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Business Is People and People Need Meaning


A third of our days on this planet are working days and all too often work becomes transactional. We do things that don't necessarily fill our hearts with joy because we need the money. We pretend to be someone we aren't so we get on and fit in. As Professor Paul Dolan has proven in his extensive research at the London School of Economics on happiness ""trying to force yourself to be different never really works." We become great at function but not at form.

Our reliance on big data is sharply increasing. In fact, according to a new survey commissioned by Dell, 41% of mid-market businesses have one or more big data projects already in place, with another 55% planning to start one in the near future.

However, in our drive to maximize our efficiency and subsequently profit, using the powerful data tool, we can very often forget that the drivers of the data are people. As author Jarod Kintz explains in This Book Is Not For Sale "Nothing carries meaning. People carry meaning. We are the porters of importance."

Humans, by their very nature are pack animals and thrive when their life is full of meaningful relationships; dozens of studies prove that positive social connections not only give us pleasure, they influence our long term health and are as powerful as getting enough sleep, eating well and not smoking.

Work can be so much more than just a focus on data. It can help us live our dreams, it can help our hearts soar. When we feel we are valued as an individual, appreciated and cared for we feel happier; when we feel happier we are more innovative, creative and efficient. We are feeding big data's prophecy. It's a win win.

This is why work should be full of meaning; but how can we introduce this resource and still keep our eye on the valuable big data drive?

Be Kind To Yourself. From the Buddhist point of view, you have to care about yourself before you can really care about others. Slow down and note a few things every day that you have done that you think are fantastic. Seeing positive aspects of yourself written down will remind you to be kinder to yourself. This will, in time, change the way you behave and the reactions of others around you. Eleanor Roosevelt once said 'To handle yourself, use your head, to handle others, use your heart'.

Appreciate. Expressing gratitude and thankfulness has a huge impact on our health, well-being and productivity. Every time you have an interaction share one thing that you value about that person, soon this will become second nature and before you know it they'll be appreciating you too.

Best selling author and NYU professor Jonathan Haidt proved in his extensive research that even witnessing someone appreciate another person creates a heightened state of well-being that he calls 'elevation.' When Haidt and his team applied his research to the world of business, they found that when leaders exhibited compassion, their employees would experience elevation. As a consequence, they felt more loyal and committed towards the company and were much more likely to act in a helpful and friendly way with other employees for no particular reason.

Meaningful Stuctures. Build some loving structures into your business to show you care. John Lewis, a cooperative PLC retail giant in the UK, goes to great lengths to draw out and support people's personal interests to create an environment where people feel they can be themselves and that the company value them as individuals.

There is a thriving club culture and if, for example, you want to learn piano, John Lewis will pay half the cost of the lessons.

Patagonia is renowned for it's company ethic of celebrating every part of their employee's individuality as well as maintaining steady economic growth. They work and play together; consequently people stay longer because they feel supported and understood. Billy Smith, a Patagonia product tester said "Landing this job was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," says Smith "I feel like I represent the brand as much as it represents me."

Lead by Example. So often we make ourselves believe that we are 'too busy' to take time out for others. Some of the C Level executives of the biggest brands manage to find this time as they recognize it as a vital tool in the success of their company.

Leadership IQ found in a recent survey that 6 hours a week was the optimum time for a manager to spend with with individuals from their team. As people rose from one to six hours spent with their direct leaders, they became 29% more inspired about their work, 30% more engaged, 16% more creative, and 15% more motivated. Even a coffee or a walk and a one to one focused chat is a great starting point: Or get creative with surprising ways to engage the team as a whole and reap the 'elevation' rewards.

Albert Einstein gave us the most succinct advice: 'Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.'

Chris Baréz-Brown, founder of Upping Your Elvis, specialists in Creative Leadership. @uppingyourelvis

You can see Chris's TEDx talk Discover Your True Creative Self here.

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