Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Response to a friend's blog

Albert, a good friend of very long standing, runs a business blog at Growing Clients , which has an interesting new post entitled "The worldview of my clients ".

Recently, on this topic, we engaged in an exchange of ideas around the principles of sound business management. This exchange centered on the concept of a "Worldview" ... what it is and how it impacts on the way we do business. What was especially interesting for me to note was that, while the word 'spirituality' was never used, that is exactly what we were talking about.

In fact, you may have noticed that many people in business frown on talking about spirituality. For them it's unprofessional - it might queer the deal, as it were. Not Albert, I can gratefully add, because he and I have many wonderful and stimulating exchanges - one of the reasons we are friends.

But the truth is, many people do tend to be shy, if not ashamed, of talking to others about their spiritual life and awareness. There can be many reasons for this.

Perhaps they may feel that others will think they have become "religous nuts", who think to buy tickets to heaven with loud arguments, converting all they meet to their way of seeing things.

Some business people put on their Sunday or Saturday or-whatever-suits only for religious days. On other days they gouge their clients, friends and competitors. They do all the negative and hurtful things sane people know they should not do.

For others, spirituality may be something to keep in the dark closet of their minds to be brought out only for careful, tentative sharing with like-minded people or close associates. Some use it to try and impress others with their holiness, how far 'advanced' they are on the Path.

You may be familiar with the old quote, "What you are, speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying."

All of life is about spirituality, including how one does business and how one treats one's clients, staff and competitors. The term 'worldview' is a synonym for 'spirituality', which cannot but reflect, for those with the eyes to see, exactly who and what we are. It is the word that describes where we are on the path of Truth that we are all traveling.

In which category do you fall?

Albert emailed me to say that he had posted a list on his blog of the typical reactions that he gets from some of his clients in his business consultancy and he asked me to comment. With Albert's kind permission, I repeat his entire post, together with its comments, here for you to think about.

His list has the following introduction:

"During my annual break, I read Seth Godin, and he challenges his readers to define the worldview of their clients/customers. If you know Godin you would know that a worldview can be about anything. It could be about how you view running your business. My clients consist mostly of owners of successful medium-sized businesses. While you all are different you do have a lot in common. In writing this post I tried to come up with a description with which any of you, my clients, might perhaps identify – although each, of course, would have an own emphasis.

Could this be you?"

I realised that Albert's list was drawn up from comments he'd heard from his clients over the course of time and that he was putting it on his blog hoping that people would respond appropriately. Finding his list fascinating, if not a little depressing, I immediately responded to “The worldview of my clients” as follows:

Hi Albert, in your blog you say, “a worldview can be about anything. It could be about how you view running your business.”

My sense of a worldview is contrary to what you say. An individual can have only one world view as a totality of one’s beliefs about reality. A child can not have a worldview… a balanced worldview is formed over time and through direct experience of the challenges of surviving as a member of a group, family, community, country, political party, etc. Like a religious view or a health view, a business view is just one Lego building block in the structure that represents an individual’s entire position regarding the great complexity of a fully developed worldview. This means that the individual’s convictions, moral, business and other, are entirely inter-related, issuing from set values that cover and direct all of the individual’s interactions with his or her world, and on every level of existence, from parenthood through to not shop-lifting. This would mean that one develops a worldview over time and that a worldview is never fully formed, but changes and grows as the person matures through experience, culture and his or her ever-richer humanness. It MUST be so that such maturation will also reflect in the person’s business approach, how they treat their staff and their customers, the shaping of a business ethos.

Therefore, it would be more acceptable for me if you changed the above sentence to read “A worldview includes everything, and also how you view running your business.”

(For convenient linking of my answers, I quote the list below in a red font)

• I am creative in an operational, doing kind of way. My planning is mostly intuitive.

If you are asking do I tend to busk as I go along, yes to a degree, but not greatly so. I like to plan carefully ahead based on what I know works.

• So expect me to change as little as possible – although I will change if it is step-by-step but then provide really strong reasons.

No. Threats and challenges cause to me change VERY quickly, and even dramatically, than when things are chugging along boringly on an even keel – when does it ever? It goes back to my statement about basing my planning and responses on “what I know works”. Such changes can be instant, and not step by step, depending on the scale of the threat to my business.

• I should attend more fairs or shows, take creative breaks from overcrowded, exhausting weeks and even go abroad. (Why not?)

