In the Future of Work will be a Human Experience, I ended with a rallying call that appeared to resonate (it was the most shared quote from that article):
“Let’s put humans at the heart of why we do everything we do.”
According to Steve Jobs, “”Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
The recent crises have laid the world naked, exposed it to unprecedented events, the likes of which we have never experienced before.
If we are to take Job’s advice, we only need to follow our hearts.
Consider for a moment, your own company or organisation…
- Where is the heart?
- What keeps the heart of the organisation balanced, focused and confident of its future?
- Which part of the company represents the heart?
- How can you follow your heart, if you’re not sure of the answers to these questions?
The unchallenging answer to ‘where,’ is that the heart is at the centre (obvs) — the core of the organisation. You imagine that would be a single focal point around which the whole company can align, a direction of travel along which the company can advance and ensure they act in a certain way — a vision, a mission, a set of values.
That might also answer the ‘what’.
But do these labels give a company this centricity of the heart and a reason why it does everything it does. The Harvard Business Review suggests it does not. Strategy consultant Graham Kenny explained that companies need something else. They need purpose — something that is more motivational, and connects both the heart and the head. Finding purpose for your organisation is a hot-topic, as the global reset triggered by recent world events is encouraging more people to look for meaning in their work, and companies to look to make purpose more of their DNA, not just a feel good campaign or a slogan.
There is still a long way to go. One US based bank’s mission is “to be the best financial services company in the world” — not exactly tugging at the heart strings with that one.
You have to find something better, something that resonates with both the people who work for you and your customers.
Kenny said, “To inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organisation’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.”
These feelings and any emotional connections are driven by the brain. Knowledge and wisdom also come from our brains. They are stimulated, intellectually aware, and push us beyond basic competency.
Our brain doesn’t sit at our core though, it sits at the top of our head.
The most senior leadership team on the top floor of the office can therefore be considered the brain of the organisation. They assuredly (mostly) hold the understanding of the company’s mission. They detail the vision. They set the values. They cascade through the organisation.
But remember, we are seeking the heart of the organisation, and acknowledging that the brain could also be the heart would be an anatomical conundrum, that even the best leadership will fail to solve.
We must keep looking for the heart, because without knowing the what, where or which part, how will you drive the why?
Maybe though, the answer is more obvious.
Maybe we are asking the wrong questions.
Maybe the real question should be…Who is the Heart?
You can have a mission. You can have a vision. You can have values.
You can even have the willingness, drive, and commitment to execute — but you can’t action any of this without people.
We have seen and heard countless amazing stories recently of how people have worked under extraordinary circumstances. People adapted to change overnight. Stepped up to support customers and colleagues. Stood up to be counted for what is the right thing to do.
It is the people as a collective that have pulled together, pumped life into the extremities of organisations, solved new problems and kept the organisation moving forward. People oxygenate the organisation and keep it healthy. Good people want to do good things for the organisation.
So…your people aren’t just at the heart of your organisation — your people are the heart of your organisation.
They are the heart of what you do and they are the heart of why you do it.
The heart plays a critical function and you need to safeguard it. In your body, it’s shielded behind a ribcage, cushioned between your lungs, protected by the pericardium. The body has taken many special measures to protect your heart. Inside your organisation, you must take similar measures to protect your people and to fortify them too.
A heart can fail if it does not pump effectively and does not meet the body’s needs for oxygen. Oxygenated blood helps reduce the heart’s workload. People fueled by a positive mindset, passion, and belief, energised behind common goals and an understanding of why they are doing everything they do, will help make them more efficient, and will allow them to pump more lifeblood around the organisation, and to even do more with less in these difficult times.
It’s times like these that the heart is tested most.
If the heart does not function properly, all the other organs — including the brain — begin to die. The world’s most common cause of death is heart disease, mostly occurring as a result of age or lifestyle. How many financial services companies are ageing badly, living the old lifestyle? Things can still look OK on the surface. A positive PR machine well oiled. The corporate lipstick and mascara slapped on like a thick decorative veneer on an ageing, wrinkly elephant. But, on the inside, people are still too often experiencing the old lifestyle, represented by legacy technology, red-tape, and process inefficiencies that constrain them.
Science tells us that hearts can get fitter and healthier by adopting new habits to become a more efficient engine and help us live longer. You cannot achieve this by following an old lifestyle and keeping old habits in the misguided hope of achieving a different outcome.
To get the best out of your people, not only do you have to nurture them, protect them, lead them…but you need to remove the plaque or atheroma that restrict blood flow — the inefficient processes and barriers to change. You must do everything you can to avoid the empire building, the office politics, the back stabbing, which are too often for personal gain, not for the company’s. All these and more contribute to the fatty build-ups that lead to unhealthy corporate arteries.
Without the heart as our body’s engine, we cannot push blood to our brains or around our bodies. Without the heart, we have no life.
Without the people, we have no company.
Give them leadership, ownership and freedom. Protect them. Provide them with a purpose and they will do amazing things.
Let the heart pump the ‘why’ into everything we do.
Steve Jobs was right. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Paul Loberman is a former MD at HSBC and an active member of the FinTech Community
Credit: Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels