“What Type of Person Are You?”

George asks Jerry this question and Jerry replies with “I am just like you, only successful.” Got me thinking….

There are two types of people that show up for work.

 

  1. The type with an attitude of “How Can I help?”
  2. The other with an attitude of “What’s in it for me?”

I am not here to pass judgment on the latter  even though I am pro the former. I have met many successful people who display either of those attitudes (but never both). Rather, I want to highlight the fact that the type of person you are is relevant when choosing whom you work for, because there are also two types of corporations out there: The ones that are focused on purpose and the others that are focused on profit.

So it stands to reason that if you are person with a “how can I help?” attitude, you belong in companies that are focused on purpose; (that is, companies who are focused on making a difference in society). And if you are a person with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, then you belong in companies driven by KPI’s, productivity and the ‘bottom line’ profit.

Cultural Schizophrenia

The problem arises when companies and people pretend to be both. Some executives I meet argue that their business is driven by profit AND by purpose. What they’re really saying to me is: “I am just like you, only successful.” But saying one thing (“its about purpose”) and behaving in another (“meet your KPI’s or else”) leads to cultural schizophrenia. It confuses the people that work in the organisation; because you cannot serve two masters of thought.

I am not suggesting for a minute that companies that are focused on purpose go around spreading sunshine and roses at the feet of customers at the expense of profitability. Profit is certainly the purpose ofbeing in business but it does not have to be what drives a business and what motivates the people working in it.

It is at this point that I like to remind my Schizophrenic friends of the study by Wharton Business School titled, “Firms of Endearment” where they found that the companies that were focused on purpose ironically made the most profit. They outperformed the S & P 500 by a ratio of 9 to 1 over a 10-year period. In the first 3 years of comparison they trailed slightly but from the 5th year onwards the firms of endearment streaked ahead on financial performance. These were companies like BMW, Whole Foods, Harley Davidson, and Southwest Airlines.

My suggestion is that if we conduct a similar study on people, I am certain it will show that those who show up with an “How Can I help?” attitude will in the long run outperform their “What’s in it for me?” counterparts, when it comes to salary. It certainly works that way in my company.