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Think About Your Triple Bottom Line

Clayton Christensen poses a serious question: “How will you measure your life?” Business leaders are accustomed to certain measures that translate into bottom line results. Such metrics can offer a concise financial snapshot. It’s an executive summary of how things are going and a quick answer to big questions. But, quick answers seldom supply an adequate picture.

When you are alone with your thoughts. How do you measure success? Where does your mind take you? Chances are, you think beyond a singular focus on profits and losses. There is more than one dimension to the bottom line. It’s more fulfilling to think in terms of a “triple bottom line.” Experiment with the following trifold leadership measurement: Business, Community and People.

Business Success

You are in business to be successful. Fiscal responsibility and financial performance go hand in hand with sustained business success. The role of leadership is multi-faceted. Research on the relationship between leadership and bottom line success is tricky. However, Horst Shultz, Chairman and CEO of the Capella Hotel Group, cuts through the rhetoric and reduces the contribution of leadership to two words: “Leaders create.” His words, spoken to the audience at the Global Leadership Summit, emphasize the importance of creating a culture of excellence that transcends the world of luxury hotels. Business success includes the business culture that drives financial profitability. Culture includes all aspects of the business that transform jobs and positions into purposeful experiences.

Community Success

It’s natural for organizations to turn focus inward and “mind the business.” However, an inward focus ignores an essential part of success. Business success should contribute to increased community success. How does your leadership contribute to the lives of those outside your immediate circle of business? Does the idea of “making the world a better place” resonate with your daily investments of time and energy? Service beyond business success forges trusting relationships in the community.

Temptations to focus on business success to the exclusion of what is best for the community are formidable. A breach of trust sends shock waves that reach beyond imaginary business boundaries into the greater community. On September 20, in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, Former CEO Martin Winterkorn said, “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.” Winterkorn identified the detrimental affect of the scandal on the larger community when he named “the public” in his apology.

Community success relies on a sincere commitment to care about “others.” The commitment to care reaches beyond customers, clients and regulators. It is a pledge to the community. Business leaders are stewards of resources that include, but are not limited to global and local communities, time, finances, opportunities and people.

People Success

The third component of the triple bottom line is people success. Reflect on your greatest leadership successes in the past. Envision future achievement. Your memories and your dreams include people. Success in leadership is people success. A Rising Tide lifts all boats because leaders never exist in isolation.

People success offers the greatest potential for lasting fulfillment because it supplies the steppingstones for legacy creation. Making business better can never be separated from making the lives of people better. Unselfish investment in the lives of those around you becomes the norm when you truly care about people success. Check your bottom line for evidence such as healthy relationships, reduced stress, confidence, heightened creativity and innovation.

The next time you think about your bottom line, think in triplicate: Business, Community and People.



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