Today, I would like to discuss the areas of our life that we generally acknowledge are most important to us, and those around us; particularly those we most deeply care about, care for and love. We will integrate management theory and differing practices into our discussion of the divergent and largely unintentional outcomes they create in the most important areas of our lives.
My sincere appreciation for the teachings, experiences, writings and recommendations of Clayton M. Christensen, Professor at Harvard Business School, MBA Program, for reminding me and hopefully you of what is truly important in life. What follows is a summary of his thoughts on this topic.
Christensen teaches aspiring MBAs how to apply management and innovation theories to build stronger companies. He also believes these same models can help people lead better lives. Therefore, he assigns his students to explore three questions everyone needs to ask of him or herself.
How can I be happy in my career? How can I be sure that my relationship with my family is an enduring source of happiness? How can I live my life with integrity?
The answer to the first question comes from Frederick Herzberg's assertion that the most powerful motivator isn't money; it's the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute, and be recognized for achievements. That is why management, if practiced well, can be the noblest of occupations; no others offer as many ways to help people find those opportunities.
More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That's unfortunate, because doing “deals” doesn't yield the deep rewards that come from building up people. How to be happy in your career? Interact with and genuinely care about employees. The payback (ROI) is remarkable.
If the business principles of resource allocation are not managed masterfully, what emerges from a firm's resource allocation process can be very different from the strategy management intended to follow. The same “family” resource allocation strategy can help people achieve and maintain an enduring source of happiness at home. To be successful, this strategy must also be masterfully managed.
We’ve seen far too many unhappy, perhaps divorced parents who may be alienated from their children as well? I’m sure that not one of them generated a deliberate family resource allocation strategy that would negatively affect their family.
And yet, many apparently subconsciously implemented that strategy. Why? Because they didn't keep one of the most important areas of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.
Clarity about what is important in your life, the time, energy and resources you spend on those areas, and a strategy and commitment to focus on those values and behaviors, will trump all the business knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces; as well as all the business success they may produce.
People driven to excel in work often have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers-even though loving relationships and time spent with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.
If you study the root causes of business disasters, you'll find this predisposition toward strategies that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that same lens, you'll see the similar stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.
We're taught in finance and economics that in evaluating alternative investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs, and instead base decisions on the marginal costs and marginal revenues that each alternative entails. We learn this doctrine biases companies to leverage what they have put in place to succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabilities they'll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, that approach would be fine. But if the future's different-and it almost always is-then it's the wrong thing to do.
This theory addresses the third question — how to live a life of integrity. Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in our head says, "Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn't do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance just this once, it's OK." The marginal cost of doing something wrong "just this once" always seems alluringly low. It lures you in, and you can’t see where that path ultimately is headed and the full costs the choice entails. Justification for dishonesty and dishonor in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of "just this once."
A lesson to be learned, is that it's easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time, than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. If you give in to "just this once;' based on a marginal cost analysis, you'll regret where you end up. Define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.
Choose the Right Yardstick
I've concluded that the metric by which my life will be assessed isn't dollars but the individual people whose lives I've touched. I think that's the way it will work for us all. Don't worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; celebrate about the individuals you have helped become better people and the family who knows you’ll always be there for them.
Next Month’s Article: How companies can permit, assist and encourage their employees to accomplish a satisfying career, a happy enduring family relationship, while not encountering integrity issues at work. Essentially, how to move toward the values of a “Best Place to Work.”
William Kreider is the founder and CEO of HR Future Group, a firm that offers a full service suite of human capital management services for small businesses. From Transformational HR Outsourcing, Compensation, Leadership Coaching, Talent Acquisition and other HCM consulting services to Cloud-based Payroll, HRIS, Time & Attendance, and Benefit Administration, HR Future can assist your business. Mr. Kreider has significant executive experience in all areas within the HR profession in a variety of industries. For more information, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610.584.2467.