Being A Human Business

Chris has long talked about the idea that Business is about belonging, that relationships matter, and whether our business is B2C or B2B, it’s important to know that there’s a human on the other end. He’s absolutely right.


One of the most basic needs we have as humans is to be recognized, to be seen.

A socially generous approach, “Seek First to Understand” if you’re a Covey disciple, is always the order of the day, but you cannot forget the you in the relationship equation.

We’ve had some discussions internally about what it means to conduct Human Business, not just with others but also with ourselves.  The trouble is, it’s hard, particularly when one is the people pleasing type or finds satisfaction and value of having gone the extra mile for someone.

Don’t get me wrong, these are good traits and I both appreciate someone going the extra mile for me as well as enjoy the feeling of having done it for someone else.  But, it’s more than that.


More Time For Others Does Not Always Equal More Business

You’ve done it, you’ve come in early, stayed late, put in time over the weekends, stopped working to respond to someone’s priority and sometimes you have to.  When you love your work, this gets even more tricky.  The lines are blurry.  But when you look at your day, how much of it was truly spent engaged in productive work?  How much did you really get done in those 10 hours at your desk, how much of that time would you score as “productive”?  6 hours? 7 hours?….4 hours?  What about the rest of it?  Facebook, Google+, endless rabbit holes of emails that “appear” urgent, a knock on the door that turns into a 45 minute meeting with no clear outcome.

What if you could boil down those moments when you are most productive and carve away those ‘distraction loops’ that take us off our game?

The Myth Of The Open Door Policy

When I first became a Director, I vowed to have an ‘open door policy’.  It sounded noble.  It sounded, well…open and available.  It made me feel good, too.  I was going to be a great manager.  I wasn’t though and here’s why.

When you are always available to others, you are not giving them your best self because you end up torn between tasks.

The same is true with an email or social media.

Does stopping everything you were doing to run down an answer to a question in an email or respond to a tweet really help? Or, would putting in an hour developing your business and answering that email or tweet a few hours later have accomplished more?

What would it look like if you didn’t even know the email or tweet came in, for just one more hour?  Would your business fail?

How much more respectful would it be to meet with someone when you can be fully present?  How much more respectful would it be to close your laptop, knowing that you’ve already answered those emails or have a plan to, and knowing that a mention on Twitter will be addressed in plenty of time, later.

You Are A Human in Business, Too

Being a Human Business does not mean meeting every request, taking every meeting, or responding to every question in the moment .  When you are caught in an endless loop of responding to the needs of others, you will never accomplish the task of growing your business.

Do this now.

Vow to take back your day.  It is yours after all.

Put a limit on the number of times you will:

  • Respond to Email each day.  –  I suggest 2, mid morning and mid afternoon.
  • Respond to Social Networks. – I suggest 2 (unless this is key to your business, use it as a quick respite from head down project work)

In addition to that:

  • Set aside 2 solid hours of head down, project time.  Just 2 hours of no phone, no email, no impromptu meetings, no social networks.  You can do this in 30 minute chunks, or 20 minute chunks, or 45 minute chunks, whatever works.  But that’s it, 2 hours of total focus.

I promise you’ll get more done in those 2 hours than most people do in a day.

And remember, take care of yourself.

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  1. Rex Williams says:

    Great stuff, Rob! It’s funny how 2 hours of solid production doesn’t seem like much, but I think you’re right, it’s probably more than most people accomplish, especially if it’s super focused. Sometimes using a timer really helps – a big digital one on my phone, right in front of my face, to help me not get distracted for a whole 20 minutes.

    One of my favorite short videos on the subject of realizing that there’s a human on the other end is by Derek Sivers: “A real person, a lot like you.”

    • Thank, Rex. I love using a timer, as well as a few other tools to shut out distractions (more on that later:)). Thanks for sharing that video. I had seen it once before, but as with most good ideas, we need reminders and/or see it differently when we hear it again. Be well.

  2. Wonderful post, Rob. Just because we CAN be accessed anytime, anywhere doesn’t mean we SHOULD be accessed anytime, anywhere. I love your recommendations – they’re so simple and yet so profoundly important and effective. Now if I would just implement them… <<>>

    I will get better because by gosh, there’s work to do on this planet, and the time has come to get focused on the stuff that matters, once and for all. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Thank you, Lani. It is hard to remember and we get caught in old habits quickly. It’s also hard not to beat ourselves up when we go a bit off course. We tend to say things like, “There I go again, see I knew it wouldn’t stick.”

