Business, Cambridge, For Purpose

Leadership is an interesting concept.

So much is being written these days about what a true leader is and isn’t. How they operate and how they interact with their teams and colleagues. The focus is now on human leadership, moving people from the system constructed management of days gone by. A large part of my LinkedIn feed is articles and memes about this and bookshop shelves are full of leadership manuals. Leadership seems to be the generic topic people wish to be seen as experts on, almost leaders in the leadership space.

I’m not knocking the current thoughts and opinions, we all want strong leadership in our organisations, from governance through to the ‘coal face’. Forgetting about business for a minute, the world would be a better place if more leaders took on-board some of this advice.

The thing that strikes me is how limited a lot of this information is. It focuses on leading teams and organisations. To me, this inwards focus doesn’t show people the full potential of effective leadership.

As a true leader, you need to see your role wider than just how well your organisation operates. Your organisation, if full of leaders, should itself become a leader in its own right.

I’m not talking about leading the competition, market leaders, the leading supplier of…, I’m talking about how your organisation can show true leadership, guiding and encouraging others on the journeys that are important to you.

An easy example of what I mean is the Chamber itself. Tania and the Executive must show leadership within the organisation – but they must also show leadership in the local business community. For them, there is literally no point effectively leading their own organisation unless they are also successful in leading business prosperity in Cambridge. Their leadership skills directly benefit us.

If we look past the aspect of direct competition, we all benefit when we have strong, successful businesses (and organisations). None of us operate alone; we’re all part of this big eco-system broadly called the economy. The more successful our customers are, the more we can sell. We need our suppliers to be successful to maintain continuity of supply. Our neighbouring businesses may employ our children or solve one of our problems.

You can show leadership by talking to peer organisations, your customers and your suppliers; engaging with the people within those organisations, hearing their stories and seeing where you can journey together on more than just business matters.

Leadership involves helping others to achieve their goals, it’s about finding common passions and it’s about shared visions. This is all done between people but there is no law to say those people have to be part of the same organisation.

In business, as in life, it’s about growing the pie not just growing your piece of that pie. True leaders look for success for everyone by working together, sharing their dreams and by recognising true leadership is more than leading a single team.

It’s more than just business.

If you care about the environment, you can lead your team to manage your own recycling or you could empower them to also help guide other businesses to share your environmental passion.

If you believe businesses can help support healthy, robust communities then your whole organisation should be leading the way. Share the story and show others how you support your community, talk about the benefits and explore how you can assist them on their own journeys.

Leadership is about shared strength and if we want to live in a great world, we all need to take the responsibility for strengthen those around us. If you think you have great leadership skills, then prove it! Show the world how you can lead more than one team or one organisation. Share those skills and build those skills in others. Be proactive in your sector and your community.

True leaders are conduits for change.

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Business, For Purpose

Are you a Waikato business?

OK you operate a business, one that earns a profit to support a range of people that depend upon it for their livelihood, but the reality is that this doesn’t stop you having a normal interest in helping support your community.

You may donate to a local school or sports club. You allow the Guides to sell their biscuits in the lunchroom. You wear the ANZAC poppy with pride. It’s not really part of your everyday thinking though, nor does it influence the way you do business. It definitely doesn’t help solve the big issues.

Your skills are around running your business, making it as successful as you can. You simply can’t spend all day thinking about poverty or deforestation. You don’t like seeing all the plastic waste your suppliers send with their products but what can you do about it?

Have you ever considered that other people may have ideas about how you can make more of a difference – without it impacting on your bottom line?

Do you think that your experience may help someone else to operate their organisation more effectively?

The world is changing. There is a worldwide movement towards social enterprise and ‘purposeful business’. If we leave aside the fact that social enterprise can be a fluid term and that all businesses have a purpose, it is clear that there is a trend for organisations to operate with a social conscious or values driven outcome in mind.

Not only can you help with this but you can also benefit from it.

Imagine a place where commercial skills and experiences are shared with those new to business. A place where ideas on how we can operate differently to make a better community are shared over coffee.

That place is the Zone

It’s where purpose and business collide.

If you are involved in a business and are interested in contributing to a better world, this is the Zone for you.

If making a difference is your passion and you see commercial activity as a powerful resource to help support you, that’s right, the Zone is also the place for you.

The interest is definitely there so I’m looking to get the Zone moving. Please come and join our conversation, I would really welcome your input. The Zone has to meet the wants and needs of its members so I need to know how we can support each other.

 

2:00 to 4:00 pm
Thursday 1 February

Interactionz
113C Ruakura Lane
Hamilton
(Innovation Park)

Read more about the Zone

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Business, For Purpose

Let’s not invent another silo

I’m loving my journey into the new world of social enterprise. It’s fresh and exciting, people are both innovative and real, it’s awesome.

I just have a little itch in the back of my mind. A little feeling that there still looms a danger that Social Enterprise will become ‘a thing’, something different and separate to business and to traditional charity.

