how to measure business success

How to measure business success by social impact, not stock price

When I was in business school in the early 2000s, there was no question of how to measure business success — and little if any talk of social impact. The most powerful idea I learned in my first year was that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for the shareholders. 

You have to understand that for me, with my background as a left-leaning clinical psychologist, this proposition was shocking. But I recognized that it was fundamental to how most businesses and business leaders operated.

So today, I’m flabbergasted. On August 19, the elite group of U.S. CEOs that form the Business Roundtable announced that big corporations should no longer focus exclusively on maximizing profits for their shareholders. Jamie Dimon, the chair of the Business Roundtable and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, presented a statement that business leaders should focus on delivering value to all their stakeholders — to customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities, as well as shareholders.

flow and happiness

Flow and Happiness — How to enter the state of your best work

When you lock into a state of Flow and happiness, you probably don’t know it. Usually, it happens when you’re so totally absorbed in a task that you lose track of time. Your attention is so focused that you don’t notice you’re hungry or your neck is crinked or someone is trying to talk to you. And when you finally come up for air you may feel a little disoriented, as if you’ve been somewhere far away.

I’ve been experiencing this a lot lately as I work on my first book, but the sensation was first described and labeled as “Flow” by prominent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970s. It has become an influential concept in psychology, business, sports, and the arts, sometimes labeled as being “in the zone” or “in the groove.” Flow is an intensely pleasurable state, characterized by clear goals, powerful concentration, immediate and accurate feedback, and an ideal balance between your level of skill and the demands of the task.  

The Flow state is a compelling concept because so many of us have experienced it. But as a psychological construct it has two problems. First, how can you measure it? And second, is it actually connected to creativity and productivity?

Change initiatives in organizations

Change initiatives in organizations must succeed on 4 fronts

The statistics on driving change initiatives in organizations are pretty dismal. Nearly 70% of employees cannot describe their company’s strategy, even when there’s a poster on the wall. About the same number feel they’re not good at driving strategy. So it’s no surprise that strategic change initiatives fall short of the hoped-for impact at the same rate — 70%.

These statistics were shared in a recent webinar on “Fast and Collaborative Change Management: Embracing Digital Tools,” presented by the Fulcrum Network. Participants learned about the kinds of structural changes most companies are facing these days: monologue to dialogue, analog to digital, individual to group-based, and gut intelligence to data-driven, among many others. 

solo ceo

Being a Solo CEO, but embracing big-business thinking

“Solo CEO” — what a great label! Several months ago, I was invited to speak at the SoloCEO Summit, a conference created by my colleague, Terra Winston. The one-day event was designed for “solopreneurs,” people who had established and were operating a business by themselves. The goal was to provide opportunities for small business people to learn from experts, build community, and create an action plan to move forward. 

Terra put together a great team of presenters with a wide range of skills: marketing, coaching, law, operations, and many other aspects of business leadership. The event was striking in its diversity, both among the presenters and the attendees — people leading all sorts of businesses; men and women; old and young; racially diverse. The energy in the room was powerful. 

roi of executive education

The ROI of executive education — do benefits outweigh costs?

The ROI of executive education is rarely measured, but that hasn’t stopped the courses from proliferating. Some are customized for specific companies, while others are open to students from many different employers. Business schools, consulting firms — all kinds of organizations develop and offer these courses to build business acumen and specific leadership skills.

Frankly, executive education is a real cash cow for many academic institutions. Corporations often shell out big bucks to send senior executives or high-potential leaders to prestigious exec ed programs. Other companies spend money to develop their own in-house programs. Some years ago, Motorola had such an extensive program that it was labelled “Motorola University.” Consulting firms also get in on the action, working with their corporate clients to develop educational offerings.

contract negotiating tips

8 contract negotiation tips, as demonstrated by Rahm Emanuel

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not the first person I’d turn to for contract negotiation tips. He does not have a strong reputation as a conciliator. He is not known to make nice with people. His brand is that he’s an aggressive, stubborn leader who’s quite willing to dig in his heels and pound the other side into submission.

And yet, he was able to help end The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s seven-week strike, the longest one in their history. Negotiations had been ongoing for most of that time, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement — until then-Mayor Emanuel intervened.

screening and evaluating candidates

Screening and evaluating candidates must look past the superficial

When I hear how hiring managers are screening and evaluating candidates, I sometimes think back on a young woman I once met who was single and lonely. She told me she was looking for a serious relationship and then shared how she evaluated the men she met. She checked out their shoes. If they had fashionable, expensive shoes that were properly shined, she would go out with them. If not, not.

I think that is one of the worst criteria for selecting a potential mate that I have ever heard of. What do the shoes tell you? That the guy has money and spends it on shoes? That looking spiffy is important to him? I can assure you that neither trait is predictive of a long and happy marriage. 

This was the first thing that came to mind when I read a recent article by Jessica Liebman, the executive managing editor of Business Insider, who eliminates job candidates from consideration if they don’t send a thank-you email after the job interview.

hiring the right manager

Hiring the right manager, and how it can transform your business

Early in my career as a management psychologist I had the good fortune to learn the importance of hiring the right manager. I was helping a major retailer transform the way it did business. Anyone who has participated in a large-scale change initiative knows how difficult it is to turn a company around. There are all kinds of barriers — inertia, fear, turf battles, company politics, the list goes on and on.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that project. One important insight was that the key player in this kind of change process is the store manager. More than the front-line workers and more than the corporate honchos, the store manager has the presence, the customer contact, and the clout to make change happen — or not. When we focused our change efforts on the store managers, the effect was very powerful.

leadership lessons

6 leadership lessons learned by crash landing a plane

In a sea of demoralizing news stories, it’s important to remember the leadership lessons learned during the wonderful events. It’s been 10 years since Captain “Sully” Sullenberger managed to land his disabled passenger plane on the Hudson River, saving the lives of every single passenger and crew member. It was a remarkable and inspiring achievement.

Networking tips for women

My networking tips for women? Stop these 3 bad habits at events

I am fortunate to be invited to a lot of women’s meetings, and they often give me a chance to think of appropriate networking tips for women. It’s great to be around high-powered women and enjoy their energy and their achievements — but it also needs to be great for business. Coming together is one of the ways we as women overcome obstacles, help each other, and thrive.