We Don’t Need Managers, We Need Chiefs!

This article was originally published in the CEO Magazine www.the-ceo-magazine.com

What we can learn from tribal culture to inspire sustainable business

12 years ago I walked away from a fancy corporate Job and started my own IT consulting business in Munich, Germany. In a highly competitive market it was not easy as a small player and “newbie” to get ahead. In search for ground-breaking ideas, I was reading every management book out there and worked with high ranked business coaches to refine my positioning and market approach.

Even though I quickly doubled and tripled my revenue figures and had more and more employees coming onboard, I was not the happiest person on the job. It turned out that in the rapid growth of my business I had neglected myself.

I came across a Native American quote that got me thinking: “From time to time you have to slow down your pace, so your soul can catch up with you.”

I wondered where I had lost that soul of mine on this fast-paced journey toward success. Maybe on a bench at some airport on my many business travels?

These thoughts took me on a journey through discovering not only how to tend to my own soul, but how to tend to the soul of my company.

Inspired to learn more, I turned to elders and mentors to teach me about the native ways.

What started as a personal passion turned into useful tools for my business. Ever since I combined new and old wisdom and traditions, I can say that I’m happier at work, my employees are more committed, I reach different clients and yes – my business has soul.

Here are a few of my key insights on what can be transferred from Native American tradition into today’s businesses:

  1. Deep soul searching and personal growth is essential for all leaders. Develop a daily practice and look at your wounds & achievements. That is what makes you a Chief and not just an executive officer.
  2. We are living in a linear world, where we go from Point A to Point B. Being sustainable means going circular, respecting the cycles, like nature does. We cannot only plant seeds; we also need to celebrate the harvest and honor times of rejuvenation. That goes for both our business and personal lives.
  3. Our world is so good at starting things, but what about the endings? Start celebrating the completion of a project, a good quarter, retirement of an employee, etc. If we don’t stop to reflect endings of things we take the harvest away from people, and thus, their growth.
  4. Instead of small talk by the coffee machine we need to come back to sharing our stories. Making space and consciously listen to people’s story is how you build community and meaningful relationships.
  5. Let’s honor those who came before us. They have paved the path that we get to follow and continue on. Honor the elders that have invested many years into your company. They have lots to share.

Every day is a challenge for me. Being CEO needs to be earned every day. Yet, something changed. I enjoy every single day I’m on the job. My focus has shifted from revenue and profit to a new Key Performance Indicator that is so much more worth it: Relationships. At the end of the day, it is the quality of our relationships that defines our happiness, our success and wellbeing.

As the Native Americans say, “We are all connected and each of our actions creates ripples.”

What ripples are You creating?