Should businesses stay out of politics?

Keeping up with the news means sometimes seeing articles about what companies have donated to, and some people taking that personally. Some vocal people say that businesses should keep their noses out of politics, but in reality, that is up for the business to decide.

Depending upon the size of the company, there are various things to consider. If it’s big enough to have shareholders, it means having to consider what they think before donating. If the company is smaller, there may not be a whole lot to donate in the first place. And even if a donation is made, it likely won’t make front page news anywhere. But in the smaller company, employees might take it more personally if business profits are given to a cause they feel strongly against.

Outside of the business, going back to the idea of current and potential customers not liking any sort of political involvement, that idea seems to mostly come from older crowds. There’s a newer idea, at least being vocalized more, that consumers are okay with businesses donating to causes that align with their ideals, because then the consumer can choose either to support that business or not.

There’s another bit of truth that businesses can’t entirely avoid politics, even if they aren’t actively donating to a cause. Business practices like deciding who to hire or what regulations are enforced more strictly than others can be seen as political statements by consumers. At that point, it becomes a matter of deciding what principals they want to back, to stand firm by those values, whether they’re called political or not.

Caucasian man standing in front of other business people in wood paneled room, giving a presentation.

The great balancing act of being a business owner has a lot of factors to it. One of the most important balances is making a business functional, and still keeping the workforce happy. With how many people it often takes to keep a business running, it also tends to mean there’s no one right answer to keeping people happy. But there are some basic ideas that business owners can try out as a starting point.

Try thinking first of what you always hated having happened at work before you became your own boss. Sometimes, less than desirable events have to happen for the sake of the business, but maybe they don’t have to be as awful. Maybe there’s easy access to refreshments when employees have to work late. Or, perhaps if employees from one department have to do work for another department that is less desirable or extends for a longer period of time than what would be expected, think of ways to show their effort is appreciated. Maybe once the special project is complete, let everyone involved have a small break. Yourself included, because being in charge isn’t easy.

As a business owner, it’s important to remember that you’re not the sole member of the team. Making an environment positive enough to bring out maximum productivity often means listening to others. It helps to encourage employees to bring problems to either a manager’s or your attention. That way they’ll likely feel more comfortable with bringing problems for consideration early on, rather than waiting for it to become intolerable. Communication in general is a great way to keep cohesion in a workplace, even if the subjects aren’t always pleasant.

There’s always something that has to be added to the mix of keeping a functioning and thriving workplace. Ask what your employees think, and try some new things. The next best idea may just be waiting for someone to speak up.

Business woman standing on log that's breaking- The Most Valuable Lessons CEOs Can Learn From Failure

Being a CEO isn’t an easy job; as the highest ranking executive in a company, they have to wear many hats at once. A CEO may spend their day handling employee concerns, managing the executive team, developing company strategy, and making major corporate decisions. With so much responsibility, it’s little wonder that some of them may worry about failure — there’s a lot riding on their shoulders! The good news is everyone fails sometimes, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the most successful CEOs have experienced failure and proven that there are lessons to learn from it.

1. Embrace Failure as an Innovation Tool

Striving for perfection prevents risk-taking, and often risks are needed to make a business stand out from the crowd. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has had a number of failures over the years (the Fire Phone, Amazon Destinations, and Amazon Auctions) and has joked that failure feels like “a root canal without anesthesia.” Despite this, he’s learned to embrace failure as a tool to create successful endeavors. “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon,” he’s said. “If you decide you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.” Some of Bezos’s experiments have become huge successes, such as Prime, Marketplace, and Amazon Web Services; Amazon Web Services alone brought in over $5.4 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2018.

2. Learning From Your Mistakes Can Be More Valuable Than Success

It’s not enough to embrace your failures; you have to be able to learn from them. Failure can teach you a lot about how to improve an idea or give you valuable hindsight. Bill Gates, principal founder of Microsoft and former CEO, has had many pitfalls over the years that he was able to learn from. From his ill-fated first company Traf-O-Data to his failure to recognize internet opportunities, Gates has been candid about some of the lessons he’s learned from failures. While discussing how Microsoft missed the boat when they failed to develop a search engine, he said, “success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” He’s also admitted that Microsoft made missteps in the mobile arena. As Gates has said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

 3. Don’t Give Up

Persistence can pay off. Elon Musk, entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX, has had repeated failures over the years. One of those failures that turned to success is SpaceX. He founded SpaceX in 2002, with the purpose of less expensive transportation to space, and had nothing but a string of roadblocks. At the start of the company’s launch, they had trouble hiring anyone who had experience building rockets. Musk has said, “And the reason that I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer, was not because I want to, it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone. Nobody good would join. So I ended up being that by default.” The first three launches failed, and the company almost went bankrupt. Having only enough money for one more launch, they tried again, to great success; not only did the rocket launch, the company received a $1.6 billion contract from NASA. “Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up,” Musk stated. “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

Radical Vulnerability: Small surfer on a giant wave

What is vulnerability? Though it can mean different things to different people, it essentially comes down to being brave enough to be yourself. And that means being your whole self, including weaknesses and strengths. All the energy you spend projecting an image of strength and invulnerability becomes a mask that insulates you from the real world.

