I have been thinking about this subject for a while and when I decided to write something about it I googled the term. I should not be surprised that there were a number of pages on this not the least of which are from business giants like Warren Buffet ! You would obviously realize that the term is in no way original but perhaps what I have to say may be relevant to average people like myself, particularly those who have regular jobs or run their own businesses. The objective of sharing these thoughts is by no means to lecture on morality – I am certainly not qualified to do so. It is only to try to understand what goes on inside us and to reflect on any learning.
In my various management roles, I was keen on developing business scorecards – something that will measure how the business is performing on a daily, monthly, quarterly or annual basis. I am sure most of us know how a scorecard works. You identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for the business and start measuring these over a period of time – a pretty basic and simple concept which can get complex as you try to measure a bunch of KPIs across various business divisions or products. The concept is simple and in business or the work world it works well if you can execute well and have reliable data backing the performance indicators. The issue I have struggled with, in more senior roles in particular, is the relationship of business scorecard with your personal or inner scorecard. The inner scorecard is a set of basic rules or principals which you have sworn to live by. Whether learned by experience or inherited via family values, I believe everyone has an internal scorecard or at least desires to have one. It may not be very well documented and clearly laid out as the business or corporate one but it does measure success in terms of real wealth, relationships, trust, confidence, independence, love, caring, fairness, justice etc.
Returning to the question that bothers me the most – can there be business or career performance indicators which are not aligned with your personal values ? Let me illustrate. Say your professional goal number #1 is to make money and create wealth for yourself and your family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – and you should always strive for financial success ! But your inner scorecard will tell you two things which you must keep in mind while pursuing this goal; first that whatever you will build must be via ethical means and without doing anything wrong – legally or morally and second, that you will decide when you have sufficient wealth to meet your needs without referring or comparing yourself to others. If you are running a business or working for a company which requires you to do some creative accounting or is hell bent on achieving results which cannot be achieved via entirely fair means – what will you do ? Or your friends build bigger and nicer homes and drive luxury cars – will you follow ? I am sure many of us have faced similar situations and have been required to answer these questions for ourselves. My point is that these questions can be answered simply if you have a clear reference point – the internal scorecard – which provides direction when you are confronted with these situations. Once you realize that the inner scorecard is the key to answering these questions, the challenge is to ensure this aligns well with your respective business or career scorecards. Without judging them as wrong or right you will need to address some basic areas; does one always measure success by external benchmarks – whether these are of a competitor in business or of a company you work for – or your colleagues who climb the greasy pole faster than anyone else ? Where does one draw the line ? how do you compare a simple entrepreneur striving to keep his head above the water with another who sells his company for millions ? has one failed and the other succeeded ?
I raise these questions because they have been raised within me and with people I know many times – in fact this dilemma pursues many individuals across the roles they have played – as professional managers, as entrepreneurs, in leadership positions and in family and personal life situations. No one can claim to be a saint and may choose more wrong than right before you reach answers from within. The internal scorecard is not as easy as it seems – it takes time to evolve and mature. The process of not allowing others to judge you is tough and can be a difficult journey. But once that clarity is achieved, you promise yourself to live by it and all external scorecards will have to become secondary.
If you are looking for a simple life – one which is lived with clarity and focus then you have to go deep internally and develop your own internal scorecard. This may not be very rewarding from an external perspective and you may be required to give small sacrifices in the short term. But in the long run, it can put you on the road to living a principled and stress free life. In the business and investing world, Warren Buffet has not done badly in terms of career and financial success by following his own internal scorecard. In his own words he asks a simple question to illustrate;
”If the world couldn’t see your results, would you rather be thought of as the world’s greatest investor but in reality have the world’s worst record? Or be thought of as the world’s worst investor when you were actually the best?”
He points out “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard”