Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Equality Matters!

Sure does!

There is a considerable body of evidence that businesses and organisations that take equality seriously, do better. Their results are better. Their employees are happier, reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and increasing productivity.

And what about countries where equality is taken seriously? Evidence shows  (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk) people in more equal societies live longer, experience less mental illness; people are less likely to use illegal drugs, children do better in schools, Unicef measures of child well-being are high; fewer people are imprisoned; obesity is less common; communities are more cohesive; teenage motherhood is less common... I could go on...

So, it is quite concerning today to read in the news (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business) that the CEOs of our major banks have a pay differential of 70-150 over the average (and note, the average, not the lowest paid) employee. Now that’s not equal. In 1980 it was around 13 times. That’s not progress. Not in my mind.

Who genuinely needs £4.5million a year to live on? Who justifies being rewarded at this level? People who save lives? People who care for others? Who teach skills and knowledge to the younger generation? Our society’s values seem so twisted.

And did those organisations with such enormous pay differentials succeed? No, they failed massively causing global problems we have yet to fully appreciate the enormity of. Are they succeeding now? Maybe the shareholders think so, but what about the customers? What about those trying to buy a home for the first time? What about those who have saved for a lifetime planning to live on the interest provided by those savings?

So what do we do about it? I’m not naive enough to think we can reduce a CEOs pay from £4.5million to £250k tops overnight. We can’t wipe out the changes to organisations that have happened over the last 30 years.

We’ll have to start at the bottom by creating ethical businesses. Social Enterprises, Community Interest Companies. We need to support them as they grow. Organisations that take equality seriously. That genuinely see a responsibility to the environment and are not just ticking boxes and writing off their carbon consumption.

There are some really exciting examples around not only producing great products and services but doing so in a way that can improve the lives of other people.

I’ve just discovered Lend with Care (www.lendwithcare.org) and am trying to see how to best channel a proportion of my profits to providing loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world. – to help them turn their ideas into life changing opportunities – just as I am doing with my business here. It provides an extra impetus to ensure my business does well as it just doesn’t affect me and my family, but other people in other countries.

That gives me such a great feeling. Far more than a £4.5million salary would.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. -Mother Teresa

I love this quote.

Why?

Because it has real meaning for me.

A few years ago I was going through what was probably the most stressful time of my life – what do I mean probably – I mean it was definitely the most stressful time of my life.

What could make a whole difference to my day was a small act of kindness. Someone holding open a door for me; someone letting me out of that blasted junction you just can’t see round in a car... a smile…

Some acknowledgement that despite the stress, I was still a living breathing human being and each of these small acts of kindness connected me to the world. A world that wasn’t just full of injustice, pain and problems – but one with friendship, connection and love.

In times since, in my now-content world, I try and return the favour. To let that person out from that junction; cross the road; hold open a door to someone manoeuvring a pushchair; have a chat to the person at the check-out...to simply smile.

And guess what! Doing it makes my day a better day too! It’s still making that connection with the world. It takes me away from focussing on me and enables me to focus on someone else. That’s really empowering.

It’s a good technique if you’re lacking in confidence yourself. Smile at someone! Complementing someone is a lovely way of getting a conversation started. Just focussing on another person and helping them out, even if that’s just holding open the door for them. Try it...go on!

I wish I could thank every single person who unknowingly made my day bearable by their simple acts of kindness. But I can’t. Nine times out of ten I don’t know who they were and I’ll never see them again. But my thanks is carried in smiling at other people - as you never know what a difference it might make.