Relationships underpin success
Legacy is cemented in relationships. The way we learn from each other, relate to different experiences and viewpoints and interchange our philosophies, form the basis of humanity. Our position in the world becomes defined by our association to others. To our ancestors, our present circle and our imagined future selves. These connections, and their power to shape who we are, leave a significant indent in our life’s course – in our legacies.
Relationships have always been an important focus in the business world – it is critical when it comes to success. Understanding what the client wants and how to best deliver, supporting other workers to produce their best work and collaborating as a team, even with dividing opinions, is crucial. A final product often extends back to several layers of input – it is rare to accomplish something completely alone.
Shifting our perspective of legacy from one that is tangible to intangible has become increasingly common. Measuring events by financial success no longer holds such weight within society. It instead has become centered on the immaterial actions of organisations which impact the world and people around them. Holding a lens to how we create meaning in business is particularly pertinent in our fast-paced technological era. Focusing on relationships – both positive and negative – produces greater transparency, accountability and long-term success. It is a defining factor in the creation of a business.
Former CEO and now Executive Chairman of Starbucks, Howard Shultz, powerfully spoke to this idea. He emphasised how authenticity inspires transformation: “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit”.
Examples of harnessing aspects of success outside financial liability are constant. McDonald’s, perhaps one of the biggest symbols for corporate greed in our Western world, has this year pledged to use renewable, recyclable or certified materials in all packaging worldwide by 2025. Last year, Google’s global operations became fully powered by renewable energy – and they became the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power. Tesla is skyrocketing in sales and support for their eco-friendly electric powered cars. Locally, the rise of companies like Keep Cup and Frank Green, which both sell reusable coffee cups, have risen based on our desire to help save the planet.
These decisions extend further than environmental impact as companies have long turned to making their products, and processes, ethical. Whilst the fashion industry is constantly gaining undesirable attention for its abuse of power when it comes to sustainability and ethical sourcing, global retailer H&M has redirected this negativity. They have committed to supply chain transparency by publishing an up-to-date list of suppliers’ names and addresses on their website each quarter. Closer to home, Kathmandu became the first brand in the Southern Hemisphere to receive accreditation by the Fair Labour Association in 2018, offering tools to help companies better protect and aid their workers. Other retailers, like The Body Shop and Cotton On, offer support through donations and regular collaborations with international and domestic charities and community organisations.
Changing the legacy
Whilst these actions have been at the forefront of our decision making for a while now, it is still critical in highlighting the importance of relationships. Without hesitation it is easy to suggest that the purpose of business is financial success and stability. Turning focus towards aiding the environment and conducting ethical practice for example, despite its cost, thus becomes highly significant. Organisations are emphasising the connection they hold with their consumer, their partners and their global reach – and they are listening to how the world is changing. They are altering their course based on how we are responding. They are changing their legacy because of the intangible necessity relationships have towards their growth.
Leroy H. Kurtz, made famous by his work with General Motors, sums this idea perfectly: “The fields of industry are strewn with the bones of those organisations whose leadership became infested with dryrot, who believe in taking instead of giving… who didn’t realize that the only assets that could not be replaced easily were the human ones”.
Relationships are foundational. The treatment of staff by their leader, consumers by a company and altogether on the personal front, cements our track in life. Our connection with others alters how we see the world and our place within it. They force us to step out of our comfort zones. They make us feel supported, loved and empowered. Business practices will only become fairer if we continue to hold each other accountable and strive towards treating people, and our environment, justly.
To create a legacy within an association, it all starts with our engagement with others – a sustainable legacy of respect and admiration is only sure to follow.
This article was created for the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers for the purpose of publication in Boardroom Magazine (February 2019 edition, page 24-25). The original article can be accessed here.