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I’m calling BS on ‘It’s not personal, It’s just business’.

We’ve all heard it. Maybe we’ve all said it. Sadly many of us may have had it said directly to us. And of course ‘it’ is, ‘it’s not personal, it’s just business’. Well I say BS. It’s a lie.

I say everyone should stop saying it. I say everyone should quit using it as an excuse. Because the fact is, it is personal. Maybe the ‘business’ or specific ‘leader’ doesn’t see it that way, and if they don’t, then they are part of the problem as well.

Now don’t get me wrong. Tough decisions have to be made in the business world…every day. Some are very unpleasant and difficult to make. And they need to be made. I’ve had to make them just like every other leader. However some have real impacts on people’s lives. So don’t tell me it is not personal.

Yes, it is business when you don’t get a promotion when you thought you deserved it. It is also personal when you don’t take home the extra money each month that would have come with that promotion and maybe would have made a big difference in your life.

Yes, it is business when employees have to be let go. But it sure the heck is personal when they walk in the door at home that night and have to tell their family what happened.

And yes it is business when long hours are put in, travel becomes too over-the-top or the stress of unreasonable deadlines reign down. It is also personal when those things cause health, family and emotional struggles.

But more powerful I believe is a real life example of how personal business is. It’s no secret that I recently went through an unexpected career transition. In fact, let’s stop calling it that, and be clear that I got let go. But during that time, which is turning out to be one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, I got incredible encouragement, feedback and touching stories. Included in the myriad of texts, emails and messages was the following from one of my team members. It is shared verbatim with their permission:

“…You see me. You give me permission to be who I am. To make mistakes. To be vulnerable. A cheerleader and an advocate. And that makes me want to go to the ends of the earth for you. I smile anytime I tell anyone about

you because you are authentic and real and human and just a good solid person…..

What you don’t know: When I came to XXX and XXXXXX I was fighting my way out of an abusive relationship which came on the heels of an equally abusive childhood. I had fought hard to build myself up career wise, but I lost my sense of self, questioned whether I was capable or good enough, and literally spent 12+ hour days trying to prove to myself that I was.

You helped me believe in myself. You don’t know it but you helped me rebuild my self-confidence….You helped me be a better me.”

Now I share this not because it was sent to me. I share this because of a key line in the text…‘what you don’t know’. And they were right! I didn’t know any of this happened or was happening until I received this note. Powerful. You don’t think business was personal to this person?! And just for the record, a great employee this person was and is. Just think how the result might have been different if a people-first approach hadn’t been taken from the very beginning.

Lesson learned? Be the authentic, people-first business, culture and leader your people deserve, even if you aren’t completely privy to what’s happening within their world. Even if you don’t think anyone notices. Even if you think no one is watching.

The fact is businesses are run by people. Cultures are created by people. As a result, leaders must always start with people. Because ultimately it comes down to the pure fact that….business is personal because people are personal.

Dave Lucas spent 20+ years in marketing at Caterpillar Inc., many as the Global Digital Marketing Manager, and 10+ years in leadership positions at various marketing agencies. He is now the owner of Lucas Partnering, which focuses on companies looking to leverage his experience to advance their marketing efforts to the next level.

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