Zappos’ Holacracy—A Brilliant New Idea or Not Necessary?

Did you see the news that Zappos announced it is abolishing bosses? Zappos refers to their “new” approach as holacracy, and it’s already being heralded as tech’s latest new management craze. In summary, holacracy is management by committee with an emphasis on innovation—even the CEO formally relinquishes authority by agreeing to a constitution and reorganizing everyone into decentralized teams that choose their own roles and goals.

The objective of holacracy is to unleash the potential of every employee to behave like a Chief. While I am a huge fan of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, in my view this organization design is not new, nor is it required to unlock employee potential. Here’s why.

Holacracy is Not New

I recall a sales review I did almost 20 years ago as a Regional Vice President at Unisys Corporation. During a forecasting session, a sales representative told me he had no idea when a computer sale would close because his customer made all decisions by committee. That’s when I first learned about a company named W.L. Gore.

The sales rep told me that founders Bill and Vieve Gore started W. L. Gore & Associates in 1958. The company initially served the electronic products market. The company’s 1969 discovery of a versatile new polymer led to the development of many new applications in medical, fabric, and industrial markets.

What distinguished Gore from its start in 1958 was its innovative management structure. Specifically, it has never utilized traditional managers, titles, or budgets, and it has always been very wary about economies of scale. Amazingly, their CEO has never been appointed by the board, but instead has been chosen by peers. The Gore culture expects every associate to act as a Chief. As a result, what has Gore accomplished?

Today, Gore is one of the 200 largest privately held U.S. companies with 10,000 employees (called associates) and more than $3 billion in revenue. In 2014, Gore retained its position as a member of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, as one of the few earning this distinction every year since the ranking was initiated in 1984. Gore has been granted more than 2,000 patents worldwide in a wide range of fields, including electronics and polymer processing, and has had more than 35 million of its medical devices implanted, saving and improving the quality of lives worldwide.

If it’s so successful, should every company move to holacracy?

Holacracy is Not Necessary

In my experience, neither Zappos’ holacracy nor Gore’s committee structure is required to enable companies to create a culture of Chiefs, in which individual potential is unlocked. I have personally worked in a wide range of companies and company structures that delivered great results with cultures that enabled every associate to act as a Chief. For example, an internet startup facing a market crash grew revenue from $1M to $11M in just a year, and a multinational tripled its revenue growth rate from 5 to 15%, growing to $5B while facing intense market competition. In each case, both employee and customer satisfaction reached new levels.

The keys to success can be found in Jim Heskett’s and John Kotter’s book Corporate Culture and Performance. First published more than 20 years ago, it provides great insights on how any leader in any company can build a culture of Chiefs.

Heskett and Kotter offer specific, research-based advice on how to create performance-enhancing, change-adaptive cultures where Chiefs lead at all levels. They focus on actions (discipline, support, and creativity) and attributes (insight and values) that unlock employee potential, drive innovation, and lead to sustained success:

10 Specific Ways to Build a Culture of Chiefs in Any Company

  • Establish a vision for the organization that emphasizes consistent tactical adjustments
  • Communicate consistently and broadly
  • Display an “outsiders” propensity to embrace change and new ideas
  • Reinforce the importance of innovation
  • Build and maintain an “insiders” credibility
  • Establish leadership or the ability to produce change as an important focus at all levels
  • Decentralize decision making where possible
  • Promote carefully, and demote when necessary
  • Operate as a servant leader

The bottom line: success comes from an engaged employee group in which individuals at every level are empowered to act as Chiefs. This culture can be created in any organization with the right attention and intention.

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A New Measure of Business Success

We are currently facing some of the most difficult global challenges in a generation: inclusion, recession, and depletion.

Inclusion: nearly three billion people will enter the global middle class in the next 20 years.
Recession: the global economy is still feeling the effects of the 2008 financial meltdown.
Depletion: the climate is warming, which is straining our resources and depleting nearly two-thirds of our ecosystems (e.g. soil, fish and forests).

But there is good news.

While these problems are escalating worldwide, there has been a growing movement in the business community toward “triple bottom line” solutions—those that focus on people, profit, and the planet. Triple bottom line solutions actually enable companies to solve customer problems while driving increased profitably and improving society.

Sound too good to be true?

There is an increasing body of research to support this claim. For example, R. Paul Herman’s Human Impact + Profit (HIP) methodology tracks, rates, and ranks companies’ quantifiable impact on society, connecting “doing well” with “doing good.” The research from Paul’s 8-year old company shows consistent improvements in results with triple bottom-line strategies. While Paul’s ground-breaking book The HIP Investor is targeted at current or prospective business owners, the HIP Scorecard is also a management system that shows how business leaders can benefit from doing the right thing, the right way.

