262: Activating Meaning and Purpose for Cultures, With Dr. Alise Cortez

May 9, 2023

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Dr. Pelè [00:00:00]:

Hello, happy people. Welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. Hello, everyone. This is Dr. Pelè with the Profitable Happiness podcast, and it is my pleasure to introduce to you today not only a great author, not only a great consultant and coach in the corporate world, but, I'm so honored to say, my friend, Dr. Alise Cortez. How are you doing today?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:00:28]:

Oh, Dr. Pale, I'm bounding into this call. How could I resist that energy? I'm so happy to be here.

Dr. Pelè [00:00:33]:

It's good to see you again. I know that in a previous life when I worked in Dallas, we had some common efforts in the space of helping to create cultures of success, engagement, and profitable happiness. I'm so happy that you're here. Can you tell us, Dr. Alise, what exactly would you describe as the core challenge that the kind of companies we try to work with are dealing with?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:01:00]:

Oh, gosh. I mean, it's engagement. In my view, it's engagement and performance. But really, that whole notion of being able to unearth, to activate that crucial human motivation, to actually contribute, get things done, innovate, et cetera, I think that's the biggest problem that companies have.

Dr. Pelè [00:01:20]:

I would agree 100%. And you have written so many awesome books. Like Purpose Ignited the Great Revitalization, Coloring Life. I mean, you are just prolific. I'm so happy that you're here to teach us a few things. Can you give us a sense of how you became Dr. Ailey's, the author and the consultant and coach that is addressing these problems that you've talked about?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:01:44]:

Yeah, so my specific way of addressing them is by activating meaning and purpose. Those are essential, crucial motivational agents. And the only way that I can really know this as well as I do, Dr. Pele, is because I learned in my mid 20s about what it's like to live life without them. So just quickly, I was living in Spain and Brazil at the time. I was 26 years old. I had a live in maid, a chauffeur, a gardener. I was traveling all over the world. I didn't have a work visa, so I was studying and working on my degrees. And most of the time that was pretty awesome. But especially toward the last year, it got to the point where I recognized that just consuming life is not actually very fulfilling. It's not happy. What we need as human beings is we need to be of service. So I experienced the full on existential vacuum that we know about in Logo therapy. I didn't know that's what it was at the time, but it was that deep, dire emptiness. I wanted to matter. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to serve. And I spent a lot of time not getting to do that. And that's where my appetite to do this to serve from, came from. And then from there, it was an ongoing thing of getting a PhD and starting just to unfold the work as it went, but that's where it started.

Dr. Pelè [00:02:58]:

For someone as prolific as you, I find a good question to ask is, could you walk us through a few of your books and kind of tell us what each one has been about? Because every book, as you know, is really a story. It's a piece of your life. Tell us about your various books. I see about four now.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:03:16]:

Yes, four. First I have to confess to you, Dr. Paladis. So I'm an identity and a meaning researcher, meaning and work researcher. So it's important that I first situate that I can't tell you how many years that author sat on my resolution list before it was ever actually realized. So it helped a lot, actually, in my life, and I wouldn't recommend to everybody, but it helped me a lot to get divorced because it opened this space in my life and just a clear opening for me to be able to create from and be selfish with my time. And my daughter went off to college, and there was space. So the first book, Purpose Ignited, came out in November of 2020. And I wrote it at first, Dr. Pelley, and I know you'll find this probably maybe comical, but I first wrote it because by that time, I had been hosting my radio show for five years, five and a half years, and I had met so many amazing people along the way. People have touched my life and touched my soul and taught me so much. And so initially, I wrote that book because I just wanted my readers to be able to get acquainted with all these amazing people that I had on the show. And as I wrote the book, I realized, oh, hold on a minute. There's a message in this too. And it was really about awakening people to their passion and their purpose and then starting them down the path of becoming an inspirational leader, which is what I came to realize through the process of writing that my guest had taught me. That was the first one. Now I use that book, that's the basis of my leadership program and my management program, so I take different components from it to be able to teach them what I have in my program. So that's where the first one came from, when you go on to the next one.

