Can you think of a business strategy which does not include people? I wager you can’t because there isn’t one.
Your board’s business strategy is about how you and your colleagues intend to achieve your business objectives. No matter how hard you try you will not be able to exclude people.
Yet consider how the art and science of business has attempted to help you to airbrush real people from your business strategy.
People have been rebranded as human capital assets, human resources, hires, direct reports, and, silkily of all, leavers. Yet, doggedly, they refuse to act other than what they are: unique individuals with unique lives.
And, of course, you are one of these people too. Your board is merely a coalition of individuals, including you, for a relatively short time.
Do you and your colleagues refer to yourselves in the dehumanising terms above? Does your chairman ever turn to your CEO and say: “And now our most senior human resource, our CEO, will report on the quarter”?
Has your CFO ever reported to your board on the valuation or revaluation of “our human capital assets” which has its own line on the balance sheet somewhere between fixed and intangible assets? Of course not.
And has anyone ever asked anyone at your board meetings as to how their personal lives fared in the previous quarter? Did your minutes include under agenda item “personal lives” any of: birth, marriage, death, health scare, shoe lace tying, coming out, anniversary, or lotto win?
Work and personal lives should be kept strictly separate I hear you say. Not least because some unscrupulous director will take advantage of a personal weakness to advance their agenda.
And, you might say, capital is king and he – usually a he – waits for no personal life. And, you might add, lots of HR stuff is being done around “mat and pat leave” and other “people policies”.
You may be right but it’s not making a blind bit of difference to the overall catalogue of quiet human suffering that comes with work these days and especially, if like you, you sit on a main or operating board, ExCo or function team.
In a recent article in the Financial Times, Pilita Clark wrote about a CEO she met whose “underlings” did not know she had children. Apparently in some organisations it pays “to have kids if you are a man and costs if you are a woman”.
This isn’t sustainable. And while many organisations are implementing positive people policies, they don’t go far enough nor do they integrate personal lives – not just family life – into the core of their business strategy.
Your board might consider a business strategy which says “We will support at home and at work the network of people who work within and alongside our business to thrive so that we can be the best in the world at xyz product or service.”
Imagine if your board extended that strategy to you as one of its directors. Imagine if you felt wholly supported in your unique circumstances by your board. Imagine how much happier and more fulfilled you would feel.
Then imagine how much more effort – the famous 10% left at Reception – you would be willing to put into your business and into your personal life. And if you extended this approach to the people who report to you, would they not be willing to do the same.
T’will never happen, the naysayers respond. The providers of capital will see to that. Because capital is all powerful and power always wins.
But does it? Do you not see a shift, as I do, both in attitudes amongst progressive directors on boards and in the zeitgeist? Who would have thought that women would rebel in large numbers across the globe against institutionalised sexual harassment? Well they have.
And I believe this is only the start of the counter revolution to the extreme right and extreme left movements of recent times.
In Gestalt terms – opposing opposites – the Weinstein affair is the opposite of Trumpian sexism. I predict 2018 will present us with similar counter revolutions. A centre party figure will bring some balance to the polarised and coarse Brexit process.
And, I predict, there will be more movement in the workplace towards a balance between the needs of capital providers and the personal lives which suffer to deliver a return on it.
Watch this space.