A different type of stakeholder

Although I haven’t followed his career closely Don
Argus
has always struck me as a deep and broad minded thinker. There
are other powerful CEOs and chairmen that don’t evoke the same confidence
in their ability to think beyond profit and power. A certain telecommunications
carrier comes to mind in that respect.

Don Argus came to my attention again this morning in this
article
[Subscription Required] in the Fin
Review
today. In this edited extract of a speech he gave yesterday
to the Australian Institute
of Company Directors
Argus argues that the narrow focus on shareholder
interest is misplaced. Certainly shareholders provide the financial capital
for the company to operate, but many (most?) have no long term commitment
to the company. However:

…should shareholders hold sway over strategy and operational implementation
which may force management to drastically change the fortunes of a particular
company. These same shareholders could be gone in the blink of an eye by
selling their shares the next day or even the next minute.

Others with no skin in the game (at least financially speaking) may demonstrate
much longer term commitment and interest (although as Argus points out in
the case of French activist José
Bové
that interest may be negative). Employees come to my
mind as a group that provide a certain type of capital without which the long
term growth of the company would be impossible. To expect that we can gain
the commitment we require from this group in return for salary and conditions
is, in my mind, naive.

Regardless, Argus goes on to argue that boards need to take into account,
and balance, the interests of a broad group of stakeholders. A fine balancing
act not doubt, but one that reflects the realities of modern corporate life
— telco CEO take note.

Tribute to Harold Bridger

I am sad to say that I have just caught up on the news that Harold Bridger died in May 2005.
I knew Bridger as the developer of what I came to know as the “Consultant Enquirer Model” which is the basis of the workshop I call Consultant Coaching Workshop.
I now know that Bridger was the last surviving founding member of the Tavistock Institute. His work has made a very significant contribution to our understanding of organisations and human relations.

What is happiness?

This BOSS
article
has turned my attention once again to Martin
Seligman
, author of


Authentic
Happiness

and


Learned
Optimism
.

We all seek to be happy, but how happy can we be and what can make us happy?
Seligman suggests there are three components to happiness. He calls them the
"hedonistic life" – searching for happiness through material
wealth, the "engaged life" – being absorbed in what your are
doing, and the "meaningful life" where you serve something bigger
than yourself.

According to Seligman

"the amount of meaning and engagement you have are vastly more important
than the amount of positive emotion you have."

and,

"there is reason to believe that productivity follows very similar
laws to life satisfaction. That is, it’s related to the amount of meaning
you have at work, to the amount of absorption and flow you have at work,
and to a lesser extent, the amount of positive emotion you have at work.
That means to me that if you’re a manager, you need to be attending very
carefully to how much meaning and purpose your employees have. You want
to be designing what they do every day to have more engagement, more flow,
more time-stopping. An you also wnat to think about how much positive emotion
there is on the job."

Look at the banner at the top of this page. Seligman’s words strike us as
reflecting our own beliefs and values. We have believed for a long time that
providing workers "meaning and purpose" in their jobs is a good
thing to do
for its own sake. If you value the dignity of human existence,
it follows that you will want to give people meaningful work. Work they can
engage in and be proud of.

Seligman’s point here accords with another deep belief of mine
providing meaning and purpose in work increases workers’ productivity.

In recent days I have come to believe that not only is their productivity
increased but it, and that of the organisation they belong to, is applied
in a fundamentally better direction. A direction that resonates with the needs
of the world at large.

This is something I hope to develop more in future articles.