Today in False Choices: People Versus Profits

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Consulting with corporations about the importance of putting “people before profits” is mutually beneficial to both speaker and corporation: the latter is afforded cheap virtue and the former an expensive lifestyle. In the world of speaking and corporate consulting, espousing the people-before-profits narrative is, as with authenticity and diversity, simply good business practice.

This value-for-value model is lost on the very same speakers who take it for granted that profits are suspect in and of themselves. These self-styled experts fail to see that, unlike President Obama’s facile description of the tension between liberty and security, people v. profits really is a false choice. Yet companies throughout the U.S. are happy to self-flagellate before speaker after speaker, pretending to temporarily forget that which reality will forever remind them: that profits are a pretty darn good measure of the extent to which you have served others.

At the heart of the people-before-profits movement is a ambivalence about the dignity and morality of business. In popular culture this idea is most evident in movies and on television, where businessmen are almost invariably portrayed as either moral bankrupts (Wall Street) or courageous heroes who unveil the moral bankruptcy the business (Michael Clayton).

The Birkenstock set in particular has built an entire cottage industry around apologizing for being in business, from technology entrepreneur Kate Emery to speaker Dan Pallotta to the TED talks, where the “ideas worth spreading” overwhelmingly assume the people v. profits model.

Into this world of received wisdom enters Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments For Making Money. Lapin’s thesis is that far from being something to be ashamed of, profits should be seen for what they are: a blessing and a measure of our success serving our fellows.

Return to or learn more about my corporate presentation.

Against Corporate-Speak

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Some time ago Forbes published an article titled The Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon. Its premise is, in the words of management professor Jennifer Chatman at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, that “Jargon masks real meaning.” No kidding!

It also serves to as a barrier to entry. In other words, business jargon is a “Win-Win” (a phrase which should only be used when the Yankees lose a double header).

Here, then, is a short talk – ahem – presentation –  designed to, among other things, help you fail your way success.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be here. I want to thank you for reaching out to me. I’m very happy to connect with you. 

It is my intention this afternoon to incentivize you and your organization to take things to the next level. Think of the ideas I discuss with you today as a kind of 5-Hour Synergy for any corporate culture which dares to employ them. 

I know first-hand the efficacy of these ideas as I have employed them throughout my career and in my personal life. It is my hope that by opening my kimono that I’ll be able to increase your learnings

This talk is more than just about best practices. It’s about how to think outside the box in order to get leverage. Then, how to leverage that leverage. More importantly, it will teach you to empower others and, more importantly, empower yourself. Your authentic self, of course.

These solutions are as scalable as they are actionable. They will challenge your corporate values which, in any event, are much more fun to talk about than corporate virtues, if any. 

And while I hope that you employ these principles to maximize effectiveness, make no mistake: failure is always a possibility. But don’t fear failure. It is a key component on the path to success. In fact, failure is a form of success. I’ll go further: failure is an end in an of itself.

It can be painful to work hard on a mission-critical project only in the end to be forced to take it offline, but by doing so you reveal core competencies. And your peripheral competencies. And for that matter, your core mediocrities as well. 

If you have any questions there will be some wriggle room at the end of my presentation to take your questions. Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question, so long as it is sincere. If something doesn’t make sense to you, by all means, let’s talk that. And if you would like to share your own ideas I hope you don’t hesitate loop us all in

So let’s get started, as cutting into the next presenter’s time is plain-bad optics

What are your least-favorite examples of corporate-speak? Leave them in the comment section below.

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