Recently, one of my partners (Karen) saw the Dalai Lama speak at an event in our area. The Dalai Lama is both the temporal and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. His speech had nothing to do with business, yet Karen felt it was loaded with great wisdom for small business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as offering a fascinating glimpse at the thoughts and actions of a great leader.
Here are four lessons she took away that you can apply to your business:
1. Have a team in place
Though he’s 76 years old, the Dalai Lama’s travel schedule is enough to exhaust a teenager. The week Karen saw him he had just flown in from Japan and was speaking at two or three events per day in various parts of Southern California. A glance at the schedule on his website confirms this is pretty typical (he was heading to the East Coast next). How do you keep so many commitments without dropping the ball? While the Dalai Lama sat onstage in his crimson robes, a team of professionals in suits and ties, including translators and bodyguards, worked like a well-oiled machine in the background to ensure the event went smoothly. The lesson? No matter how “esoteric” an industry you’re in, someone needs to take care of the business.
2. Have a focus
Through his frequent public speaking engagements, writings and visits with international leaders, the Dalai Lama works to fulfill his three major commitments: to promote human values and ethics, foster religious harmony and help the Tibetan people and culture survive. At this particular event, audience members were allowed to ask questions, and no matter what they asked, the Dalai Lama’s answers always referred back to these primary goals. Keeping your business’s mission in mind can help you stay just as focused on your ultimate goals.
3. Find the funny
The Dalai Lama deals with serious stuff. (This was an Amnesty International event featuring discussions of political prisoners and torture.) Nonetheless, he has quite a sense of humor. He donned a tennis visor, cracked up when the microphone didn’t work right, and giggled when an audience member asked a verrrry long question. The laughter helped everyone relax and illustrated that nothing’s quite as serious as we think. Try it the next time your staff is going nuts, your printer just blew a gasket and you need to defuse some tension in yourworkplace.
4. Slow down
In business today, we rush, rush, rush, heads down to our BlackBerries and iPhones, ignoring the person sitting next to us while we reply to an e-mail. We spend more time staring at our Twitter feeds than looking at the people we share an office with. I’m pretty sure the Dalia Lama has a busier schedule than anyone reading this blog, but he took time to truly engage with everyone who was on stage with him. Whether it was the organizer introducing him, a nervous college student asking a question or the excited high school girls who presented him with an award, he didn’t rush on to the next step in the proceedings, but spoke with, smiled at and looked into the eyes of each person. What would happen in our business lives if we all took the time to do the same?