Vitamix’s Not-So-Secret Sauce For Success: Personal Purpose

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Lives in: Cleveland, OH

Leadership Lesson: The need to focus, energize, and retain good employees continues to become more critical due to competitive pressures and the mobility of the workforce. Start with the premise that everyone on your team has a “superpower”, then help them define and express it.

the power of purpose   JORDAN MATRID, UNSPLASH

Leader: Jodi Berg, Ph.D. is the first woman CEO at her family-owned business, Vitamix, which was founded almost 100 years ago. She attributes her success, in part, to helping her employees find and follow their personal purpose. She proved this with her teams at her company as she rose up the ranks and then, did a doctoral dissertation that provided research to back up its merit.

I often talk about the importance of personal purpose with leaders across industries, but I never expected to meet a CEO that covets it as a central operating strategy. Enter Jodi Berg. I had the great pleasure of sitting down with her and was impressed by the level of consideration she has for the individual purpose of each of her employees and the power it can bring to an organization.

It was a near-death experience at age 30 that gave Jodi’s life a new meaning. This second chance offered a shift in perspective that has developed into a mindset of focusing on making a difference and providing people tools to thrive. This mission extends to her customers, her employees and other leaders who she hopes can apply her approach to their own businesses.

During her tenure as an executive at Vitamix, she has repositioned her products as tools of transformation that empowered consumers in their connection to what and how they eat. She gives the credit of getting through the challenging times to her team, currently more than 800 strong, who all contributed to the company’s success. In addition, the company has galvanized a commitment to enhancing the health and wellness of everyone on the planet by consuming more plant-based whole foods partly through their foundation which provides funding to and works closely with not-for-profits.

And if building a successful brand was not enough, this passion about purpose led Jodi to pursue her Ph.D. while she was an executive. During her studies, Jodi conducted three research studies to truly understand the difference between people who are higher “purpose” driven and people who are “goal” driven. She also sought to understand how the purpose of an organization and an employee’s personal purpose have an effect on their job. The findings were eye-opening.

Remarkably, Jodi determined that companies that have a higher purpose had zero impact on the employees’ satisfaction with life. But having a personal purpose, which may not have anything to do with work, gives people higher engagement with their work commitment and their life satisfaction. Jodi found that “companies can increase engagement and commitment by not only creating and sharing a company higher purpose but by helping employees identify their personal purpose.”

This notion of purpose is infused into the day-to-day operations at Vitamix starting with the hiring process. Jodi takes the time to talk about personal purpose at orientation gatherings and has trained others to help new employees identify their “superpower” – what they do really well and what gives them energy. She is committed to creating a culture where every person knows their purpose, matters and can make a difference.

When I pointed out that it is rare to have a CEO so involved in developing a culture in this way, her response was interesting. “Having the right culture helps create a strong and effective team, and prevents problems.” Jodi has begun branching out to help other companies do the same with their employees while fulfilling her mission of activating personal purpose so more can thrive personally and professionally. 

One way she shares her experience is through an acronym she created: DANCE, explained here:

D – Determine your Destination/destiny. What does success look like to you?

A – Align your life. Understand your purpose and values and make choices through those lenses.

N – Create your net and your network. We all need a net of support -physical, emotional, psychological and/or mental. The other thing we need is a network, and it should include a group of people that have already achieved your “destination” or are also working toward that same one so you can share ideas and learn from the path already taken.

C – Care for yourself. Invest in yourself including giving yourself the right fuel and doing activities that give you energy including regular exercise, reading, learning and having an emotional support system/community.

E: Stands for embracing your success. Embrace it. Become it. And as it becomes a part of you, celebrate it.

Jodi, you are an inspiration and a great example of compassionate leadership. Thank you for being a purpose pioneer and sharing your wisdom!