Simplification is almost always a good idea, particularly when you are attempting to focus a large group to act on complex global challenges. Since research supports exponential returns with this approach, I offer this equation as the new measure of business success:

Responsibility3 = people + profit + planet

Want even better news?

There is a dramatic increase in the number of business leaders who are working together and taking a Responsibility3 focus. Networks of these enlightened leaders are quickly growing around the world, and they include small to medium sized companies (the American Sustainable Business Council has over 200,000 members) as well as some of the world’s largest companies (the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has over 170 multinational members). These networks also include more established groups that are adding Responsibility3 to their existing charters (the Young Presidents’ Organization has over 21,000 members worldwide). These groups are all focused on exponential vs. incremental change.

Building on this momentum, several of these powerful networks recently chose to align. As a result, the Business Alliance for the Future was formed. And while work is underway to determine how best to measure progress in all three areas, this alliance of networks has chosen as its motto: “The future of business is making the future its business.”

The bottom line: Business is increasingly taking responsibility for a truly sustainable future.

That’s really good news.

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A Grand Strategy—Five Questions

The following information is offered as a restatement of the ground-breaking work of Patrick C. Doherty, Director, and Col. Mark “Puck” Mykleby USMC (ret), Senior Fellow, both at the New America Foundation.

1. What is the reality of our current and growing challenges, including recession, depletion, inclusion, and resilience?

  • The U.S. macro-economy is in a deleveraging, not a cyclical, downturn. The spiral has been contained, not solved, by extraordinary federal intervention. Demand has shifted away from the Cold War-era, U.S. economic engine.
  • The climate is warming. Two-thirds of ecosystem services are being depleted (e.g., soil, fish, and forests). Three of nine planetary boundaries (carbon, nitrogen, and biodiversity loss) have been crossed.
  • Three billion people will be entering the global middle class in 20 years. Commodity prices are already at or near all-time highs. Access to energy, water, food, and minerals is driving conflicts between major economies.
  • Critical systems, supply chains, and infrastructure (bridges, roads, and energy grids) lack resilience. U.S. infrastructure is $2.2T in arrears.

2. Is there a Grand Strategy that could address all of these national and global issues, built on a foundation of historical research?

Yes. During both WWII and the Cold War, Washington shaped the economy to do the heavy lifting, out-producing the Axis and outperforming and outlasting the Soviets. These earlier versions of a Grand Strategy aligned our economic engine, governing institutions, and foreign policy to meet the global challenge of the era.

3. What would a modern Grand Strategy plan look like for both the sustainable economic engine and the required foreign policy focus to meet today’s challenges? It would:

  • Create new demand by focusing on mega-trends in communities, agriculture, and productivity.
  • Utilize record corporate cash reserves and other underperforming assets.
  • Leverage stranded human capital, infrastructure, and ecological assets.
  • Develop new global partnerships that facilitate regional economic blocs.
  • Assure security with consistent U.S. strategic behavior ensuring predictable regional economic transitions.

4. What could happen if the United States stepped up again with a Grand Strategy?

  • The U.S. economic house would be in order with widespread prosperity and public revenue.
  • U.S. interests would be aligned with major economies and partners.
  • A positive narrative of America’s role would restore global credibility.
  • Greater citizen participation and trust in government would return.
  • Price signals would reshape global markets toward sustainability.
  • Agile U.S. firms would receive early-adopter trade advantage.
  • Tensions over resources would be reduced.
  • Ecological depletion would slow.
  • Vulnerability to geopolitical disruption would lower.

5. Would you be interested in learning more?

For a video of Patrick and Puck sharing the central messages of their Grand Strategy, go to bit.ly/GrandStrategy. Patrick is scheduled to present the Grand Strategy in November at the SRI (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing) Conference. Or connect with either of these superstars at doherty@newamerica.net or mykleby@newamerica.net.

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Business Growth from the Inside Out with Mindfulness

Employee engagement is a constant struggle that seems to be getting worse. The New York Times described the problem, yet again, just last month in an opinion article on employee burnout. The article reports that Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor Srinivasan S. Pillay surveyed a random sample of 72 senior leaders and found that almost every one reported some signs of burnout. As workers worldwide are reporting that they “lack a fulfilling workplace,” companies have an opportunity to get a better return for their investment in human capital and drive growth.

As it turns out, employees are more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. According to the Times article, the more effectively leaders support employees in meeting these needs, the more likely employees will be to engage, be loyal and satisfied, and exhibit positive energy, increased productivity, and less stress at work.

