Leading a Business, keep it simple.

Tape measure

"There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. There's the answer!"

If you can lose weight, you can lead an organisation. There are 6 surprising similarities. The weight-loss industry has given us not only a personal selfhelp model, but a business one as well. If you’re one of the millions of folks attending these programmes you have readily transferable leadership skills for today’s marketplace.

But before we begin a word or two of CAUTION: This advice is not intended to be taken seriously and may be injurious to your health, both personal and financial. Please contact a high-priced management consultant before attempting on your own. A healthy disrespect for authority and the propensity to trust your innate common sense may be dangerously elevated.

1. Eat small but frequent meals.

Overeating is a long-standing problem for the weight-conscious as is the insidious danger of eating alone. Food becomes a personal temptation rather than a communal event with this tendency also leaching its way into our business life. In our attempts to compete in the global economy, it seems we’ve arrived at a place where we consume lunch at our desks, and often by ourselves and worst still, increasingly, this mid-day repast is abandoned altogether.

We no longer have time for our co-workers and are quarantining ourselves to our offices and cubicles. We’re then surprised when fellow workers don’t return calls, reply with curt e-mails or become disinclined to help us navigate the bureaucratic maze of business life.

This is to be expected when your co-workers do not know you, when they have not spent time with you and when they have never been invited to join you for a meal.

Business is all about relationships. If I don’t know you, don’t like you or have no personal contact with you – I have no incentive to go out of my way to try and help.

By not sharing meals with colleagues we have fostered a type of corporate anorexia. We’re starving ourselves to death for want of social contact. The business suffers. Productivity plummets. Our career languishes. And, not surprisingly, we’re no longer fun to work with. Things would improve if we regularly joined co-workers for lunch. And while we’re on the subject, whinging about senior management is injurious to your heart and to be avoided. A conversation focused on people’s talents increases circulation and reduces harmful saturated fats within the organisation.

2. Drink plenty of fluids.

Research indicates that most of us walk around the workplace severely dehydrated. Water is the preferred drink - since coffee, tea and soft drinks further deplete one’s hydration. It’s also a lot cheaper, provided you get it from the tap. Drinking vast quantities of water also has the unintended benefit of strategically positioning you before two epicenters of employee engagement: the toilet and the kitchen!

Both locations continue to be the last vestiges where workers feel free to talk openly and engage in the ancient rite of truth-telling. Frequenting both places provides productive opportunities to stay connected to the rumour mill and to ascertain how employees are really feeling.

These activities also have a cost-cutting benefit. You’ll no longer need to conduct another employee survey or host further focus groups to find out the concerns of workers: a saving of both time and money. Merely show up and shut up. Listening to coworkers’ gripes gives you valuable information for taking corrective action and remedying misunderstandings. It also offers a jump-start for offsetting corporate misinformation and destructive rumour-mongering.

3. Engage in regular physical activity.

Buy a pedometer, clip it to your waist and begin walking around the workplace. As you increase your mileage, your soft body will be better toned and your business mind will be better informed.

Pay close attention to what’s working well throughout the organisation and compliment people on their good efforts. Make special attempts to visit staff who consistently perform excellent work but get little recognition. Extend your heartfelt thanks and remind them that their contributions don’t go unnoticed. Bring along a box of low-fat biscuits to give away.

4. Avoid the near occasions of Sin.

The Spanish have a saying: Habits are first cobwebs, then cables. So monitor closely what you do, where you go and with whom you get involved. Temptations abound in both the fights to trim the waistline and lead the organization.

Personal danger spots to be avoided include anything that’s sweet (products or people), gourmet meals, and everything dipped in chocolate (products or people). While they appear momentarily pleasing, lurking just below the surface is subtle peril.

Corporate danger spots include the executive floor, company cafeterias and certain business initiatives preceded by the term “cutting-edge.”

5. Shun negative people.

While these people have a necessary place in the world, that place should not be anywhere within a 10-mile radius of you. Cynics, naysayers and devil’s advocates have something valuable to offer, just let them momentarily offer it to someone else.

When trying to make improvements to your own health or the company’s, the task at hand is challenging enough without the voices of doom and gloom constantly echoing in your ear. The “truth” these refreshing souls have to contribute is best kept for another day. Instead, create a support group of like-minded people who understand what you’re trying to do and are willing to offer their passion and advice for a successful outcome. Positive energy is an essential part of any change program, physical or fiscal. Spouses and trusted colleagues can be of tremendous value in this regard. Those going through a divorce or recently passed over for promotion, less so.

Also steer clear of “high-potential” employees or extremely thin people.

6. Carefully monitor your intake.

You are what you eat. But what’s also become clear is that you believe what you read. So stop looking through Cosmopolitan, GQ and all those other glamour magazines. They profile unnatural bodies and unrealistic lifestyles. The adolescent diets they purport are unworkable, overly simplistic and contain more celebrity fluff than substance.

This likewise holds true for the many business journals that are out there flaunting business Best Practices. This fawning deference to what other companies have already done has become the adolescent bane of corporate life. When we were teenagers, we showed our uniqueness by behaving exactly like all our peers. Best Practices is a throwback to this pubescent model: “You too can be world class by mindlessly mimicking IBM.”

What works for General Electric is most likely not going to work for your company. If it were truly that simple, you would have only needed to purchase Jack Welch’s first book. But he’s already out there selling his second, which contains “new and improved” insights for transforming your business. Rumor has it that he’s close to cutting a deal on his third. Even Stephen Covey didn’t stop with his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He’s now touting the 8th one. Notice a trend here?

One last thing

If you’re looking for a quick answer on how to lose weight or successfully compete in today’s marketplace, Gertrude Stein offers some sobering advice:

“There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. There’s the answer!”

As life would have it, we’re all required to work with what we have, play the cards we’ve been dealt and implement change with the flawed
humans inhabiting our workplace. Stop looking for answers in the eyes of someone else. Wisdom resides within. We’re better off implementing a mediocre business process that’s embraced by our employees than a Best Practice one sold to us by some outside business guru.

We’re likewise well served befriending the less-than-perfect bodies that the Divine has bestowed on us rather than longing after the ones profiled on late-night infomercials.

Besides, if you were truly that firm, tight, and chiseled – people might be drawn to you based on looks alone.

Fortunately, this is something most of us need not worry about.