      Personally, I’m trying to be more mindful to appreciate what I did do, be happy that I recognized when I went off course and just…start again. We can always start again.

      It was great to see you in person last week. Let’s hope there’s more of that to come.

  3. Christien Eramiha says:

    Great post. Sometimes we need a continue reminder of this. So true “The Open Door Policy” I fall for that a lot. Especially when your a mum and you lead a group of people and your trying to be there for every single one of them. Sometimes at one time. When you know that a always possible.

  4. Lately, I’ve been getting the same message from the universe, coming out of the mouths of my editor, friends, therapist: slow down, rest, you’ve been TOO nice about other people’s feelings, too long you’ve neglected yours. That’s why you were in so much pain you couldn’t even write for the first time in your life. But now, to please myself, to take this book on myself, I have to work harder than I’ve ever imagined, much harder than the 10 published by “them” yet that is relaxing, even meditative.

    • Roberta – I’m glad you’re taking time for yourself. It’s also a great point that it isn’t easy. It’s harder sometimes, but I love that you found it meditative.

  5. I freaking love this advice of head down two hour time and to check the mail only twice a day and to dive into the social media only after the two hour head down time. To truly create something beautiful, I am finding that I have to get my butt on the seat and go for it. Setting a timer helps me to put myself in a mode where I am accountable to myself to create. Love you Rob. This shit is good.

    • Thank you, Joe. I did the same thing today, two hours of head down work and it feels great. How do you hold yourself accountable without getting too down on yourself when you don’t hit the mark? I find that to be a hard balance sometimes.

  6. I get so many PR people asking me to review, tweet and write about their clients and products. I feel guilty if I don’t do it since they give me perks like makeup and free haircuts, but it takes so much time.

    • You are exactly right to be thinking about the value of your time. I am betting that if people are asking you to review something, they see that your time is valuable, but they are in essence low balling you with freebies and they know it.

  7. Just found this site and love the style and message. Great balancing post and comments. My business is about showing the value of empathy and the ‘human’ concerns of stakeholders, and this is a great balm for the owners who think all of the sudden the focus is all on someone else’s needs.

  8. We caretakers are like that and it is important work, but I too need that constant reminder. I have even said to my kids at times, ‘I really want to listen to what you’re saying because it’s important, but I can’t right now and I’ll be able to really listen in X minutes or…later’. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Honoring that what someone has to say is so important that you want to make time for it…later.

  9. Susanrobertson37 says:

    I am a caretaker I’m trying to keep things in order and I find myself doing good but getting tired
    I want things to run Smooth but theirs always something being a caretaker p pots changing diapers and keeping things clean and feeding them and trying to know have you done your best is their something better I could be doing and hey where’s that sister and brother huh and I’m so tired I feel like crying dose God hate me ! Why do parents not get insurances to take care of themselves why can’t I leave her why do I care? Dose the government not care about us anymore ! Why me lord!
    And why don’t they have a caretaker wished I have one a break sleep !

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  11. I’m not the care taker type but I do know how distractions can derail projects and leave me feeling “useless”.

    The suggestions at the end of the post work … so long a everyone else buys into it. I used to check my email a few times day — shutting down the email client — and set aside blocks of time to get work done. I even shut down the internal IM client. I got things done and on time. I was productive.

    It lasted about a year before I quit doing it.

    People worked around it and I developed a reputation for not being responsive. I actually had one person come to my desk to ask why I hadn’t responded to the email he had sent 10 minutes ago!

    But now I’m leaving the end of work day feeling “useless” again so maybe it’s time to try these habits again. Although I had a reputation for providing untimely email responses I also had the reputation for delivering on outcomes.

  12. A very interesting article indeed. I really relate to the ‘open door’ policy thing. Thanks for the excellent tips on managing time.

  13. Leona Wilson says:

    Fantastic reminder! You are absolutely right that being too available comes at the cost of our productivity and stress levels. I think there is another aspect though. I find being available immediately and all the time causes some people to value us LESS! Seems some people are of the opinion that if we answer too quickly that maybe we are not busy enough or, even worse, desparate! Yikes! Dedicated time to actually work is essential as you so nicely remind us! Thanks for the post.

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