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Measure Success by the Way We Touch the Lives of People
Robert H Chapman
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Why is it so important to touch the lives of people? In business, we touch the lives of many people. We touch the lives of our shareholders; we touch the lives of our suppliers; we touch the lives of our bankers; we touch the lives of our employees; and we touch the lives of our employees’ families.

If we remember this, and think about things that we do and how we touch people’s lives through them, I certainly believe that any businessman will then be making the right decisions, not only for his short run but for others in the long run. And if we all remember this, the vision to touch the lives of people will then be a sustainable one.

As leaders in business, we do have tremendous opportunities to impact the society. People spend the majority of their waking hours at work. It is a fact that there are a number of people who go home each day empty, drained by their work experience. They leave the doors of our companies unable to be fully present for their families, their spouses, or their communities.

Through my personal experience in leadership, I have come to this fundamental premise: If we, as leaders, were to conduct business in such a way that our team members were enriched by their experience with us, rather than drained by it, they would go out into the society as able and better parents, friends, spouses, and members of the community. And this would be an amazing opportunity and responsibility.
If you are the President of your company your goal must be to help people understand what profound impact you can have on people’s lives. As a leader I practice a clear objective: “To ensure that every life we touch returns home safe, healthy, and fulfilled.”

I rarely, if ever, meet someone who has thought in any depth about a question: Where are you going in your life, and where are you going in your business? I find that most business people don’t have a compelling vision for their business. People talk about events that have occurred – like the big order we have got; the money we didn’t take; and the rising sales. Likewise, it seems that most people don’t know where they’re going in life either. They normally struggle to answer, in which case it is hard to imagine how you are ever going to get there.

The first thing you need to have is a compelling vision and an understanding of how that vision creates value. The second thing is that you have to be able to share that vision with people, the leadership team, in such a way that they will be able to embrace that vision and live it. And finally, you have to inspire people. The biggest thing we lack in leadership in most businesses is inspiration. But one thing that you must explore and discover is the unbelievable potential of ordinary people when given an opportunity to use their gifts.

It is not a big deal, but simply a matter of stepping back, reflecting on our experiences, creating a vision of what we want to do, sharing and articulating that vision in such a way that everyone could relate to it, and then constantly inspiring people to achieve it. It’s no different from what you would do with your children. They need to have some sense of what they want to do with their life, and you need to help them along that journey and inspire them to use all of their gifts to reach their goals.

How? it’s simple. There is a beautiful part of the wedding ceremony where the father walks the bride down the aisle. She’s dressed in white, beautifully done up, and being eloquently escorted to the altar, where a young man is standing ready to receive her. Part of the ceremony is for that father, who values his daughter highly, to give the hand of his daughter to that young man. By doing so, the father implies saying, “I trust you to take care of this precious daughter of mine for the rest of her life.” Similarly, it would be wonderful if each time we hired somebody, that person’s parents would bring them to the plant or office, confident that we would provide an environment in which this grown up child of theirs could use all of his or her gifts, and be appreciated and recognized for those gifts throughout their time with our organization. Try this! As business leaders we have the opportunity, just like that young man, to have an incredible relationship with the people we bring into our company - it’s about understanding the profound responsibility of leadership and its impact on people.

Autjor is Chairman & CEO of Barry Wehmiller International Resources
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