research, it's the scientists it's the human resources all coming together into this epiphany of the 10 passion profiles that you've identified that can help us all to identify where might we thrive.

- Exactly.

- Tell us a little bit about these archetypes. We listed your three, not necessarily all 10, but your favorite and what your research showed.

- Well, as I was saying, the research really identified that there are 10 archetypes operating in all us. We all have all 10, will just quickly tell you they are creator, conceiver, discoverer, processor, teacher, connector, altruist, healer, transformer and builder. Those are the 10. The trick is really understanding what your top three are, because if you understand that then you understand the strengths you're likely to have, maybe even the vulnerabilities you might be more subject to because you have particular passions and you really have a sight line to these situations and environments in which you're most likely to thrive. Which helps eliminate a whole lot of other stuff that you can be stumbling around through trying to figure it out. And so the work is really meant to be. The instrument is really meant to be, a tool that helps people get a deeper understanding of themselves at their core, because these passions that we're actually measuring through this tool that we've created called the Passion Profiler. Those passions are actually an outward expression of the deeper purpose that drives you. Passion and purpose are connected. They're not separate entities. And so most of us spend our entire lives trying to figure out what our purpose is. We think we come into the world with one and we spend our entire lives trying to sort out what does that purpose statement look like in 25 words or less, please make it articulate. And we struggle with that. Most of us do. But if we understand our passions, we have a sight line to what that purpose might be. And we also have a deeper appreciation for the fact that you're not here for one purpose. You will be manifesting that purpose in myriad ways throughout your lifetime and your passions are just the vehicle through which you will do that.

- So if our purposes evolve, do our passions and our top three change based on life stage, what we're doing or those...

- Those are consistent. What we found through our research is that you tend to keep your top three. Whether or not which position in the top of the cluster, they occupied can shift. So something that was number one could be number three at a different point in your life. But you tend to hold your top three archetypes. What I'm saying by saying your passion isn't one thing, by that, I mean the ways in which you'll express, it will be different. I as I look at my top three archetypes, I know that healer is really in charge for me. I'm a builder, transformer, healer but healers totally in charge. And so let's look at that for a second. If I look at how I've been a healer, I started out as a medical technologist. I then went into medicine, studying to be a doctor. I then came into research in a pharmaceutical business trying to find cures for diseases, that's healing. Then I made the shift into HR. People said, no, that has nothing to do with healing, but that's not true. It did, it had everything to do with healing. Healing dysfunctional organizations, dysfunctional teams, et cetera. So that was healing work again. As I've transferred my focus into the work that I'm doing now in my practice as a leadership expert and a coach, I'm doing exactly the same thing. It's healing work, all of this work, the creation of this tool, everything has been about healing.

- So in your work as a leadership development expert and a coach, I am guessing that you are regularly asked, well, first can you help fix me? And in being broken, is there a wrong answer as to which of the 10 archetypes are important? So again, a multi-part question. For which I don't apologize.

- Let me answer the second part first and hopefully that'll get us to the first part. There is no wrong passion to have. They're your passions. And the most important thing to do is own them. And stop looking at the things that you feel like you score low in and thinking that you have to fix them because it's equivalent to trying to change your eye color. You can put contact lenses in but your eye color is going to be the same when you take them out. It's what you're born with and your passions are what you're born with. So the objective here is to celebrate them and to figure out what are the ways I can express them both in my personal life and in my professional life so that I have this constant level of fulfillment that I'm getting out of each and every day. And so I really do look at it that way. And the can you fix me part, you know I don't know that I look at people as broken. I look at people as being on the journey that they're on. And as they're making this journey sometimes we hit some stumbling blocks. Sometimes we hit some learning opportunities and we try to sort our way through that and benefit from it so that we can evolve as we're progressing through this thing we call life. So I feel like my job in my role as a coach with anyone is to really hold a mirror up and to help them celebrate the best that they can be.

- So how do I, this may be an obvious question. How would I know if I am not living? And I include in that home, work, how do I know if I'm not living my purpose and passions?

- Well, the first thing to understand is what your passions are. And so the passion profiler tool is a way of doing that, understanding that. Now, when we implement this tool at a professional level, we also include with it an analysis of the degree to which you are operating at work with the passions that you actually have, or not, maybe you're using other styles that are different from your own. So you get a pretty obvious data-based answer to that question of am I using these at work? The more you come to understand your passions and the more you come to own them as your own, the more you also recognize am I actually expressing these in my personal relationships outside of work. And what's interesting is, the more you understand what your passions are, the harder it becomes not to express them in those relationships that are personal relationships outside of work. Because you just start to own who you are. And it gets much more uncomfortable to try to assume a different costume that's not the one that really your true skin.

- Well, that's now got me thinking. So now I understand my passions. Maybe I know yours but maybe I just recognize that your passions are different. Is there a way, I mean, we've had so many social justice issues thankfully coming forefront in the news, how does this work then help practicing inclusion and bringing us together versus just labeling and creating more of a divide?

