As just one of his many sound judgments, he looked to sports for that focus, recognizing that the sports of South Africa – rugby, cricket and soccer - could unite a citizenry, no matter the racial make-up of the team(s). Sports became the common denominator – no matter the allegiance to a team or a player, most understood sport – the levels of dedication, skill, teamwork and excitement. Plus, the top teams represented the country in international play.
We in business often just watch the trees rather than consider the forest. We all are going a million miles an hour doing a million things – all further heightened by technology. We have lost that ability to relate one-to-one; our company message gets muddled. This is where a lesson from Nelson Mandela could be helpful, for our strength will always be based upon how well we coalesce, integrate and motivate the resources and talents of our human capital. He did this unification through sports as an avenue. We can do something similar through a cause.
Employees as well as our customers relate far more positively to companies which are more than about their product pitches and profitability. We want them to represent something more substantial and meaningful. We are very much in the age of awareness and support.
Companies have always been more successful when they support community activities. It could be that Little League Team, a Brownie Troop or even the Book Sale at the library. This outreach can also go to another level – supporting state and national charities and movements. This would include Diabetes, Breast Cancer, raising science scores in our schools. Then, there is the international stage – the environmental movement and our diminishing natural resources, ridding the world of AIDs or hunger, improving means to irrigate or farm, etc. It is really skies the limit.
Mr. Mandela saw a rallying cry for South Africa through sport. We can create a similar spirit for our companies. Beyond the fact that it is the right thing to do, we can better engage our employees and customers in a worthy endeavor. That is good business, too.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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