Almost one year ago I met with a very bright business consultant from out of town. We have a mutual friend who helped to set up the meeting. At a certain point during our visit, the consultant asked me if I knew of any companies in our community that might be able to use his services. Before responding, I asked him what set him and his firm apart from all the many consulting firms that were out competing in the marketplace. I must tell you, I was impressed with his answer.
He told me that, in order to be a successful business, there are two essential components. First, you have to be smart. In other words, you want to have a good business strategy, state-of-the-art technology, and have great marketing. You need to be well-capitalized, have a strong sales function, and also have a few remaining ingredients that lead to success.
Then secondly, he said, you have to be a healthy company. You want high morale, a real sense of unity, good communication, minimum politics, and a low turnover rate among employees.
He then explained that most companies and consulting firms focus on being smart, but his firm spends their time helping companies to become healthy.
From my experience in the business world and from counselling businessmen, these words ring true. It is quite natural to try and create a smart, well-run business, and in the process fail to pay sufficient attention to the health of your company and the relationships that exist among the employees.
Philip Yancey tells the story of one of his good friends who worked as a consultant in the corporate world. At a certain point, he took some time to evaluate all the courses that he had taken and taught on the principles of good leadership and management. It occurred to him that he had never taken a course on how to love, even though the Bible presents it as the primary command in life. So he gathered a group of people together and asked them to think about one question: “When have I felt loved?”
The responses included:
when someone listens attentively to me, when someone makes me feel important, when someone encourages me, when someone respectfully challenges me, when someone cares for me when I am hurting, or when somebody gives me an unexpected gift.
Yancey’s friend then decided to take some of his clients through this same exercise. One female executive in a dysfunctional company decided to put the principles into practice. Although her company discouraged fraternizing, this woman started going down the hall and stopping in offices to visit her employees. She had no real agenda for any visit. The first person was terrified, thinking she had come into his office to fire him. “No, no,” she said, “I just figured that after three years of working together, I should get to know you.”
She spent time with all thirteen of her employees until one day her boss called her in. “I don’t know what the hell you’re doing,” he said, “but this company was almost bankrupt. It has turned around, and when I asked our people what had happened, everybody said that you were responsible.”
This reminds me of what someone once told me long ago:
Your employees will be totally committed to you and the mission of the company if they know you truly care for them.
I don’t know about you, but my instincts tell me that, in order to be an exceptional organization, you clearly have to be smart, but maybe even more importantly, you have to be healthy.