At the moment I’m getting lots of “what is it that you actually do?” and on reflection, the best way to answer, is with a story. Some will hear leadership development, some will hear corporate social responsibility, essentially I’m talking about sustainable business. “But what does that mean?!?” I hear you say!
It’s when businesses think about creating both business value and social value. This way they create a purpose beyond profit generation – a purpose that is compelling to employees and customers, acts upon the needs of society and contributes to long-term business sustainability.
However, when it comes to creating purpose, organisations have the huge task of convincing their employees they’re more than…. “just the finance guy” (Insert any job title you choose!).
When employees understand the connection between themselves, their team, their work and how all of these are collectively experienced within the community – what we have is the differentiator between a good organisation and a high-performing, sustainable one.
In London recently, I helped facilitate a Three Hands programme and observed a group of mid-level leaders go through this process of connecting the dots between themselves, their company and their community. It was powerful stuff.
Picture this: Twenty-five leaders from a big betting agency in the UK, meeting with and undertaking projects with gambling support charities. You can imagine there was quite a bit of loosening-of-ties and statements like “I’m just the finance guy”.
Context: The organisation has a ‘Nobody Harmed’ campaign – their flagship response to the issue of problem gambling. They have decided to tackle the issue directly and more rigorously than ever before. Doing so calls for a degree of behaviour change among future leaders – hence the link with the talent development agenda and why Three Hands was brought in to support this element of their leadership development journey.
Approach: Through practical immersion days with several gambling support charities, teams of leaders got up-close-and-personal with their industry. The leaders undertook projects of real need to each of the charities – while also enjoying a safe space to practise and embed some of their own leadership learning (such as collaboration, leading without a title, and dealing with ambiguity).
Outcome: Twenty five leaders out in the industry working with charities strategically relevant to their organisation. Twenty five leaders who ‘get it’. They ‘get’ the purpose of their company and the strategic intentions, they ‘get’ their customers, they ‘get’ the impact of their work and most importantly they ‘get’ the opportunity they have as future leaders to think and lead differently.
I noticed a sense of commitment to their own journeys as learning leaders. Being out of the traditional training room and in a different environment with different people – had their emotional brains switched on. They were engaged, intrigued and moved to act.
I think a sustainable business starts with helping leaders – at all levels – develop a strong sense of purpose; which is to think connectedly about themselves, their work, their teams and their community.
www.threehands.co.nz (Helping your people feel they’re more than “just the finance guy”)