I recently attended a major meeting where there was a lot going on. The next day three of us who were there did independent recaps. I did mine last, without knowing what the other two had said. The report I ended up turning in was not so much content-related as an appraisal of how I felt about what had taken place and my emotional read on the participants’ frame of mind and passion for the project at hand When I read the other two accounts, it struck me that theirs very accurately focused on business aspects such as strategies and objectives, but were devoid of any feeling. And this got me to wondering whether our internalizing of events and the emotions and passions they stir in us are actually more significant indicators of what a successful business really is than the logistics, plans and schemes we use to accomplish our various vocational aims.
In business and commerce, we like to think of ourselves as pragmatic, goal-oriented, and impervious to “emotional” factors that might somehow become an impediment to whatever it is we’re trying to achieve. But for all the emphasis we place on success and material rewards, are our innermost feelings about things – the intangible aspects of our lives – actually the ones that are most important to us as human beings? We tend to measure the pursuit of happiness in terms of material acquisitions – cars, boats, houses and the like – but don’t automatically assume that the mere attainment of those things makes for a happy person. We’re more inclined to talk about joy and contentment (as frequently expressed in mediums such as song and poetry) as resulting from feelings of love, hope, trust, and our ability to appreciate the beauties of nature. Shouldn’t these qualities, then, be as meaningful in the way we conduct our enterprises as is, say, our obligation to maximize shareholder profits?
So, as ‘unbusinesslike’ as this approach might seem, during the next few weeks I am going to be focusing on my subjective feelings about things rather than on dispassionate, unsentimental and purely practical considerations, and see what effect that has on my professional as well as my personal life. The reason is that I have a growing suspicion that much of what’s wrong with the way we do business these days stems from our inclination to regard emotional concerns as “unrealistic,” or as standing in the way of progress, only to discover later on that we should have been attaching more importance to what our sensibilities told us and less to what merely seemed “sensible” at the time.
I may just be on to something here, and if so, I believe it will show I have often been focused on the wrong outcomes. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts. Do we make a big mistake by keeping our emotions in check when we’re doing business?