Saturday, February 12, 2011

Who Wants A Job...
When You Can Make
A Difference?

This month I am proud to say Liquid Leadership is featured on CausePlanet — a professional development resource and time management tool for nonprofit leaders. But one of the best services Cause Planet provides to its members is executive summaries of business books relevant for nonprofit leaders.

This is a great fit for me on several fronts; first, many of you are learning in your 24/7 connected day-in and day-out rush to squeeze a 28 hour day into 10, that time management is no longer about time... It is about managing ourselves, (wasn't technology supposed to free us up?).

And secondly — I speak about this extensively in the pages of Liquid leadership — no one wants to just work for some company anymore. People want engagement, creativity, appreciation for their day-to-day contribution, and more importantly, a chance to make a difference.

Acting Local, Thinking Global.
Of the planet’s 6.8 billion people, 4 billion live in conditions that are not much better than they were in the year 1500. Many of the children in these underdeveloped countries go barefoot throughout their entire childhood. Simply running, playing, or walking to the doctor all become high-risk activities when done without shoes. This exposure can cause cuts and bruises that have trouble healing, and when exposed to contaminated soil and parasites—a common problem in these countries—the majority of these barefoot children run the risk of amputation and even death.

But one entrepreneur had the chance to change this. In 2006 while visiting Argentina, American traveler Blake Mycoskie came to the sad realization that most children he befriended in the South American country had no shoes on their feet. What was more astonishing was that none of these children had ever owned a pair of shoes. And because they had trouble walking to certain places, they could not attend school, where shoes are a prerequisite along with a school uniform. Without school, they would grow up to become uneducated adults, incapable of joining a global workforce.

Blake decided to do something about this disparity by founding TOMS Shoes on a single idea: For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. And thus the One for One program was born. As their company motto states, “Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about.”

Since 2006, TOMS Shoes has been instrumental in giving more than six hundred thousand pairs of shoes to children in underdeveloped and developing countries. The consumer who buys a pair of TOMS Shoes does so with the full awareness that they are helping a child in an underdeveloped village get a chance at an education, as well as lowering the mortality rate. TOMS is one of the best examples of a twenty-first-century entrepreneur.

Capable of helping the planet while making commerce fun and socially responsible, most young entrepreneurs are discovering it’s not that hard. Instead of sponsoring some 6K run for the local Yuppies, why not use your profits to help those who actually need our help?

The company’s nonprofit organization Friends of TOMS also coordinates Shoe Drops around the world in order to drop off their shoes in remote areas and at the same time give employees and volunteers the experience of giving TOMS shoes firsthand. In March 2010, during a Shoe Drop in the northwest region called Shyira Diocese, Rwanda, TOMS, in partnership with Kris Allen (2009’s American Idol winner) and Arkansas- based organization Bridge2Rwanda, distributed one thousand pairs of shoes to children in remote villages. This was TOMS’ first personal visit to Rwanda, though they had been giving shoes there through another giving partner, World Vision, for some time. Kris sang and played guitar with the kids, inspiring them to laugh, smile, and dance. Now, another thirty two thousand pairs have been distributed by Bridge2Rwanda volunteers and local Rwandan organizations to kids in these same communities.

Doug Piwinski, TOMS’ newest family member, who spent his very first days working for TOMS on the Rwanda Shoe Drop, said it best: “What I realized while in Rwanda is that all the beautiful and amazing people I met there were connected by something bigger than any one person—the One for One movement. That’s such a powerful feeling, and I can’t wait to do more.”

- Liquid Leadership, page 285

Shedding the old ways of thinking is incredibly necessary for a company’s survival in the Information Age. To build a company that can survive long into the future will require constant diligence. This diligence comes from great leadership. And great companies never stray from their mission and foundation. They stand for something bigger at the core of their mission statement, while embracing the disruptive change from era to era.

They do this because they understand that disruption has been a part of normal business cycles throughout history. These companies create a lasting legacy for innovation by embracing a three-pronged foundation:

• Committing to integrity and sound management
• Not pursuing easy gains
• Maintaining an air of entrepreneurship

I cannot take credit for this model. It is from the oldest company in the world, the four-hundred-year-old Sumitomo Corporation.

No one wants a job anymore. They want a chance to work for a company committed to changing the world...for a better tomorrow. Not just in words, but in know, a return to the human side of business.

So why not place this kind of commitment at the beginning of your mission statement?

Thank you for reading,

Brad Szollose

PS: and a special Thank You goes out to Cause Planet for making a difference.