The answer is right in front of you. Or more specifically, within you. When you take a mindful approach to business—that is, when you engage in mindfulness meditation practices that develop your ability to remain attentive to the present moment—your performance at work improves. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. It involves observing current experiences without judgment. Mindfulness allows you to more fully participate in the moment in which you find yourself. When you are in a mindful state, you are ready for anything. You respond rather than react. And you create more space in your mind for insight—where your best ideas come from.

Although mindfulness is a hot topic these days, it’s hardly new. Harvard Business School professor Bill George reports that the company he led as Chief (Medtronic) had a meditation room almost forty years ago, thanks to the vision of founder Earl Bakken. A major proponent of mindfulness meditation, George has been meditating himself since 1975. Two years ago we learned about the wildly successful Search Inside Yourself (S.I.Y.) mindfulness meditation course held at Google and taught by Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s 107th employee. Tan teaches emotional intelligence via a practical, real-world meditation that can be used anywhere. This practice encourages participants to be aware of feelings without acting on them as a way to more accurately understand one’s circumstances. Google clearly sees this investment as a valuable part of their growth strategy.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is responsible for much of the popularization of the secular practice of mindfulness through his mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program initiated in 1979. MBSR is the most widely studied mindfulness practice, although some would point even farther back to the groundbreaking work of Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote The Power of Positive Thinking back in 1952. Since that time, clinical studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general, and MBSR in particular. Programs based on MBSR and similar models have been widely adapted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans’ centers, and other environments. As relates to business, mindfulness meditation practices have been found to increase productivity and creativity as well as reduce burnout and increase growth.

In short, more businesses need to support mindfulness practices by employees. I view it as an effective investment in human capital that consistently delivers great returns. Chiefs at every level stand to benefit from this simple, yet profound practice.

For more information, you might enjoy:
Mindfulness is Spreading, But Here’s What’s Missing, Real Leaders
The Mindful Revolution, TIME magazine
Thrive, a book by Arianna Huffington

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Building Trust from the Inside Out

Building trust is central to building a great business. For companies to grow they need to earn the trust of their clients, partners, and the community at large. Unfortunately, many companies are failing to earn that trust, and confidence in business integrity is at an all time low. In fact, recent reports calculate that fewer than 26 percent of individuals have trust in the financial systems at the foundation of business.

Despite the downward trend in building and maintaining trust in business, there are plenty of examples of how to get it right. Warren Buffett made news recently when he and Charlie Munger revealed hiring trustworthy leaders is a central component of their growth strategy at Berkshire Hathaway (BH). Given the collective size, diversity, and success of their portfolio of companies, BH offers many company leaders a path worth following.

Buffett and Munger clearly understand the simple and powerful truth—trust is built from the inside out.

BH companies build a culture of trust among their employees who then extend that culture to clients, owners, and the community. Once hired, BH steps back and lets these trustworthy managers do their job. Working from the inside out, this approach is in stark contrast to many companies that “double-down” on centralized compliance measures that slow decision making and increase costs. All too often, centralized compliance strategies fail to produce cultures of trust and integrity. The lack of trust eventually extends to customers and the community at large.

On a daily basis, we see examples of ethics issues in business. Recently, the public learned that Snap Chat was dishonest to their customers about images saved on their servers. This latest example joins the growing number of ethics violations by financial companies, who now are paying record fines for illegal activity.

So what can business leaders do to build a culture of trust? In addition to hiring trustworthy people, leaders can take the following steps:

  • Set clear expectations and regularly reinforce integrity as the basis of all activities
  • Ensure proper and adequate training
  • Have zero tolerance for any activity “close to the line” on ethics
  • Include values in performance management tools
  • Align compensation plans with values

I believe Buffett and Munger’s success stems as much from who they are as what they do. Specifically, I believe they have developed a deep level of self-understanding that enables both leaders to build trusted relationships and set the tone that fosters trust in their companies.

In the book Building Trust, authors Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores offer an insightful view on what they call authentic trust. They assert that the ultimate question is not who to trust, but how to trust. They contend that the ability to trust comes from inside an individual.

To Solomon and Flores, trust is “an emotional skill, an active part of our lives that we can build and sustain with our commitments, emotions and integrity.” The key to building the capacity to trust, they say, comes with self-understanding.

So how can business leaders develop self-understanding to build a culture of trust? In my experience, this insight comes when we make five choices:

  • Be present and focused on the here and now
  • Be generous with others
  • Be grateful for the opportunities in front of you
  • Be accepting of the reality of what is
  • Be still and learn to listen to your own voice

Creating a culture of individual accountability—through the development of insight—is the key to rebuilding trust. When individuals throughout an organization are hired, recognized, trained, compensated to act ethically, and trusted with authority to make decisions that are connected to their values and who they are, they operate with an elevated level of intensity and commitment where speed and quality are the byproducts and growth is the result.