If you are an entrepreneur, you don’t want anything getting between you and the real world. That’s where all the solutions are.

The Emotional Impact of Being Authentic

Being authentic is what helps you connect emotionally with your team. Truth and authenticity are at the foundation of vulnerability. If you show your team your humanity, your genuine heart, they will know that you trust yourself and that they can trust the organization.  

One way to do this is to illuminate your flaws rather than try to hide them away. Be willing to admit mistakes. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and be willing to get support where you need it. This means, instead of projecting confidence, being confident enough to be uncomfortable.

It also means having the ability to be self-aware. Often, the people and situations that bother you the most, the ones that really electrify the negative feedback loop in your brain with repetitive thinking, are places you need the most work. For example, maybe you label someone as a bullshitter. That person really bugs you, and you hate doing business with him. If you look inside, maybe you will see there is a part of yourself that is willing to be less than honest in certain high pressure situations. Maybe you’re the bullshitter! If you take steps to deal with that then you won’t have to plug in and give energy to every dishonest person you run into.

Shame Is an Organizational Virus

When you are willing to look at your own flaws, your team can admit their own mistakes. Everyone makes errors. Why not let them live in the open where they can be learned from? Shame is a terrible organizational virus that mutes voices, making team members less bold and less able to suggest big ideas.

Of course, you work in a demanding environment, and being vulnerable and willing to accept who you truly are does not mean you are willing to accept mediocrity. In fact, it’s the opposite. When you challenge yourself and your team to be fully vulnerable and driven while building solutions for clients, you build an organization that has the best chance of dynamically moving forward. Being a radically vulnerable leader is the optimal strategy to becoming a successful business leader.

Four photos show a woman reading, a mother hugging her child, a successful business meeting and a man working out. These are all ways to connect the dots.

Fortune magazine released their 40 Under 40 list recently with a diverse list ranging in race, gender, nationality, and industry. Notable influencers that were given the honor include filmmakers like Jordan Peele, who was the first black screenwriter to win an Oscar in the screenplay category in 2018, and Executives like Dhivya Suryadevara, 39, who was the first female Chief Financial Officer of GM. What makes these visionaries amazing isn’t their skin color or gender. Instead, they are being celebrated for the obstacles they have had to overcome. Below is wisdom from another thought leader, who has empowered over 50 million people from 100 countries through his work. Tony Robbins has a roadmap to almost every subject area relevant to CEOs, artists, executives, and more. Below are pieces of advice from Tony that could help inspire you to become as influential as Jordan Peele or Dhivya Suryadevara in your circles.

Take Care of Your Body and Mind

Tony recommends reading 30 minutes a day to boost mental growth. But he doesn’t suggest reading only your favorite graphic novel or romantic fiction. Instead, he wants you to read something that will make you think critically. In his own words, “Scrolling through social media doesn’t count.”

Don’t just exercise your brain. Get your heart pumping, too! He suggests, at a minimum, exercising 5 days a week with your heart racing for 10 minutes. What you do to get your body moving is up to you, and be sure to consult with a doctor if you have any health concerns. Combining physical and mental exercise will go hand in hand in your personal development.

Expand Your Sphere

You may find yourself tempted to lower your self-worth by associating with people you think are at your level or lower because they are comfortable to you. But this won’t help you grow. Find people who have what you want, and associate with them. It’s up to you whether this means a casual “hello” and slowly building up to more small talk, or straight up asking them for their advice on your mutual fields. As Tony says, “if you play someone at your level or below, you never stretch yourself. No stretch, no improvement….Yes, staying in an environment where you feel like you’re not good enough can be tough, but hold on – it’ll pay off in the long run.”

In Giving We Receive

Try to help someone every week for 2–3 minutes, or break it into 10 minutes per month. It’s that simple. Tony recommends providing food, conversation, or your problem-solving skills. You could also try to be kind when you’re stuck in traffic. For example, let cars into your lane when they need to change lanes. Or return the grocery cart for the elderly person who cannot return it. Tony’s “secret to living is giving. It’s truly the secret for how to feel happy.”

CEO sitting in yoga pose is using stress reduction tips to help with his busy work schedule

Being a CEO can be stressful. As the head decision-maker, overall operations manager, and chief strategist, the task-list is never-ending. So, it’s understandable that people with so much on their plate may have a difficult time de-stressing, especially people whose mind is always on their work. Stress can wear on a person physically and mentally. So for a CEO to be at their best, it’s necessary to keep stress in check. Some CEOs may feel too busy to work on stress-relieving techniques, but there are several things they can do that require very little effort or time.

