Dierschow: Bringing the soul into business

T

he traditional wisdom is that businesses are best run with unemotional logic and analysis. And there indeed is a place for that, but it misses the elements that engage customers, partners and employees.

There’s a place for passion, purpose and story. To have your soul shine forth.

About five years ago, Simon Sinek introduced us to a concept he called “Start With Why.” Check out his TED Talk if you haven’t seen it.

The idea is that customers first have to be drawn into the core story of why your company even exists. That creates the energy for someone to then care about your product and its features.

Because humans are emotional beings, not just logical.

I would argue that this concept is much more important for employees. After all, their entire career, and most of each week, are tied up with their employment. I’m probably not that connected with what I had for lunch today, but I sure care about what I do for eight (or more) hours a day.

This is directly connected with The Great Resignation that we’ve been experiencing. One of the primary drivers for the trend is people feeling disconnected from their employers and the work they do. The pandemic has caused many of us to question whether this is the way we want to spend our lives — and a significant number have decided to move on to other more important things.

It’s not really about being forced, or allowed, to work from home. This is about the bigger existential questions of work/life balance. Even the meaning of life for some people.

So what do we do about it?

As business leaders, we can help bring forward the soul of each of our organizations. Ask yourself: Why are YOU so invested in this? Is it the people? Solving important problems? Seeing an excited customer? Making a cool product that’s never existed before?

I would hope that you have some deeper connection and purpose. If you don’t, there’s little chance you’ll be able to attract and motivate great employees. It’ll be an unemotional transaction, working for a paycheck.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’m preparing to speak at the Soulful Entrepreneur Summit the last week of January. And it’s a powerful concept that helps us to lead truly great companies.

What I find fascinating about this train of thought is that each person has his or her own priorities and passions. Just because I’m excited about something doesn’t mean that you’re also enthused about it. But people are drawn to leaders who exude a sense of purpose and want to include you in doing something important.

You might be drawn to technology, I might be about serving customers, and the next person dreams in spreadsheets. But we may all want to work together because we’re sharing that common purpose that becomes the soul of our company. It can include all of our capabilities and draw out our energy.

You might have noticed that I mentioned customers and employees, but not partners. These are the people who you rely on for your business success, but don’t directly control. We all have them, even if you’re a solopreneur.

Because you don’t have so much control, a lot of the contribution will come through alignment around shared purpose. As with employees, the bare minimum is to just trade value-delivered for money.

Why? We have good contracts, right? I learned many years ago that the best contracts are those that don’t have to be enforced, because they already reflect the agreement and alignment we’ve built. Because usually when you get down to enforcing contract violations, it’s become a lose-lose situation.

Which is NOT what you want with partners.

So it’s just as vital to pull your partners in, as with employees and even customers, to be a part of the soul and purpose of your company. When you do, you have long-term partners, dedicated employees, and loyal customers.

Which is the surest path to success!

Carl Dierschow is a Small Fish Business Coach based in Fort Collins, specializing in companies committed to improving society and the world. His website is www.smallfish.us