It’s all about profitability right? Certainly, we are all in business to make money. Even not-for-profits must have net income to continue to operate. And, is being in business for a purpose or a mission reserved only for not-for-profits? What about the professional managers running privately held businesses and leading large companies? What drives them?

Recently I had two conversations in one day with business owners expressing frustration with the lack of progress of talented leaders in their businesses. They both have open book policies, their key executives and in one case, all of their employees, have full access to the company’s financial statements. All this makes sense from the point of view of managing by the numbers. And, is managing by the numbers enough?

The questions I asked these two owners are:

  • In addition to company profitability and individual compensation, what drives these individuals to succeed?
  • Whose goals are they working toward, yours or theirs?
  • If the answer is yours, how can you make the goals their goals while still being consistent with yours?
  • “Purpose” is individual, have you explored what theirs is? Revisiting the book Drive by Dan Pink is a good place to start and then a conversation.

What questions would you add to this discussion?

Elisa K. Spain

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