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What the heck does “business sense” even mean? A bulletproof framework for human-first leaders

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We’ve all heard the phrase “It makes good business sense.”

But there’s clearly more than what meets the eye. What does that actually mean?

Leaders are in charge of driving the company forward no matter their position. Yes, even HR, people and talent leaders are responsible for the growth of the company too.

But at what cost?

Should the viability of your business be more important than the humans you impact on a daily basis? Why can’t we consider both the business sense and the human sense?

So here I am making my case to you that we company leaders can make decisions that yes, improve our bottom line, but also enhance our relationships with stakeholders – our employees, customers and community.

It’s possible.

The business decision debacle

In most cases business sense refers to decisions that prioritize the financial stability of the business.

Sadly, those decisions usually take efficiency, productivity and cost-saving measures over the people they directly impact – even customers and employees (literally the people who prop up said business).

The prevalence of the “it’s not personal, it’s just business” mentality

Ever catch yourself justifying horrible actions?

Yeah, that’s usually the case for “it’s not personal, it’s just business.”

But what happens when those decisions negatively impact people? This mentality somehow created a false dichotomy between business and humans. When in reality they’re naturally intertwined.

Business is personal. Business is inherently all about people.

At its root, it’s one human serving another. How did we forget this?

In so many situations, companies choose a short-term financial win over the long-term success and prosperity of their customers or employees.

We’re not ephemeral beings. Bring back long-term thinking. Think about 10 years – not 10 months – from now.

The limitations of black & white thinking in business

  • Good or bad
  • Heads or tails
  • Right or wrong
  • Business or human
  • Conservative or liberal

Nuance doesn’t exist in our cultural discourse anymore.

We think in black and white terms, which immediately create opposition, polarization and separation.

Why can’t something be in between? Where did the gray area go?

That’s what I’m standing for. Consider yourself a people-first leader? Not all your strategic decisions have to be pro-business or pro-human.

Instead, opt for both.

A healthier framework for human-first leaders

Business is not a zero-sum game. Your company doesn’t have to lose in order for your customers or employees to win. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

Here’s why:

The importance of balancing business & human sense

True people-first leaders balance both business and human sense in their decision-making process.

So while you consider the financial impact of your strategy, you also think about how that strategy will impact the people your business effects – your customers, employees and community, in no particular order.

The benefits of considering both perspectives

So by considering both sides of the equation, you can make decisions that leave everyone better off.

Maybe it’s not as big of a financial gain as your company hoped, but your recent decision left your customers and employees better off.

And that was the whole purpose, right? To create an engaged user or customer base and increase their loyalty?

Who’d argue against that?

An example of a company that balances business & humans

What better champions of this positive, sustainable symbiosis is Patagonia.

Of course, they’re known for their high-quality outdoor gear.

But they practice what they preach. They prioritize environmental sustainability and fair labor practices. They help their customers and employees do the same.

Sure, they’ve made some decisions at the expense of their own bottom line. But promoting their causes and advocating for the environment was worth it in their opinion.

And by doing so, they’ve created one of the most loyal brand fanbases in the world. Hats off to you, Yvon Chouinard.

You can have your cake and eat it too. Financial gain doesn’t have to substitute people-first practices.

And vice versa! Just because you’re a people-first leader doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the long-term success of your company.

It’s our responsibility as human leaders to prioritize our customers, teammates and community while also satisfying the business.

How do you do that?

Use this mental model to push for change and challenge the status quo. Commit to the well-being, value and prosperity of your people, customers and community.

Because who else will?

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