Speaker: 'Business is a human endeavor,' developing employees leads to success
By Steve Jordon / World-Herald staff writer
March 19. 2014 1:00AM
Business executives who focus only on profit are missing the point, a consultant on leadership said Tuesday in Omaha.
Calling business “the most powerful institution in the world,” Cleve W. Stevens, president of Owl Sight Intentions Inc. of Irvine, Calif., said that for capitalism to survive, its leaders must focus on improving people and not simply making money.
“Business is a human endeavor,” Stevens told a breakfast meeting of the Omaha Business Ethics Alliance, attended by about 175 people at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
Socialism has lost the contest to be the world’s dominant economic system, he told The World-Herald after the meeting, and capitalism has won, but free enterprise that forgets about people in the pursuit of profit cannot fulfill its potential. Leaders who focus on developing their employees can transform their businesses into new organizations that are more successful, Stevens said. Profit then becomes a measure of that success rather than the goal.
“Transformative” leaders begin by imagining a world that does not exist but is better than the world today, he said. “If you like the outcome, then you pull back and decide how to get there,” and the vital steps include developing people willing and able to take that journey.
It may be obvious, Stevens said, but happy people are more productive in their jobs, and people are happiest when they love the workplace and are loved there; when they are growing and developing; when they are contributing to the business; and when their work has meaning or purpose. When people work under those four conditions, “they’re ready to go,” said Stevens, who wrote a book on leadership titled “The Best in U.S.: People, Profit and the Remaking of Modern Leadership,” published by Beaufort Books.
Stevens was asked how to improve a business like Kiewit Corp., which the questioner said already is one of the country’s top construction companies. Stevens said even great companies can do things better, and outstanding companies usually pursue improvement.
“I’ll send you a list of my problems,” quipped Kiewit CEO Bruce Grewcock, who also is chairman of the ethics group.Stevens said the biggest obstacle to developing transformative leadership is usually executives’ unwillingness to closely and honestly look at themselves. It’s not easy, he said, but it’s essential to beginning the process of improving the company.
Businesses also find that community involvement by their people is important not only for the company but also for the individuals who do the volunteer work, he said, because it helps them become better on the job, as parents and in other aspects of their lives.
Review from Guidestar
Consumer Watch: "Enough of the bad guys in business; let’s talk do-gooders"
By Jim Hegarty / Better Business Bureau ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬___________________
May 27, 2014
I spend a lot of time concentrating on the bad guys, on the schemers and the thieves, but in recent weeks, I’ve had the privilege of attending three events where the themes seemed to be built around Omahans doing the right thing.
I had opportunities to celebrate that concept and to witness the legacy that integrity creates as I sat at an event sponsored by the Omaha Ethics Alliance, participated in the Downtown Rotary’s Eighth-Grade Honor Roll Luncheon and attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, a local teacher.
At the quarterly Ethics Alliance Dialogue, which is held in the early morning at the marvelous Gallup campus, more than 100 area business leaders discussed marketing ethics and the importance of truth in advertising. It was a lively discussion and just another in what’s becoming a long line of events that shows how wide awake Omaha is when it comes to the subject of ethics — even at 7:30 a.m....
....The Business Ethics Alliance is a one-of-a-kind partnership among Creighton University, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau, forged as an organized effort to make Omaha the epicenter of ethical business conduct. To date, more than 200 of Omaha’s top businesses and business leaders have joined the effort to prove that doing the right thing works, as Trustees of the Alliance.
Recently, the Alliance used information from interviews and focus groups to help community business leaders pin down Greater Omaha’s core business values. The values they identified were accountability, integrity, moral courage, financial vitality and community responsibility. Chamber President David Brown thought those findings were so wonderful he suggested the BBB partner with the chamber to fund the production of gigantic posters proclaiming these business values as being major contributors to Omaha’s greatness.
But even before the posters were delivered it was evident that Omaha is getting noticed. Last year a contingency of business and community leaders from Akron, Ohio, visited Omaha to learn what makes us so successful. We’ve since learned that the thing that may have excited them most is our ethics partnership. So much so that they’ve now formed a task force to determine if they can duplicate our Ethics Alliance in their community. The word is out that it’s good to be like Omaha.
Business leaders from around the country are beginning to wonder what’s in the water here. They often want to know why one of the largest and most successful chambers of commerce in America is based in Omaha and why one of the largest and most successful BBBs in America is right here, too.
They want to know our secret, and our secret isn’t our water — it’s our people. It’s a sort of goodness that probably exists elsewhere but that certainly comes to life in a unique way, an exceptional way, here in the Omaha area....We know integrity is worth it.
Jim Hegarty is president of the Better Business Bureau representing Nebraska and southwest Iowa. To contact him, email [email protected] or call 402-898-8520.
Review from Guidestar