Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Done right, business IS personal

I have come to loathe the phrase “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Is this something they teach at those high and lofty business schools? Because if it is, I think the MBA curriculum is in dire need of an overhaul.

How about teaching the phrase “It’s good business to do the right thing”? How about making that the credo of a good business school?

I firmly believe that done right, business IS personal.

Business IS personal

ROI, bottom line, profit margins and all that goobledygook doesn’t mean a thing, in my opinion, if all you take from business school is how to make a buck.

Do the right thing for your people. Treat your people as you’d want to be treated. Stand by your word. Be trustworthy. Those are the values that not only make a good citizen and a good friend, they are qualities that I believe make a good business owner and manager. The rest – the profit and the growth – will follow if your first commitment to your business is to doing right by your people – and to doing right by all the people your business impacts.

The best boss I ever had never even got a college degree, yet she has all the qualities that make for a successful business person. Most importantly, she knew that her greatest resource was her people, and she expressed her gratitude to us on a regular basis – not because someone told her to, but because she truly believed that a strong team is the basis of a strong business. She worked her way up from the very bottom rung of the ladder, from cleaning toilets to secretarial work, on up, to eventually becoming the Vice President and Business Development Manager of more than one successful company. She never forgot what it was like to be “the worker,” and I believe that those experiences influenced every decision she made as a boss. She had exceedingly high expectations of the people who worked for her but offered us the support, the resources and the trust every step of the way, so we could perform – and so we WANTED to perform – at the top of our game. Unless she had to keep secrets (and she’d always tell us if this was the case), she was transparent and honest with us, giving us a strong desire to work as a team, supporting each other with the same commitment to each other that she provided to us.

Now THAT is a powerful team. THAT is good business.

Quite simply she just plain did the right thing all day, every day. That philosophy drove all her business decisions and amazingly enough (not!), they almost always positively affected her bottom line as well.

Isn’t this how the Googles and the Costcos of the world got to be so successful? They didn’t begin with the philosophy of ruthless profit and bottom line; they began with the philosophy of creating a great product with a great team and moving both forward together, building upon successes in both areas, knowing that they are interdependent.

There was a time when medical schools taught only the science of medicine. The courses focused on the science of disease and the technicalities of surgery and medicine, ignoring the importance of the heart and the spirit in the healing process. Then, in the past 20 years or so, the faculties of the great medical schools began to infuse their curriculum with classes that focused on the importance of “bedside manner” and relating on a personal level to patients and their families. They suddenly realized that healing sick people is not simply a matter of science, but also of psychology. They realized that being a good doctor also means, to some extent, just simply being a good person.

When will this happen to business schools? When will they begin to teach that good business is also a matter of good personal actions and interactions? That investing in people IS good for profits and that the best way to lead a company really comes down to the same basic philosophies as the best way to lead a life: integrity, compassion, trustworthiness, and honest personal connections?

When will business schools begin to teach that doing the right thing as a person means you’re doing the right thing as a business?

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Margaret said...

When we get away from the MONEY and THINGS at any cost mentality that drives a lot of American businesses? Profit is God and competition(not collaboration) is King.

jennifer said...

Did something set off this rant directed specifically at business schools? I have an MBA and my school constantly touted "find the win-win." As in: win for your business AND win for the customers. If the customers don't win, they won't be back, and if the business doesn't win, it will go out of business. So it's incumbent on the business to find a way for the customer to win, while also making a profit.

Individual people can certainly be greedy, but I've studied a few business curricula and haven't seen "be greedy and unscrupulous" in any of them.

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