There is a significant competitive advantage to be won if you view your business as a person. It will support your efforts in unlocking the human potential in your business. And this potential can take business performance to levels you never thought possible.
Active Knowledge Questions:
When you think about your business, how do visualise it? Is it a machine, organisational charts, or business units? How do you view it and does that allow you to optimise its performance?
Looking Beyond Numbers And Charts
When asked to describe their businesses, leaders often pull out their corporate structure or organisational structure diagrams as a means of describing what their business does and how it does it. And of course, there is always the marketing brochure describing the history of the business and the range of services and products they provide.
But what about if you viewed your business as a person, how would you then describe ‘who they are’? I think quite a different picture would be painted. Try it now, describe your business as if you were describing a person. Are they tall, short, athletic, well-spoken, attentive, or creative? What attributes would you use to create that accurate and detailed picture?
And why would you even bother thinking of your business as a person? Because it allows you to see attributes and then create approaches to improve performance that you would otherwise likely miss.
Here’s a quick exercise to illustrate the concept. Draw a picture of a person you outlined above with as many detailed attributes as you can. Who is the person? Well, it’s your business as it is now. Once you’ve done that, pause, and on a separate sheet, list out the attributes that your business needs to succeed. Compare the two. Does your drawing contain all the attributes that your business needs to succeed? Often it is far from it.
It’s All In Your Eyes
In one of my earlier articles, ‘The Power Of Seeing’, I spoke about the power of holding a visual image of the business that you are seeking to build. This extract is drawn from the article: ‘If an architect were to tell you they are designing what will become a global icon without any clear concept or image in their mind, you would think they are mad. But every day, business leaders seek to build great businesses without any image of what they are really trying to build in their mind.’
In that article, I noted how rewriting that visual image can remove barriers to success that you did not even know existed. And described the competitive engine as a possible starting point for identifying attributes that you would want to see in your image.
Viewing your business as if it were a person provides another lens through which to view your business and its performance. It allows you to see the ‘human dynamic’ in your business and to build activities around that framework.
Selecting just a few examples, it allows you to see:
- Purpose rather than work.
- Habits rather than processes.
- Motive rather than monetary rewards.
- Relationships rather than hierarchical structures.
- Character traits rather than competencies.
Let’s briefly look at each of these examples:
Purpose Rather Than Work
I believe the majority of people work because they ‘must’, not because they want to. The hours they work, the distances they travel, the pressures they place themselves under, are all because they need the money to meet the costs of living. This idea that they ‘must work’ will yield only a minimal level of input.
To compete effectively today you need your team to be contributing at their best. And you will only achieve this if they buy into the reason for your business’s existence. People need and want meaning in their lives, and their work lives are no exception.
The purpose for which your business exists and the community need that it seeks to meet must be meaningful. It must also be a cause that people can relate to and feel pride in being a part of. A ‘righteous’ purpose will allow your workforce to take pride in their work and can draw everyone to contribute to their fullest.
Habits Rather Than Processes
All businesses have processes that they create around key tasks that exist within the business. They are created to ensure consistency in response and actions. Often these processes are ignored or not fully followed, and, at times, with dire consequences. Have you ever asked yourself why people do not follow the processes set out for them?
Processes are not human, they are ‘forced’ on people to ensure compliance in many instances. People generally do not respond well to being ‘told’ the way that things must be done. But humans every day are trying to build and break habits into their personal lives to achieve desired outcomes, reduce stress, and improve their well-being and happiness.
Why will people constantly seek to take on good habits and stop bad habits in all aspects of their lives? Because they are seen as improving the outcomes they achieve in living.
If processes were reformed as good and bad habits in the workplace, we may well find that their uptake would be far greater than presently exists. My recent article spoke to ‘Habits and Inquisitiveness’.
Motive Rather Than Monetary Rewards
What is your motive for being in business? If your business exists firstly to make a profit, then it is unlikely to reach its potential. A profit-first motive feeds self-interest, politics, and short-termism. It literally saps the competitive strength out of any business.
Yes, of course, you must make a profit to grow your business and be sustainable. But it mustn’t be your reason for being in business. Why? Because profit is an outcome of being competitive. But focusing on profit does not allow the business to be competitive because of all the negatives that it brings with it. A profit-first motive screams: ‘I’m in it for what I can get, and, therefore, everyone follows this lead.’
In business, to compete, you want to attract the best, to work with the best at their best. This is your goal and you can only achieve such an outcome if you motivate them to excel. And yes, a good monetary reward is part of that motivation, but it won’t tip the balance in your favour.
To motivate is to inspire and that means placing a challenge that engages and which will draw the best people forward.
Relationships Rather Than Hierarchical Structures
When you look at the structure of your business you should think of how it is designed to deliver the customer value around which you compete. And the relationships that are formed and developed.
If you look at your business as a hierarchical structure with who is reporting to who, then you basically ignore the important relationship connections. And people work at their best when the relationships are great. The worst relationships can often be between a boss and one of their direct reports, and this is so because of the profit-first motive that drives most businesses.
Think of people as people, consider the teams that they work in, and the relationships they form in that team. Does your organisational design around customer value delivery provide them with a clear identity and purpose? Is it one which they can connect with and strive to achieve in a meaningful way?
Character Traits Rather Than Competencies
The success or failure of your business lies in worthy leadership. Worthy leaders are found in their character, not their competency in a technical field.
When you seek to find a leader, look for someone who everyone listens to and respects. Someone who is invested in others and not themselves. Often, leaders chase promotion for their own self-interest and reward, and, honestly, these are probably not the type of leaders that will truly grow your business.
In looking for leaders, look for who they are at their core as people and how they connect with other people.
People Are The Basis Of Your Competitiveness
The competitive strength of your business and its ability to compete and win is the sum of the human effort that you can muster and focus. Viewing your business as a person will provide you with insights to improve performance.
You will be amazed by how much your business will grow if you see and treat the people within your business as people with needs – not as resources.
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All the best in the success of your business,