What can top managers learn from the lifestyle choices of the minimalists and can this make them better managers?
Minimalists are people who define themselves by living with less, leading a more conscious live, not being trapped in consumerism and material possessions. This way they live a more purposeful, fulfilled and happy life. Minimalists are most often off the grid from the corporate life and are proud of it. Top managers on the other hand seem like the complete opposites - running multi-million or even multi-billion dollar businesses, that sell products and services to people; receiving a good six or seven figure pay-check; being able to afford a big house, car, office, and any other possession possible. Those two worlds - of the minimalists and of the top managers - seem to be as far apart as one can possibly imagine. Yet, a closer look into the minimalist lifestyle, reveals astounding benefits that any corporation, and top manager, could enjoy if adopting a more minimalist culture.
Focus on what it important
One of most valued management qualities is the ability to to prioritise. These days it seems one of the hardest tasks. By clearing up space and mind minimalists can literally see what is important to focus on. The famous Urgent/Important Matrix is the ABC of time management techniques. But how much easier would it be to prioritise if there are less items to prioritise from? A practical insight for the manager could be realisation that it is difficult for a person, let alone a whole company, to concentrate on more than 3-4 key long term goals. The trend for more focus is expected to be one of the biggest in corporate world in 2018 (check out the recent FT article Do less this year, but do it better and WSJ essay How to success in business? Do less.)
Achieving more with less
Doing more with less seems to be the mantra of the corporate world these days. You hear it in top management speeches, you read about it in business magazines, in academic research. Big organisations are undoubtedly an arena for great innovations to the benefit of humanity, but also incubators for vast inefficiencies. Departments are created out of nowhere, management levels are added to supervise the supervisors, overlapping responsibilities lead to the “on-copy people” - you know, the ones who genuinely consider real work the act of participating in a project by being on copy, but not actually doing anything themselves. Getting rid of on-copy people is a hard management job. On the other hand you have the minimalists. They are hands-on managers and employees of their own fortune. Just follow up the ten month cross-country tour of The Minimalists, featured in Minimalism: a documentary about important things. They are conscious about the budget, about the time, about the results and about the level of happiness. Who does not want such colleagues in their team?
Implementing the minimalist mindset in a company means tricking the employees to work for less money and be more content about it, right? This couldn’t be further from the truth. With more focused work on what is important, with a more caring manager, showing flexibility and understanding to work-life balance, with less clutter and bureaucracy, employees will actually feel empowered, recognised, less stressed and ultimately willing to give more than a 9-to-5 job requires from them. All minimalists report increased happiness when adopting a life of less stuff and more meaning and purpose. Ever since the Hawthorn experiments in the 1920s, the connection between employees happiness and satisfaction is deeply linked to their productivity and achievements.
What if corporate culture of lifestyle minimalism could be the contemporary response to the current state of stress, undeniable perception of work-overload and burnout syndrome?