By Bob Buford
“Serve others. The unfailing recipe for happiness and success is to want the good of others. Happiness and success is when I see others happy. Happiness is a shared thing.”
– Bishop Desmond Tutu
I have learned a lot about happiness this past month … and the contagious effect of being around people who are happy. My wife is happy. Linda says, “Be happy. It is a choice, you know.” Maybe there is a message for me in there. My assistant is happy. The team I work with at The Drucker Institute is happy with their marvelously flexible new space designed for them by the Herman Miller Company.
Last week I went to participate in this year’s Drucker Institute CEO Forum, a truly remarkable gathering of 25 Big Dogs from all three sectors – government (Department of Education), social sector organizations (Harvard, The American Red Cross, Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas), and business (CEO’s of P&G, Starbucks, Costco, Intuit) among others.
It was an interactive, relational idea exchange – no speakers. My knowledge of large enterprises grew by leaps and bounds. For example, did you know that the mission of multinational consumer goods company Procter &Gamble is “changed lives?” How remarkable is that! They hold all their product development and distribution practice to that standard. There were all kinds of offers to stay in touch, to share models and to mentor one another.
Doris Drucker is happy. She approached me at a reception before dinner with a smile to ask, “Are you coming to my one hundredth birthday party?” Her 100th birthday is this spring and she still plays tennis twice a week.
Last year’s CEO Forum was hosted by the then Chairman of P&G, A.G. Lafley, who afterwards sent along a blog post by Harvard Business Review’s Ellen Peeble. Her thoughts seemed to express the spirit of the whole:
“The answers from this group of business leaders were inspiring. Participants spoke fervently of a renewed passion for purpose and values, a sense of responsibility to local and global community, and of a new generation entering the workplace with what appears to be a level of desire to serve and give back to a degree we haven’t seen since the 1930s and 1940s.
“The group consensus (or maybe more accurately, hope): Drucker would be proud. His advocacy of concerns that rise above corporate interests still resonates, and appears to be embraced by the up-and-coming leaders who will be running business in a couple of decades. … Maybe I’m naïve, but socially responsible ideas seem to be penetrating business conversations in a way that feels earnest and even game-changing.”
It is a real ray of hope that the emerging generation of Millennials is very receptive to mentoring relationships from their elders. Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock. It was occasion for me to turn up the volume and watch again the film of that once-in-a-lifetime concert, still the best concert film ever made. Lots of “attitude” was characteristic in that generation of Viet Nam era free spirits. I remember the slogan was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
The currently dominant theme seems to be partisanship, angry political gridlock and that America and Europe have seen their best days.
A February 14, 2011 Wall Street Journal piece by Joe Nye, former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School, titled, “The Misleading Metaphor of Decline.” I met Joe when I was momentarily on the board of the Hauser Center at Harvard. He is smart, nuanced and a specialist in the human side of Foreign Affairs. He voices a point of view about relationships that I found appealing: Some quotes:
“Describing the future of power as inevitable American decline is both misleading and dangerous if it encourages China to engage in adventurous policies or the U.S. to overreact out of fear.
“American power is based on alliances rather than colonies, and it is associated with an ideology that is flexible and to which America can return even after it has overextended itself.
“America’s culture of openness and innovation will keep it central in an information age when networks supplement, if not fully replace, hierarchical power.
“America is likely to remain more powerful than any single state in the coming decades. At the same time, we will certainly face a rise in the power resources of many others—both states and nonstate actors. We will also face an increasing number of issues to which solutions will require power with others as well as power over others. Our capacity to maintain alliances and create networks will be an important dimension of our hard and soft power.”
On the religious front, I drew inspiration from my side conversations with Bishop T.D. Jakes at the CEO Forum. He has a congregation of 30,000 members. He is a wonderfully wise man in the area of ethnic minorities … with both a complete and informative knowledge of current realities and a positive let’s-fix-it point of view. He could hold his own with any of the others in the room.
The company you keep
And last, speaking of relationships – Linda and I had a dinner party for a few close couple friends to celebrate Valentines Day. The list was just a friends’ list, no agenda. But on closer examination, I found that everyone in the room was doing something important to serve others in Dallas and beyond … in healthcare, in education, in programs for the poor … lots of up-close and personal sharing with a group of inspiring and inspired friends. Virtuous people doing noble things. It was a warm and wonderful evening in a different context.
So What About You?
Here are three penetrating questions for organizations from the Drucker Institute CEO Forum. These questions might fit marriage and family as well:
- What is a value or practice that has buckled or broken in the past?
- What is a value or practice that has proven resilient under pressure?
- What is a value or practice that is most at risk in the near future?
The Future of Power by Joseph Nye, Public Affairs, 2011
The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal, Jossey-Bass (March, 2009)
McNeal describes a new scorecard for American churches – more externally focused moving forward from proclamation to demonstration through faith-motivated community organizations.
The Drucker Exchange, http://thedx.org/. An ongoing conversation about bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is refreshed daily and free on the web. It is like Drucker speaking on current events.
Management Revised Edition by Peter Drucker with Joe Maciariello. HarperCollins (April, 2008). Drucker’s sixty year body of work, 35 books and countless articles compressed into 10-15 page topical sections by the best Drucker Scholar alive. This is the go-to reference volume. Like having Peter at your side as a wise mentor on whatever problem that’s keeping you up nights.
Managing the Nonprofit Organization by Peter Drucker, Collins (August, 1992). My favorite Drucker book (if that can be said). Brief and focused on the five major topics for the social sector.