DECEMBER 2012 EDITOR'S COLUMN: Business can get very detail intensive and all-consuming, so it's all the more important to step back, relax, look around and realize. . . it's all about others.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — One advantage of hosting a business conference in a tropical paradise is it gets you out of your comfort zone — and into an even more comfortable zone.
Surroundings aside, the zone consists of dreams, aspirations and optimism about what lies ahead. It’s a place that takes you beyond the narrow routines of the day while immersing you in the trappings and scenery of a hilly tropical resort. Who cannot relax and reevaluate what one really wants out of life and work? An exposure to the good life invariably triggers the dreams and desire for an even better one.
This year’s LCT Leadership Summit, held at the El Conquistador Resort along the coastline east of San Juan, more than any other industry event took a turn toward broader and more personal themes. The overall message I took away is a basic of business: First, it’s all about you — but then it’s even more so all about others.
The Summit speaker roster was selected and scheduled in a way that gets back to that basic dynamic, and then builds on it for better living. I chose several points from each of the speakers that connect this thread — one that starts with you and extends endlessly to everyone else.
Get yourself right
No one can succeed in life if hobbled by stress, fatigue, poor nutrition and a lack of physical well-being. Corporate fitness expert Billy “The Coach” Sheehan stressed that your personal condition is your number one asset. If you can’t manage yourself, you won’t be that good at managing others. So, 1) Exercise regularly; 2) Eat responsibly; 3) Rest sufficiently; 4) Stay challenged mentally. On point No. 4, my advice: Turn off the TV, open a book.
Kindness flows forward
If you can balance and strengthen yourself, then it’s much easier to follow the advice of speaker/entrepreneur Bill Taylor, founder of Fast Company: “In a world of so much change and disruption, small acts of kindness and gestures of humans going above and beyond the call of duty really do take on outsized importance.” More than ever, people crave a sense of humanity. The goal for any lasting business model is to be kind to others: customers, employees, investors. In today’s coarse culture, that approach gets noticed and appreciated.
Kindness breeds courtesy
One source of change and disruption is social media, which, says Limos.com chief product officer Doug Anderson, has become a more trusted source than newspapers and TV for product information because it creates collective awareness among people. But the successful social media approach eerily resembles what is learned in kindergarten: Don’t yell, push or interrupt. Be targeted, subtle and safe. Social media is all about interaction, which requires social graces, which need to be rooted in kindness. Remember, when you interrupt someone, you essentially are saying, “But I don’t trust you.” Listen and be the last to speak, whether in person or online. A person you’ve given sincere attention to is more likely to engage and do business with you.
Listening is more than clearing your ears and nodding your head. Communication and leadership expert Joe Yazbeck stressed the need to acknowledge while listening, whether in person or on the phone. Respond and engage, don’t just grunt or nod. People often ramble on because they sense no one is listening, Yazbeck says. If someone objects or complains, never say “but.” Listen, acknowledge, and say, for example, “I understand, I can understand, I get it. I see what you mean.” Respond in a way that dissolves emotion and respects the speaker.
Above and beyond
No business person can truly succeed without higher goals, and when you gain a higher purpose, you get cooperation from others, says Swami Parathsany disciple and spiritual advisor Gautam Jain. Although rooted in Eastern philosophy, Jain’s timeless principles can be adapted by people of any faith or none at all. A leader also is someone who leads the way by example, and doesn’t just talk about it. If you are not consistent in doing yourself what you demand of others, then you are selfish while expecting others to be givers, Jain said. This applies to raising children as much as leading employees.
There it is, simple as 1-2-3-4-5: From self-care, to the strength of kindness, to a pattern of courtesy, to better listening, to stronger leading through example. That’s one business bottom line that never slips into recession.
-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor
The more casual and coarse society gets, the more chauffeured service can gleam with a counter-couture-culture.