Some call it culture—but it’s deeper than company slogans, mission statements, and props.
As leaders, our job is to not kill the humanity of business. We destroy the human element of our business with our distractions of self importance, with insensitive comments, or through our endless drive for facts and figures that replace empathy and problem solving with impersonal efficiency.
A spreadsheet cannot enhance the customer experience. Humans do that. And they come to work knowing that perfection is impossible. Often scared to death that the end result won’t be enough - they aim to be the best they can be. And they seek both a sense of belonging and needing to feel they matter. It’s really that simple.
A business is a human story - a vision that we have to communicate to everyone: our team, our clients, our community, and our investors. The story of the business is the collective stories of the people who are bartering away their most precious asset (their time) to be part of our vision.
A business is human relationships - a means of conveying the non-technical to the technical and back again. Through these relationships we translate customer pain (or desires) into operational solutions. And never forget - it’s the people that add value. These human relationships are a tapestry of talent woven together to make meaning.
A business is human creativity - the fusion of art and science. It is the process of combining the disparate pieces of business know how and the insights gained from our own human journey (often insights from our own regrets and lessons learned) to solve real problems and to make an impact in the lives of others. This shared creativity makes life bigger - it allows us to be part of something really significant.
If we as leaders fail to understand this simple principle - this fragile ecosystem of business can become our own Frankenstein - a monster of our own making. Having all the parts, but more a collection of human corpses - killed of any spirit, heart or soul.
But our business can also become something that bears the characteristics of Christ. Or Gandhi. Or Mandela. Or Milk. Or Yousafzai. Perhaps we can amplify the message of all of those revolutionaries who did not confine themselves to the small-mindedness of confusing operational effectiveness with human impact.
So, if we want to find the humanity in business, we must dare to make life bigger than ourselves. We must spend the time to truly understand and embrace those around us. We must hear their stories and honor their contribution to the greater purpose we all seek - to balance the pain of life with the glory of it.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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