As I dig into my own research on organizations changing lives for the better, it’s only fitting this month’s UN theme be Human Rights. Uniformly, I find the businesses and charities championingnhuman rights (through economic inclusion, physical safety, or personal autonomy) and thriving put one thing at the forefront of their work.
What better way to move the needle on the world’s challenges (like human rights violations) than to remember our own humanity? The more founders embrace who they are, and infuse
themselves into their work, the more traction and attention their work gets.
It’s easy to see why that’s the case. Humanizing our work builds culture and it’s culture that creates loyalists and communities invested in our success. The social capital that comes with community investment beats out tote bags and hashtags any day.
As you put your own solutions out into the world I challenge you to take the more “humane” approach to business by remembering a few things:
Lean Into the Messy
In the world of decks and pitches, there’s a ton of pressure to have all of the answers and execute. Thing is, you’ll never have all of the answers. Even worse, if you preoccupy yourself with finding answers you’ll miss some pretty interesting problems.
Move yourself and your team away from the need for certainty, and embrace the humanity of evolving. Curiosity is one of the best ways to explore empathy, and empathy is how you get to
the root of a successful solution.
Build in a student mindset and I promise you’ll start to see new ways of integrating clients, engaging beneficiaries, new solutions to thorny problems, and identify growth opportunities that fit who you are and who you serve.
Talk About Yourself
Don’t mistake this for prattling on about yourself endlessly. What draws people into adopting, supporting or not protesting solutions is understanding your relationship to, and passion for, the problem. Why is the problem so important to you and your team? How are you touched? What have you experienced?
Talking about your interest(s) in the problem creates transparency, trust, and humanizes it for the listener.
People move when they are moved.
Chunk the Persona
So listen up, we have all read the same twenty or so startup books with the same advice and mantras. So when you copy and paste these into your pitches, donor materials, or projects they tend not to stand out because we have all seen it before.
Even worse? When we co-opt based on the lens of another there’s almost always incongruency between who we say we are and what we do.
Make it easy, and be yourself. Infuse your values, mission, and vision in all that you touch. If democratic and inclusive discussion are paramount to you, your legal business structure should reflect that. If you support wealth-generation and equity, your supply chain should reflect the local economy. If you want to fundraise in a way that builds wealth and equity, really think about venture capital versus a crowd-funding approach.
If we look at a list of your dreams, mission, and vision then look at your business operations, model, and recruiting there should be alignment between the two.
Own Your Impact
The research is in, and it turns out we as humans like to be liked. There are a number of historical and anthropological reasons for this, but the bottom line is it’s uncomfortable to be different. Which is why there’s a gut inclination for some impact organizations to apologize for not fitting neatly into boxes the philanthropic, corporate, or venture create. Either squeezing themselves in or erasing their distinctive nature.
But projects solving the world’s largest challenges are complex and messy because the WORLD is complex and messy. Organizations moving the needle understand this and embrace it.
The next time you feel the need to apologize because someone doesn’t understand why you do what you do, fight the urge to apologize and translate instead. How does your business model
educate and promote more charitable behavior? What are the economics behind inclusion and mental wellness?
Don’t shrink when confronted, expand.
Create Your Own Definitions
I’ll end with saying, not everyone’s dreams will be your dreams; nor should they be. There are milestones startup media heralds as indicative of “success.” Thing is, those milestones may not work for you and what you’re doing. Organizations solving the problems others haven’t dared touch, such as human rights violations, must define for themselves what success looks like…for them.
I truly believe running a business, charity or project should never require we co-opt someone else’s experiences or discard any parts of our own. The best way to have a positive impact and move us all into forwarding change will come when you embrace that you have a perspective and experience that no one else has had or will have again. Use that to your advantage and see how much progress you make.
Impact Hub Houston thanks Erin McClarty for authoring this piece. Erin is a mix between a business coach, attorney, impact architect, and vision doula. She helps people run businesses, foundations, initiatives, and movements that are unique to the founders. In doing her work, Erin works to carve out spaces that are the truest of expressions of who they are, allowing them to heal themselves while they heal their communities. Learn more about Erin and the services she offers by clicking here to visit her website.