Humaneness in Business

This is the first day of 2009 and I would like to wish you a “Happy New Year” with a nice small story about humaneness in business, a combination that does not necessarily go hand in hand.  It is from a book written by Peter Morgan Cash that talks about tactics for success that are not being taught in business schools.  It is a back translation to English from the Hebrew version, so it may not fit 100% to the original:

It is very natural to respect and appreciate successful people. They usually have the power and the status, and therefore it’s easy to feel respect for them. But one of the things that will reveal your character and your values is the way you treat people that are below you in the hierarchy, or those that do not posses any significant asset they can offer in order to promote your career.  Socrates, the Greek philosopher, said that society is judged by the way it relates to the weak citizens. 

A few years ago I was in the process of raising financing for an American company. I arranged a meeting between the executives of this American corporation and a group of Japanese bankers, but the meeting didn’t develop as well as I wanted. Naturally I felt responsible for the failure and by the end of the day I was exhausted.  The meeting took place in Philadelphia and on our way back I sat by myself on the train and the silence between my guests and I was very thick.

When we arrived to Penn Station I found myself walking a few steps in front of my guests. Suddenly I saw a middle aged blind woman trying to find her way through the crowded station. I have felt a connection to blind people ever since my niece was born with some sight problems. Forgetting myself for a second I approached the woman and I asked her where she needed to go. She gave me an address in Park Avenue, and I told her that it is only a few blocks away from my office.

“Can we walk?” the woman asked.

“It is a wonderful spring day, why not?” I said. “Just give me a second to say good-bye to my business partners.”

To my surprise my customers insisted on walking with me. I assumed they wanted to accompany me to my office. Before I had time to understand what was happening, I was already walking with the blind woman leaning on my arm, while four serious looking Japanese men were walking solemnly behind us.  I already put aside the fact that it was a disastrous business day for me and as a matter of fact I felt jolliness while all of us were walking along Park Avenue under the sunny sky.

After a month I received a message that the Japanese investors decided to finance the American company. So, they decided to invest! I was completely confused, but being polite I didn’t ask for the reasons.

After few years I was traveling to Japan and I spoke face to face with one of the junior members of this investor’s group. I invited him for a dinner and only after a few beers and Saki I dared to ask him “Why did Mr. Tagaki decide to invest then?”

“My boss told me that he never expected to see a young American leaving us behind in order to assist a woman, that he didn’t know, who asked for help”, he said. “It impressed him. He said that he expects that you will treat our company the same way, I mean, with the same respect that you have treated that woman.”

(“Make your own luck” by Peter Morgan Cash with Tom Monte – copyright 2004)

I loved this story and, as a matter of fact, I myself preach with all my heart for ‘warmth and humaneness in management’.   From knowing the business world for many years, regrettably I can’t testify that such human approach really helps the business, but… I’ll keep on preaching for it anyway…


Happy New Year
Fireworks (20)
Thursday, January 1, 2009

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