For those of you who have seen The Godfather, the phrase “it’s not personal, it’s business” will be very familiar. I’m guessing that anyone dealing with frustrated and angry customers will have heard this, too.
When engaging with other people, it’s so easy to take things personally. So, we draw comfort in thinking it’s only business as this belief enables us to detach, inoculating ourselves from our negative emotions.
Yet, this can and does lead to a complete lack of empathy with other people. Those leaders that think and act as if it’s just business, make little or no time to engage with the emotions present within their team at any given time.
Think about it, how many times have you heard a leader say something like this: “When I’m at work, I’m at work and do not bring in my private life“?
Indeed, I can recall in my lifetime being actively taught that it was best to keep a distance, assuming a role that focuses strictly on business rather than getting too close to the members of my team.
Thankfully, this has shifted since authentic leadership and emotional intelligence came onto the scene, but I suspect (or should I say, know!) that there are still managers who don’t engage with their emotions, let alone empathise with those of their team, and still wear a mask at work.
That must be exhausting.
So, I’d like to offer an alternative belief.
I can’t take credit for it as it comes from the film, You’ve Got Mail.
Joe Fox, the character played by Tom Hanks, is talking with Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character) after playing his part in closing The Shop Around the Corner. The dialog goes something like this:
Joe Fox: “It wasn’t…personal.“
Kathleen Kelly: “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?“
Joe Fox: “Uh, nothing.“
So, next time you think it is only business, consider this thought.
An organisation in its simplest form is a group of people intentionally organised to accomplish an overall, common goal or set of goals.
And, as Dee Hock once said, an organisation, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it.
If this is true, then surely business has to be personal!
Get to know the people you work with.
Get to know your customers, too.
For as Kathleen Kelly says “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.” – right?