Thrive! Human is Good in Business and Life
I’ve received incredibly supportive feedback – and a tremendous amount of views – since I started (or re-started) my blog. Assuming all those views haven’t been my mother, thank you! I am pleased to know so many people enjoy the blog.
But, that’s not why I do it. I do it because I like to write. I do it because I like people to laugh. I hope my writing makes people think, and perhaps consider something they haven’t.
I do it because, however different our lives may seem, I like knowing how connected we really are.
I’ve also received a couple of questions about my blog. The one that stands out the most: “Are you afraid that if you write – the way you write, people won’t take you seriously, in business?” It is a fair question. After all, I founded a communications company some 10 years ago, and have advised global organizations, emerging companies, CEOs, and elected officials, on all things marketing, media, and communication. Does the fact that my sons sometimes throw up on me, or that I think I have a guardian angel make me less able to develop a marketing strategy?
The short answer is ‘no’. To be honest, it can be a little scary to put some of my thoughts out there. I don’t particularly like being judged, or leaving things open for misinterpretation. But, I’d also like to think it makes me human.
And human is good – for life, and for business.
In fact, if someone were to ask me what I have learned through my travel and life, the most important lesson is this: we are all united through the most basic principles of humanity. Our opinions, cultures, languages, and beliefs may be very diverse, but as human beings, we are not all that different. Our core desires are very much the same. Typically, we often mistake one of those core desires as ‘the desire to be happy.’ But this is, at best, vague terminology, and certainly doesn’t mean the same thing to all people. After all, one man’s happiness is another man’s misery. Rather, what we actually mean when we say this – what unites us all – is the desire to thrive.
The world has conducted hundreds of scientific and social studies on what human beings need to thrive. While the language from these studies is very different, the key conclusions and core elements can often be summarized into four basic components. After basic needs are met (i.e. food, water, shelter, and assuming the absence of war), those four basic elements include:
- An anchoring (sense of community);
- Genuine love;
- Purpose; and,
- I’m going to add a fifth here – laughter. While laughter hasn’t been as analyzed or included as much as the above, I personally believe laughter helps us form those necessary community bonds, deepen love, provide a purpose that is joyful, and move us through action – particularly tough actions.
When you consider this, also consider that there’s something very interesting about human beings. We never stop being them. Not for a minute. No matter what. Until we die. Going to an office may change our environment, but our needs stay the same. Pack it up for that long-awaited vacation, same needs. Single, married, kids, childless, gay, straight, black, white, male, female, same needs. Needs that must be met in order for us to thrive. Somewhere. Somehow. Some way. Wherever — and whoever — we are.
The converse, of course, is that we simply survive. And ‘survival’ for most of us – at least in the developed countries – often means becoming cogs in a wheel of a numb life, and job. Moving along from the day in, day out. Missing the meaning, and worse, the potential and possibility to thrive. Drowning in mediocrity.
Why drown yourself in mediocrity, when life can be great? When you are great.
Therefore, I find it very ironic that in the corporate environment we have all of these super duper trainers running around telling us to ‘push the envelope,’ ‘think out of the box,’ ‘run it up the flagpole,’ and ‘dare to be different.’ Well, forget the flagpole. Recycle the box. We know a company’s ability to succeed is directly based on its employees’ ability to do well (i.e. thrive). We know every single human being has that desire and capability to thrive if his/her needs or met. We also know what those need are. So why are we not addressing them?
To be fair, I think some companies are fairly good, or at least try to instill, some kind of purpose, and clear action, for their employees. A few companies try to build a sense of community – although the genuine nature of that community can be questionable. Where companies get stuck, where we all get stuck, is the love and laughter part. And for that, you need to be human.
I’m not suggesting that companies run out and buy their employees chocolate hearts, or start sending out joke of the week emails. The efforts need to be genuine, and demonstrable through a Company’s leadership, people, and products. To do this in any sort of real way, you need to start by being human, and empower your employees to do the same.
Before you dismiss this as ‘flowery gobbeldy-gook’, consider Honey Maid’s recent ‘This is Wholesome’ advertisement that celebrates all families. The 30 second spot immediately swept through the social media world, quicker than you or I could tear through a box of Thin Mints. In developing the initial advertisement, the Honey Maid team created a message and visuals that focused squarely on a key core value – genuine love. We know how strong this value is, based on the overwhelming reaction to the advertisement. The spot elicited a huge response from those who loved the message, those who hated the message, and even those who were once likely apathetic to the topic of diverse families at all. What did the reactors have in common? ‘Love’ – what that means, or what the audience thought ‘love’ should mean and look like.
I’m assuming – being the smart marketers they are – HM anticipated, if not knowingly hoped for, the kind of responses they received, both positive and negative. According to the Company, the positive feedback was 10 times greater than the negative. Leveraging both responses, HM responded with a second advertisement, and an even stronger focus on the core value of love, actually repurposing all the hate paper responses to create a visual of the word ‘LOVE’ in the spot’s final shot.
The two advertisements have already garnered more than 10 million hits on You Tube alone, as well as thousands of comments. That’s engagement.
I have no idea what Honey Maid spent on its efforts. Let’s assume it’s somewhere around $500k, all in. However, I bet – between the sales jump and the incredible ‘brand value’ – the ROI was substantial. My personal ‘guesstimate’ is a return 3-4 times that of the spend. Not so flowery, when you consider those terms.
I personally believe Honey Maid could take the effort further, leveraging it to an even greater extent. How do they do that? By adding elements of community, purpose, action, and laughter. This not only ensures the longevity of the effort – and a greater return, it evolves the advertisement(s) into a campaign. It would be a bold move. But, it also would give their people, customers, and the Honey Maid brand, a longer-term opportunity to thrive.
Another example is my own company, Kennedy Spencer. We don’t call ourselves a ‘values-based marketing firm’ because it’s a catchy title, or because we’re religious zealots. We call ourselves such because we understand if you want companies to work, products to work, people to work, you need to connect with core values, and empower your people to do the same. Quite simply, you need to give your people, your companies, campaigns, and brands the ability to thrive. You can only do that by being human.
That’s why, along with the more traditional communication and creativity trainings, Kennedy Spencer also offers non-traditional courses like, “The Art of the Possible,” “Clarity & Courage,” and “Say Something” (although I’m pretty sure we’ll get in trouble for copyright infringement on that one). The three courses I just mentioned are always the ones with the greatest results. This is never a surprise to me. It’s because they encourage the people to simply be themselves – human.
So, the long answer to the original question: Does my willingness to be human scare me? Sometimes. But, I’d like to think that I – and my clients – are both better off for it. I hope so.
The good news? This is all very possible. Once you get it. Not only is connecting people in their humanity possible, humans are hard-wired to make this happen. They want to thrive. And when they do, great things can happen too.
You may want to think about that before you spend $500k on your next team-building event, or advertising campaign.
Because we all have the capability to thrive – in life, and in business. We just need our needs to be met. After all, we’re only human.
Patty McDonough Kennedy is an entrepreneur, consultant and speaker. She has lived and worked in a number of countries and helps organizations better connect with key stakeholders to improve awareness, engagement and sales. She is a TEDx speaker and profiled in Entrepreneur, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org