Dr. Pelè [00:04:57]:


Dr. Alise Cortez [00:04:58]:

Okay. So then along the way, I had this really hairy idea, and I know you can relate to this is I thought, you know, I want to put out a book once a year for ten years. So that means the next one has to come out in 2021. Well, I'd already been working on it, so I'd been asked by another publisher, a different publisher who was a friend of mine. He said, I want you to curate an anthology, and I want it to be focused on women. I don't care what the topic is, but I would like you to do that if you're game. And I'm like, done deal. Yes. The topic will be purpose. So that one is passionately, striving and why. And it came out in August of 21. And what I did was I went about the globe, I used my old recruiting skills and I went on LinkedIn and I literally did searches for women from all different kinds of countries. And if I could sort of ascertain in their profile that it looked like they were serving from their purpose, I called them. And then I explained the vision of the anthology, which was to be able to showcase that purpose is available to anyone anywhere in the world, regardless of education, culture, language, religion, et cetera, and that it makes a profound difference when we serve from it. So then I found 25 women from countries from Australia to Zambia who share their very intimate story of how they discovered their purpose, are now serving from it. So it's meant to be inspirational, educational, come along with us, and that the stories are organized by their path to purpose to help people better understand what their own might be. So that has been phenomenal. And I use that as when I'm out doing my tour, that's the basis of the Women's Storytelling evening is we start with that and then we start to enroll the voices of the women in the room about their stories. It's so beautiful and so powerful. I love it.

Dr. Pelè [00:06:38]:


Dr. Alise Cortez [00:06:39]:


Dr. Pelè [00:06:39]:

And the third one and the fourth.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:06:41]:

And the third one was when they kind of happened together. The third and fourth kind of what became a sort of a co birthing process. So the third one is really coloring life, which you know about. And this is it's called how loss. The subtitle is how loss invites us to live more vibrant lives. And it's the story that I was completely compelled and couldn't help not writing about, losing both of my parents 28 Days Apart in January 2019. And so it's a very upfront share. It's like you're on the front row seat of this thing. And I I share very intimate details of what happened and how I felt about things and and then what I learned about life, those seven whispers of wisdom that I learned about living from that experience. And that has been so powerful. To be sharing that book with people and having people who have gone through loss that didn't really know how to talk about it, and now finding others that they could talk with about it and share with them through it and grow through that process has been just there's no other way to say it. Yummy. Just a yummy experience. And that came out March 15 of 2023. And then the Great Revitalization came out. March 22. And so The Great Revitalization is probably the highest level of book that I have written in terms of its expression, its research, its cogency I wrote it around an acronym, Gusto Now. But it's really a book for leaders who are either at their wits end and cannot figure out how to be able to manage today's workforce and are struggling to do so to get them to stay, perform, and innovate. Or it's for the people that are just they're forward reachers. They want to be on top of the game. They want to be the best practice. They want to be out there in the front of their field. So it helps them to first understand what's going on in today's world. What does the workforce really want today? That's the first part of the book. The what? That's the gusto. And the second part is now it's the best practices that I put forth that I'm offering through the book to help them get there.

Dr. Pelè [00:08:45]:

Wow. First of all, I just want to say congratulations.

Dr. Pelè [00:08:50]:

What awesome work that you've brought into the world. I'd like to talk about engagement with you because you mentioned that earlier, employee engagement, and I have to put in a plug for something you said to me a while back. You said that sometimes you'll go into work with leaders who say, hey, help me fix my culture, and they wake up one day and realize, wait a second, she's working on me first.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:09:12]:

Right? That's right. You are the culture. Let me just start right there.

Dr. Pelè [00:09:17]:

So tell us about your approach to helping change the employee engagement picture. It's not been good for a long.