Visualize Your Power Animal. Or Happy Place. Or Both!

Remember the scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton’s character visited his visualized cave to find his power animal? Visualization is a very effective way to mentally remove yourself from your surroundings, and that short mental vacation can do wonders for stress. Whether you’re visualizing your power animal or your favorite place to relax, simply closing your eyes and creating a mental image of that thing for a couple minutes can make your body and mind more at ease.

Take Deep, Purposeful Breaths

We don’t often think of our breathing since it’s automatic, but paying attention to our breaths can naturally make us feel more relaxed. Deep breathing supplies your brain with more oxygen, which also produces a feeling of overall calmness. Taking a moment to take a few mindful, deep breaths can bring about a quick reduction in stress. For added benefit, add in some visualization. The use of deep breathing in stress relief is so significant that the American Institute of stress has said it’s the most effective stress reduction technique.

Laugh That Stress Off

Laughter really can be the best medicine, especially for stress. Laughter can relax the whole body, and it’s tension and stress relief can affect your muscles for up to 45 minutes afterward. Laughter also releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormone. When feeling stressed, take a couple minutes to laugh. Bookmark a couple funny (work appropriate) sites, or keep funny photos in a folder on your desktop so you can quickly refer to these when you’re starting to feel that tension weigh on you.

Forced Worrying Chases Those Involuntary Worries Away

This might sound counter-intuitive, but it can be very effective: Stress can cause us to worry — worry about deadlines, or revenue… or a million other things. If stress is making you worry and you find it hard to focus, set a timer for 60 seconds and force yourself to worry. Often, trying to make yourself worry is difficult! Worries often affect us most when we’re trying to push them under the rug. After your time is up, you may find it’s easier to focus, and that worry isn’t trying to steal your attention as much.

Put a Smile on That Face

It may sound corny, but smiling can have a physiological impact on stress. While the link between facial expressions and mental states hasn’t been researched much, one study showed people who smiled during a stressful situation had lower heart rates and lower self-reported levels of stress. Some researchers have suggested smiling may reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in the body. Not only can smiling have an impact on your stress levels, but it can make people around you feel more at ease as well.

 

 

We are what we do - Aristotle quote on a slate blackboard against red barn wood - building habits for success

Success, regardless of whether it’s at work, school, or our personal lives, often depends on being highly disciplined. Discipline seems to come easily for some. Others… well, it can be more of a struggle. The good news is that discipline can be developed and part of that can be achieved by actively working on routines that can turn into habits. Habits work by actually changing the pathways in your brain. The more often you do something, the less effort and thought it requires, eventually becoming a subconscious behavior. Successful people tend to share many of the same habits, and they aren’t difficult or daunting to develop. Spend a little time each day working on them, and before you know it, these little routines will become habitual.

1. Start the Day With a Positive Mindset

Start your day invested in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. Push down any negative self-talk you might have, and instead focus on gratitude, growth, and enthusiasm for the possibilities of a new day not yet lived. Think about what you’d like to improve upon today, and set that as a mini goal to achieve; understand that nothing in the universe is fixed, yourself included.

2. Embrace A Health Conscious Lifestyle

We all know that we should eat healthily and exercise, but actually doing that on a daily basis can be difficult. Regardless, it can become a habit like anything else. Fueling yourself with nutritious food and exercising first thing in the morning awakens both the body and mind and provides energy for both to get through the day. Rest and relaxation is also part of being healthy; we all need this to recharge the body and mind. Being health conscious is all about balancing physical and mental needs.

3. Adhere to Your Core Values

What’s most important to you in life? Spend time thinking about this, and write them down. Once you’ve identified your core values, remind yourself of them daily and make sure you’re adhering to them with whatever actions you’re taking. Let them guide your goals. If and when you find yourself feeling lost or discouraged, return to your list and read through them to remind yourself of who you are and what you stand for.

4. Be Goal-Oriented

Habitually set goals; successful people know what they want and have a plan on how to accomplish it. They work on their plans, review them daily, and set deadlines for when they’d like to have their goal accomplished by. Those who are goal-oriented don’t let setbacks hold them back or persuade them to give up; they always keep their eye on the prize.

5. Spend Time in Reflection

How often do you just sit quietly and reflect? Our lives are often fast-paced; our days are overwhelmed with decisions and emotions that require quick reactions, rather than careful thought. Taking 15 to 30 minutes out of the day to disconnect from technology and sit silently thinking about goals, your day, and your plans can bring about wisdom and clarity.

6. Read Daily

Reading is a pastime that has multiple benefits. Research has shown that it can reduce both physical and mental symptoms of stress. It’s also a source of entertainment that exercises the brain; unlike movies or television, the brain has to work to convert words into meaning. Reading also is a way to build more empathy and understanding of the world around us.