Old school business decisions derive from protecting the interests of various stakeholders. The king among those stakeholders would be the shareholder. However, the main commonality in making decisions on these grounds is fear. That fear would run up the “ladder” from the decisions that individual at the bottom answering to a supervisor makes all the way up to the board of directors answering to the shareholders.
People who have discovered that shifting their focus from fear and negativity to compassion and opportunity, exercising Compassionate Leadership, have found that they have better balance and prosper more in life. A study by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Diener; “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” looked at a vast number of studies to ascertain if not only successful people were happy, but also if happy people attained success more often than those who weren’t. They also looked at a variety of factors that defined success for people in those studies. The arguments do suggest to support that happy people do become more successful. We know that fearful people aren’t happy, so why do we expect companies with people making decisions out of fear to become successful?
Sure, there are many “old school” companies out there that make a lot of money, but are they as successful in every aspect as they can be? Success is in the eye of the beholder. Most societies promote materialism as the measure of success. However, materialism and consumerism are contravening the movement to reduce CO2 emissions, reducing pollutants in our waters, striving to prevent the abuse of the workforce, etc. For example, if a company’s goal is to increase their revenues by 25% in a given year, who is that goal going to resonate with? Shareholders and upper management most likely. As a customer it is going to be contradictory to my personal goals and it is really not going to mean anything to a “lower level” employee. Quantitative goals really only work to attract investment, where the investors are shortsighted and purely money focused, nothing else. Actually these types of goals cause the entire organisation to act out of fear of not meeting targets, i.e. being punished for failing to generate enough money.
When you are acting from a baseline of fear, you are not going to make the right choices. However, most business today are set up to only allow managers to make decisions reflecting the outdated notion of quantitative goals. Hence, the sales manager will fire a sales person for not making his sales goal because otherwise he or she might get fired him or herself. Fundamentally we have businesses set up with people collecting pay cheques and with very little passion for the business itself.
We need to set business goals that any stakeholder can buy into and feel part of. When you set goals like “Helping people feel good about themselves” as a clothing manufacturer, you create a goal that all your stake holders can get behind. It will mean something different to any of the stake holders, but also internally, departments can set goals that deliver their piece of the puzzle to meet that goal. Besides, when you help people feel good about themselves they buy from you, so money is being made as well. Also, your business becomes more agile and flexible, with abilities to respond to changes in the market place, since what is going help people feel good about themselves might change and you’ll be right there able to provide it for them. I will dive in to this topic in another article that is in the pipeline.
As a manager with the goal “Helping people feel good about themselves”, you have a wider scope to lead your team and there is space for compassionate leadership. You will start to make decisions that align with your passion for the goal, not out fear of missing your goal. You will start to ask questions instead of making rash decisions. So if a sales person is not able to sell the product, why is that? What is it for him that prevents him from helping his customers feel good about themselves, or helping his sales channel conveying that message to the end user? You are now approaching the challenge from a compassionate point of view. You will dedicate the time to help the sales person with the challenge and make him either overcome his challenge and start selling or perhaps you both reach the conclusion that sales wasn’t the place for him. At this point you understand your employee on a deeper level and if he is committed to the mutual goal and is a value to the company, perhaps he can find his place somewhere else in the organisation.
The key is that you are making decisions from your compassionate nature, not based on fear. The test is always to ask yourself before making a decision “Am I making this decision out of fear or out of compassion?”. Even if you need to fire someone, you can do so out of compassion, i.e. is it best for them to pursue their life’s mission elsewhere as opposed to firing someone because it is better for me. You may claim that with this security employees will become complacent. I would beg to differ, there is nothing that will sustain someone’s motivation as passion can. Richard Branson famously said:
Take Care Of Your Employees And They’ll Take Care Of Your Business.
If your employees can embody with pride the goals you set as a business and it allows your managers to make decisions with compassion coming from that shared passion, you will have a formidable force in your market place. Empower your managers to deliver the passion and the business will see the financial rewards.