by Gary Knight

What ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ are your Company making this year ?


Oh the dark days of January when we promise ourselves so much …be it losing weight, giving up the demon drink, learning Norwegian or training for that Spring Triathlon…let’s hope we stick to it this year !

By the way January 16 is officially the most ‘ depressing day ‘ of the year, so we all have to pledge that we will drive through this week in ‘warrior like ‘ mode & emerge triumphant on Friday!

But what are all these good resolutions for ?

Pretty much every book I have read on the subject leads back to a central theme of — ‘I want to be Happy/Happier,’ that’s the headline but how do you actually achieve this ? Well, for about 5000 years the Chinese, Indians & pretty much every race/tribe/movement that has sensibly existed has summed up the task in hand as follows :

> Your ‘Soul’ needs to be at Peace
In order to fully achieve this you need to have your 3 vital elements in complete harmony with each  other , & those are ( lest you forget ) :

* Mind
* Body
* Spirit

Of course there is lots of advice out there on how you achieve this , from good nutrition, exercise, sleep ( definitely the ‘new’ sex ) , meditation to being more sociable ( i.e actually meeting & talking to people for ‘real’ ) and not forgetting being a good citizen-particularly in terms of trying to make other peoples’ lives happier !
So that’s it really , although it takes a lot of effort , patience & practice to get this spot on — but well worth it in the end !

So what about Companies ? Given their primary function is to sell stuff to us, which results in them giving us jobs, then one might conclude that they too need a ‘soul’ — a core purpose to their being. After all a Company is really just a set of humans ( their employees ) trying to deal with other humans ( their customers ). Ok, I need to add that some companies now employ robots , which they are desperately trying to make more human, but let’s not digress today into the world of AI
So how’s your Company doing on this front & what about your Leaders – are they managing to keep the ‘ balance & harmony ?’.

More & more, particularly in a digital age where we can seek out most of a businesses’ secrets & where that business is finding it increasingly difficult to hide , then we are beginning to realise that what we ultimately want is ‘authenticity’ in our lives , in every aspect from where our food comes from, to how people deal with us,  to even the types of TV shows we are drawn to ( cue how big ‘The Great British Bake Off ” has become ). Maybe this is a counter reaction to fake news, remote relationships & ‘publishing ourselves all across the web ,’ often in the guise of someone we really are not.

So our true essence is all wrapped up in not just having a ‘soul,’ but moreover an ‘authentic soul’ & to that end leading an authentic life. When we turn our gaze to the Business World how often have you heard the Leaders of our great companies shout out these great statements :

> ” We are only as good as the people we employ ”
> ” Our whole ethos is to create a desirable future for both our Employees & our Customers ”
> ” We are a people driven Company ”
> ” Our Company is defined by our Culture ”

Mmmmm .…To be fair some businesses are genuine in both their belief system & their daily activities & thus they are ‘authentic ‘ in the manner in which they conduct themselves, but I fear they are in a huge minority & that the ‘authentic soul’ is a very rare commodity indeed ! No wonder we admire those companies people love working for , as we are aways deeply attracted to that which is rare.

So why is it that Companies massively struggle to reach this ‘higher state’ ?
I don’t buy the argument that goes down the route of blaming this firmly at the door of this being a ‘hyper competitive world ‘-if that is the case & having an authentic soul is a rare commodity then wouldn’t businesses desperately mine this asset as it would get them a huge competitive advantage & differentiator ? Furthermore hasn’t it always been a hyper competitive planet ?

No, in my esteemed view one of the key villains  of the piece is ‘ short-termism ‘.
This innocent little phrase is doing more damage to our souls than we dare imagine, in fact the world is getting rather obsessed by it. Since the 2008/09 banking crash it has invaded every aspect of our lives in a dramatic, harmful way.
Let’s just jot down a few aspects of the spread of this virus :

* Companies seem in a state of paranoia over the next 3 months business results
* Loyalty is disappearing out of the window as everyone is seeking one big, quick win
* We feel the need to check our emails or social posts almost on a permanent on going basis
* Patience is becoming a lost art — remember the days when Brands were built & nurtured over a number of years ?
* We seek ‘instant success & gratification ‘

I have only dared to put down a mere morsel of my bigger list of the  symptoms of this disease.
When we look at one of those great proclamations that companies often call out :

‘ We are a people driven business ‘

Then what is it that the same Leaders of these Companies do when those quarterly sales/profits are weak/fail to hit budget ? Yes, that’s right, I can hear you, they cut costs & what does cutting costs normally mean ? Yes, correct again, they cut people.
So let’s briefly re-write that proclamation again :

‘ We are a people driven business that drive people out of our business when the short term environment doesn’t materialise the way we expected it to ‘.

