Passion, Duty, Money
In the first of this year’s Idler publications (a very good read) there is an interesting interview with, Charles Handy discussing his book, The Second Curve, and life in general for the ‘worker’.
The key message of The Second Curve, which I had read last year, is that in order to remain in business and relevant to your customers, you will probably need to break (or creatively destroy) your existing business models. The ‘curve’ of the title relates to the typical lifecycle of a business or product, and Handy encourages business leaders to think about the ‘second curve’ before it’s too late.
During the interview Handy also talks about individuals and describes the activities of most individuals as falling into three categories: Passion, Duty and Money. What he goes on to explain is that we tend to do things that we are passionate about, in my case reading or going to the theatre; we also do things out of duty, such as cutting the grass, or cleaning the car; and we do things to make money so that we can pay the bills. At various stages in our lives one of the three will become dominant but we also have choices, particularly about how much money we want and how much of the other activities we are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of cash.
Handy is a regular speaker at events organised by the Peter Drucker Institute, many of these can be found on YouTube, in one that was recorded a couple of years ago he talks along the same lines about ‘complexity’ in business and asks the audience to consider whether their business purpose is about Passion, Duty or Money? Of course his fear is that too many are focused on money but suggests that “The money [should be the] means not the purpose.”
A job with purpose
A 2014 article in Forbes states ‘Millennials want to be home for dinner, and want to feel like their 9-5 job has a real purpose. They are constantly seeking purpose in what they do for a living’
The same article went on to say ‘Millennials need direction and meaning, an interesting mixture of altruism and self-interest. Millennials are loyal to a job rather than an employer. This is partly a response to their parents sometimes being loyal to a firm that would often lay them off without hesitation when times got rough.’
I also think that the ‘parents’ who have experienced redundancy or severe change, maybe more than once, are also loyal only to a job and not the organisation anymore. My wife recently left a job that she loved and had enjoyed for over 10 years but the organisation had stopped valuing her and were undermining the sense of purpose that she received from her work.
Trust and engagement
The respected PR company Edelman publishes a Trust Barometer each year, asking the general public (who are also employees) what they think about businesses and business activity. The results of its 2015 survey concluded that ‘the pace of development and change in business today is too fast, that business innovation is driven by greed and money rather than a desire to improve people’s lives’ – to be clear, that’s what your customers think – and your employees are probably no different.
The results of a global employee engagement survey of 7,500 business were published last month ‘across all leadership levels, an average of only 36 percent of employees are “highly engaged.”’ The report also concluded that ‘The vast majority (87 percent) of respondents say that linking an organization’s social responsibility efforts to leadership development has a positive impact on overall engagement and performance. Unfortunately, only 59 percent of respondents say their organizations actually do link the two.’
It’s no secret that the global economy is making life very tough for businesses in all sectors. Profit margins have been squeezed, operational costs have risen, barriers to entry have fallen in many sectors and the point of difference between brands and offers has eroded. And yet the focus is still ‘profit’, even when 64% of employees are disengaged at some level or other and all the evidence suggests that giving them a sense of purpose will make a difference to their productivity and contribution.
If your competitors are operating with only 36% of employees ‘highly engaged’ imagine what your business could do if you had 100% engagement. But leaders have to stop beating their teams over the head and demanding ‘more for less’ – instead give them something to believe in, describe the better place that you need to get to and make them feel good about the work they are doing. Give them a purpose, not just ideas for making more money or savings.
As Charles Handy once said ‘forget the competition, compete with yourself to be better.’
purpose not just ideas