Season’s Greetings or Merry Christmas? Whichever you prefer, this is the time of year where many people reflect back on the year that has been and look forward to the year to come. In the business world, this is marked by the closing of year-end results and the setting of budgets for the year to come. As individuals, we are influenced by the goal-oriented commercial habits that surround us, and it is easy to succumb to reflections of how the headwinds of life have been against us, or of how, next year, we will strive for that promotion, an upgrade of living quarters, a bigger car or television. Written such, I’m sure that readers will react and reply that of course this is not all that life is about – but then the question arises as to what your life is about. Are we sufficiently clear in our mind about what our vision of who we want to be is, and what it could be? 

2019 has been an interesting year for me, and I dare say a number of colleagues active in the ethics, governance and compliance world. For years, we have spoken and preached on the importance of organisational culture, of corporate culture and responsibility for the impact our actions have on our non-financial stakeholders, as well as financial ones. It seemed like something of a watershed moment when The Business Roundtable in the USA, this summer, issued their new statement of corporate purpose, highlighting the need to care for employees, suppliers and community as much as for shareholders. The concept of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) has emerged at the new focus of analysts and business models – our happy band of brothers and sisters preaching the message of business integrity, sustainability, organisational health and corporate responsibility hold our breaths. Will these ideas stick? Will they influence organisational behaviour? Will profit-seeking businesses finally refocus attention on what their reason for existence is? What their purpose is? What they want to be? What their aspiration, or vision is?

Such thoughts are just as important for us as individuals. It may take years to understand who we are, what special abilities we possess, what values are really our own rather then the remains of indoctrinated convention with which we have been raised. As we discover ourselves, we can start to understand how we can truly be of value and help to those around us. Only then will we discover the passion of our personal vision – who we could become, who we want to be.

My Christmas message this year is born of such thoughts. I have learnt that even after having arrived some years ago at what I perceive to be my leading passion – the promotion of integrity in business – my interpretation of what that means is changing in line with society, technology, and politics. All that surrounds us influences us, and if we do not have a destination in mind, and a strong moral compass based on values to guide us, how can we hope to advance towards our purpose? 

My first thought is to you, to my colleagues, family and friends; even to strangers whose willingness to engage have led to the most surprising revelations and inspirations. Without others, there can be no spiritual purpose. That is why I thank everyone around me who, directly or indirectly, enrich my thoughts and my world.

Interactions within or, better, outside our “bubble”, keep the evolution of our awareness alive, leads to continued learning and new ideas; innovation and creativity of mind. If we do not change our notions of where we are on our journey, then our bearings, our direction determined by the reality of yesterday, will take us off course from what should be our “true North” – the vision of who we want to be.  We need to learn from our observations, to renew our methods and update our path to the fulfillment of our passion.

Finally, we must avoid the temptation to be satisfied with what we have achieved for ourselves. I published “Surviving Organisational Behaviour”, a university textbook in 2017. That was a task I was pleased to have carried to fruition. It is a nice addition to my bookcase, a reference point for what I know. However, if it does not have any impact on the behaviour and mindset of others, it has no value. It can only be the pebble that is thrown into the pond. If I do not follow up and encourage the direction of travel of the ripple it might cause, it will never contribute to the creation of the wave that I would have influence society and the environment in which I live. My ripple must join the ripple of others, we must try to muster a larger ripple –and who knows – maybe, just maybe a wave will not only produce a revised statement by the Business Roundtable, but also really influence the mindset and expectations of business leaders, society, individuals; and even politicians. 

Merry Christmas, everybody. Thank you for 2019!

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