Once upon a time, when Julia was a journalist, and Sarah was a communications strategist, they were just friends with big hearts and too many ideas. They used to meet in interesting places﹘London’s underground supper clubs or a cafe in Melbourne﹘and talk about their dreams. They would share their ideas, set goals, brainstorm side hustles and business concepts, and wonder how in the hell they were going to possibly bring all their passions and ideas into one cohesive form at some point in the future.
This went on for years. Every few months or so there would be a “serious” session about “really, what are we going to do with all this”, and maybe they’d giggle and say “see you next time”. Or they’d worry about whether it would ever become what they wanted, or whether they’d be stuck in toxic workplaces where the potential of women was stifled and the dominant leadership styles were not what they or the world needed.
But then one night under the stars, by the ocean and the light of a big full moon, admittedly with some wine in their bellies, Julia and Sarah birthed the concept that would make it all happen. They had both retrained and were ready for new challenges. What if they could bring together life strategy with business strategy with communications strategy all in one place? Boom. Visibility Co was born.
But that was not enough. The “what” was there, but the “why” was deeply felt but not fully articulated. So once again, they hit a cafe, in Melbourne’s Brunswick this time, to articulate what it was that was driving all this. Why did it matter? Why was it so important?
Sipping from pots of tea, they took themselves through the purpose elicitation process they still use today with clients and in programs: The 25 Whys. In an aptly circular series of questions﹘all starting with “why”﹘Julia and Sarah unpacked why it was so important that Visibility Co exist. The imagery of a stone being dropped into a lake sparked thinking: if we can elevate one person in their leadership, they go on to do the same in their circles, and suddenly you have a powerful ripple effect happening: an army of purposeful, visionary, visible leaders. And as this inspired enquiry continued, and the thoughts and the words aligned, their collective purpose popped out:
It spoke to so much of what they cared about: working with values-and purpose-led people; lifting people up so they could be of service to communities and issues and shift systems; being strategic and intentional; focusing on supporting those who were also aiming to support others and create change; and collaborating to solve big problems by elevating others.
In honour of the final point, an amendment needed to be made to the Visibility Co purpose statement after the first intense year of running Visibility Co, where they ran the risk of burning out before they’d even really begun:
To really walk the talk, they needed to embed their purpose with their own philosophy and methodology: starting with visibility to self and radical self-responsibility as leaders. None of us can elevate anyone else until we have invested in ourselves. An important lesson, perhaps learned the hard way, but imprinted on their experience and now, their purpose statement.
With the anchor that purpose provides, Visibility Co was really born. But far from being a static statement, “elevate others to elevate others” became a mantra Julia and Sarah used day-to-day: in alignment with their belief that purpose should be useful, and put into practice, they put theirs to work. When meeting new clients or contemplating new projects, the first criteria for moving forward was that the work would indeed elevate others, who could in turn elevate others. When faced with potential conflict, it became a reminder to Julia and Sarah of their reason for being; a clarion call to be their most courageous, constructive selves. When faced with fear or self-doubt, it inspired them and provided a grounding reminder of what was most important to them.
And so the stone that was first dropped in a simple conversation in a cafe rippled out, forming the basis for relationships with like-hearted clients and collaborators, which led to national and international programs, and opportunities to support visionary leaders to elevate themselves, to elevate others, to contribute to the bigger impact they wanted to see. But also, it generated congruence within Julia and Sarah; there is nothing quite like the feeling of living on purpose