Do heart and business fit together?
I believe that heart is the “heart” of successful business. Why? Because business, any business, is about relationships. And with relationships come feelings – those delicate emotions of the heart which make life what it is.
Heart in Business:
My brother-in-law, Jerry, is the CEO of a Rural Electrification Association (REA). They provide electricity and electrical services to rural residents and businesses in a large area of Alberta. It is a cooperative (a unique and fascinating business model on its own).
Jerry and his team are about heart. Employees are happy and feel valued. Turnover is very low. Employees really work, often going above and beyond their job description. For the most part they are friends as well as colleagues, and enjoy Company social gatherings with their families. And the organization appears to be thriving as they find new creative ways to grow into the future.
How does this happen?
They apply a decision-making strategy that Jerry describes as “by consensus.” This is also called “fair process,” in an incredible book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. (I invite you to pick it up at Chapters or Amazon.)
This process works because it builds execution into strategy by creating people’s buy-in up front. Employees voluntarily cooperate, exuding creativity and initiative to the best of their ability, and beyond – because they want to. The premise is not so much about production or strategy, as it is about building effective relationships.
The 3 E Principles
Engagement – everyone is involved in creating the best strategy, regardless of their title. The belief is that the collective wisdom creates an exponential result.
In Jerry’s situation, team members are invited and appreciated for their dialogue on the current challenge. Creative thoughts and ideas are welcomed, assumptions and limitations are voiced, and the final decision is made only when everyone agrees.
Explanation – Everyone involved understands the “why”. This is about values and trust.
At the REA, huge trust is built within the team. People feel that their input is important to providing exceptional customer service, and ultimately, to the success of the organization. They are committed, because they were involved and understand the reasons for the decision.
Expectation clarity – This is about accountability.
With the decision made, Jerry and his team go a step further to agree on how the strategy will be implemented. New rules may be needed. New targets are set. Milestones are established. And people accept responsibilities to ensure success, with the assurance that support and help are available, if and when needed.
Because those involved know what is expected of them, it eliminates confusion and stress, invites collaboration, and allows people to focus on creating results quickly. Because it is a dynamic process, failures become opportunities for learning. And people feel good about their “ownership” of the results.
Applying this process takes time, especially at the start, when people may be hesitant to the idea, and unwilling to hang-out their judgements and assumptions for others to see.
Over time, with consistency, the process can move quickly as the trust builds and honest dialogue occurs. And because of the collective knowledge and wisdom of the team, poor decisions are very rare. There is something extremely powerful about shared risk and shared rewards.
So, the challenge for you, should you choose to accept it, is to look for ways to implement the 3 E Principles in your professional setting. How?
1. Engagement – Identify challenges and invite a bigger group of people to brainstorm creative solutions. Honestly share beliefs and judgements, looking for ways to combine ideas into a “best solution” that all agree to. An outside coach or facilitator can effectively lead the process. Ensure it is someone comfortable with the process.
2. Explanation – Why is this important, not just for you, but for providing greater value to your customers? I invite you to ensure dialogue continues until everyone understands the importance for your customers, the organization, and for each individual. Again, a coach is trained to help you crystallise and understand the “why”.
3. Expectation clarity – Establish who is going to do what, by when, and how you will evaluate the results. Determine milestones for revision, if necessary. And determine support mechanisms so everyone knows it is a team effort and everyone feels good about it. The journey is as important as the goal.
These principles help you create a professional environment that you really want – they are technologies of love. And if you really imagine and pretend you have that already, how does it feel for you?
Heart in business? It’s critical. And the same 3 E Principles work in community organizations, in family, and especially in your relationship with your life-partner.
In fact, these principles are at the core of the activities you do in our Relationship Rendezvous Retreat for couples.
So why not add more heart to your life, in all areas? It’s a challenge worth doing.
Watch your inbox for next month’s article specifically about applying these 3 E Principles at home.