The Purpose of Business

Today, the Business Roundtable, a group of 200 CEO’s, announced that 181 of its members signed off on a new statement of the purpose of a corporation. This is a massive shift from the one-note philosophy of “shareholder primacy” to an approach that is reflective of a modern workforce – a modern society – that deserves and demands “meaning and dignity.”

This affirmation of a more wholistic, human-centric approach to business will require accountability of the highest order. Please read the statement below and consider how you will bring it to life and sustain it within the walls of your own workplace.


 Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation

Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.

Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation and providing essential goods and services. Businesses make and sell consumer products; manufacture equipment and vehicles; support the national defense; grow and produce food; provide health care; generate and deliver energy; and offer financial, communications and other services that underpin economic growth.

While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to:

  • Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
  • Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.
  • Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
  • Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.

Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.

Source: The Business Roundtable

Poem for a Sunday Morning

Ask the tree or the house
{Greg Orr}

Ask the tree or the house;
Ask the rose or the fire
Hydrant – everything’s
Waiting for you to notice.
Everything’s waiting for you
To wrap your heart around it.

That music has been playing
Since you were born.
You must be mad to resist it.
Always the beloved
Surrounds us,
Eager to dance.
All we have to do is ask.


adult art ballerina ballet

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The Old Story

Today I had to let go of an old story.

I took my daughter to the DMV to test for her learner’s permit and received not just good or helpful service from the staff there but an exceptional level of attentiveness and care.

You can imagine that this is not the story I told my daughter about what our experience would be like.

From the first encounter we had my story was proven false.

Yes, it’s still slow. Yes, it’s still a bureaucracy. And, our experience reminds me that even an entrenched organization like the DMV can acknowledge and act on the truth that they are in the business of helping human beings and then act accordingly.

I approached one of the helpful workers there and told her that she and her colleagues were destroying their old reputation, forcing me to rewrite my story.

She smiled and said, “Thank you for saying so. We’re really trying.”

They really are.


Go Do It

This week I have written about industriousness, initiative, reinvention and responsibility. I have written about the way that human beings come alive when they feel free to take meaningful, appropriate, even obvious actions in support of necessary change.

In reflection I understand that these various expressions are all shoots of the same vine; each an attempt to manifest my personal understanding and expression of the truth that meaningful action is a balm to anxiety. 

We can commiserate, complain, kvetch and confer all we want but until we act we will feel frustrated and useless, no different than a damp matchbook is to our hope for a comforting fire. Or, as David Whyte expresses it in his poem Out On the Ocean:

“…always this energy smolders inside
when it remains unlit
the body fills with dense smoke.” 

We’d do well, all of us who are hungry to take meaningful action for change, to revisit and reconsider the words of Howard Thurman:

“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and go do it,
because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

This is the time and place in which you live.

This is the time and place to act.

This is the time and place to express what you are here for.

Go and do.


bonfire surrounded with green grass field

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Hidden Treasure

According to girlscouts.org, “Going for the Girl Scout Silver Award—the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn—gives you the chance to show that you are a leader who is organized, determined, and dedicated to improving your community.”

According to my daughter’s research, self-esteem in girls takes a steep drop (30%) between the ages of 8 and 14.

Motivated to earn the Silver Award and dedicated to address the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, she reached out to the principal of her former grade school – now converted to a K-8 – and asked if she could design and paint a series of inspirational messages in one of the girl’s restrooms on campus.

Met with an enthusiastic “Yes,” Davis completed the work this summer in advance of the new school year.

She doesn’t know, cannot know, the impact these messages will have. Her principal doesn’t either. What they do know, because they are thoughtful and strong leaders, is that “knowing” is often and easily overrated.

Believing…believingand doing…doing…is where it’s at.


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You inspire us, Davis. Well done!

 

Is it still the best?

Everyone says it’s the best restaurant in town but when you finally go, you have an “ok” meal. Or, you have decent service but not the stellar dining experience everyone has described.

Is it still the best restaurant in town?

Everyone says it’s the best company to work for. They are reputed to pay well, to have a fun and energizing culture and to invest heavily in training and development. When you finally get a job there, you find that your manager isn’t quite the “culture leader” he claimed to be and is, in fact, solely focused on his own advancement. Or you find that he allows his team to underperform and give the unfinished work to the new employee.

Is it still the best company to work for?

In general, it may still be a great restaurant and it may still be a great company. But none of us lives in the “general” or the “objective.”

We live in the specific and the subjective and what matters there is what counts.


blur breakfast chef cooking

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Workshop

The bees set up shop under a piece of plywood on the side of our home. At first I thought it was just a swarm that would move through quickly enough. As they lingered, I got curious and found them hard at work.

I don’t love the idea of a beehive so close to the house. My first inclination was to get rid of it. But we decided to wait and see what would happen and, so far so good.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: they don’t mind having me around. They go about their business and I go about mine.

They value family, hard work and making a contribution to something that is much, much larger than themselves. If I can play a small part in supporting that value system, I will only be the better for it.


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That’s Not My Job

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Imagine that your job is to paint the stripes down the middle of the road. And not just any stripes, but the double yellow ones that create a powerful visual safety barrier on a well-traveled two-lane road.

Imagine that you’ve reached the line that demarcates city from county and you are told to stop painting the stripes because “That’s as far as we go.”

Imagine that you look up and see that you’ve only got another 150 yards to the bottom of the hill.

Imagine how it must feel to not finish a job that in just a few more minutes of thoughtful effort would be so easily completed.

Do you finish your workday with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? Do you go home and announce with pride, “I striped some of the road today! I made some of the road safer for the residents of that neighborhood!”

“What do you mean ‘some’?” comes the curious reply.

“Oh, well, we’re only responsible for striping the part of the road that is maintained by the county.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why do you do it?”

“Because the rest of the road is someone else’s responsibility.”

Look of disbelief.

Shrug of shoulders.

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When we allow the red-tape of bureaucracy – be it in our government institutions or our private enterprises – to replace common sense, we also replace the qualities of autonomy and agency that make work the most noble human enterprise.

To be told that “almost” is “good enough” is an insult to the human spirit.


 

Poem for a Sunday Morning

Maybe
by Mary Oliver

Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
stood up in the boat
and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry,
So everybody was saved
that night.
But you know how it is

when something
different crosses
the threshold — the uncles
mutter together,

the women walk away,
the young brother begins
to sharpen his knife.
Nobody knows what the soul is.

It comes and goes
like the wind over the water —
sometimes, for days,
you don’t think of it.

Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
one or two of them felt
the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight
before exhaustion,
that wants to swallow everything,
gripped their bones and left them

miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
how the wind tore at the sails
before he rose and talked to it —

tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was —
a thousand times more frightening
than the killer sea.


beach clouds dark dark clouds

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Even the Smallest Act

Lose this day loitering –’twill be the same story
To-morrow–and the next more dilatory;
Each indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.
Are you in earnest?
Seize this very minute–
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated–
Begin it, and then the work will be completed!   

{Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe}


Meaningful action reduces anxiety.

So many times I have turned an idea over in my mind, how to make it real, how to make it matter, all of the difficulties, the challenges, the naysayers alive and well in my imagination. So many times I have let my imagining be its undoing instead of allowing my doing to begin to make it real.

So many times has that first action, that tiny impulse of movement, served to firehose my anxiety and replace it with a sense of progress disproportionate to the smallness of the act.

Meaningful action is real and an anxious imagination cannot be sustained in the face of what is real.


notebook writing pencil start

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