What comes a round goes around…
One of the concepts that I talked to Gina Hayden about during my interview with her for her book on Conscious Leadership was what I call “business karma”. I’ve noticed over the years that by generally being helpful to people in the business world (and sometimes going out of my way to do so) I tend to get a lot of help back. It doesn’t always come from the same person who I helped, nor does it always come back straightaway, but overall I think it is true that you reap what you sow.
I guess that after a while everyone develops a reputation, good or bad, and that starts to influence the way in which other people respond to your requests for help. While this has probably always been the case, I imagine that when I started my career it was much easier to go about business life in selfish way and still be successful. I think we have greater transparency now and media such as LinkedIn make it a lot easier to check up on people and find others with first hand experience of them. Long gone are the days when someone’s recruitment might hang on a single, carefully worded reference. “You will indeed be fortunate if this person decides to work for you” being my all time favourite reference with a double meaning! Employees are probably more confident now about speaking up or voting with their feet, so bad bosses are more likely to be found out more quickly. Customers and clients are also more likely to complain. Globalisation, technology, social attitudes and consumer power are combining to raise standards and some people find that old approaches no longer work. As the old saying goes “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” – and it’s getting harder and harder to do that every day.
Having said all that I’m not naive enough to believe that there aren’t still people out there behaving in a selfish, conniving manor and some still prosper. We have not yet all moved on from the Gordon Gecko “greed is good” belief. The banking crisis and the subsequent difficulty that some banks have had in changing their culture has shown that. Closer to home I’ve worked with some individual examples of self-centredness, though fortunately not too many!
I’ve always believed in a taking long-term, holistic view of what I do so that I avoid making decisions in favour of my own short-term, narrowly defined self interest. It never ceases to astonish me how often I meet someone important to my future while attending an event to do someone else a favour. I’ve always invested time in listening to people in my team and spending time on training and mentoring. As a result I’ve typically found it easy to get people to work for me and often my mentees make useful connections for me in return. To be successful in professional services, going the extra mile for a client and/or investing in the relationship before fees start coming in, is often a critical differentiator. It’s amazing though how often people don’t do this.
Some times you have to “kiss a few frogs” before you find a prince. Not everything has an immediate return but putting yourself out there starts to build a network of people who will help when you need it in the future. It also builds a stronger society. Whatever you call it, synchronicity, karma or even luck is not as random as it sometimes appears. You can’t tell where your next big break is coming from, or when, but you can improve your odds of getting it by investing time in building a network and being positive and helpful. We are all connected.