Once upon a time, I worked for a company comprised mainly of ambitious (aggressive?) men with fairly traditional (patriarchal?) views of business. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone on the leadership team say, “Business has no feelings”, it would have amounted to a tidy bonus.
It didn’t sound right to me when they said it, but I didn’t know how, at the time, to refute it, either. Their point was that we ought to make clinical, dispassionate business decisions based on our revenue goals and market intelligence, not on emotion. Well, that does sound right, now, doesn’t it? How can one argue?
The thing is that they, in fact, were all incredibly emotional in their decision-making. I sat through (or sat in the next room sometimes, well within earshot) some knock-down, drag-out, marathon verbal brawls disguised as strategy sessions, where these company decision-makers fought tooth and nail to get their way. The founder repeatedly hired family, with or without qualifications, against the advice of his team. The founder also could not relinquish control to the team, which was a tremendous source of frustration and impotency for the rest of the team. All in all, it was highly dysfunctional, and deeply emotional. This business had feelings whether they liked it – and acknowledged it – or not.
People Do Business with People
At the end of the day, making clinical, dispassionate business decisions doesn’t work unless the whole operation is run by robots. And, in that case, it’s unlikely any people would be customers… because people do business with people. And, therefore, emotions are involved.
Make rational, evidence-based decisions? Absolutely. But don’t neglect the human element and people’s feelings in the process.
So, how, then, can we navigate the business world successfully while honouring people’s feelings and emotional wellbeing?
There’s a simple answer that is fairly complex to implement: a values charter.
What’s a Values Charter?
These days, pretty much every business and non-profit organization has done the work to establish their core values. These are often displayed on the website so that clients and customers can know what to expect from the firm.
But – so what?
How are those values exemplified in the organization?
Do the words, actions, and decisions of every member of the team, from leadership on down, reflect these values? How does the organization set its culture and hold everyone accountable to steward said culture?
Core values must be operationalized in order to be living, active and effective. If they are not front and centre in how the organization makes decisions, spends money, and communicates, both internally and externally.
It’s not enough to just have stated values. They must permeate every aspect of the organization as a top-of-mind commitment from every member of the team.
Creating a values charter is the foundation of that. A values charter says, “Because we are committed to ________ [value], we ___________ [action].”
Once you have determined, as a team, what that specific value looks like in daily work life, and have done that for each of your core values, you can use this charter in:
- Hiring the right people
- Onboarding and orientation
- Board recruitment
- Performance evaluations
- Staff meetings
- Marketing messaging
- Strategic planning
Design or Default
Business has feelings because people have feelings. The feelings of the people who work with you or buy from you or receive services and supports from you are going to be determined by the culture you create. If you do not design that culture and operationalize it, the culture will be set by default. When that happens, you run the risk of having negative forces run rampant and pull the culture down to the lowest common denominator. The consequences of allowing your business or organization to become “sick” in culture could not be more profound. It will cost you money, time, and people.
I work with organizations and businesses regularly to help them create actionable, meaningful values charters. Definitely reach out if you would like my support with that.
Meanwhile, recognize that feelings are just part of the human deal and there is no getting around it. Honouring your own feelings and that of those around you matters very much. Design the culture you desire and watch your people flourish and your mission come to life.
And, as always, stay on point!