What, where, when, why, who….thus we begin a question. Questioning is very basic to the human enquiring human mind.
It helps to understand the world around us, why people behave the way they do, the purpose of our lives, where we’re going and so on. But even more important is to question oneself.
Why do I do what I do? Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I behave the way I do? Why can’t I reach my goals and aspirations? What can I do to improve the quality of my life? and many others. Most of the time, people just hide behind the blanket statement “That is how I was made!” or “That is my nature” to excuse themselves from responsibility and liability. But such does not change anything.
Today being the first time the column is appearing this year, it would be appropriate for us to make some inquiries—indeed, throughout this year, the main theme that will be running through my articles will be Questions….: Question society, question business, question management, question leadership and, above all, question self.
It is only when we are able to do such analyses that we will be able to find solutions to the myriad of issues that confront management, business and society at large. Thus we begin with:
Question1: Why do most, if not all New Year Resolutions Fail?
At the beginning of each year, many people make resolutions, and this year is certainly no exception; maybe you have also made some. The intent for those resolutions, though largely plausible, does not necessarily guarantee success. Likely, you have already realized that some of your resolutions are already crumbling. Basically, this is due to faulty foundation.
To illustrate: Let’s assume you’re going to move a car. The best foundation for the car to start moving is to shift to 1st gear. Yet, you can also decide to start with the 3rd or even 4th gear. But what would you be doing to your engine?
If that continues overtime, it will break it down. Similarly, while it is possible to make a resolution abruptly and stick to it, invariably, it fails most of the time because the foundation has not been laid properly. It is difficult to give up a bad habit suddenly and succeed. Hence, doing so should be based on certain principles to make it stand:
Start Gradually: When did you realize that you needed to make a change? Was it at the beginning of the year or it was in the course of the year? Remember, a new year is simply a mark on a calendar. Period. It caries no miracles or mystical powers. Besides, a new year is just as any other day. And oh, new years vary according to societies and the respective calendars employed.
For example, the first month on the Jewish Calendar, Abib or Nisan revolves around March/April. This year, it falls in April. That being the case, why not make every blessed day a new year? In fact every day is!
Thus instead of waiting till January 1 to start making and implementing your resolutions suddenly, why not set short, medium and long term goals right from anytime of the year when it occurs to you that there should be some change in your life? Mind you, those goals may be what would make it possible for you to even live till the next January!
Hence, when you set such short, medium and long term goals to the attainment of your resolutions, you’re able to adjust gradually until you become comfortable with your change. Isn’t that more sustainable?
Convince yourself: In order to succeed in your resolution by setting goals for yourself, however, it is very important that you convince yourself of the propriety or necessity of the resolution. Besides, your motives should be right. Are you doing it just to please someone, a group of people or even society? Then that could spell doom!
For example, if it’s your resolution to get to office very early each day, is it so you can please your boss or it’s because you have very compelling reasons that convince you of that? And if you are the boss, is it just so your subordinates would look up to you as a fine leader and praise you or it’s because you have sound principles that convince you of that?
What if you get to work that early and yet you do absolutely nothing because of other distractions that you haven’t convinced yourself to curb, wouldn’t that make your resolution fruitless? Sure it would!
Thus you must have basic principles that inform your resolution. And that conviction would inspire you to set reasonable, reachable goals that lead you to success.
Appreciate altruism: In the present harsh economical and social environments, it is all too easy to be interested only in what benefits you alone.
However, doing so deprives you of the benefits of having a broader view of things that can even open up other opportunities for you. Hence, it’s wiser to seek the common good with the desire of making a difference in others’ lives. Such an outlook would inspire you to attain what you’ve resolved to reach.
Share your resolution: We all benefit from encouragement. In fact, in view of the fact that in our formative years we needed guidance in life, we derive much dividend when we know someone we respect has his/her eyes on us. It would, therefore, be useful when you discuss your resolution with someone you respect and who can check you.
It could be your boss/subordinate/colleague. It could also be your spouse or even your child. Their checks on you to make sure that you live up to your resolution cannot be over-emphasized. And that would make for success.
Update yourself: It is also practical to do research and read around our resolutions. Also, reading the experiences of others who made similar resolutions and how they attained them can give you the confidence to succeed. Often, it is especially helpful when we realize that someone we may have respected so much has had to go through same challenges as we ourselves. It helps to realize just how human we are and that if such a person had such challenges, it’s not extra-ordinary if we too experience them. And if he/she succeeded, we too can.
