I’m Iain (that’s two i’s). I’m a company director, board advisor and business consultant. I like learning through reflective action. So I’ve started this conversation to explore, share, and revise my views on a subject that’s fascinating and important to me: how do we succeed in business, in our wealth-creating capitalist system, and also live complete human lives? If you share my interest, please join me.
Head, Heart and Bottom Line: A Conversation
Being “businesslike” is supposed to exclude all that’s emotional, intuitive, fallible, most human about us. “We made a business decision” often means “We did something hurtful and we’re not going to apologise.” That can’t be right. The reflex caricature of a businessman (usually man) is ruthless, grasping, uncompromising: the credit-stealing narcissist, the “greed is good” barbarian, the fat bank manager in Monopoly, the “my way or the highway” autocrat. That can’t be right either.
Businesses are the defining structures of our prosperous societies. Other entities, like government agencies and charities, are given names and behaviours based on businesses. One-tenth of Australia’s population, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, has responsibilities and potential liabilities equivalent to those of “official” company directors. The school boards, the sports clubs, the church committees, the local governments — all may be held to a businesslike (in a better sense) standard of diligence.
So the behaviour of businesses — that is, the behaviour of people in businesses — really matters to the health of our societies. Many people, especially the young, are now asking that the companies they work for commit to their values, not just in word but in deed. I think they’re right. We should not have to amputate or neglect the most human parts of ourselves to create wealth in businesses.
At the same time, business success in its own terms, the “bottom line”, increasingly calls on all our gifts as humans. Successful businesses need our brains, but they also need our humanity. They engage our knowledge, thought and intuition (head), but also call on our emotions, interpersonal transactions and values (heart). And without the discipline of financial imperatives, we’re not really in business. Both we and our businesses need our whole humanity.
So the trademarked motto of my personal consulting business is Head, Heart and Bottom Line. It’s an attempt to capture in a phrase what I think we need, and that’s why it’s also the title of this blog.
There’s another dimension, too, beyond succeeding in business and not being evil, as the Google people put it. We each have a trajectory, a human life lived, from birth to death. How we live in each here and now adds up to how we will have lived. How we choose, here and now, either creates or constrains our future. We can’t just put that on hold during working hours. Work is part of who we are, and meaningless work is meaningless existence.
So I hope you’ll help this conversation forward. I find my thinking is sharper and clearer if I have to write it down. It’s also sharper and clearer, and often wider, from honest, engaged discussion. So please join in. There are some pretty obvious rules of etiquette and respect, but I hope that together we’ll learn to think better, and broader, about these important matters.
I hope to put up a post about monthly. Click the RSS subscription if you’d like to be notified, or just come back here when you feel like it.