A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business
~ Henry Ford
A new year, a new beginning. A time for contemplation. What did you accomplish last year? Did you evolve your business, your team, yourself? Where did you miss the mark? How can you improve this year?
Almost always, when I ask clients what they want to accomplish in the new year, the answer is more. More sales, more customers, more product innovation, more profit, more capital - and the list goes on. I understand in the game of business score is kept by dollars and equity value, but I wonder whether "more is better" is really the right goal-post?
My experience is the "wanting" behind "more" can never satisfied. It just creates more wanting. It's truly insatiable. I'm not saying more profit is wrong by any means. I believe profit growth and a new form of capitalism can bring tremendous fulfillment and balance to the entire globe. But I also believe an unconscious drive for more is destructive and can never fulfill. So where is fulfillment then?
The greatest sense of fulfillment comes when we incorporate humanistic values into business, and seek to serve - to give to the flow of life, rather than take from the flow of life. And when humanistic values are inculcated into corporate cultures, and stakeholder service business models replace stockholder biased models, profit and value creation well exceed the value realized by the stockholder biased, "more is better" models. It's already happening. Take a look at the profit and market caps of values based companies like Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, Google, IKEA, Zappos and Amazon.
The truth is the greatest sense of fulfillment doesn't come from the things we get - sales, profit, customers, it comes from the things we give - interconnection, trust, compassion, generosity. Interesting how Bill Gates and Warren Buffett now realize that allocation is a higher order than accumulation, as they continue to allocate their total wealth. So what does winning at the game of business really mean? Yes, smart business models and growth. But holistic growth incorporating people, planet, and profit. I'm absolutely convinced that this is growth that fulfills, and doesn't' beget a restless yearning for more.
As we move toward an expanded definition of success, following are 6 ways you can support broader growth and fulfillment, and make 2012 a truly inspiring year.
1. Serve your stakeholders. Take the opportunity this new year to shift your attitude from expecting, demanding, commanding, controlling (however your leadership shadow takes form) - to serving - your employees, your vendors, your investors, your community, in addition to your customers. This creates a powerful shift in moving from a competitive adversarial paradigm - which just creates lack, to a prosperity based paradigm - which creates abundance. When we serve we receive. It's natural law.
2. Expand your balance sheet. We all know success comes from doing the right things, and greater success comes from leverage - empowering your people to do the right things. Empowerment comes through connection, which comes from openness, authenticity and trust. So when inventorying year end "material" assets and liabilities, consider inventorying year end "leadership" assets and liabilities - such as trust, authenticity, humility, courage, motivation, and come up with a plan to shore up your personal leadership balance sheet. The net result will be a clearer path to greater satisfaction, and greater prosperity.
3. Develop yourself. After you do your inventory - which can be done through a 360 degree survey to unconceal your blind spots, commit to changing one thing that will create the greatest leverage for yourself and your business over the coming year. Then find someone, a coach, a colleague or a friend to hold you accountable. Leadership development is personal development, increasing awareness from the inside out, and making positive changes within the expanding awareness.
4. Cultivate Gratitude. What are you most grateful for in your business life? Consider starting all meetings with a gratitude. Consider creating an organizational gratitude journal on Google docs and keeping it alive and growing. Make gratitude a core value, live that core value, bring it alive in your culture, and that in and of itself can enable you to overcome adversity and revitalize your entire organization. Gratitude is the most powerful attractor of success and prosperity on the planet. As Lynne Swift says in her book the Soul of Money, "what you appreciate, appreciates". Appreciate your business as a vehicle for contribution, collaboration, and livelihood and watch it appreciate.
5. Positively acknowledge others. Developing talent has to begin with first, holding people in their highest and believing in them, and then, supporting them with skills and training. During the process, it's vital to catch them doing right. Consider making a commitment to acknowledge your team mates when they do things right. So many of us are programmed to only see what's wrong, find the mistakes and correct them. Try shifting, and looking for what's right and acknowledging that.
6. Recommit to your purpose. The greatest companies in the world, have great purposes. Purpose is the heart and soul of your organization, and it gives meaning to everything you work toward. Human beings crave connectivity and higher meaning. Businesses that support that can achieve real, balanced, fulfilling success. Businesses that don't support connection to a greater purpose often become uni-dimensional and destructive leaving stakeholders uninspired and unfulfilled.
So as you embark on your new year, consider making resolutions to help you transform to a higher level of success. Consider balancing the quest for "more" with resting in the exquisite distinction of sufficiency and amplitude that always exists in the present moment, outside of our stories. And consider growing your contribution, through service, gratitude, acknowledgment, personal development and purpose - the vital and so often lacking arteries in corporate cultures across the globe.