Does Success in Business and in Life rely on Similar Strategic Approaches?
According to the late Clayton M. Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book How Will You Measure Your Life, the management theories used to build stronger businesses can serve as guiding principles for making better decisions in life.
The key to success in business and in life is to place purpose at the heart of strategy, and to intentionally allocate our talents, time, and energy with that purpose in mind.
Life tells a story
Over the years, I witnessed the journey of some of my stellar classmates from medical school in 1984; I saw an increasing number of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced and estranged from their children. I am convinced that none of them graduated with the deliberate intention of getting divorced or raising children who would drift away from them. Yet, an impressive number of them did have these experiences. Why? Because they failed to focus on their life’s purpose and the actions necessary to achieve it when they decided how to invest their time, talents, and energy.
Particularly people driven by a desire for excellence, when given an extra hour of free time or an extra ounce of energy, routinely allocate it to activities that yield an immediate sense of accomplishment (see addiction to success). We finish a presentation, we publish an article, we tutor a class, ... So, our careers are the most tangible evidence that we are moving forward. We tend to underinvest in our families and overinvest in our careers, when intimate and loving relationships with family and friends are the most powerful and lasting source of happiness.
For me, finding and staying focused on a clear life purpose was a necessity and a priority. My determination to throw myself wholeheartedly into the pursuit of a purpose goes back to my early childhood. The sudden and tragic death of my mother at the age of 14 was a catalyst for reflection that allowed me to clarify the direction and focus of my life's journey from the start. After finding some meaning in this ordeal, I was able to gather the resolve and energy to build a new future. Clarifying my objectives early on prevented me from getting overly lost in the maze of life.
Time and resources are in short supply
We struggle with the same problems that businesses do. Our time and resources are limited. Many of our activities, whether personal, professional, or social compete for the same resources. How much time, talent, energy and money do we spend on each of them?
It is essential to deliberately think about the life we most want to live, not just the one we settle for! - and prioritize our activities accordingly.
Let’s keep in mind that the average human lifespan is desperately short, as noted by Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman in his book Time Management for Mortals. Assuming you live to be 80, that's just over 4,000 weeks. On any given weekday, that adds up to 4,000 Saturday nights, 4,000 lazy Sundays and 4,000 Monday mornings. When you're young, that may seem like a staggering number of tomorrows, when you get older, not so much.
Create a life strategy – have a clear purpose, establish a roadmap, and allocate your resources accordingly
At its core, a company's purpose is a clear statement of its reason for being. It is the North Star and the inspiration that guides all of the company's activities in a way that has a significant impact on the lives of its customers, employees, partners, investors,... - all those it seeks to serve. A company’s strategy determines the initiatives management invests in. All too often, leaders focus on initiatives that offer the most tangible returns. But when the investments don't reflect an organization's long-term goals, the outcome can fall far short of what was intended.
The same is true in life: like a business, to thrive, a person must have a clear purpose and create a roadmap to achieve it. We can find purpose in various areas of life: work, family, civic life, art, philanthropy, etc. The key to finding our purpose and defining our life focus is to identify the most powerful way to express our "true and unique self" - our values, natural talents, and passions - and then share them with the world. The questioning that must take place is: What do I really care about? What do I value? What do I want out of life? The definition of success is unique to each one of us. Ultimately, the key is to ensure that our priorities and daily activities are aligned with our long-term goals. If not, we risk wasting our time and energy on visible, short-term signs of success, not on what is truly important to us.
Create a family culture just as companies build corporate cultures
Just like businesses, families have a culture. A family culture is a set of shared values, beliefs and habits that inspire desired behaviors and guide the actions of all family members. It shapes each member’s perception of their role in the family and how they act daily. It forms the traditions, customs and practices that make a family unique. The existence of a family culture is no accident; it is intentional. It must be deliberately built, or else it evolves inadvertently, by default.
In the absence of a clearly defined and sound corporate/family culture, the only lever for securing the cooperation of an employee or child is an authoritarian approach, using the "tools of power": coercion, threats, punishments, etc. However, these methods are generally doomed to failure. There comes a time in adolescence when power tactics lose their effectiveness. At that point, a strong family culture based on love, support and mutual respect will naturally encourage children to comply with their parents' wishes and behave appropriately.
In any organization, as in any family, culture and role modeling starts at the top. It starts with the leaders: the parents!
Every moment of every day, whether you realize it or not, you are deciding how to spend your time, what to pay attention to and where to direct your energy.
"How you allocate your resources is where the rubber meets the road. Real strategy - in business and in our lives - is created by hundreds of daily decisions about how you spend your resources. As you live your life, day to day, how do you make sure you're moving in the right direction? Watch where your resources flow. If they don't support the strategy, you've decided on, then you're not implementing that strategy at all." - Clayton M. Christensen
We all need to think more purposefully about our professional and personal priorities to strike the right balance between the two.
Ultimately, me must think about the metrics by which we will judge our lives and decide to live each day in such a way that, in the end, we will judge our lives as a success.