What Businesses Can Learn from Kwanzaa Principles

Kwanzaa runs from December 26 to January 1 and I must admit that I never got into this African-American holiday.  I knew the seven principles, or core values, that should be practiced throughout the year but never really paid attention to practicing them.  This year, I decided to read more about Kwanzaa and found that these are not just principles for our personal lives but quite a few pertains to our businesses…and that I was already practicing some of them and will keep the others in mind as I grow my business.

The original meaning of Kwanzaa is “to hold in the arms” – they refer to holding the principles close to our hearts and to commit to and live them.  The 50th anniversary article that ran in the Los Angeles Sentinel earlier this month fully explains the principles.  What can our businesses learn from Kwanzaa’s core values?

  1. Umoja (Unity) teaches us the oneness of people, the common ground of our humanity, the interrelatedness of life and the indispensability of family and community. We spend most of our time each day with the people with whom we work, more so than with our families.  It is essential that our businesses have cohesive work teams, that we move together as one for the success and profitability of our businesses.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-determination) reaffirms our right and everyone’s right to control our destiny and daily lives, and build the good communities, societies and future we conceive, aspire to and struggle to bring into being. Consultants 2 Go was created in order to give our employees choice in their type of employment, to have more control over how and where they work and to deliver excellent service to the businesses in the communities where we live and work.  Does your company help your employees become self-determined?
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) teaches us that we come into being, thrive and flourish in needed and principled relationships. And it teaches us that it is together that we must conceive and construct the good communities, societies and world we all want and deserve. Ujima speaks directly to our employees holding themselves responsible for the work they do, as well as businesses working together and taking responsibility for how we impact the world.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) teaches us to build our own businesses, control the economics of our own community and share in all its work and wealth. Do you work with, or support, other businesses in your community? We volunteer with nonprofit organizations in our Newark community—whether thru supporting fundraising events or giving of our time to charter school students.
  5. Nia (Purpose) reminds us that we have a commitment to the collective vocation of building, developing and defending our national community, its culture and history, and this is the fundamental mission and meaning, i.e., purpose, of human life. Many small businesses exist because they fulfill a need for their customers.  The US Government, or national community, is one of the largest employers in the world.  They support the owners in building a legacy for their families.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity) urges us to practice the moral obligation to heal, repair and transform the world making it more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. Sustainability has become a viable business.  Recycling is a part of our lives – we recycle paper, ink cartridges, plastic and glass bottles, etc.  We are fulfilling our obligation to this earth.
  7. Imani (Faith) teaches us to hold tightly and firmly to the faith of our ancestors who taught us to respect each person, people and culture as a unique and equally valid and valuable way of being human in the world. Every business owner must have faith – we have faith that we will make payroll every pay period, we have faith that our employees will give us the best of themselves, and we have faith in ourselves and each other.

As we go forward in our businesses in 2016, let’s keep these essential values in mind.  If you have not yet discussed company values with your team, the Kwanzaa values is a good guideline to start.