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Will Your Principles Stand the Test of Time?

On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products." Jack Welch, as quoted in the Financial Times, 12th March 2009.

Yes! This is the same Jack Welch who had the sobriquet "Neutron Jack" for his ruthless pursuit of shareholder value and insistence that the 'bottom 10%' of employees should be replaced every year.

Perhaps the man deserves credit for admitting he was wrong, but, while they might be surprised to learn that employees are the new number one constituency, anyone who fell foul of that earlier ethos is unlikely to feel charitably disposed towards him or inclined to forgive him as a result. In my book, Welch's revocation epitomises the lack of basic principles evidenced by so many business leaders. For me, a principle is a timeless value that supersedes any label and fuses the spiritual with the human and so underpins any human activity. For example, the Golden Rule, the call to "treat others the way you would like to be treated" is probably one of the most universal, essentially underpinning most moral, philosophical and religious belief. It is applicable to all walks of life, not least business, which is ultimately the provision of service. Unfortunately, with the pursuit of profit on the treadmill of growth, there has been an erosion of principles, with the concomitant loss of integrity, honour, humanity, morality and good judgment.

Zealise was in fact formed to redress this erosion: to help inspire people and organisations to better fulfil their potential by igniting the energy and enthusiasm that comes from within when we are all enjoying life and the part we play in contributing to a worthwhile goal as part of a larger team. How much of life is wasted if we are not happy in our work?

No business can survive without a worthwhile purpose; nor can it do so without good, engaged employees. This is why the blog "What is Business For" is so interesting. It is fascinating to read that governments are being encouraged to "switch from boosting GDP growth to measures that more directly relate to human happiness." I am sceptical about governments' ability to deliver great change, but I think that a shift in this direction might go a long way towards changing business priorities. To suggest that happiness would be a more worthwhile measure of success than shareholder value might seem radical, but employee engagement statistics already tell us otherwise. As employee engagement is inextricably linked to the organisational values, the starting point  for change would appear to be to re-examine principles and values.

Have you examined the principles in your organisation lately? Will they stand the test of time?


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