I don’t think fairs and shows can teach me much about my business… been there, got the t-shirt. I would be interested only in terms of getting updated on developing technologies as they affect my industry. The internet has over the years greatly reduced my dependence on trade shows for this kind of update, though. But when it comes to employing production techniques and creative integrity, I don’t need to be told or shown how to do what I do. I can learn much more by watching and analyzing my competitors’ behaviour.

• I know I should lead by example as my staff is watching what I do and what I tend to ignore. In fact, they follow my example. Do I have to check my behaviour?

How one treats people has to do with the ethical and humane standards you have incorporated into your worldview. In fact, if you are not sure about your own worldview, what kind of person you are and what your values are, this is the mirror to look into – it’s a dead give-away about who and what you really are and why you are experiencing staff motivation, production, distribution and customer problems.

• Most of my staff members do not have my mentality and work ethic. Why not? I know I should spend more time with them. What should I do but emphasize that we all need to work harder?

Anybody who thinks he is the smartest person in his business is stupid. He has never heard of the power of the “gestalt”. (I.e. the whole is greater than the sum of the parts). One must know that the emotional and material rewards of getting a team to operate maximally to its full power can be so great that it’s worth taking the time to build teams through the tools of self-respect and personal growth.

• I would be pleased if my staff could show a greater understanding of the pressures which I have to deal with daily. I would welcome greater commitment to me and my business. I would like to run my team in a manner which is smooth and cuts out much of my daily stress. At the moment I simply do too much crisis management. Meeting our monthly overheads seems to always be a main goal. I wish I could get individual team members to take more off my shoulders by taking more all-round responsibility and not always only sticking to their narrow work fields. Why can’t they work together? Each should chip in without being asked. But how to get them to be pro-active in a considered and responsible manner?

Feeling sorry for oneself is not part of a healthy worldview. Commitment from one’s staff to one’s business is a mirror-image of one’s commitment and loyalty to them!

• I know 2009 is going to be a tough year. Full of opportunities but tough. Heaven help us.

No! It’s during the tough years that one is most stimulated to do better. That’s when the tough ones get kicked into overdrive and when they and their staff and their businesses change and adapt the most. They say… “Heaven help the challenges. We’re Ok!”

On reading what I had written, I recognised an important ommission and added the following:

Correction: I said above “A child can not have a worldview” - Sorry, this was meant to be “A child can not have a balanced, mature worldview” Of course, a child does have a worldview… albeit an immature one, founded perhaps only on a basic need for love and security. But as we mature, our needs also mature and hence, our worldview.

On January 6th, 2009 at 12:10 am Albert Said:

Hi Andre, You provided a very thorough and stimulating comment! I enjoyed reading it and expect that our other readers will too.

I gladly accept your definition of “worldview” although Godin used it very narrowly. Your definition, for ease of reference, reads: “A worldview includes everything, and also how you view running your business.”

Please note that not one of my clients need to be as detailed in their comments. You could focus on one or two points only, should you so wish. Please join the conversation.

on January 6th, 2009 at 6:32 pm Stephen joined the chat:

I agree with Andre’s self-correction. Everyone has a world view. And many people cruise through life without ever reflecting on their behaviour nor articulating the underlying beliefs, assumptions and presuppositions that make up their world-view. I think what you have posted is a subset of a much larger set of possible reflections and assumptions about how life works and how we best meet the challenges and opportunities presented.

I believe your post points to an exercise we should all conduct with ourselves regularly. This would go hand in hand with a review of our strengths and weaknesses. Oh yes and also with a strategy thinking process. Everyone quotes Socrates “The unreflected life is not worth living”. This is part of that. I think.

Thanks for the note - to ruk (Afrikaans, 'to jerk' - editor) me back into thinking mode. I will reflect on this some more.

on January 7th, 2009 at 9:11 am Andre Said:

When needs drive a worldview must (move also) - there are interesting philosophical correlations between the challenges of living useful lives and the shaping of an ever-maturing worldview .

Stephen is right when he says that we need to reflect more on our strengths and weaknesses… but with the proviso that such soul-seeking reflection must be balanced with living life vigorously and making mistakes with gusto. If not, such reflections can become neurotic and counter-roductive - not only in one’s emotional and spiritual life, but also in how one runs a business.

Thus, Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ is still the only question. ‘Right Action’ (the Buddha variety) must go hand in hand with reflection.

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