Dr. Pelè [00:09:27]:

Time, and yet people haven't found the right solutions, it seems. How did you uniquely address employee engagement with your work?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:09:36]:

Well, first I want to distinguish something really powerful that I think needs to be said. It's a distinction. So employers want their employees to be engaged. Employees want to be fulfilled. So if we can fulfill employees, then we can actually engage them. But fulfillment must come first. My approach to this, first and foremost, is I like to go into a company and do a culture and purpose assessment. And that first is really it's designed to go in and talk with as many people directly in the company as we can and then maybe survey the rest if there's a lot there. But the idea is for them to be able to articulate what's the purpose of this organization? Why does it exist? Why should anybody care? And you get these vast different responses and people saying, sometimes I don't know. Right. And then they also then there's questions about what's going on here? What's going right? What do you love about working here? What would you like to see addressed? So that's the strengths, the weaknesses, opportunities, threats, et cetera. Then once I actually go through that process of gathering that initial data, I'm a qualitative researcher is I then start to distill. They get two separate reports. One is one that actually starts to distinguish using several phrases. The answer to what's the purpose, mission, vision, and set of values. And then the second one is that now we're starting to work on the culture stuff. Now we've unearthed what do people love about working here that we want to celebrate and do more of, and what can we actually address separate document for other things if they want to engage me or someone else. But what we do then with that first document then is we come back to the team, as many people on the team as we can get. Sometimes it's in rounds or whatever in groups is we say, okay, you guys threw out and you said these are the things that describe your purpose. Now let's together wild alive scratch and make it distinctive, articulate it together. Same thing with the mission, the vision and the values. And it's the wild alive scratching that and from the bottom up to the organization's top that makes all the difference. And people are enrolled in this and now they feel it's a part of them. And then from there, invariably we'll need to be able to continue nurturing the organization. And so I have a platform to feed ongoing development for the team that will help them be able to get present to what are they passionate about, what are they inspired by, where do they want to learn and grow, et cetera. And then separately we are addressing whatever may have come up in the cultural sort of assessment, but that's my general approach. And then of course, what I'm going to teach them through, I'm going to teach them to be inspirational leaders along the way, and I'm going to teach them how to manage their meaning every day. And that's the crucial way to awaken that intrinsic motivation in the team. So that's my approach.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:17]:

I love it.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:18]:

And one of the reasons that I love it is that you bill yourself as a catalyst. In fact, the way you described I just love the way you described this. You said leaders want engaged employees, employees want fulfillment.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:33]:

Sounds like people who want different things.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:35]:

And don't know it yet.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:12:36]:

Right, exactly right.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:38]:

And actually that's exactly how I describe.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:40]:

In my book Profitable Happiness. I don't have the same problem. Leaders want profit for their organization and employees want happiness.

Dr. Pelè [00:12:49]:

When are we going to start speaking the same language, right? When are we going to bring profit and happiness together? And so I love the way you position that if you were to bring out just two or three of your top wisdom nuggets, that you could just share that whoever's listening to this, let's say a leader is listening. To this, and they want to get over whatever stops them from being the very best catalyst in their organization. What would that kind of little nugget.

Dr. Pelè [00:13:16]:

Or two or three be gosh only help to get?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:13:21]:

Two or three. Okay, let's see. That's tough. That's a tough serve right there, Dr. Pale.

Dr. Pelè [00:13:27]:

It's a loaded question. There's so much you could talk about, right?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:13:32]:

Well, I guess what I would have to say is one, we just cannot overemphasize the importance of self awareness, self understanding, to really recognize who are you and how are you impacting people through your words, your behaviors, your emotions, your expressions. Most leaders have a tremendous opportunity, as we all do as human beings, to get more present to that, to really understand the impact that they're having on people positively and negatively. So that's first. The second thing I would say, and this is definitely what I cover in the Great Revitalization. And the second part is those best practices are organized around three kinds of intelligence. One is IQ. So that's the logical rational. We're approaching things from a logical, rational way of trying to understand root cause. How do we get ourself into this mess? It's not about blame. How do we get here and how can we actually improve our processes? The second kind of intelligence, of course, is emotional intelligence. And you cannot read a leadership book today without hearing about the importance of emotional intelligence. But that really speaks to how to access and activate the hearts of your people. How do you show them that you care about them individually, their lives beyond just what they do for you at the company and how do you actually make sure that they know that, you know, they matter? So that's so important. And the third kind of intelligence, which is hardly ever yet spoken about today except by the more forward reaching organizations, is spiritual intelligence. And that really is a combination of the two. And it really speaks to it's not about religion or faith per se. It's about activating those higher, like, b values that Maslow talked about. So compassion, awe, joy, peace, all those kinds of things that land in that higher, more higher conscious realm and at the same time better connecting to the whole of things, if you will, your organization's place in the world, if you will, place in the community that invisible thread that really binds all living beings. And there's such an opportunity to do that. And of course, that's very much a purpose move. If you can operationalize purpose within your organization, you can actually get present to that. So I would say those two things self awareness and learning to activate and continually steward those three kinds of intelligences IQ, EQ and sq that's powerful.

Dr. Pelè [00:15:54]:

I have to say that it can take a person years, not days, not weeks, years to overcome their own driving mindset. They know everything they need to know.

Dr. Pelè [00:16:08]:

They know that they need to be.

Dr. Pelè [00:16:10]:

This kind of a leader or that kind of a leader.

Dr. Pelè [00:16:12]:

But somehow the doing and the action, it takes so much to get over their own mindset. So I think you're right about the self awareness and all the other ways that you approach it.

Dr. Pelè [00:16:23]:

Do you have any stories of success that you want to share a time when you don't have to name the company if you don't want to, but a time when you actually saw significant change, because I know change is possible, even though I'd say it takes years for some people, it can happen.

Dr. Pelè [00:16:39]:

What can you share in that area?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:16:41]:

Well, I'm not going to say the name of the company. I think she would be fine if I did. But I have to share that I had the privilege of working with a sustainability consultancy company. And when they hired me in September of 2021, they were at their wits end. They were the one where they were like, we don't understand what's going on here. We were on the front cover of Best Places to Work a couple of years ago, and now it's hard to attract people. People don't seem to want to actually perform and pull through on things. They complaining about how much they work here and they're leaving. I mean, we have significant holes in our organization bleeding, right? So literally I went in and started because I gave a person that I met at an airport a copy of Purpose Ignited. And anyway, so that's how the whole conversation began. But I met with him in person on a Friday afternoon. The founder said, could you start with us on Monday? It was just like so and it was one of those kind of things where people don't want to work, people are lazy, nobody wants to work together and nobody wants to persevere. And oh, well, that's where we again discovered, oh, the problem is not just with them, there's somebody else involved here. And what we came to unearthed together is that she had been really focused on the outside of organization, all of her clients and her customers, which were very happy and had a great relationship, but at the expense of not really looking at and caring for her. The people that were powering that we did, we went through the Purpose Culture assessment process and enrolled everybody. And we helped develop the leaders into more inspirational leaders and also worked on the management team around managing through meaning and then continued to grow continually to deposit growth and resources into the team organically. So everybody gets fed along the way. Not just the leaders, everybody. And it was a pretty drastic turnaround. And to the point where the leader actually the founder of the organization, actually she was acquired, the company was acquired.

Dr. Pelè [00:18:52]:

Oh, wow.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:18:53]:

And anyway, it was really an honor to work with them. And she is very efficacious in her way of being able to describe the impact. And I really appreciate that. In fact, when you open, when you start, the great revitalization, the very, very first few words in the introduction are it started on a Monday morning, I'm having a conversation and she says, so what'd you do this weekend? And I said, oh, I'm working on a book. And she said, oh, what's it about? And I told her it was about helping people out their wits in blah, blah, blah, blah. She goes, oh, you're writing a book about us and what you're doing for us? And I said, yes, and I was delighted to know that she could connect those dots.

Dr. Pelè [00:19:34]:

Yes, I am that's powerful. Thank you for that story.

