Today is Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent beings. While it would certainly be more fun to talk about the excesses of Mardi Gras, today I’m focusing on Lent and how businesses can use this season to be a model for bettering their companies.
In today’s language, Lent is a 40-day challenge, designed to help people prepare for Easter. It is traditionally marked by three characteristics: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
I led a retreat for one of my clients last week, and as I wrote up the summary this morning, I thought about the ways that Lenten practices can transform businesses.
Take inventory. In Lent, we’re asked to take an honest inventory of our lives. This requires reflection and letting go of the image of ourselves that most of us have so carefully curated that we can lose sight of who we really are.
I ask the same question of my clients. What’s working? What’s not? Why? We need a baseline that is specific and measurable. By way of example, to say that our business could be doing better is vague and could mean anything. Who wouldn’t want their business to be doing better? To say that we missed last quarter’s projections by eight percent because our inventory arrived late is specific and tells us the information we need to improve.
Create a plan. In Lent, we follow the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving guide that I mentioned above. Businesses can do the same thing. Prayer can be defined as holding a thought with a specific intention in mind. What’s your intention? Look back at item one. Where are you? Now, ask where you want to be – specifically. That’s your intention.
Fasting is abstaining from things that can be harmful to us. We usually think in terms of fattening foods, but what about fasting from gossip, or lying, or selfishness. The logical extension then becomes taking on clear communication, telling the truth, and looking out for our teammates.
Almsgiving, while usually thought of as an individual effort to give more money to the poor can easily become a corporate undertaking. Find a charity that needs support and that speaks to you and your company’s values and culture. The possibilities are endless, from local to global. Customers are increasingly coming to expect businesses to do more than deliver a great product or service-related experience. There is also an expectation that part of the total customer experience is knowing that your brand of choice is contributing back to the community.
Support each other. There are more activities during Lent at most churches than any other time of the year. Why? Because people need support on their journey. It’s so much easier to stay true to your commitments when they’re shared and supported.
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE:
Whether or not you time your challenge to run during Lent doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you follow the simple steps outlined above. To recap:
1 – Take inventory and get specific about where you are.
2 – Create a specific, company-wide intention defining where you want to be.
3 – Name what you’re going to give up and what you’re going to take on to help you get there.
4 – Support a worthy cause that resonates with your company, your values, and your culture.
5 – Be transparent about your goals and your progress so you can support each other.
Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving. They’re not just for Lent anymore.
Here’s to leveling up.