by: Rev. Marla Riegel
Sustainability is defined as the capacity to endure. Entrepreneurs, executives and their employees have endured a lot in the past 18 months. What has sustained you during the cut backs, downturns and layoffs? What will keep you going during the long recovery process ahead?
Certainly it’s something internal, a higher vision of meaning and purpose derived from making a difference through your organization’s products and services. Take time now to review and re-awaken the company vision and values statements. What do you really stand for? It’s common to worry about how you are treating your customers, but how well are you treating yourself? Are you being honest about how much you or any one person can accomplish? Have you focused your priorities on what really matters when it’s all said and done? What is really driving you and when will you run out of gas?
Victor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor, wrote: ”Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The reason many resilient bosses and employees are still standing, I believe, is their drive to make a difference, to find meaning and good in a situation. But I sense a danger. Many companies have cut back too far and have put the burden on the loyal staff that remains. I recently saw a company posting that read “It’s important to balance safety concerns with operational needs… employees cannot work more than 24 consecutive hours, 70 hours in 7 consecutive days or more than 11 consecutive days. “ Doesn’t that paint a picture of what’s going on in many organizations today?
It’s not just your employees who are pushing beyond limit, but also you business owners and managers who have had to reduce the staff that supported you.
The question is how do you get back to a sustainable balance? It’s one thing to conserve resources; it’s another to allow your human resources to implode!
A recent LOHAS blog post on consumer behaviors and economic sustainability explained that new dimensions of ROI are now include emotional and social values as well as investment, functionality and cost.
Another report by Rundtland emphasized that sustainability is a three legged stool of people, planet and profit. My concern is with the leg of the stool called “people”. The stool will not stand if the “people” leg is broken.
As a business owner, professional or employee, you can begin to look at your current work practices as “sustainable” or “unsustainable”. Wikopedia was right on and I quote: “For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of being”
1. Step back for perspective. Where have you cut too far in staff, in capital improvements, in vendor support? What is it truly costing? (As you begin to ramp up sales, there needs to be a balance of people to deliver and produce the product.)
2. What would it take to return to meaning and purpose in your organization?
3. How can you begin to reclaim personal balance?
Alan Cohen wrote, “We get in trouble not for what we don’t know, but for what we know and don’t pay attention to.”
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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/supersonicphotos/4521300451/