A culture of trust is the key to building a great business and it must be built from the inside out.

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Where to Look for Role Model Chiefs?

Where can Millennials look for role model leaders in business?

Last week CNBC released yet another list of top business influentials. Their list, the “First 25,” includes many Chiefs judged to have had the most profound impact on business and finance in the last 25 years. The top three positions on the list were held by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the executive team at Google. You might think this list would be a great place to look for role model Chiefs.

Ironically, at the very same time last week, many media outlets reported on a settlement between employees and Apple, Google, and two other Silicon Valley technology firms for the illegal restriction of movement of engineers between the firms. Emails directly linked Jobs and then Google CEO Eric Schmidt to the case. Clearly, the settlement will lessen the publicity that Apple, Google, and the two other firms would have received had the litigation gone to trial. Reports of ethics violations among companies viewed as today’s most admired are not the type of visibility that these companies want, but they can teach us something.

It strikes me how much the media influences our collective view of “good” and “bad” Chiefs and how very little we really know about the people who make headlines. We rely on others for information to build impressions and views about people based on what little we read. At a time when confidence in business to do the right thing is low, particularly on Wall Street, we need to Millennials to help reestablish the trust that has been lost. Business schools are increasing their focus on ethics, but Millennials still need role models to follow.

For example, while I do not know Bill Gates personally, there is no doubt his success at Microsoft and his subsequent philanthropic focus with his foundation cause me to believe he is a true role model. But his life and choices may be difficult to follow for most people.

The question remains: where can Millennials look for role model leaders in business? The answer is closer than you may think.

In my experience, the best role models are people I live and work with on a daily basis. They are the people I encounter who are disciplined, supportive, creative, and insightful. Their values shine through their actions and words. These real Chiefs teach me to act with honesty and integrity, and to work hard to connect what I do to who I am. They teach me to serve others and create fully while always using my values as my best compass. They may not have Chief titles, but they are every bit Chiefs by my definition.

Millennials need not look too far for the right role models. Often, the most influential people in our lives are the ones we truly know and not the ones we think we know based on what we’ve read or what we’ve heard.

Lists are fun, but when it comes down to it, there is so much we don’t know about the people we find in these lists. Given this limitation, we must be thoughtful about whom we choose to emulate. Admiration might best be saved for those we truly know. Perhaps we can turn our focus to the real Chiefs among us common folk. Who are the Chiefs in your life, and when was the last time you let them know it?

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Companies without HR—A Big Mistake

Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Is It a Dream or a Drag? Companies without HR.” Authors Lauren Weber and Rachel Feintzeig describe companies that attempted to operate without traditional human resource departments under the assumption that good people management should be everyone’s job. They conclude the idea is a big mistake.

The article highlights the experiences of consulting firm LRN Corp., landscaping company Ruppert Landscape Inc., Outback Steakhouse, and marketing agency Klick Health. For different reasons, after attempting to go HR-less, three of the four highlighted companies added back employees to focus on people issues. I was not surprised.

In my view, a good HR department is a critical asset in any organization because its sole focus is on human capital—the number one issue CEOs face around the world, according to a recent survey released by The Conference Board. An investment in human capital (as opposed to financial capital) often yields the best return for an organization.

I have consistently witnessed million and billion dollar organizations triple their growth rates by focusing on critical HR issues like recruiting, performance management, compensation, recognition, and communication. In one case, by placing much of our attention on these areas, I had the opportunity to work with a team who tripled the growth rate of a $3B organization, growing from 5% to 15% and holding that growth rate for three years. I can tell you first hand, strong HR departments are critical to growth.

The WSJ authors highlight another big reason why eliminating HR departments is a bad idea. Subject matter expert Steve Miranda sums it up by saying, “Whenever you consider eliminating portions of HR you have to think of the financial risk, [and] the strategic risk.” There is no doubt companies increase risk when traditional HR support for employees is cut. Examples cited in the article include exposure to lawsuits, inability to attract employees with needed skill sets, mediating employee disputes, and increasing the cost of effectively handling a workforce.

Companies want to cut costs, and they want their leaders to be more involved with their people—I get that. Both of these opportunities can be addressed while maintaining an HR presence. Tactical HR functions like benefits and payroll administration might very well be outsourced, but strategic HR functions must be retained.

