“The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes didn’t have tears.” – African proverb
There are just a few conversations when to comes to the souls of businesses. In our everyday interactions, the ‘soul’ is more dominant in religious conversations than in any other circle. But where we agree that the soul is the ‘self-consciousness’ of a being and that it makes our existence meaningful, then businesses as entities which deal with beings should re-think how they see and talk about themselves. After all, businesses are a bunch of people who interact with other people to help them satisfy their needs and wants. Truthfully speaking, it is all a soulful interaction.
For starters, we need to appreciate that beyond the profit motive businesses have ‘an existential significance – a reason for being’. Often, businesses are started or created to improve the existing state of our humanity: generally, it has to do with the ways we consume, distribute or feel about products or services. This animating purpose of offering true value to customers usually originates with the entrepreneur or business owners and is captured in the vision, mission and values of the business. And these elements together constitute the soul of the business. They serve as the guiding system of the business just like that of a rocket, to provide direction, control and harmony in relationships of the business.
This soul of the business is what creates its identity, the awareness of its unique way of doing things vis-a-vis best practices. It is the essence of its brand. Properly nurtured and embraced, they help to make its employees stand-out in the crowd, and create a distinction which they must live with and somehow remain themselves. It is what gives employees the courage to not merely work but embrace their work as the wellspring of a tenderness that makes life worth living – hence labelling the soul as ‘self-consciousness’ to foster greater engagement and better results.
Interestingly, many businesses without a proper understanding of the roles their vision statement, mission statement and corporate values play have cultivated souls that are ‘bland, toothless, or just plain dishonest’. Too many business leaders do not realise life itself evolves out of our words. Thus, they have corporate statements that are ‘un-meaningful’ and assume they are harmless. Well, such an attitude is tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot. Many business leaders do not give thought to their words, including the ones which constitute their vision and mission as well as value system. This attitude is detrimental to how employees work, and the interactions they carry out during working hours.
The reality is that in a bid to become politically correct, many businesses and their leaders choose and use words that are empty and have no meaning in relation to offering true value to customers as their core values. This not only makes the work environment become a place of cynicism, but the integrity of leaders becomes questionable. Unwittingly, such businesses labour under a belief that having something is better than having nothing at all. If we accept that premise, we open ourselves to the influx of negative energies which will ultimately generate challenges.
When the people who contribute their creativity, skills and experience to fulfil the objectives of businesses realise the animated purposes to which they subject their individual and personal aspirations are not something the leaders themselves believe in and work with it, they become dispirited. In fact, they distrust the system so much they cultivate the poisonous attitude of giving only a part of themselves. And where they can get away with wasting opportunities, they do so. That is why businesses should strive to create an environment that is liberating; one whose animating purpose drives employees to say, “What more can I do for the growth of this organisation which gives me meaning in life?” – instead of the undertone chorus of “I can’t wait to find another workplace”.
Building the soul of a business is not a quick fix. It is to be seen as that element which sets the organisation apart ‘in an age when a quick killing, tomorrow’s share price, instant gratification and short-termism are the norm’. We can thus anticipate that it will take planning, persistence and prudence. It has to be done well, so that there are guarantees. We can all appreciate how individuals who are mindful of their souls behave – trustworthy, engaging, innovative and efficient. Now imagine a business wherein the employees display this attitude: the sum of their efforts would generate a synergy that ensures profitability and a good reputation for the business.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them positively respond to that which is beautiful, while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]