It is different but it’s not separate. By its very definition, a social enterprise conducts some sort of business activity. It also shares a social purpose, just like our traditional charities.

We don’t need any more silos. We need conversations and collaboration across all of our organisations. We can all teach, we can al learn and probably more importantly, we can all support.

Our badge of honour should be the values we bring, not the type of organisation we represent. We need to be inclusive and embrace the different skills, functions, systems and benefits of all organisations.

Social entrepreneurs place collaboration at the very core of what they do. If you truly believe in the benefits of collaboration, don’t fall into the trap of living in a silo. Not only will you miss out on so much knowledge and experience but you will also be denying non-social entrepreneurs access to your passion and drive for a different world.

Let’s not repeat past mistakes – we should be more open minded than that.

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Business, For Purpose, Sustainability

Are we doing this wrong?

More and more we’re asking ourselves, how can we support the new generation of social entrepreneur.  

The Gen Y’s (and an increasing number of Gen Z’s) are setting up businesses with a goal of making the world a better place. Environmental, community, health, whatever drives their passion also inspires them to be creative around how they can build a business model that is both financially sustainable and purpose focused.

We jump up and down, with all of our worldly experience and seek ways we can support them on these awesome journeys. We love what they’re doing and we want to help.

Wanting to help isn’t wrong and yes our experience can assist this new wave of entrepreneur. So we ask, can we help you?

I’m increasingly thinking that this isn’t the way it should be. Is our unconscious ego hiding a better solution?

We’re not the experts on the new way of doing business, they are.  What if we turned things around and ask “will you help me?”

The purposeful economy is coming and we’re encouraging the change but not doing it ourselves. It’s time the teachers became the students.

Instead of simply sharing what has worked in the past, why don’t we work together exploring what could work in the future? Imagine the possibilities!

This approach will only work if us ‘oldies’ take a leap of faith and let the new breed lead the way. Wisdom and maturity is still a vital part and we will help guide them but let’s allow the next generation to show us what the future could be.

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Business

It’s never just about the money

If you believe the movies, business is a world of corporate cut throats, prowling Wall Street looking for victims to fleece. We all know that our local businesses are nothing like that (in fact I doubt there are many in New Zealand like that), however we all still need to pause at times and remember that business is always just people dealing with people.

Staff, managers, owners, customers and suppliers are all just a collection of individuals, each trying to do the best they can for their organisation and themselves. In our ever changing world it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day and forget the things that really matter. Call me an optimist, but I firmly believe that most of us genuinely agree that people matter.

Being a good employer is expected these days, both by staff and legislation. Employers know that it’s not just ticking a box, that there are real advantages to having a happy workforce. Staff quickly learn if you are genuinely interested in them or just playing the game as outlined in some text book. I find it odd that the reverse isn’t seen as so important – managers and owners are people too. They are important to the success of the business and it’s that success that flows onto employees. Bosses will never be perfect and traditionally as they were perceived to be ‘in power’, they were, if not the enemy, certainly not an ally. What really springs to mind about this is where business owners go to great lengths to look after their staff and ensure a healthy work life balance – and then work all hours themselves, striving to make the business a success. Somehow this needs to change. Business success is usually driven by the sheer hard work and commitment of the owner, but at what cost? Their health and their families matter as much as everyone else’s.

Sales should always be about solving a customer’s problem, not pushing your products onto them. Let’s be honest, we can all tell a story about a pushy or dodgy sales person that we simply wouldn’t transact with again (and often even their organisation is on our ‘no go’ list).
Trust and a long term relationship is often the result of being told by a sales person that while I could try using one of their products, it wouldn’t be ideal and that there are better options provided by X and Y. A potential sale lost but a repeat customer gained, with the added bonus of a story being told that tells others about your honesty and desire to do what’s best for the customer.  No amount of advertising dollars can give you that!

Your suppliers may provide you with raw materials, but those materials aren’t who you transact with. The people behind those products can provide you with information and ideas to help grow your business or overcome issues you’re facing. The people add value to the product, something easily missed if you just focus on price.

Lastly I’d like to just touch on mental health. It’s an area I know very little about, apart from hearing the sad statistics around it but it’s something we need to open up about.  This is especially true for us blokes, because in all honesty we’re simply terrible at seeking help. We’re not going to sit down with a “BFF” or social worker and share our problems until we find closure. Call it stubborn, pig headed or just not conditioned for that – it doesn’t matter. We need to find a way to address this (maybe a beer over a barbeque after a day’s fishing with a mate?). We’re losing too many good people to keep ignoring this issue.

All of the above is common knowledge and much has been written about this subject. People have designed models and fancy terms to describe what we should be doing. Personally I don’t think we need to get complicated about any of this. Treat people respectfully as people and I have no doubts that your business will gain from it. At CSC our values are summed up by “people over transactions”. Most of us do it, most of the time – how about all of us do it, all of the time!

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First published by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce in their Cambridge News (10 November 2017)