Business Lessons From A Christmas Carol
One of the best novellas’s ever written is A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas, commonly known as A Christmas Carol, written in 1843 by Charles Dickens.
We are all familiar with the main character, Scrooge. His name has become synonymous with a miserly curmudgeon.
The movies have become a mainstay for the family to watch at the holiday season. Myself, I have watched every version of the movie that has ever been made. I enjoy them and find subtle benefits in each one.
But I prefer reading the book.
I find valuable life lessons in the Dickens prose. But I also find some powerful business lessons as well.
Business Should Not Define You.
Whether you run your own business or are an executive working for a company, that is your job. But it should not define who you are as a person.
I once worked with a President of a supermarket chain. His first staff meeting, he told his managers, “I work, I read, and I run. That is what I do.”
When I heard this, I thought, “Your poor wife must be miserable if that is all you do.”
I love to work, so don’t get me wrong. I have founded five companies. But there is far more to me as a human being than just working.
Every person has a responsibility to contribute to the greater good of society in any way they can. The business you work in or run is part of a community. Making sure you are enhancing that community is just as important as your job. And the higher up in the management hierarchy you are, the greater that importance.
You Manage Process But Lead People
People are what makes a business work. People in a company for a culture. That culture becomes part of a companies brand.
I have witnessed far too many bad managers who mistake fear and disrespect for pressure and accountability.
Let me explain.
People want leadership. They want to know where they are heading and why. Communication of strategy and goals is vital. A manager who continually reinforces the goals and objectives to his staff in a clear manner will gain their respect.
A manager who berates his staff for not accomplishing a goal that was never clear only creates an environment of anger and resentment. These characteristics will become part of the culture and manifest themselves to customers and clients.
Early on in my career, I worked for a company president who did not like to have a business strategy. He used to claim that he was an opportunist and a plan would hold him back. Every Monday the executive staff would meet and review the results of the prior week. Inevitably, the President would berate people for not achieving the results he expected. No one understood what the expectation was. We had no objectives or goals.
We ran retail stores, and he expected that we should know what growth over the prior year we should have. If we were up 25% over the prior year, it wasn’t enough. Why weren’t we up 30%. Was that the goal? Who knew?
Our executive turnover was very high because no one wanted to work for him. We had no idea what we were supposed to be doing to advance the company forward, so managers were just focused on daily tasks versus strategy.
It was an awful time. All the managers would vent to their staff, and the entire culture was riddled with a poor attitude.
Eventually, this culture manifested itself in the business results. Store staff began to become complacent and uncaring. Sales declined, and customers fled. The business grew unsustainable and filed bankruptcy. By the time the board realized the problem, it was too late.
Think Before You Speak
A leader needs to understand his words resonate with people. Making off-color remarks at other peoples expense will deteriorate a culture very quickly.
In some cases, behavior and words can destroy an entire company quickly. We are seeing this today with how many businessmen and politicians have treated women.
When I read the stories of how the leadership of Uber spoke about other people at their company events, it is shocking. It is no wonder the company is beginning to struggle.
The Weinstein Company may never recover from their behavior toward women
Leaders speaking openly and negatively about fellow associates or customers does not endear them to their staff. It has the opposite effect. The staff wonders what the leader is saying about them when they are not around. Nothing destroys a team faster than distrust.
It is always best to think about the effect of your words before you speak.
Family Is More Important Than Work
Yes, we need jobs to put food on our tables and take care of our families.
Unfortunately, as we get higher in an organization, the greater the time commitment. But there is no need to take the business home with you.
Enjoy your family when you are with them. Be present in the moment.
The excuse that the business pressure is distracting you at home is a poor one. Learn to manage the pressure and leave it in the car when you pull into the driveway. If you lost your job tomorrow, it would be your family who will still be behind you. Alienating them leads to a lonely existence.
How Do You Want To Be Remembered?
We are all going to retire at some point and die. What do you want people to say about you when you are gone?
Being a jerk is not the same as being a tough and fair business person. There is a very large difference.
Negotiating for a fair deal for both sides is how to go about business. Trying to squeeze your vendors or clients for every single penny you can, will leave people resenting you.
Always treat people with respect. From the person who collects the trash to the waitress at your favorite lunch spot to your clients and customers.
Always tell the truth. Let people know what is possible for you to do and what you cannot do. Never try to hide results. They are what they are.
Under promise and over deliver to every stakeholder. This is a sure fire way to get people to view you as a superstar.
The holidays are a great family time. But they are also a time to reflect back on ourselves and how we improve the world around us.
Watching the old holiday flicks always brings me back to a simpler time in my life. I think about the person I want to be and how the next year is going to get me closer to that goal. I also think about what I can do to improve the world.