There is a phrase used all of the time – and it is time we put it to rest for good.
You know the phrase.
“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
How we ever let this phrase become part of the norm is proof of just how out of whack our sense of business and leadership has become over the years.
“It’s not personal” essentially means this:
“I need to make a tough decision that is going to effect you in a major way. I don’t want my conscience or ego to accept that fact that I am hurting someone, so I am going to repackage this action as a business decision. If I do that I will feel better about myself by turning you into a statistic – not a person.”
That’s the trick of “It’s not personal.”
If we can trick ourselves into not thinking of the “person” – and justifying it as a necessary business decision, using phrases like “the greatest good,” it will help us sleep at night.
In reality, we know this is bogus.
It’s always personal. Always.
Why? Because who are businesses run by? People.
Every decision that is made by leadership is personal because it ultimately impacts the people who work there.
I once listened to a mentor I respect tell me about his previous work facilitating mergers. He and the other leadership members would hash out the details, look at the numbers and statistics, and then make cuts accordingly. On one particular occasion he worked with a company that laid off thousands of employees. No big deal. Business, not personal. Just a stat. Yet, it wasn’t until he saw a news report that day interviewing people from the company whose lives had been turned upside down. He saw the desperation and devastation.
For the first time in his professional life, the business got really personal.
And that is the problem with the majority of our corporate leadership still in place. The decisions of the many are made by a few. Cutting budget to meet projections. Shaving fat to improve the bottom line. No connection to the lives on the front line. No concept of what it means when the cutbacks happen. Instead, it’s just a line item on a spreadsheet.
What would business look like if we actually made it personal?
There are trailblazing companies out there that have figured out that the most success comes when you make it personal. When you involve your employees in the key decisions and create an environment of freedom and authenticity that engages everyone in the process – big picture and small.
Let’s get rid of the old phrase and make a new one – a better one.
“Our business is always personal!”