Leaders must balance helping their organizations do well financially and simultaneously do good by positively impacting their employees and communities.
by Cheryl Flink, Jean Leslie
May 31, 2022
Global health, social, environmental, economic and political systems continue to undergo rapid change, often driven by ceaseless advancements in technology. Today’s leaders face complex demands from individuals, organizations and communities navigating these rapid changes. Consequently, leaders find they need to balance doing well, by meeting financial goals, while doing good, by positively impacting employees, organizations and the communities they serve.
Leaders must make choices that optimize both scenarios as they make strategic decisions that will have future significance. HR and talent development professionals should encourage leaders to examine their decisions through the following four lenses as they strive to do well and do good.
Lens 1: Forward-thinking.
Leaders should practice the forward-looking exercise of framing how organizational profitability and human well-being will co-exist under their leadership. Taking a “both/and” approach makes leaders and organizations more receptive to alternatives and options they might otherwise overlook.
Doing good does not mean conceding on financial goals and competitive leadership. In fact, doing good can be a significant investment in long-term financial well-being. The companies Experian and LG Electronics North American are prime examples.
Organizational profitability and human well-being are not contradictory. They are complementary, as well as necessary for long-term success. Customers and partners are increasingly holding one another accountable to commitments on equity, diversity, and inclusion, sustainability goals, data privacy and security protections and other indicators of “doing good.”
Lens 2: Impact.
Leaders who take the time to understand the implications of various decisions can optimize impact and mitigate costly mistakes across various levels of the organization.
Imagine, for example, an organization wants to invest in robotics automation to improve profitability. Leaders must, of course, create the “pro forma” to plan investments and build operating models for achieving the desired profit goals. However, they can also pose questions to understand the impact of automation at each level. What new opportunities and upskilling is needed to mitigate employee displacement? At the organization level, will the brand reputation be negatively or positively impacted by the way changes are communicated, and how will this affect current and future clients? At the community or societal level, leaders can use scenario planning to understand how investments and maintenance of robotics impact the environment, society and governance.
Understanding impact at every level creates the stories that help the organization balance a focus on profit with a focus on doing good.
Lens 3: Adaptability.
Leaders should be adaptable—and foster adaptability in their teams and organizations. For example, leaders may need to respond rapidly to unanticipated events. In the case of the global pandemic, many organizations had to re-think where and how employees work. Organizations that sent workers home may now be implementing hybrid work environments to accommodate employees’ desire for flexibility while also remaining connected to the organization’s culture.
Adaptability can also mean managing the balance between innovation and sustaining the current operating model. How does the organization handle innovations that disrupt the status quo? Is it actively embraced, merely tolerated or actively resisted? Developing robustness, flexibility and the infrastructure to withstand and/or flex with disruption and crisis is the definition of an adaptable organization.
Lens 4: Resilience.
Resilient leaders demonstrate the ability to bounce back from setbacks quickly. They also create resilience for both their employees and for the organization itself. The Center for Creative Leadership’s framework for cultivating resilience in leaders focuses on both a whole-self approach (physical, mental, emotional and social) and an organizational approach.
Creating happier, healthier workplaces can impact the bottom line by lowering turnover, increasing employee engagement, fostering greater productivity and establishing a better company culture. No matter how much sense that makes, leaders will still face demands to push employees to meet difficult timelines, work on weekends or simply do more with less. Leaders need to allow employees the time and space to practice resilience by rethinking corporate policies that reinforce hidden messages.
Building a resilient organization as a whole is a less considered area of resilience. Industry, for example, needs to be resilient enough to swiftly navigate geopolitical shifts and natural emergencies that can and will impact production.
Strike a balance to serve the interests of all
Doing well and doing good are necessities for organizations to thrive – now and into the future. Leaders and organizations can balance these two intentions by being forward-thinking; understanding impact at the individual, organizational and community level; anticipating the adaptability of the organization to respond to short-term events and longer-term innovation; and recognizing the importance of resilience to manage demands for doing more with less.
Encourage the leaders within your organization to approach work through these four lenses, and you’ll be able to foster an engaged and productive workforce and a culture that allows you to do good, while also doing well.