HR can also be held accountable for key leading indicator metrics around recruiting and productivity. The business of business is measured by numbers—a successful HR department will need to be measured. In his book The New Human Capital Strategy, author Bradley Hall describes the award winning metrics based approach we implemented at AT&T in 1999.

Finally, I must admit my own bias. My Dad chose a career in personnel, a precursor to human resources and organizational development (OD).

At the kitchen table growing up I heard stories of how his group provided invaluable services to a mid-size machine tool manufacturer, bridging the needs of management and the workforce. Beyond ensuring a safe environment, Dad’s group enabled success by bringing skills in recruiting, training, performance management, recognition, comp and benefits, and employee development.

Companies without HR are making a mistake. Doubling down on a well-funded and strategic HR department is the way to go. That’s what Dad taught me.

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The World’s Greatest Leaders

We love lists. There is something about a top 10 or a top 50 list that draws us in. On Fortune magazine’s recently released list, The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, we find individuals with experience in business, government, religion, philanthropy, acting, education, sports, and activism. A majority are well known and all have made (according to Fortune) meaningful contributions to society.

Like many others, I enjoy reading these types of lists to learn and be inspired. At the same time, I like to use these lists as an impetus to develop my own list of great leaders, made up of individuals who I know personally. I use that list to make sure I let each and every one of them know how I admire them for what they do and who they are.

What do all truly great leaders haven common? They serve others naturally as they connect what they do to who they are. I refer to these leaders as Chiefs. With or without the title, real Chiefs take three steps:

  1. They choose what they do: Real Chiefs consistently act as servants, they act with disciple through hard work, and they act to create the future.
  2. They understand who they are: Real Chiefs demonstrate their values by building insight. They are present and focused on the moment at hand, accepting of the world as it is, grateful for all they have in their lives, generous with others, and they are able to be still long enough to hear their own voice.
  3. They connect what they do with who they are: Real Chiefs are powerful in a way that has nothing to do with their position. Real Chiefs are powerful because they connect what they do to who they are. Have you ever been so involved in a project that you lost all sense of time? Have you felt “in the zone”? Real Chiefs operate in this way on a regular basis.

Of the amazing leaders highlighted in Fortune’s top 50 list, two leaders stand out to me. They are both without fancy titles or large organizations to run, and yet they are true leaders in every sense of the word. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani women’s rights and education activist who began standing up to the Taliban at the tender age of 11, has inspired a worldwide movement to educate children and has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. While less known, Tetiana Chornovol is a Ukranian journalist and civic activist who was severely beaten for her investigative reporting on Ukranian corruption. She is a true hero.

These two women connect who they are with what they do every single day. They are real Chiefs. Chiefs are all around us—in business, education, religion, and right next door. What it takes to be Chief is not who you know or even what you know. It’s who you are—and then what you do with it.

I encourage you to create your own list of Chiefs and let them know how much you appreciate what they do, how they do it, and who they are.

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The Inclusion Manifesto

Last week 50 leaders of business associations and related affiliations assembled with the expressed intent to amplify, enhance, coordinate, and accelerate world-changing initiatives already occurring throughout the business community.

Held March 17–19 in Santa Barbara, the event was sponsored by the World Business Academy and driven by the leadership team at The Praemia Group—most notably, Steering Committee leader Vince DiBianca. Together, we agreed “the future of business is making the future its business.”

The 50 members of this initial meeting of the Business Alliance for the Future (#BizAlliance4Future) share a common conviction: It is time for a defining moment in business leadership wherein the business community steps up its responsibility and actions to create what facilitator David Cooperrider calls “a full spectrum economy” where businesses can excel, people can thrive, and nature can flourish.

A significant contribution was made by Patrick Doherty, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, who shared his breakthrough work, “A New U.S. Grand Strategy.” Doherty’s presentation set the stage for focused and coordinated conversation, collaboration, and action as we explored ways to leverage the work each organization is already doing.

As part of our work together, we drafted what was termed The Inclusion Manifesto to clearly state our intention to ensure focus on, and participation by, all groups. The Inclusion Manifesto draft is offered below for comment followed by a list of associations involved.

Thanks to the leaders who participated. We are excited to now expand the team!

The Inclusion Manifesto

“Critical challenges collide in the 21st century that include global climate change, economic dislocation, exploding populations, increasing income disparity, and persistent poverty for billions. Unenlightened business practices are at the heart of the challenges. Only new business understanding and practice can help us confront them.

The most significant source of underutilized capital and excess liquidity in the global economy consists of human beings—women, marginalized ethnic groups, the economically disadvantaged, and the population of the developing world. The most powerful driver of balanced, sustainable economic development will be the full inclusion of the human community in all its diversity in the leadership and management of business in our deeply interconnected and integrated world.

