Want a well-run company?

So I’m sitting at Barnes & Noble waiting for Geshe Michael to come back, with a world of business magazines to choose from… and I landed on the current issue of Inc. The cover article (June 2011) is “Special Report: How to Be and Extraordinary Leader.” Okay, I’m game; that sounds nice.

The subtitle is “The Strategies and insights of four award-winning CEOs.” Okay, so let’s see what they’ve got.

The first introduction to the article in the series is “Core Values: The crucial element in well-run companies? Leaders who know what they believe in.” Leigh Buchanan argues that in the start-up phase, no one has time to worry about the corporate culture, so then it springs up on it’s own:

In that void, culture happens spontaneously: an aggregation of particular decisions made by particular people in particular circumstances.

If those people are good people; generally the results are good (we’re left to wonder what would happen if they’re bad).

But if you want to be one of the select few, you should design your corporate culture from the get-go:

But some entrepreneurs possess clear visions of their ideal cultures from the beginning. Every decision they make—whom to hire, what benefits to provide, where the CEO should sit—is in pursuit of those ideals. In fact, the opportunity to derive an entire social order from the leader’s character and experience can be the incentive for starting a company in the first place… This thoughtful approach to culture characterizes the 2011 Top Small Company Workplaces.

I’ve said this before, but what I like about reading business magazines is when they write on best business practices–and here I mean best in terms of beings successful–these practices always seem to be in-line with good seed planting principles. For example:

The leaders of these companies don’t view jobs as prizes doled out to lucky applicants. Rather, they figure the people they have chosen have chosen them as well, and, naturally, they want to make the place nice for them. So they treat workers fairly, often generously; respect their personal lives; provide opportunities for development; and endow jobs with meaning and fun.

Awesome. That is pretty much what mental seed management is about. Plant the seeds for what you want, and in return you’ll see the things you need.

The only thing I would add is, where it really works is if you can be specific in understanding the cause and effect. The next line of the article is:

In return, those employees bestow their best ideas and efforts on the business. They pull together through change and hard times.

Okay, that sounds nice, but it’s not cause and effect. If you’re generous with your employees, what will you get? You’ll make more money. If you treat workers fairly, what will you get? You’ll be treated fairly. If you provide opportunities for development, what will you get? More skills yourself. If you want good ideas and creativity? Rejoice in the successes of others. If you want employees to pull together, don’t be divisive yourself—especially at home.

The article goes on to interview four CEOs and asks them what they think they’re core value is: Democracy, Walking the Walk, Teamwork, and Training. They all sound great right? Common sense.

But my experience is “common sense” breaks down when push comes to shove. You know yelling at your boss is not a good idea, but when he’s there in your face screaming… what are you going to do?

That’s why it’s so important to understand specific cause and effect, no just be-a-nice-person in general. Sure, democracy is great—until your workers vote for something stupid. What’s the seed you get from involving others in decisions? You get greater authority. But will you make money? No, not unless you’re generous as well. Teamwork is great. Sure, it’s important to get everyone to work together. Will you make money? No, not unless you’re also generous. Training! Training is uber important. Will you make money? You get the picture.

So sure, do all those things—involve others in decisions, work together, support each other, and cross-train them—but understand what you’ll get when you’re doing it, and what you’ll still need to do to succeed.

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12 Responses to Want a well-run company?

  1. I just found out about your blog! i love it– please keep writing 🙂

  2. Hey VN, I enjoyed the post. Im going to pass it along to my dad, he is really into the Diamond Cutter.

  3. julia says:

    Very cool blog. I’m glad I found it.

  4. Ben LAU says:

    hi Eric, the design top banner is very beautiful…. any special meaning?

    Best rgs, BEN LAU

  5. Ben LAU says:

    hi Eric, nice to see above article. However, I would like to inform that there is seldom business person/enterpreneur has the good/nice thinking. That is, providing nice and happy working environment to staffs, treating them fairly and even generously, and proving them jobs with fun and meaningful. However, I encourage my teammate to contribute themselves with any new or funny idea they may have, and teach them what I had learnt in other bigger companies I worked for. Is it the Positive KARMA? THANKS!

    Best rgs, Ben LAU

    • ericbrinkman says:

      Dear Ben,

      I can accept that right now, enlightened business principles are the exception rather than the rule. But it is the case that, at least in principal, what is described as best business practice currently is pretty amazing. Of course, that’s my point of view–which comes from a karmic seed i planted.

      Of course those are positive karmic seeds; if you encourage others to contribute, then people will encourage you to contribute–at work and in other areas of your life. And if you share what you know and teach others, then you will understand things more deeply and find great teachers yourself. Geshe Micheal is always encouraging us to teach, but the seed that you get by teaching is that you will be able to understand and know things yourself.

  6. lolagenoves1 says:

    hi Eric,
    great thoughts,
    I will try to apply them @ work,

    please keep up the suggestions,

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