Do you have to be ruthless in business?

I was asked by a client today what my opinion was on needing to be ruthless in business. Someone was trying to convince my client that this is the only way to be successful and this was concerning her, because she knew being ruthless was not going to work for her. I assumed investment in growing her business was being put at risk by this idea so I responded rather quickly.

Here is my iMessage text to her. I typed it on my Mac (if you’re wondering why I would type such long texts):

“Ruthless is subjective and relative. When you are assertive to the truth in a compassionate way, it is still possible for someone to believe you are ruthless because they do not want the truth because it upsets their comfort zone. So they will call you ruthless even though you are being sincere and fair. Those that are pushing to be ruthless in business is because they have been burnt and are allowing their trauma to treat people badly and justify it under the superficial rule that success in business means you must be ruthless. So they end up thinking that being blunt, rude and uncaring when they do not value someone or disagree with what they have done is the way to success – this is stupid and you are too wise for that nonsense. 😊

“Remember yesterday when I explained the power of being assertive? How the truth does the work for you, and it does not need to be forced – it is inclusive of the person but they have to be honest about being accountable and capable of adapting to a better way? This is your way and the most potent way to be in every area of life including business. Some people will at times call that ruthless because it upsets their infatuation with their limitations. Their pride is preventing them from admitting they need to change and you have to be okay with people being this way, seeing you as ruthless! 😊”

So the next time someone says “sorry, it’s just business” or “don’t take it personal, it’s just business”, don’t accept that nonsense. Treating people with respect and delivering concerns in a caring manner are fundamental to successful relationships that business relies on for higher staff retention, staff and client loyalty and a successful brand the community will embrace.

The key is balance by being principled. I call it the magic middle where you are soft enough to allow people the flexibility to learn and grow and hard enough so they don’t drift into unsustainably unproductive behaviour. If you are too soft on behaviour that is unproductive, you are being recklessly ruthless to your business. If you are too hard, you are equally being recklessly ruthless because you’re creating resentment, demotivation and alienation in your work culture. An unprofitable business with happy employees that suddenly ends up with no jobs is plain crazy.  A work culture that is pushed into dysfunction is a recipe for being slowly tortured out of business.

We also see colleagues and industry peers justify being ruthless. As if the market is tight on resources and hustling in a deceptive and ruthless way for your slice to survive is justified. This is a delusional brain in action with a self-fulfilling prophetic ending that’s rarely satisfying. When we realise that through innovation and synergy we can create more than enough for everyone, this becomes a playground of collaboration and abundance. This is why those that preach being ruthless with pride are gifting you the awareness that they are not to be trusted because they are quick to assume the hammer applies to all the difficult problems as the soft skills toolbox is denied its leveraging power.

If you want better leadership, an empowered work culture and a better relationship with an abundant marketplace, explore the true path to achieving these vital goals that your business vision is founded on.