Photo by Anthony Easton, flickr

Photo by Anthony Easton, flickr


We’ve been telling our kids this for decades now, and there’s some powerful truth behind it.

But it’s a limited view of the world.

If we have everyone just seeking personal fulfillment, there’s no guarantee that we’ll actually have a stable and functioning society.  Yet we hold up this great American ideal that we’re all independent, self-sufficient, and self-fulfilling.

As a business leader, if you stay at that level with your employees, you’ll feel like you’re pandering to every whim and desire of your employees.  Fred doesn’t like filling out paperwork.  Meghan would rather play with her phone all day.  Josh wants to take off and go skiing with no notice because the powder’s great today.

To the degree that you can accommodate them, fantastic.  But there’s no guarantee that it’ll work.  So now you’re hiring and firing like crazy, hoping that somewhere out there are people who are inspired to actually do the work in your business.

What’s missing here is the larger passion.  The company vision, mission, however you state it.  And the grounding values to guide day-to-day behavior.

This came to mind this week when I engaged in a discussion about a small company where each person has come to the point where they’re not cooperating, not communicating.  They’re each just operating independently.

What they’re missing is the larger reason for working together.  It might even start out as simply as:

  • We want to stay in business
  • We’d like to continue to have jobs
  • We want to continue to serve customers

It’s not much of a vision, but it’s enough to start with.  But it takes someone to start acting as a leader.

  • If we want to continue to have jobs, we need to have customers, right?  So what is it going to take so that we, collectively, continue to attract and serve customers?
  • We could just survive, but we’re capable of SO much more!  Fred, Meghan, Josh – you’re good at what you do.  But just imagine if we had customer reviews RAVING about this company!  Telling us how great we are, head and shoulders above the competition!
  • And I, personally, am so inspired about the potential we have here.  I see the possibility of us being a leader in our community.  Of making an important difference in peoples’ lives.  And, like, actually having fun (can we say that?) in our jobs!
  • So let’s get to work and BUILD this!

It’s a bit of a pep talk, sure, but mostly this is heart-felt and honest.  Passionate.  Inspiring.

And it totally shifts the way employees view their work!