Do you want to be remembered for making money or for the legacy that you have left behind? Do you want your employees to know you for your business efficiencies or for how you changed the world? Do you want your children to remember you because you became the leader of a business or because you used the influence that you had to change the world? Do your employees want to be proud of making better or cheaper widgets or do they want to know that you are improving the world?
In fact the world is changing fast and very soon you will have no choice. Businesses that don’t have a moral purpose, that are not facing up to or prepared to become part of the new order where business is not just about profit will become the dinosaurs of the business world. As Jack Welch once said, if you stand still you watch your competitors pass you by. So it is inherent of every business leader and CEO to lead from the front in the fight for equality, climate change and social purpose.
In 2018, Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager wrote that ‘society is demanding that companies, both public and private serve a social purpose’ and that ‘to prosper over time every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.’
The days of organising a group of colleagues to run a marathon, undertake a bike ride, paint a wall or dig a garden are over. The microscope is truly on doing meaningful, purpose-led business. And the microscope is squarely on the CEO to give a lead.
The good news is it is rewarding, you will have a better business, happier employees and you will become a better person.
So where to start?
I wrote in Part 1
Leadership is everything. It all comes from the top. So creating opportunity shouldn’t be delegated to a CSR team in the bowels of the building. If we really mean to make a difference, their office should be next to the office of the CEO or the chairman, and even more than that the CEO or chairman should dedicate at least half their week to creating and focusing on social opportunities. It should be integral to the business and everyone should know it is integral.
Below are my suggestions for putting purpose into your business by leading from the front
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates attribute their success to obsessive reading of between 50 and 100 books each year. Reading is essential to develop your worldly knowledge of areas that you will inevitably and unashamedly, at the moment, know little about. You won’t be able to be effective and your passion is unlikely to be real unless you become an avid reader. If you don’t know where to begin, contact me and I will send you an excellent reading list.
Choose the person in your business that is the right person to lead on your initiative. Be sure you have the right person. Passionate but with business skills. Put them in the office next to you and spend at least 90 minutes a day with them, first of all, listening and understanding, and then doing.
Share your reading list with your family. Share your thoughts and ideas with them. As you become passionate and you share your passion with them you are likely to see the same passions develop in your family. What a wonderful gift that is going to be. Having shared passions with your family will take your relationships to a different level and they will see you in a different light.
Work to get other key people on board in the business, board directors, senior managers. Again seek to involve their families, share your reading.
Get to understand the issues in the square mile surrounding your businesses. Talk to your employees. Walk the talk. Get into the habit of walking the shop floor, listening, developing and sharing your vision. Talk to local charities. Find out what is available from local and central government, charities, NGO’s etc.
Approach everything you do like you would a new business. The secret of growing business is people process product. Focus on those three areas. Do it as well as you would in your business.
Easy and quick wins are great but focus more on behaviours – good behaviours will always lead to good results.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Introduce awards for employees embracing your new values. Ensure that it is discussed in the recruitment process. It will make recruitment easier. You will find better people and people who want to really work for you. Talk about it as a positive all the time. Create a buzz. It will move the culture of the organisation – the energy, the buzz that is within the organisation.
Involve your directors, talk to customers, suppliers. Brainstorm where you can involve them. Joint initiatives. Shared ideas. Incentive programmes.
Look back from time to time and see just what a difference you have made.
Along the way look at yourself and how your views have changed. As Gandhi once said ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ It stops us from judging others, it broadens our horizons and as a leader who has an opportunity to make a difference, it stirs us into action. We become better people and the world improves. Seems like a fair return.
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