We call upon business leaders, governments, and civil society to demand and expect the full inclusion of those who are today marginalized and excluded. We will create the healthy, successful, sustainable businesses and communities of tomorrow by beginning to model those inclusive institutions in every startup, in every global corporation, in every small business, in every country today.

We will tell a new story of the power of inclusion. We will publically recognize the powerful examples of organizations that model inclusive behavior. We will demand that those currently excluded are included in decision-making bodies at every level of corporate life and consistent with their representation in any company’s community of stakeholders. We will transform our world through inclusion.”

Represented Business Associations

American Sustainable Business Council
Aspen Institute
B Team
Business as an Agent of World Benefit/Fowler Center for Sustainable Values
Business for Social Responsibility
Charter for Compassion International
Clinton Foundation
Conscious Capitalism, Inc.
Emerging Changemakers Network
Esalen Institute
Fair Trade USA
Founding Family
Future 500
Great Work Cultures Big Tent Initiatives
Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
Move to Amend
National Association of Women Business Owners
Net Impact
New America Foundation
1% for the Planet
Opportunity Collaboration
Pachamama Alliance
Socially Responsible Investors
Social Venture Network
The Philanthropic Initiative
Transitioning to Green
World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (FCEM)
World Business Academy
Young Presidents’ Organization

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Men Need to Lean In Too

I am a fan of Sheryl Sandberg’s best seller Lean In. Specifically, the counsel she offers women to help them take charge of their lives is compelling. Sandberg speaks of the struggle for equal pay, equal treatment, and equal voice in the workplace and she provides specific advice to help women come into their rightful leadership roles with more confidence. In my view, however, the book is just as valuable to men as it is to women. I believe if more men read the book they will not only better understand the institutional challenges facing women—and to work to level the playing field because it’s the right thing to do—but they will also benefit personally from many of Sandberg’s insightful suggestions.

Among the many great ideas offered, the following stand out for me:

  • Acknowledge self-doubt and realize at times you may need to fake it to make it
  • Understand the relationship between likeability and success
  • Learn to withstand criticism
  • Build mutually supportive relationships in and outside work
  • Practice self-advocacy
  • Look for mentors by first being a great mentee, and mentor others
  • Bring your whole self to work
  • Learn to really listen
  • Be a role model of integrity in everything you are and do
  • Utilize “nudge techniques” to bring about important changes

The only area where I might differ from Ms. Sandberg’s hypothesis is in her assertion that “Having it all is a myth.” I

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prefer the view offered by Dr. Arlene Cardozo in her 1986 book Sequencing in which she asserts “you can have it all, but not all at once.” In this area, to Sandberg’s credit, she offers sage counsel in the chapter “Don’t leave before you leave.” Her message: Be all-in, and give it 100% every day you are at work. This is true for women and men.

Personally, I chose to leave the rigors of corporate life for a period when my oldest son entered high school with my daughter two years behind. I stepped off the ladder during several prime earning years knowing that my heavy workload had impacted family time during their early years. I knew that once college started I would not have the opportunity for a different level of family connection again. In this way, I was able to have it all, just not all at once.

In my view, Sandberg’s Lean In offers excellent advice to women and men. I think that if more people utilize her advice, both women and men will benefit.

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A Business Alliance for the Future

Do business leaders get it? Do they understand the critical role business must play to address today’s biggest challenges, including melting glaciers, widening income disparity, disappearing rainforests, and the global economic crisis? My answer to these questions is yes, and I’d like to share some good news.

Specifically, there are a number of business associations working for positive change in the business realm. These organizations are adding members regularly and are working to promote a future in which success is defined in terms of the triple bottom line—people, profits, and the planet.

Representing a full range of companies from startups to multinationals, these associations are supporting and sponsoring a change in how business decisions are made. They view the impact on society and the environment as equal to that of financial gains and are creating a paradigm shift for business as we know it.

Next month, on March 17–19 in Santa Barbara, 50 leaders from 26 of these organizations along with four global outreach groups are meeting together for the first time at a summit to find ways to better leverage their individual work with the understanding that business needs to be the driver of positive change in the world.

As a participant in this first-of-its-kind summit, I’d like to acknowledge the following organizations (and members) for their important work to date and their foresight to join forces to accelerate change. I urge anyone reading this blog to familiarize yourself with these powerful teams and to determine where you could add your voice to create a more positive future.

This influential group

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of business associations is taking an All-In approach, integrating discipline and support with creativity and insight, all rooted in a firm foundation of values. For true sustainability in business, I believe this is the only way forward.