Dr. Pelè [00:19:39]:

I was like, right in there, and.

Dr. Pelè [00:19:41]:

I could see her face going, wait a second, that's us.

Dr. Pelè [00:19:46]:

I have to say, every few years.

Dr. Pelè [00:19:48]:

We hear new buzzwords that claim that they can solve these cultural challenges. For years, of course, we've heard engagement. Now there's a shift toward experience, employee experience employee. There's employee belonging that belong to something. There's pride.

Dr. Pelè [00:20:09]:

I mean, different words show up to represent these solutions. And yet for me and this is me basically giving you what my passion is all about, for me, it really just boils down to having empathy for employees and knowing that they want, as you say, fulfillment, they want to be happy. I mean, if an employee shows up at work and everything is negative, how are they going to be the best that you want them to be? And so I think if we could talk a little bit about the idea of having not only profitable companies, but also happy employees at the same time. Is that possible? And how would you approach that?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:20:51]:

First, I want to introduce this wonderful phrase called limbic resonance. So what's interesting, since eye traffic and meaning and purpose so meaning is really it's your motivational component. It's really what it's according to Logotherapy, meaning is our chief concern as humans, this is what we look for and strive for, and it's our chief source of energy and motivation. And then purpose, really, is that orientational, focus of why am I here? How can I serve from that why kind of thing? No, I just lost the chain. What did you tell me what you.

Dr. Pelè [00:21:24]:

Actually, you know what? Before you answer, I'm going to ask you the question again, but before you.

Dr. Pelè [00:21:28]:

Answer, you mentioned the word that you've shared twice a little bit therapy.

Dr. Pelè [00:21:31]:

And I want to make sure everybody.

Dr. Pelè [00:21:33]:

Understands sometimes that it's a therapeutic approach that helps people with the meaning component of life. And you bundle that in very much.

Dr. Pelè [00:21:41]:

In what you do, because you and I struggle from the curse of knowledge, right? We know things, and it's like, wait a second, we got to remember not everybody might know what I mean by profitable happiness.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:21:51]:


Dr. Pelè [00:21:52]:

Logo therapy. So I just wanted to put that out there. So to ask the question again, how do we help organizations be profitable, which is what they want, but also have.

Dr. Pelè [00:22:03]:

The empathy for their employees who want to be happy and bring the two together?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:22:08]:

Yeah. Okay. First we start with the notion that actually people do want to work and they do want to contribute their talents as opposed to the mindset that people have about people wanting to do as little as they can to be able to get their paycheck. So first we assume that people actually want to work and then we actually create a workplace where people understand that what they do in their day is important to the overall company's mission. How is it connected. They know that this line of code that they write, if they're in it, how it actually supports the company mission because there's communication about that and because they're thanked for that, they're appreciated for that. So they already know that they're mattering. People want to matter. If you can get people to feel like they matter, you've already raised that vibration, that motivational vibration. And then you get people mattering together and helping each other. Now you've got that limbic resonance work. So the brain registers meaning in the limbic brain and it's actually between emotions and memories. That's where it's actually registered. And meaning is always registered along your value system. So what you find meaningful be different from what I find meaningful. So the opportunity is to be able to help people find the kind of meaning that they're looking for, whether it's intellectual challenge or whether they want to be great spokespeople or they want to solve the really tough problems. Whatever it is that just brings them alive, which is their passion, by the way, when we can activate that in an organization. Because we've been listening. We were looking with that empathetic lens that you said before. We're listening to what matters to them and then we're providing it in the way that they get to do their work and then we celebrate in a way that matters to them. If we do that in an organization, people are compelled to give their best and they don't want to leave an environment like that because they've become alive and they're realizing more of their potential. So you create a very fortified group of people that are committed to each other. And then we also work really heavily on removing any toxicity around fear or blame or those kinds of things that happen. When you're not actually up to something, you're just trying to figure out why you're not getting where you're going. You start interfering with those kinds of disruptive elements at the same time, and now it's just powerful. What can happen? And it takes constant vigilance, constant vigilance to build a culture that's activated by meaning and purpose and it's worth every single drop of energy.