- Well, you know, the beautiful part about this work especially when I do it with teams is that people start to appreciate that, first of all, I can celebrate my passions. And even though they're different from yours, I still feel celebratory. I don't feel like I have to conform to something I'm supposed to be, but I really am not. And secondly, I can appreciate that your passions offer you a different perspective that I don't have. And so if we're working together as a team and I asked you to come and take a look at this project that we're working on and tell me what you think about it. You might come and look at that normally and look at it from a perspective of your skillset or your functional area of responsibility. You put your marketing hat on. My marketing hat says I'm going to look at this in particular way. Or my finance hat says I'm going to look at this in particular way. But then if I say to you, great, glad you did that part. Now you have a processor passion, and a conceiver passion. I don't have those. Put your conceiver hat on for a second. Look at what we're doing here and tell me what you see. It's like you just put on a set of eyeglasses that nobody else has. And you look at that issue and you start thinking of it from a conceiver's perspective, have we really asked the right question here? Are we thinking enough outside of the box? Are we coloring outside of the lines as much as we should here? Have we really thought about all of the possibilities? Have we played in the space of ideas and what if's? That's going to cause you to start looking at what we've created and start asking questions hard questions, pushing back, challenging playing devil's advocate. And I need that if I want to create the best outcome, right? And if I don't have that natural tendency myself and you bring it to the party, you force me in a positive way to thinking beyond the obvious and to coming up with a better solution than I would have otherwise.

- It's exciting as I listened to you, cause it's exhilarating to be on a team where A) I can play to my strengths and thrive and be the authentic me living to my passions and purpose. But when we bring them together, that one plus one equals three, we get an exponential benefit in terms of what we're creating and the ripple effect that we can have.

- Absolutely, back to the the issues that are have been going on in the world now especially social justice oriented issues. What has become so interesting is that this body of work has begun to morph now. I've done a lot of work with leaders and teams and have those teams really appreciate that someone with a different set of passions is going to look at your business issue differently than you are. And they're going to add value to the work that you're doing so that you come up with better outcomes. People love that, because it's see, it's happening right in front of them. So what's interesting is when you start asking teams, look you've got five of the 10 archetypes among the people on your team. That's great. Go find those other ones that you don't have out there among other people that are not on this particular work group that you're in right now and get their perspectives. You start teaching them to practice inclusion because I wouldn't ordinarily ask those people for their opinion because they're not in my area of functional area of expertise. So I don't really need them. Now I recognize, oh wait, I do, because they have passions I don't have. I don't care for in different skill areas. Their passions alone are going to offer value to this. I had an interesting situation about a year ago working with a team. And one of the leader, there is a leadership team and one of the leaders on the team was forced to go because they had an absence of a passion in their work group to another team to source a person. The person that he sourced was the only person on the entire team who had a creator archetype. He asked her to come and look at what they were doing. She came in and the first five minutes she listed, you know 10 things that they hadn't thought of. They were shocked, literally jaws dropping shocked. And at the end of the day, he came back and said to the larger group. I only asked her to come to any of the meetings that I've ever had if I had a compliance issue because she's the compliance officer of our company. He said now after seeing what she did in this meeting and what her passion allowed her to see that I couldn't see, I want her on speed dial. And I want her in every meeting I have. It completely changed his perspective on her value. And so when we think about this around social justice issues, and we talked to people about practicing diversity and practicing inclusion and so forth without tools to do it, it gets hard to get people to start thinking differently. But when we use this as a vehicle for it you naturally are going to find people who look different than you, who have different backgrounds than you, who have different life experiences than you. And all of those, including their passions start to add value to what you're trying to accomplish. Because you start to listen.

- Because you're looking for the differences in order to leverage them as opposed to looking for them in order to point them out. And again, increase that distance. So as you apply passion and purpose to your work, as you continue your journey, where is that leading you in the near future?

- Well, I think in the short term, a lot more of my work has moved in the direction of expanding understanding around differences in ways that I didn't expect when I first began this work. But it really is a natural vehicle for it and so needed right now. And I also think that organizations because of what we've seen transpire over the last year or so and even before that, leaders and organizations are starting to realize that they have responsibility for addressing this within their own organization. You know, large massive organizational structures are able to affect huge changes in our world and in our culture. And this is definitely a challenge. I hope leaders will continue to pay attention to and take on. And I think that this work can be part of the solution that helps them understand what are some tools that they can use to actually practice this notion of inclusion rather than just talk about it. Because you can measure things till the cows come home, but if people don't have tools where they can comfortably practice. Practice without blame, without finger pointing without making people feel uncomfortable, then you don't affect much change. So I think this can be a vehicle for it.

- This has been inspiring Alaina. So for people listening or watching the video who are now thinking, okay I want to take the first step. How can they learn more about you the work that you're doing and the research and what it's showing?

- Well, our website is a good place to start. And that's The I've written a book called The Purpose Linked Organization, that you can find that on Amazon quite easily. McGraw-Hill is the publisher. And obviously reaching out to us at We are happy to answer any questions to give you some insights about the work and about how it can apply to you personally and professionally.

- Alaina, I appreciate the generosity in sharing your journey and also the insights, it's exciting. I'll make sure all of that contact information is included in the show notes around this episode. So thank you again for joining us on People First.

- It was my pleasure. It was a delight. I'm so glad to see you doing this work and continue and do well.

- [Narrator] Thank you so much for joining Morag today. If you enjoyed the show, please like, and subscribe so you don't miss a thing. If you learnt something worth sharing, share it. Cultivate your relationships today when you don't need anything before you need something. Be sure to follow Skye Team and Morag on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And if you have any ideas about topics we should tackle, interviews we should do or if you yourself would like to be on the show, drop us a line at, that's S K Y E Thanks again for joining us today and remember business is personal and relationships matter. We are your allies.

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