More to follow…

Business Associations
American Sustainable Business Council
Aspen Institute
B Team
Business Alliance for Local Living Economies
Business as an Agent of World Benefit
Business for Social Responsibility
Charter for Compassion International
Conscious Capitalism, Inc.
Emerging Changemakers Network
Esalen Institute
Fair Trade USA
Future 500
Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative
Great Work Cultures Big Tent Initiatives
Green Biz Group, Inc.
Institute for Sustainable Enterprise
Net Impact
New America Foundation
Opportunity Collaboration
Socially Responsible Investors
Social Venture Network
Transitioning to Green
World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (FCEM)
World Business Academy
World Business Council for Stainable Development (USA)
Young Presidents’ Organization

Global Affiliations / Service Organizations / Outreach
Clinton Foundation
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Unconventional Values

“It’s just business” is a phrase I have heard many people use in my professional career. For me, this phrase has become a red flag. In my experience, more often than not the individual using this phrase is signaling their choice to separate personal and professional values, a practice I believe has a broad and negative impact.

The good news is that there is a seemingly endless list of positive values that individuals demonstrate most comfortably in their personal lives. These include, but are certainly not limited to, authenticity, compassion, honesty, kindness, service, and trust. When asked, most people will say they live their values outside the confines of familiar territory. The bad news is that too often human behavior tells another story.

Too many of us make very different choices when in unfamiliar surroundings or when dealing with unfamiliar people. To maintain self-esteem, we become good at rationalization. One bad decision leads to another and soon we find that our actions contradict our values. I do not believe that the majority of bad decisions start with people who wanted to do evil, as the growing number of white-collar crimes might suggest. Instead, I believe many of these individuals merely started down the slippery slope of believing “it’s just business.”

We need more among us to act in a clear and consistent manner so that our values are never in question because they are apparent in all that we do. When our values are what get us out of bed in the morning and what help us sleep at night, everything about what we do, the people we connect to, and our relationship with ourselves will change. I have worked with many clients who have chosen to let their values lead their actions, and their results show it. To accomplish this level of alignment, there are several choices we must make.

First, we need to take time to consciously reflect on and become clear about the values that hold the most importance to us.

Second, we need to become far more comfortable talking about and displaying our values so they are clear to others. I recommend actively talking to others about our values—as opposed to keeping them to ourselves—as a way of reinforcing the important foundation our values play in all that we do. The unconventional practice of beginning each task, project, conversation, or transaction by first checking in with our values will continually raise the bar at all the right times.

Many notable and successful organizations have made the visibility of their values a top priority. Whole Foods prominently posts their values in each store. Zappos displays them on delivery packages. In business, we need to be sure that our values are not only prominently displayed on the wall, but that they are also included on the agenda—every single day.

Third, we need to practice carrying out our values in our day-to-day lives and to reinforce that behavior in others when we see it.

Our values must form the foundation of everything that we do in order for us to be effective and successful both personally and in business. When we are strongly rooted in our values, and when we make that commitment apparent to others, our positive impact in the world multiplies. When it becomes conventional for businesses and individuals to both more visibly talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to their values, we’ll all be better off.

This is the fifth of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Discipline
Unconventional Support
Unconventional Creativity
Unconventional Insight

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Unconventional Insight

It seems as if every media outlet these days is offering an article, blog, book, or talk on happiness. Virtually everyone has a view on the formula for bliss. Most provide conventional advice for what you can do to increase the probability of true contentment and success. Fewer emphasize the critical connection between what you do and who you choose to be. Very few offer a roadmap to help you on the important life journey of self-knowing, or insight. Respectfully, I offer the view that both individuals and groups will be happier when this form of unconventional insight becomes the norm.

In my experience, there are five powerful ways for you to increase your insight.

Be present – When you are totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn the most possible in the current moment. Try to maintain your total focus on the tasks at hand and enjoy the quality of experience that results when you are not thinking about the past nor focused on the future. Your ability to be totally attentive and in the moment energizes any activity you choose to focus on, including building your self-awareness.

Be accepting – When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change people and/or change the past. When you accept the past, as well as remain open to circumstances and people, you open yourself to the possibilities of learning from all situations and from every individual.

Be still – Contrary to many Western cultural norms, perhaps your most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that come with the inner balance of being still. With all the noise that surrounds you regularly, you have the wonderful opportunity to find a quiet place to listen to the voice that matters most—your own. Your ability to develop trust and confidence in your own voice will offer the greatest potential to learn who you truly are.

