Why your board’s business strategy should include personal lives

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.