Dr. Pelè [00:24:28]:


Dr. Pelè [00:24:28]:

I have to say that was like a mini masterclass right there on building culture. No, seriously, this is powerful stuff and you bring it to the table straight and to the point, and I really appreciate that. In fact, I love your limbic resonance concept. When I heard the word resonance, I remember in music, I like to bring music analogies everywhere I go. In music, there's this concept of resonance where if you place a piano, like.

Dr. Pelè [00:24:56]:

Way over there right. And place another piano way over here, like in a room, and you play one note of a key on one piano, you begin to vibrate on the second piano.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:25:08]:


Dr. Pelè [00:25:09]:

All of that distance does not restrict the desire for people and for things to be alike and to follow and to resonate.

Dr. Pelè [00:25:19]:

So I like to use that analogy a lot.

Dr. Pelè [00:25:22]:

If a leader moves in one direction, employees will move in that direction. So before you want engagement from your employees, ask yourself if you're demonstrating what they should be resonating with.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:25:33]:

Oh, I love that, Dr. Pelley. In fact, that's the first chapter of my Great Revitalization, which is gumption. Find your gumption. What do you love about this organization? What do you love about what it stands for? You have, as a leader, got to know that into your bones, down to your last toenail. And if you don't know that, it will also come across.

Dr. Pelè [00:25:51]:

Yeah, everything shows up by default or design. Right. But Dr. Alise, what are you excited about next? What are you promoting? What are you working on, and how can people best get a hold of you online?

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:26:06]:

Let me first say that so you can find me easily@Alisecortez.com. I have another site called Gustonow.com, but they can both find me there. LinkedIn is a great way to find me. I'm easy to find. Please do find me and please follow me and work with me. I'd love to be able to hear your voice, but what am I working on now that I'm really excited about is on a crazy Thursday morning, high on purpose, I had this great idea that since I had two new books coming out, and the other two had come out largely during the pandemic that I really ought to do some kind of promotion for them. And so what started off as the idea, well, I live in Dallas. Of course we'll do something in Dallas. But then I thought, but then I know people all over the state of Texas, and, well, wait a minute, I know people all across the nation. How about we do a 33 city tour? So we lodged this idea in conjunction with a collaborator named Joyly, which is a consultancy that helps people to access and live their joy. They do that individually and in cultures. So we now are running the Purpose and Joy tour. And so we are literally out to build a tribe of people across the United States and eventually the world who want to activate their meaning and purpose in their lives and their companies and to come to come along with us. And so talk about raising the right vibration and the resonance piece. So we're literally dropping into cities, sprinkling Purpose and Joy. And so the tour is designed that there's various events people can take part of, whether it's. Something for leaders on the culture, the women's, storytelling, awakening to your passion and purpose or getting present to and working with and through your grief, and then the joy exercises that we do in various sessions. There's something for almost everyone, but that's what I'm working on. And we're six cities in, and we finished the tour in Virginia Beach in late October.

Dr. Pelè [00:27:54]:

Well, congratulations on that. And thank you for using some of my music in one of your absolutely. It was delightful coloring life. I really appreciated that. Dr. Alise, you are a breath of fresh air.

Dr. Pelè [00:28:10]:

I really appreciate the work you're doing in this world, trying to equip organizations with meaning and purpose and helping to build positive cultures.

Dr. Pelè [00:28:18]:

Thank you so much for being on the Profitable Happiness.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:28:22]:

Grateful that you have hosted me, and I'm grateful I know you. Dr. Pele. Thank you.

Dr. Pelè [00:28:27]:

Have a wonderful day.

Dr. Alise Cortez [00:28:29]:

Thank you. You too.

Dr. Pelè [00:28:31]:

Thanks for tuning in to the Profitable Happiness podcast. For more episodes, visit drpe.com. And remember, get happy first and success will follow. Sam.