Plan to handle relapses: Human as we are, it is quite understandable that, even with the best of efforts, we stumble sometimes. But a stumble is just that—a stumble. It doesn’t mean failure. So if you suffer some relapses at reaching your resolutions, don’t throw your hands into the air in despair. No. Instead, take time to reflect on what may have led to the relapse and take appropriate steps to forestall those dynamics next time. And the number of times you falter does not mean inability to succeed. Rather, it makes you realize how human you are. And that would be an experience you can also share with someone in future with similar challenges by way of encouragement.
Question 2: Do Profits Alone Indicate the Greatness of a Business?
It is very tempting to look at the figures on the balance sheet or the performance of stocks and conclude that your business is doing great. Yet that can be very deceptive. Profits alone do not assure the greatness of a business.
What use is it if you’re making profits at 20% what you actually could have been making? What can help you to determine if your current profit level is the most you can do?
An introspection is needed here. It is very easy in the competitive world we live in to compare your performance with competitors’ and look at your market share and delude yourself into thinking that you are doing great. But that is mediocrity! The best thing to do, instead, is to examine yourself and your business. Are you doing all the right things?
How much technology are you employing and how effectively is it harnessed with your business processes and practices? What is the nature of your human resources? Are they happy? Do they find their jobs challenging enough? How much autonomy do you grant them? And to what extent are they involved in the decision-making process?
What about your customers? Do you have a good image with them or they view you as exploitative such that the least better offer they get from a competitor they leave? How well do you treat them? To what extent do you consider them in the decision-making process?
What about you as a leader? Do you lead by example? Do you make leaders out of your subordinates? Are you opinionated or you enable a laissez-faire environment at the work place? Do you mean your words and do you leave by them? All these are some of the soul-searching questions to ask self as a leader.
This would help you measure the level of your success. Too, why not find out form others what they genuinely think of you? That can help assess the level at which your leadership is accepted.
These and many others are what determine if you’re at your optimum as a business. But the absence of such an introspective analysis would only make you satisfied with patchiness. Indeed, all those organizations making good profits out there could have done better if they streamlined their operations and gave more attention to certain pertinent but hardly noticeable flaws.
No doubt the level of unemployment is unacceptable in the global economy. If businesses, micro, small and large alike would employ 21st Century practices and discard archaic management and business practices, there would hardly be kinds of the UK Riots and Occupy demonstrations.
Businesses, therefore, do well to take a stock of their operations and make improvements. Profits alone are not enough in determining the greatness of a business.
Question3: How Socially Responsible Are You as an Organization?
Do you limit social responsibility to building schools, donating to orphanages and the like? Sure, those are not bad in themselves. But as a popular Chinese proverb puts it: It’s better to teach a child to fish than feed him with fish. In accord with that, how does your social responsibility measure up?
Also, when it comes to social institutions, social norms and customs, how do these affect your strategy? Do you place profits above family well-being for example? What about your ads, do they indicate that you believe in the persistence of society or they tend to advance ideas that don’t augur well for society at large?
For example, if you are a financial institution, do you, by your ads, promote consumerism? What happens to society when people are made to believe that it’s OK to access loans merely for consumption while business finds it difficult to access them for expansion? Would such a society be able to produce leaders that don’t go cup-in-hand to richer nations for aid? And would such unbridled consumerism benefit the environment?
Thus being socially responsible as a business entity goes beyond the traditional notion of putting back into society what you take out. You can’t restore social norms that you’ve violated or even destroyed just to build your business; neither can you fix climate change!
As you can see, there are so many questions. But I don’t believe that there are more questions than answers. On the contrary, I believe there are more answers than questions. But it all begins with self-assessment; looking at within, not just without. For within is the package of all the energy, desire and will to make a difference; to provide the solutions to the problems.
So this year, we’ll be doing a lot of self-examination by the use of questions. Our theme for the year, thus, is Questions…..Question anything and everything. Question even what you think you already believe. If Einstein had not done so he would have eaten that apple that fell from the tree. And as you can see, Einstein was not a super human; he simply put his gifted enquiring mind to work. We all are gifted with an enquiring mind. We can equally do so. In that case, we’ll acquire more knowledge, more understanding, more wisdom, more discernment and more solutions.
I have started putting my inquiring mind to work. Have you? QUESTIONS….
Jules Nartey-Tokoli is CEO/Managing Partner at Soleil Consults; Management, Strategy & ICT Consultants
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This article was originally posted on West Africa Business Communities