Winning today is about serving others and providing value. Both are good. They always were, and always will be.
Greed is not “good.” It never was, and it never will be. For almost 50 years, this false equivalency has eroded trust and loyalty, and seeded much of the disengagement and unfulfillment we see throughout the workplace today.
The good news is that an “official” shift has already occurred. This shift, however, is not incremental – it’s transformational. It changes the way business is thought of and executed. And only those leaders and organizations that transform along with it will win.
The new chapter. The Business Roundtable, a group of 181 CEOs from top companies nationwide, recently released a statement that redefined the purpose of the corporation.
In the statement, leaders committed to serving all of their stakeholders in terms of delivering value to customers, investing in employees, dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers, supporting communities, protecting the environment, and generating long-term shareholder value.
This, of course, is a major departure from the group that, in 1997, long after the now outdated “profit-centric” shift, professed that “the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders.”
Whether considered forward thinking or a self-preserving realignment in response to the new era that has already taken hold, this new official statement marks a great opportunity. From this point forward, this new commitment by top leaders to serve more than just short-term shareholder interests is known. It also sets the benchmark for how others will perceive us moving forward – including the talent and clients we seek to attract, engage, and retain.
In this context:
- How do you and your organization compare?
- Have you stated a similar commitment?
- Do all your actions align?
Beginning with belief. Our first step as leaders is to know what we believe.
Our values, actions, and outcomes will always be tied to our beliefs. If we as leaders and members of leadership teams truly believe in our stated “mission, vision, and values,” there is congruence. If not, there’s a further erosion of trust and a high likelihood of strategic plan stagnation.
Most of us have been “raised” to believe in projects and profits, but do we also believe in people and purpose?
For most of our careers, it was engrained that talent is a “resource,” people skills are “soft,” and employee engagement is just a “thing.” As leaders, we need to take the time to investigate and draw our own conclusions about what we truly believe and how to leverage that to win in the new era.
We also need to learn to look more long-term. We need to realize that, as essential as projects and profits are to our success, they have a limited “shelf-life.” No matter how big or important a project is for our career or for our organization, it eventually ends. Similarly, profits in any given year are eventually distributed and spent.
In contrast, building our business based on people and purpose is a strategy for continuous growth. Done well, focusing more of our attention on people and purpose makes it much easier for us to win projects and achieve higher levels of profitability – especially during transitions and downturns.
Walking the talk. Leading transformation to win in the new era is ultimately about action – doing new things to realize greater outcomes.
Leaders and organizations that invest the time and resources to think about, design, and execute a strategy with the right focus on projects, profits, people, and purpose are best positioned to succeed – to generate greater growth and profits through greater employee engagement and work with greater meaning and purpose (See Part 3 of the series for more specific steps on this).
Winning today is about serving others and providing value. Both are good. They always were and always will be.
For many of us, our walk will need to include developing a serve-first mindset. We also need to develop the skills and the systems to deliver the right kind of value at the right time. Doing so is transforming and also produces the highest level of economic value – greater than our differentiated products and well-designed employee and client experiences.
Following these steps establishes a culture of engagement and trust and positions us to realize both our personal peak and collective impact at the office and beyond.
Peter Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider who has spent more than 24 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for a high-achieving firm. Pete is now the president and founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete is also host of The AEC Leadership Today Podcast. Pete works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through strategic planning implementation, executive coaching, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.