Dear CEO, have you ever felt the need to choose between making a living and living a meaningful life?
• Have you ever felt inauthentic? Like there’s a gap between what you’re feeling and what you’re doing?
• Have you ever felt torn between earning a living and living a meaningful life?
• Have you ever felt the pressure to focus on quarterly shareholder returns rather than what is right for everyone?
Returning to the question of whether any of you have felt the need to choose between making a living and having a meaningful life- well,I have. This feeling resonates, more so today and for far more of us, than ever before. For business leaders, with quarterly shareholder reports to file, a Board to answer to and the imperative to make the numbers its not easy to balance with things like the common good and feeling like you are making a difference. And this feeling is not just about what business leaders experience- it’s a feeling that each one of us as CEOs of our lives feel as well- does the formal work that I do, do more? Other than paying for my rent, mortgage, holidays and my life in general, does my work actually add value to society or do good at some level?
So let me elaborate on how I think you could grow your business while ensuring it is helping build a better world:
– Understand yourself
For a leader to be effective they must start with themselves, have self-awareness, an understanding of their own values and motivations, what drives them, what they are subconsciously striving for. They need to identify if they are in an active creator mode or in a reactive or passive mode. They need to not only articulate their personal values but become aware of when they are acting in a way that is not in sync with their personal values by actively looking for bodily sensations, examining their reactions or become aware of other cues. One way to identify one’s personal purpose and values is to write a detailed eulogy for yourself or what you’d like people to say about you at your funeral. It’s a great way to work backwards from what you wish to be known for so you can start working towards it.
Being authentic about what drives you, what your motivations are, what you’re good at and what you value can help build trust with those you lead. Working to create alignment between your personal values and purpose and what you do at work can help drive you closer to creating the change you want to see. Checking in with yourself regularly is key to bringing self-awareness to your role. (Don’t forget to get hold of my checklist of questions at the end of this essay)
– Understand your people
Authoritative leadership is a thing of the past. Treating team members like they are kids or as if they have less agency than you in any way just doesn’t work anymore. Leaders need to level with their team members and not only do they need to be empathetic in the day-to-day but also be willing to share and communicate more.
A lot has been written lately about empathy as being a key quality for leaders. Leaders who can empathise and focus not just on the achievement of goals but also on how someone in their team is feeling when trying to achieve those goals, can get better results. EQ today, is as important as IQ to lead at the highest levels.
In my book I talk about the qualities of a leader today. I talk about CQ or Creativity Quotient, AQ or Adaptability Quotient and EQ or Emotional Quotient. I want to add DQ- Digital Quotient.
Innovation requires large corporations have actively worked to remove. Some organisations even use psychometric tests to weed out those who are ‘too creative’.
How do you decipher and then devise a game plan based on the current competitive landscape? In order to compete with the disruptive forces at play today you need to either join forces with the disruptors, buy them out or out manoeuvre them. Am not sure you can do any of these things without some creativity.
Often teams are made up of similar people, leading to group think. Diverse teams are known to take better business decisions, have better shareholder returns and increased innovation.Companies with higher diversity out-innovate and out-perform others.Employees at these companies are more than 45% likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.Mixed gender executive boards have outperformed all-male ones by 26% over the last six years according to a Credit Suisse study.Global studies have shown that organisations with diverse and inclusive cultures are 45% more likely to have improved their market share in the last 12 months.They have employees who not only give greater discretionary effort but are also less likely to leave. Higher market growth is driven by more innovation and better quality decision making within diverse and inclusive teams.
Dr Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School. She suggests that entrepreneurial creativity requires a combination of intrinsic motivation and certain kinds of extrinsic motivation — a motivational synergy that results when strong levels of personal interest and involvement are combined with the promise of rewards that confirm competence, support skill development, and enable future achievement.
Given our current precarious financial climate worldwide a company’s challenges are becoming increasingly adaptive.
Increasingly, managers are finding that sustaining competitive advantage stems from organizational capabilities that foster rapid adaptation. Instead of being really good at doing some particular thing, companies must be really good at learning how to do new things.https://hbr.org/2011/07/adaptability-the-new-competitive-advantage
Those that thrive are quick to read and act on signals of change. They may have learnt how to experiment rapidly, frequently, and economically—not only with products and services but also with business models, processes, and strategies. They may also have built up skills in managing complex multistakeholder systems in an increasingly interconnected world. But perhaps most important, they have learned to unlock their greatest resources—the people who work for them.https://hbr.org/2011/07/adaptability-the-new-competitive-advantageThis requires investing in personal growth at the individual level.
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, identifies the “master dynamic” in human beings as the quest to evolve. Christopher Forman, head of Decurion, talks about human “flourishing.” Charlie Kim, founder of Next Jump, talks about becoming a better version of ourselves. Personal evolution, human flourishing, becoming a better person – these are at the center of the culture of each organization. https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-key-to-adaptable-companies-is-relentlessly-developing-people
Next Jump wants the company to grow (“better us”), but its culture continuously says, “The way we’re going to be a better company is by you working on yourself, and helping others work to on themselves.” But the culture is not just about saying it; it must go beyond words to actions and structures. Every Next Jumper’s compensation is tied closely and equally to performance in revenue (what you contribute to the business) and culture (what you contribute to Better Me and Better You). At Next Jump you can be a revenue-generating god and still be penalized in compensation if you’re not working on personal growth. https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-key-to-adaptable-companies-is-relentlessly-developing-people