With businesses facing increasing scrutiny of their balance sheets, they often neglect the importance of intangibles – balancing life and work, building relationships, maintaining integrity and fostering social responsibility – that can ensure long-term sustainability and growth. In my 14 years as a career and business development consultant, “Right Livelihood” is the concept I have found that best guides people and organizations towards this goal to balance people, profits and the planet.
“Right Livelihood” – a Buddhist concept about earning your living in a way that does not cause harm to others – translates into modern business and career development as proactively seeking to enhance the well being of everyone served or impacted by the business as a whole. The following steps are the fundamentals for ‘Zen-Fitting’ your business for better balance in today’s world:
Build your business on personal strengths: Tom Peters, author of “In Search of Excellence” said, “The quality of your business is determined by your personal qualities, as expressed through it.” Knowing and using your strengths allows you to be more strategic in your delegation, and serves to inspire and involve your team. Furthermore, the Gallup Organization has done research with over one million employees worldwide which proves that focusing on strengths creates up to 50% increases in productivity, customer service and employee retention.
Stand behind your values: As a leader knowing your core values is critical when faced with tough decisions that may potentially involve sacrificing profit for ethics. Leading edge research and literature – such as John Izzo’s Values Shift – on creating high performance cultures repeatedly points to the importance of “walking your talk” for increasing employee performance and retention. If you say people are your most important resource, be prepared to stand behind this value in all your actions and decisions.
Have a compelling purpose: Businesses that embrace Right Livelihood must have a compelling purpose that reaches beyond profits. What positive impact do you hope to have on the world as a result of your products and services? If you are a masseuse, the purpose of your business is not “to provide massage therapy” it might be “to assist people in living healthy, balanced lives”. A compelling purpose inspires everyone to contribute his or her best and to persevere even when times are tough.
Have a plan: Too many small businesses think that building a balanced business means they don’t need to write a business plan. They want to let things develop “organically”. Allowing your business to evolve naturally is a key component of right livelihood and helps maintain balance, but “organic” can all too quickly translate into chaos without a foundation of proper planning. A business plan protects you and your vision by helping you to think through possible barriers in advance. “Trust God but lock your car.” The rules of business can’t be ignored in favor of spiritual laws, instead, they must be integrated with them.
With these concepts of Right Livelihood you can quickly ‘zen-fit’ your business for new or continued success and longevity. Whether you own a business or work in one, remember that you have the power to drive Right Livelihood in your organization by choosing to make a difference and to take actions each day, no matter how small, to make the world a better place.