A home for the Conscious Business community in the UK


Purpose and Values

The economic climate isn’t great for business at the moment but in one very important sense business is getting easier for me and it’s down to my ability to make decisions. Decision-making is getting easier because more and more of the choices I make are the ones I believe in. In the past I spent too much time and energy arguing with myself about the best way of doing something.

Part of me wanted to act in line with the perceived business wisdom. I guess because it required very little thought, to others it looked like it was the right thing to do and maybe if it went wrong I felt I was less to blame. But all too often I thought the perceived wisdom (particularly the bits that involved people) was a load of old bull, it just didn’t feel right and the resulting argument with myself caused me to get rather stressed.

These days I’m much more likely to make decisions I believe in. Sometimes they’re in line with the perceived wisdom and sometimes they’re not. When they’re not in line, I make the decision consciously and if later on, things go ‘pear-shaped’, I really want to know why. In other words, I learn.

The alternative would be to go with the perceived business wisdom but there’s a real danger that unconsciously I’ll try and prove myself right by sabotaging the whole process so I can say to myself ‘I told you so’. Even if things don’t go wrong I’d probably convince myself that ‘my way would have been better’.

Whilst the case for listening to one’s self may be strong, putting it into practice isn’t always so easy. To do it well, I believe there are two essential ingredients.

The first is Purpose, a really strong reason for doing what you do as effectively as you can. The second is Values, a set of principles that cannot be broken even if breaking them helps achieve the Purpose.

In the relatively recent past many of us have mistakenly believed that our ‘Purpose’ was to make money. Many of us failed because it was obvious to others that, this, and not ‘fabulous customer service’ or ‘great quality’ was what we were looking to achieve. Another group of us managed to make some money but found out pretty soon after, that it wasn’t our ‘Purpose’ after all.

But I also know people who seem to go out of their way to avoid making money. It’s almost as if their ‘Purpose’ is to go without the nicer things in life.

My advice is to avoid including money as part of one’s ‘Purpose’ and trust that the more progress you make towards your real ‘Purpose’, the less money-related worries you’ll have.

A really strong ‘Purpose’ is something that motivates you, something that gets you out of bed in the morning and something that you’d happily have on your gravestone.

Values are personal, they are a set of principles by which you live your life. They are not a set of principles by which you would like to live your life. Your ‘Values’ are your ‘Behaviours’. The way you behave is the way you are. It doesn’t mean you can’t change your behaviours but it does mean if you cheat, then you value cheating. It means that if you shout at someone you attach value to that shouting. If you help an old lady across the road, you value the help you give.You give someone feedback, you value feedback and so on.

The perfect Conscious Business is the point at which all stakeholders have the right ‘Purpose’ and the right ‘Values’ for them personally and they are aligned. Investors, Customers, Employees, Directors, Suppliers  etc all share a common ‘Purpose’ and a common set of ‘Values’

Conflict is the beginning of consciousness. M Esther Harding


Changing our world

Over the last few weeks the subject of ‘internal’ and ‘external locus of control’ has popped up in conversation three or four times.

Apparently, there is a general trend in society towards an ‘external locus of control’ which should, if true, make policy makers sit up and take note.

Locus of control is about the extent to which people believe they are in control of their own future. Those of us with an ‘internal’ locus of control believe we can shape what happens to us and those with an ‘external’ locus of control believe life happens to them. If people don’t feel they can influence what happens to them, then surely they’re going to rely much more on the State and on the goodwill of others.

Stephen Covey, in his hugely successful book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ says:

“Be Proactive – Your life doesn’t just happen. Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.”

It seems to me that:

At any given moment you have a choice. You either ‘want the world to change’ or you ‘want to change the world’.


Google Friday

Google quite famously encourage their staff to set aside their day-to-day work every Friday to explore new ideas, new technologies. I’ve known this for years and always thought what a great way to develop new products it was. Talking to Craig Hanna the other day, what I came to realise was that the biggest plus for Google is not in the form of New Product Development (NPD) but in the learning that takes place. The interesting thing (maybe I’m wrong here – maybe I don’t know enough about Google Fridays yet) is that it seems to be the employees who choose what to learn i.e. it’s a bottom up approach not top down. To what extent does that happen currently in organisations?

More than we think maybe? If informal learning accounts for 70% of total learning and peer to peer 20% then that only leaves 10% for formal training and that’s quite often bottom up e.g. “I’d like to go to this event boss”. But I still can’t help feeling there’s an opportunity being missed here. Maybe Google’s approach is successful because employees get to work on real problems? Maybe it’s the level of empowerment, the fact that they get to choose the area in which they learn? Maybe it’s the level of collaboration it encourages?

Maybe the job of organisations is not to train their staff but to remove the barriers to learning. If 70% of learning takes place informally, who are we kidding if we think we can control what our employees learn? Our employees network includes pretty much anyone who has an internet connection, so maybe we should focus our effort on using that network to the full and not worrying about it?

As long as our vision, our values, our objectives etc are clear and we have staff that believe in them then surely we should trust them to identify their own learning needs and in an ideal world, share their experiences with their network. It might even save us a few quid in the process.

1 Comment

Business is Personal

“Don’t take it personally, it’s just business”. This expression really, really gets my goat.

There simply isn’t a difference between your personal values and your business values. Business is a part of life and the way you act in business is the way you act in life. If you tread on someone at work, you tread on someone, period – no caveats, no excuses.

”Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not” Oprah Winfrey

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