To be fair many of those Leaders may not want to do this but they feel obliged to, as they have shareholders & The City breathing down their neck to get those short term results. If they fail to cut costs then they are seen as ‘weak ‘ & this may well damage their own future career prospects. So it is the ‘system at fault’ not necessarily  the Leadership ( I will discuss the whole area of Leadership in a future blog ) , although the truly ‘Great Leaders’ out there know how to confront this beast full on & succeed to move beyond the short term chaos.

This ‘short-termism ‘ fever shows its symptoms in the way in which many companies go about their budget process .

Most organisations work on a 5 year planning & budget cycle, but although there are lots of numbers & assumptions in years 2>5 of that plan, it is only the year 1 phase that the vast bulk of the company’s efforts & resources are pushed towards-true, there may be some longer term Cap-Ex on areas such as new machinery, over-hauling the IT system etc , but the reality is the ’12 months becomes everything ‘ & for some business the 3 months then becomes everything. You only  have to look at UK Football Clubs to see how ruthlessly this is played out in terms of the hiring & firing of their Team Managers.

It also worries me deeply that in order to dilute the effects that this fever is placing upon organisations, that Leaders of lots of companies now talk about ‘ building a great new culture for our business’ — infact they even send people on ‘culture building courses ‘ or set up ‘ culture clubs’ . Now that in itself is a massive short term sin ! You cannot build a culture overnight, or in 3 months or in 12 months — the whole of human existence has given us a brilliant ‘ Teach Yourself’ book on this subject. Cultures develop primarily from the way in which people interact together , slowly over a long period of time & little by little cultural traits develop & build into a grander cultural ethos. We even begin relating stories to each other about that culture & then we can take pride, a sense of belonging , a sense of bonding ( a massive human requirement ) & finding an inbuilt sense of identity & belief. So when companies talk about building a new culture then if they are truly ‘authentic’ then this becomes a long term desire & cannot link back into the short-termism that is dominating their lives.

Some organisations are now beginning to wake up to the concept of genuinely wanting to acquire an ‘authentic soul,’ they understand that their people want to have a strong cultural identity at work, want to be respected, valued & want to believe that the company is interested in their long term future.

By the way this does translate into a real ‘2 way Street ,’ once these people buy into this ethos , then they become ‘ Happier ‘ at work, they perform better, they become more productive &  their Company becomes more competitive ( & there are tons of examples of such minded companies out there ). Going back to the 3 elements  that need to exist in Harmony in order to reach this state of ‘True Happiness ‘ – Mind, Body & Spirit , then these same companies  are putting some very basic but happiness affirming core activities in place :

> allowing their people to have a strong work : life balance
> understanding that multi-tasking  is not only a myth ( humans can’t do it ) but also destroys productivity
> building quality  time into their teams’ schedules to focus on the main & new projects
> genuinely accepting that training  & learning are ‘ change life-skills’ that their people should always participate in
> developing Leaders that have ‘Vision’ but also ‘really care ‘ about their People & their future lives-rather than just caring about their ‘own back garden ‘.

Thee are inherent benefits for companies that adopt this ‘life approach,’ one of the main ones being they will always attract the ‘best people’ — increasing their competitive advantage. I keep reading that there are lots of ‘jobs skills gaps’ in many industry sectors , so presumably in many places these highly sought out individuals have the luxury of actually ‘choosing who they work for’.

Don’t forget that Companies originally emerged as the general feeling was that a ‘ group of people’ working together would be a more beneficial enterprise than going it alone-so I wonder if even that founding belief has flown out of the window ?

So the good news as we approach the most depressing day of the year is that there is heaps of hope out there. We spend so little time on this planet yet so much of it ‘at work’ that the onus falls upon us all — with Companies & us — to find our ‘authentic soul’ & make the best of our time here, both at work & out of it.
Given that ‘ Companies are us ‘ then this should not be an impossible task.
But in order to achieve this we have to accept the responsibilities for our own lives & that means we need to daily work at looking after our Minds, Bodies & Spirits, then the ‘authentic soul’ can be at peace.

Remember this doesn’t stop Businesses thriving in an ultra competitive environment — it actually helps them achieve this.

So let’s hope we all stick to our good resolutions this year & the next one & the one after that.

Here’s to an ‘authentic soul’!

Happy New Year


Gary Knight
About Gary Knight
Are Companies ‘Happy?’