It is widely believed that the Arab Spring of 2014 was sparked by a Tunisian food vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire; not because of religion, but because the powers-that-be consistently frustrated his attempts to build his business and earn a living. He didn’t die yelling, “Death to America!” or “Allahu akbar!” He is said to have died crying, “I just want to work.”
People are literally dying to work all across the world. Most are not dying for money per se, but for an opportunity to engage in meaningful work. Some seek meaningful work for themselves, but most are struggling to give their children the possibility of having meaningful work one day.
I believe we achieve well-being through work when we:
- Have something meaningful to do,
- Are surrounded by people we enjoy, and
- Have something interesting to look forward to.
That’s all our most of our friends in the Middle East want. That’s all any of us really needs.
Years and years ago, I became attracted to the notion of “well-being” and embarked on a lifelong study of the topic. Since then it is difficult for me to not dig into any article or book that passes my eyes on the subject or related topics like “happiness”.
Candidly, I am sure I have bored more than a few friends, clients, prospects and partners with my thoughts on the subject. I tend to go there not only because I find that most people are also intrigued by the topic, but because I see it as the single most defining principle of what I do.
So, what is “well-being”? How do we achieve it? And how does it relate to how I help senior leadership teams turn good businesses into great ones?
There are many definitions, but generally speaking, well-being is defined as, “the state of being comfortable, healthy, and happy”. According to Martin Seligman, a leading authority on the subject, well-being is typically obtained when we possess the following:
- A positive attitude;
- Engagement in activities that leverage our strengths;
- Relationships that are supportive, nurturing, and enduring;
- Achievement, and
- Meaningful work.
Being one who has come to embrace “short and sweet” whenever possible, I am drawn to the simplest definition of well-being I have ever heard: Someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.
So, what does “someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to” have to do with building great companies?
Quite simply, it’s just a different set of words for framing the three abilities we believe companies need to master if they want to build great and enduring businesses. It’s about getting everyone in their organization on the same page with regard to what the business is, where it’s going, and how it’s going to get there (something to look forward to). It’s about creating a culture of discipline and accountability so everyone knows who does what and can count on one another to fulfill their role (something to do). Finally, it’s about creating an environment where everyone genuinely enjoys working together (someone to love).
It’s really that simple. And it’s the foundation for long-term success. Fundamentally, those three things are something that every organization in the world would be wise to provide every one of its employees if it has any desire to survive over the long term.
I believe we are at an extraordinarily interesting time in history. On the one hand, the vast majority of the people in the world want economic and social freedom. Conversely, I believe that capitalism is under attack from around the world, and significantly so even from within our own country.
I believe deeply in capitalism. But I also believe that the U.S. in particular has more than its fair share of short-sighted CEOs, and that the organizational health of our companies deeply affects the economic and social lives of not only our employees and our investors, but all of their families, our vendors, our customers, our communities, our nation, and ultimately our world.
More to the point, I believe that most (dare I say 95%) organizations could do the “people stuff” so much better than they do for a host of reasons, not the least of which are weak people systems and some serious misconceptions about why people really work, how to motivate, and what strong leadership is all about.
One topic I’m passionate about is self-actualization through our work, creating and sustaining organizational well-being. My goal is to provide the ideas, disciplines and tools that will help you enhance not only the organizational well-being of your company, but the overall well-being of our world. There’s never been a better time.