Because It Matters!
A recent annual ski trip with guys I worked with years ago produced many interesting conversations. But the one right before we boarded airplanes to head off to homes in three states was particularly interesting.
We were all still engaged in business in some capacity. We talked, however, about how a couple of talented people had, at an early age, transitioned to the sleep-in/golf/early martini crowd. We observed that these folks weren’t too happy with their lives. I’m darn sure there are exceptions, but for our small group, the ability to continue adding value to other people, the economy and the country was something that still helped us get up in the morning.
I’m most certainly not railing against retirement, but adding to the world’s enterprise value seems to have lost some allure. My competency is in business, not metaphysics, but being valuable — being an asset to your business and society in general — is critically important to engagement, happiness, societal growth and wealth generation.
For those of you who manufacture cigarettes, run a strip club or build apps that cause teenagers to spend hours killing aliens, I have no enthusiasm. None of those things, in my mind, add value. I don’t think that they should be illegal, but don’t kid yourself about what you’re doing.
Not everyone will be a firefighter, the CEO of the Girl Scouts or a social worker, but looking for or creating meaning is one thing leaders must do. We don’t all create lifesaving products, but if you run an organization, you can build a demanding but nurturing environment that engages your people’s minds as well as their hands. You can put in compensation programs that reward results and behaviors that benefit your shareholders and align with utilitarian values. You can create an environment where people laugh and have fun while they work toward objectives. Creating misery may be in Kim Jong-un’s job description, but it ain’t in yours.
Profit and loss statements matter tremendously! Our society won’t work without profit. But metaphysics matters too. I’d argue that thinking about metaphysics may have as much impact on your business as that budget you’re working on. Why and how you do things matters! Leadership has many rewards and significant obligations. Block out an hour or two next week in your calendar and think about how you can create more value.