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In 1991 Charles Handy concluded that the basic purpose of an organisation is to perpetuate itself within the context of the environment in which it operates. You might not have thought about it in quite that way, but that conviction encapsulates and drives everything you do as a business leader. It shapes the way you think, the way you act and the way you expect others to think and act. That’s perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless spelling it out provides food for thought. Not least because it demands a long-term outlook.  

Most business leaders will plead that they are thinking about the long-term and will cite all their strategic planning efforts as evidence of this. Yet, notwithstanding this, there seems to be increasing consensus that focus is too much on the short-term. All too often corporate failure seems to come as a major surprise: whether after a long-lingering painful demise that drained energy and resources, without achieving anything and failing to avoid the inevitable, or suddenly, as with the failures that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. This is subjective territory and open to discussion beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that we need a more effective way of addressing the longer-term measures of organisational performance.

Here too Handy once again gives us some pointers as to how. He said, “The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.” I call it ‘Love at Work.’ But whatever you call it, it stems from people – your employees, your customers, and your suppliers – and the way you treat them – and Science supports this!  

It seems that science – apparently much to its own surprise – has proved that human emotion physically shapes reality. I love that the article refers to this finding as “hiding in plain sight.” It seems to imply that it isn’t actually hidden or a secret, just that we have been slow in identifying it.  

You are likely familiar with Henry Ford’s statement, “If you think you can do a thing or if you think you can't do a thing, you're right.”  There are many others like it. They are also true: you need to look no further than placebos and the placebo effect to understand that our thinking does in fact govern our experience. For me, the exciting thing here is the fact that scientist have now proved it is not only true of our thinking, but also our emotions. Of course, that shouldn’t really be surprising either when you understand that emotions are effectively nothing more than unconscious or subconscious thoughts!  Yet the implications are profound as they create a new reality.

Handy identifies them when he talks about the need to “make people happy.” Remember, he is saying you’re your organisation’s long-term survival depends on this. And long-term survival is the same as sustained success. So, if you want to be successful and avoid falling by the wayside sooner or later, you need to ensure that you make your people your primary focus. You need to build their happiness into your DNA.   

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