Business organizations have grown in a traditional alpha male model where emotions are weaknesses, irrationality is banned and ‘the human stuff’ is not what we are supposed to talk about.
We are even afraid to use expressions such as ‘this will make us more human’ (eyebrows raised) and would go a hundred times more for ‘this will make us better professionals’ (breath, approved). I count a notable exception in one of my best clients, although even there I still see dubious smiles.
But what is the point of ‘the organization’ if organizing does not take us to the next level of our humanity? Would anybody seriously approve, let’s make it ‘inhuman’?
My challenge to leaders is that, when they think about their legacy (yes, they should; start with legacy, then go backwards) they aim at people saying ‘that place changed my life’ (in a good way, that is!). Working for A or B, having X or Y as a boss, being exposed to such and such, changed my life.
The abused change term does not apply only to process, systems and structures but also behaviours. And in doing so, it must surely apply to people’s lives. No apologies, no eyebrow raised, no dubious smiles, no shyness. We all influence somebody else’s life one way or another. Why not a concerted effort to make it big, at a scale, lasting, for good?
There is no incompatibility between the financial objectives of the firm and the provision of a platform for ‘changing people’s lives’. And, if there is, well, you have a problem.
We’d better come down to earth and end the mechanistic, alpha male, adrenaline boosting narrative of the organization. My bet is, stop the human shyness epidemic, get personal (another old trap in the business organization is ‘don’t make it personal’) and those wonderful operational and financial objectives will have a smoother ride.
And if you are on the side of ‘In the Beginning There Was Shareholder Value’, it may just be that those shareholders make more money and get more value when we enhance the lives of people responsible for that.
(I agree, there is a moral principle here. Show me where there isn’t).