Legacy & Personal Values

Posted June 20th, 2023 in Business Culture by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

Irrespective of whether we are princes or paupers, we all leave a legacy. As important as it may be, that legacy is less about personal estates, personal accolades, and personal accomplishments than personal values!  Legacy is all about behaving in alignment with a personal model of what good looks like and handing off its reflection to other people, places and institutions. Legacy is always a reflection of personal values and how those values live in behaviour.

Values are greatly influenced by current and past cultures. For example, we live in an era where personal values typically trump familial, societal, and institutional values. Since values are the prism through which we view the universe, hearing stories of a different time and place where people placed greater value on giving purpose to collective effort than personal goals, it is often difficult for us not to be dismissive or judgmental of the values of past generations. Frequently they just don’t fit with current ideas of what good looks like. I recently came across a story of a Canadian family of a century ago that left a powerful legacy in Ontario. As you read the article linked here, you will likely discover that the legacy of those in the story is one of bridges, highways, botanical gardens, and public works. However, you will also discover that their legacy is also about lives of personal sacrifice and giving purpose to collective effort.

It would be easy for us to dismiss the story as an example of values and customs that are out of touch with today’s realities. Maybe they are. However, this way of thinking would miss the point of the article. The article offers us an opportunity to reflect about our personal model of what good looks like against the backdrop of a bygone era.

Remember, our real values live in our behaviour.  If you want to do a reality check on your true values, ask yourself what are you willing to fight for; then check your answers against the backdrop of your behaviours. This will likely get you closer to understanding your legacy as it stands right now.

Meaningful reflections!

 Dr. Bill DeMarco

High Performing Business Culture & Values

Posted November 27th, 2022 in Business Culture, Culture & Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

While preparing for a client meeting many years ago, I came across the value proposition of a consulting company my client had worked with in the past. Their value proposition had a lot to do with “optimizing the performance of human capital“.   That was the first time I had heard this term.  My first instinct was to cringe a bit at the notion of treating people like capital, but, on reflection and in the spirit of full disclosure, I needed to plead guilty of using this concept in the past.  One of the ground rules of sound communications is to use language that the listener can relate to.  In the world of business, the noun “capital” is truly capital as the Brits would say!

Its use has the ability to capture the attention of business leaders so we can get to the “good stuff”.  In this case, the good stuff is to identify what’s required to bring about a high  performing business culture.  At my client meeting, we discussed about how, in my international research over the past decades, “treating people with dignity and respect” consistently correlated with sustainable high performing business cultures in a variety of business sectors and global cultures.   It is a subset of what I call “Ethical Role Modeling”.  I spoke about this on a business radio interview nearly twenty years ago.  In more recent research,  it still has resonance.

My reflections and  client conversation on the merits of  “treating people with dignity and respect” led me to a new insight.  Isn’t “treating people with dignity and respect” similar to the Golden Rule of “doing to others as you would have them do to you”?   After doing some research on world religions, I discovered that, interestingly enough, over twenty of the worlds great religions, which account for over seventy-five percent of the world’s population, espouse fundamentally the same “Golden Rule“.

I know how, in our secular society, mixing religious with business values is frowned upon. BUT , maybe there is cause for thought when businesses as well as Buddists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and other beliefs espouse fundamentally the same  core value of “high performance”.  If the key to getting along in the new and emerging global community is finding common ground, this might very well be food for thought.

Meaningful reflections!

Dr. Bill DeMarco

A Dialogue on Leadership & Nationhood

Posted October 14th, 2014 in Culture, Leadership by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

                     A Dialogue On Leadership & Nationhood
                                     Dr. Bill DeMarco

One of the defining moments in a society’s history is when it comes to terms with the issue of “why and how we govern”. In most countries, such defining moments are immortalized in historical documents, national holidays, artistic renderings, symbols of nationhood, and codes of law. There are no right or wrong answers to the question of “why and how we govern”. That is because the “correct” answer in each case is culturally dependent. If we define culture as “the sum of the history, folklore, and values that, taken together, make up the unique identity of a society at a given point in time” (DeMarco, 2003), we can begin to appreciate the complexity of answering such a simple question. The values describe what a society stands for, while the folklore looks at the symbols and stories that best embody those values. The history is the kaleidoscope of people, events, and institutions that help frame the culture. With all of this as living subtext in the great debate around “why and how we govern”, participants in the great drama of nation building debate issues of governance structure: federation…confederation…monarchy… republic… parliament… chambers of government…and the all important “who has the right to participate in decision making?”. Ultimately, the debate focuses on the culturally dependent governing principle: who, how, and why we serve. This is where issues of “governing and the governed” reside. The “debate” always takes place, but sometimes it is not as explicit as it needs to be!
As challenges to the governing construct emerge, societies revisit their governing principles. History is replete with examples of such challenges: the Anarchist Movements in Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries… the post WWI Red Scares…post WWII Cold War…the post WWII end of Colonialism…civil disobedience and Civil Rights movement in the U.S. in the 1960’s and 1970’s…the 1960-1970 FLQ challenge to Canadian sovereignty…the Basque Separatist movement in Spain…the Irish Nationalist Movement…the Sinn Fein—Ulster Unionist confrontations in Northern Ireland…China’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”…and, of course, September 11th (2001) to name just a few examples. In each case, societies looked at “who, how, and why we serve”. In each case, the answers to the seminal question of “who, how and why we serve” led to structural reforms. These reforms were usually led by leaders who may not always have been right, but were always single- minded of purpose. They acted in service of the values they believed were core to their respective cultures.

Robert Harris’s painting depicting the 1867 Meeting of the Delegates of British North America, also known as The Fathers of (Canadian) Confederation

At this time of year, citizens in many jurisdictions have an opportunity to celebrate their nationhood by participating in the voting process. Rarely, if ever, are we asked to put our lives on the line for this privilege.  That is reserved for those noble souls who engaged in the great debate of such big issues as “why and how we govern” and “who, why, and how we serve”. Unfortunately far too many of us trivialize the process by engaging in mundane banter over entitlement and personal interests, if we engage at all, It is time for societies to once again engage in the great debate of nationhood.  We seem to have lost our way.  As Tip O’Neil, the late, great Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, famously said time and again: “All politics is local!”.  Now is time for all citizens to again engage in the great debate about “why and how we govern”. This debate needs to start with each of us at the local level. It is our right and our responsibility to do so!