I was working on developing a programme relating to ethics for a client. In doing some research I found a Code of Conduct, which included something along the lines that no-one could receive or give a gift, outside of what might be considered normal business hospitality.
And there-in lies the proverbial rub. What is ‘normal business hospitality’? For whom? Under what circumstances? At what levels in the organisation?
Hold still if you feel this is unjust criticism: I simply hope to highlight how easily we use language, with such assumptions underpinning every, single, word. We all do it. I just did it. By using the word “it”.
Seriously, to create ethical cultures, which most organisations really do want, we need to be very specific in our guidelines in the grey (my new pet phrase for ethics). While there are some clear-cut issues, many ethical matters today are more dilemma-like in texture. To be sustainable we need to consider future generations – how far ahead? We need to deliver financial and other value (how much?), to all stakeholders (who are they?), without degrading the environment (how far?). These are all real, grey, ethical dilemmas.
Let’s at least take the first step by elaborating what we mean. Once we work “it” out.
We are enmeshed by the gross and the negative in modern media. We are freed only when we participate in the moment’s entertainment, noticing the detail, feeling the presence of the unseen, and expressing the yearning of all of life towards a state of Love.
In order to reconnect with ourselves, so that we can reconnect with each other, with nature and with our higher purpose, we need to strip away the facile façade insisted upon by modern western culture and media. We must be willing to be vulnerable to past pain, to others, to shattering and reconstructing our worldviews, and to the precarious nature of immersed engagement with inevitably unstable in-the-moment reality. Exposing ourselves to potential ridicule, defrocking the collective lies about happiness and fulfilment, we choose not to be the Emperor in his suit of invisible new clothes.
Science and technology are crucial tools to achieve sustainability. They are entirely inadequate without simultaneously changing our worldview of ourselves, our place in this life and in this world, and our relationships with everything. As individuals, as corporations and as organisations, understanding ourselves thoroughly and entirely is a prerequisite to repairing our relationships with nature, with each other, and at the root of it all, with our unique selves.
This is not therapy: examination of ‘self’ asks that you find the answers within you, facilitated by conversations. Steeped in the supremacy of rationality, current decision-making largely ignores our emotional, spiritual and physical intelligences. People at all levels in companies, and as individuals, are consequently paralysed by negativity and overwhelming challenges, any hope of action disarmed. Working from a place of our deepest values, your intimate connections and your highest needs, we unearth everything that gets in the way of expressing these meaningfully in daily life. Whether as a business or individual, the more familiar we become with our inspired purpose the clearer we become about enduring happiness and what will – and will not – deliver that. Through this process, our identities, so shaped by social mirrors, crystallise, leaving behind all that can be taken from us as mere impositions and poor imitations of who – and why – we are.
Our complete lives are a myriad relationships; as the centre of those connections in our life and in our business, we are entirely empowered to change them. Naked conversations unearth in us the how, what and when of that change. At the root of that change, is Love.
“It’s not personal – it’s business”. Perhaps the most bizarre and least accurate platitude of our times. For unfathomable reasons, we’ve come to think of business as somehow separate from our person-hood. In unimaginable ways, business rules got made that seemingly have no link to the people who made them. Difficult, embarrassing, unpleasant, or down-right unethical decisions are justified through this casual reassurance: its not you, its “the system”.
That’s what keeps my hope alive. We did make the rules, so we can change them. I cannot think of a single thing that happens in business that is not in some way linked to someone, somewhere, acting, whether directly or indirectly. Therefore, business is all about people (or persons to be more in sync with the catchy heading). In that way, business is completely personal – it depends entirely on persons. Perhaps I’m seemingly picky, but language is crucial in imparting understanding, culture, and indeed creating expectations, norms (written and unwritten) and the milieu in which we work.
Making business personal is what makes business successful. When we recognise this and actively engage with the people who create the business every single day – from employees to customers to shareholders to regulators – we make space for creative opportunities beyond the ‘rules’ of business. We generate visions beyond that of a single individual. We collectively co-create the future.
When business genuinely becomes non-personal, we’ll be employing robots. But then, there is that off button….
In business, “Innovative” gets resounding nods. “Creative” gets slightly raised eyebrows. Innovation and creativity are nonetheless the proverbial yin-yang of corporate success: can’t have one without the other.
Imagine the Board, stuck on a problem, who puts down the pens, picks up the crayons and gets every director to draw a picture of the problem they are facing. Whatever makes sense to each, no rules, no lines to colour within. Then they share it with fellow directors and get them to share with the collective Board what they see, feel, intuit, imagine by looking at each of their colleagues’ pictures. What intimate complexities might be uncovered. New understanding too, which could lead to a new solution popping up. Just imagine the resultant conversations!
What would we have to lose? Perhaps some inhibitions, while gaining a healthy dose of laughter and vulnerability. Please let me know what happens when you try it!
Love is a highly contested topic. Most of us use it much of the time to denote very different things. I love being at the top of a mountain watching the night sky. I love being with my friends. I love reading.
Whatever its use, the energy of Love has much from which business could benefit. If we brought Love into business, as an active decision, not limited to an emotion, I believe we could shift many of the problems that beleaguer organisations. I think the outcomes of business decisions would change dramatically too – for the better.
Work involves a huge dose of relationships with people– even if we work alone we connect with clients, suppliers, readers. If I Love someone, I have an unqualified positive intent towards and regard for them, and I believe that they have the same for me. What a difference this might make to work interactions: choosing to assume that the other person has my best interests at heart and choosing to have their best interests foremost in my worldview. So when things go wrong with someone I Love, I don’t automatically assume the worst and react. I might pause, enquire, seek to understand. And if I fly off the handle, they might do the same for me.
Love in business is not an oxymoron. It’s an energy that we can choose to bring into the workplace. It doesn’t mean that everything will be pink fluffy clouds and sweetness: genuine Love has strong and flexible boundaries, about which we can negotiate honestly and with compassion – for ourselves and for others.
If I do a little free-association word game in my head around Love I get positive, creative, laughter, fun, caring, helpful, sensitive, strong, powerful…..what one of these words couldn’t bring about huge change in an organisation? When applied with Love.