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Carolyn Ziel Headshot

Who Says Business Isn't Personal?

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Remember the scene in You've Got Mail when Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan, "It's not personal, it's business"? I love her response: "What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's PERSONAL to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?"

What a great question. When the movie came out, I had just launched my career as an executive recruiter. Back then, I would have agreed with Tom Hanks. I was operating, like most of us in those days, from a place where I was more in my head than my heart. Now, I know that Meg was right when she said "Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal!"

Being as connected as we are in the world today makes business very personal. Japanese businesses affected by last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami have already affected automobile manufacturing plants in the U.S. such as General Motors, Toyota and others. It has affected computer availability and sales for Apple products and countless other business across the country. As we, here in Redondo Beach Marina, watched the literal ripple effect of the Tsunami flow into our harbor, I thought about business connections.

To make a real connection with others in our business, we have to connect with our hearts. Everything we do, from defining and planning business structures, systems, marketing, to sales - all of it needs to align with our core mission. It's about being congruent. Our core mission is the heart of our business.

I call this being Heart Forward in business. For me it extends to the partnerships I create; the people and businesses I align with and the employees and partners I work with as well as the clients I attract. Sometimes this is challenging. For many, as for me, it has become a spiritual practice of sorts. Yes, your business can become your spiritual practice. Why not?

We are living in unique times. The paradigms of the past are no longer supporting our ever-changing business world. As entrepreneurs we are ideally positioned to contribute and take advantage of new paradigms. Now more than ever, it is not only possible, but imperative to be Heart Forward in business. When we lead with our hearts, rather than our heads, we are better able to make a difference in this world, no matter what our business.

The greatest example and a woman who has made the greatest success of her life's work is Oprah Winfrey. Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Koehn's research focuses on entrepreneurial leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact. In her eBook, Oprah, Leading With Heart she shares how Oprah built her media empire, learning her lessons and leading with her heart. A true leader uses all her assets: head, heart and power. However, inspirational leaders rely first and foremost on their hearts as their business barometer.

Oprah has brought self-awareness and emotional intelligence to the forefront of her business strategy. She has connected emotionally and created an intimate relationship with her audience by being honest and leading with her heart. The more personal she is with her audience and the more she reveals of her journey, the more successful she becomes.

This month's O Magazine is her first poetry Issue. She shares her view on poetry:

"For me, poetry is the unexpected utterance of the soul. It is where the soul touches the everyday. It is less about words and more about awakening the sense of aliveness we carry within us from birth. To walk quietly till the miracle in everything speaks is poetry, whether we write it down or not. I confess I started out wanting to write great poems, only to be worn by life to wanting to discover true poems, and now in the second half of life, I feel humbled and excited to want to be the poem!"

This is the perfect example for today's entrepreneur. Oprah made up her own rules based on her personal journey. We were witness to her poetic discoveries and the journey to her life's purpose. We began to contemplate our own hearts as she contemplated hers.

Being the poem can be as simple as shifting your perspective by listening to your heart to find out what you really want and staying true to your purpose. Business is personal when you are living your heart's mission. Whether you are an actor, own a hair salon, or the CEO of a computer software company, you will transform your business and your life when you lead with your heart. Like the countless ripples created by a small pebble tossed into a lake, you can create your own ripple effect just by striving to be the poem. Let your heart lead you to your own poetry.

Like Oprah says, "That is, for sure, an aspiration worth holding: to not just appreciate the poetry, but to be the poem."