One of the most common complaints I hear from business owners is that their employees are just not ‘stepping up’. By this, they generally mean employees are not taking responsibility and getting involved.
Two of the key ways to get employees to want to be more active are:
- Ensuring they have somewhere to step up onto
- Ensuring the business purpose is clearly expressed and communicated
Let’s focus on the second of these points. What is the purpose of your business?
Not a mission statement
So many mission statements talk about outcomes. A really purposeful business is one that understands its role in the world. Why do people come to take advice from – or choose to work for – your business?
Very often this purpose will come from a founder. In the Eternal Business Programme we call this the Flag – the flag in the ground around which everyone gathers, or at the front of the army as it runs into battle.
Identifying your flag
Working out what matters to you and your business isn’t as easy as it might at first seem. Your values are often so ingrained that it can be difficult to dig deep in order to reveal your own truths.
In many ways, the role of a business owner is to make themselves the least important person in their business. If an owner is going to move on one day, however, they will often want to know that what matters most to them is not going to be abandoned once they’ve gone.
The flag of the business is therefore so fundamentally important to a business that wants to last beyond its current owners, as it allows those owners to let go.
But how do you find your purpose?
What John Lennon didn’t realise
Inspiration for how to go about this might just be found in the unlikely shape of John Lennon.
When The Beatles were splitting up, Lennon underwent psychotherapy. He had deep seated issues from the abandonment by his mother, the break up of his marriage to Cynthia, and the break up of the band that so totally defined him.
This therapy included a process known as ‘primal scream’, which involves imagining you're being reborn and screaming like a baby (the results of which can be heard on songs like Mother from the extraordinarily raw album John Lennon And The Plastic Ono Band).
One day, Lennon’s therapist asked him how he might learn about himself, and suggested that perhaps reading his own lyrics might shed some light on his state of mind at those various periods. Lennon scoffed. The Beatles lyrics weren’t soul baring, he said. They were just pop. Bubblegum. Throwaway. They had nothing to say about his emotional state. The therapist suggest he read them, just the same.
Lennon reported that he was astounded at what he saw
Maybe to us too, having lived with these songs for so long, what these lyrics reveal might also come as something of a surprise. Let’s take a look at a few of Lennon’s Beatle lyrics:
"How can I even try, I can never win, Hearing them, seeing them, In the state I'm in." (You've got to hide your love away)
"Doesn't have a point of view, Knows not where he's going to, Isn't he a bit like you and me?" (Nowhere Man)
"I'm a loser, And I lost someone who's near to me, I'm a loser, And I'm not what I appear to be." (I’m A Loser)
"She said, 'You don't understand what I said.' I said, 'No, no, no, you're wrong. When I was a boy everything was right.'" (She Said, She Said)
"There’s a place, that I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue. And it’s my mind." (There’s A Place)
"Some kind of innocence is measured out in years. You don't know what it's like to listen to your fears." (Bulldog)
And, of course:
"Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, And I do appreciate you being 'round, Help me get my feet back on the ground, Won't you please, please help me?" (Help!)
It’s not hard to see that the clues were all there all along, hiding in plain sight. Lennon reported this to be a major step in his healing process, realising that he had been struggling with these issues for years without knowing it; that he had been asking for help all this time, but no one had noticed.
Be more John
What does your business take for granted? What is it that you do without thinking, just assuming that this is the right thing to do? Look back at some of the things that you have done, produced, said or facilitated. What got you excited, what client outcomes really gave you joy?
Maybe in your past actions lies some clues as to what is most important to you – and therefore the true nature of your Flag.