Be generous – When you choose to be charitable with your possessions, your money, and your time, you will experience a powerful inner peace. By achieving the important balance between giving and receiving, you eliminate much of the possibility of arrogance, and you will remain genuinely and truly humble. Humility will help you remain open to a greater understanding of who you are.

Be grateful – It is easy to be grateful when things are going well. It takes inner strength and composure to remain grateful when facing one of life’s difficult periods. You have the choice to remain appreciative of the opportunity to learn lessons from the challenges you are asked to face. By doing so, your experience can be transformed and you will learn more about your true self, which will bring about happiness.

What is perhaps most unconventional about this approach to insight is the progressive combination of these individually important attributes, each of which is a choice you can make. By choosing to be increasingly more present, accepting, still, generous, and grateful on a regular basis, you will heighten your understanding of yourself and tap into a deeper meaning of happiness that is unshakable.

This is the fourth of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Discipline
Unconventional Support
Unconventional Creativity
Unconventional Values

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Unconventional Creativity

The concept of creativity is often connected to innovation and imagination, or the ability to construct a new form or mental picture. This gift of creativity is bestowed on a limited few. And while businesses benefit greatly from the talents of those extraordinary individuals who consistently demonstrate an ability to think of new things, companies also benefit greatly when a more unconventional type of creativity is practiced. The good news is, this powerful form of creativity can be learned.

Unconventional creativity is actually based on the root word create and is defined as the ability to manifest the future. Unconventional creativity offers every individual in your organization a powerful tool to dramatically increase the probability of your company’s success.

Creativity can be internal and/or external. Internal creativity occurs when an individual thinks and feels. External creativity occurs when a person speaks, writes or acts. Here is more on these four powerful ways to practice unconventional creativity:

Inside out – Feelings provide a great window into your unique and personal truth. Your feelings are expressed through an accurate personal barometer—your body. Your body does not mislead you. When you choose to trust your instincts, intuition, and “gut feelings,” you learn that you are perceptive. When you choose to listen to your sixth sense, you align the creative process with your personal truth. Decision making is an everyday occurrence in business, and often involves a precise and measured method. But failing to take into account your gut feeling on decisions—especially big ones—is a mistake.

Also part of inside-out creativity, active thinking is the conscious awareness of the creative process. You can choose to manage your thoughts. You have the ability to change negative patterns when you first become aware of them. Train yourself to use optimistic future scenarios, while focusing on the positive nature of what is happening now, to build energy that can help you create your future and the future of your organization.

Speak your mind – Spoken words have inspired and incited. Speeches have always been an effective tool to influence people. Relationships can be strengthened or weakened based on the care used with the spoken word. Choose to select your words carefully, acknowledging the energy behind the important practice of verbal communication and the impact words have on the future you are creating.

Power of the pen – People have long understood the power of the pen as a creative force to influence others. The energy created by the written word to influence others, and its impact on life, is indisputable. Examples include the Tao Te Ching, the Koran, and the Bible. Your written word, whether email, memo, or a formal report, has the power to determine the direction of your future. Less well understood is the power of the written word to positively influence your own behavior and to create your own future. When you write your goals, you increase the probability of reaching those goals with the energy created by writing them. Similarly, when you write your fears and concerns, you release the hold those negative emotions can have.

Fake it ‘til you make it – How you act offers the most visible form of creation. Conscious action often builds on the feelings, thoughts, speech, and written energy that precede it. You are held accountable for your actions more than you are for the other forms of your ability to create. Action is powerful. When you are having trouble creating the future you want, you can choose to simply act the part and the feelings, thoughts, and words will follow. Do you know people who seem to have “tailwinds” that help move them along in everything they do? When you act in a fashion synchronized with who you truly are, you will find that things seem to happen more easily for you, too.

Author Frank Outlaw offers a reminder of the interconnectedness of these powerful creativity tools with a powerful poem:

Watch your thoughts they become your words,
Watch your words they become your actions,
Watch your actions they become your habits,
Watch your habits they become your character,
Watch your character it will become your destiny.

In summary, you are a Chief when you use your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions—each in alignment with the others—to create a new path forward, which will be recognized by others for its congruence and its vision. As a Chief with this kind of vision, you will be a true leader. The power in this type of nonconventional creativity cannot be understated. Every person in your organization can use this type of creativity to manifest a better future for your company.

This is the third of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Discipline
Unconventional Support
Unconventional Insight
Unconventional Values

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Unconventional Support

Support can increase the probability that an individual will contribute to the success of a group at her/his full potential. Webster’s Dictionary defines support as, “the act of showing that you approve by doing something; or to give help or assistance to.” Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work for and observe companies that took their role of supporting employees very seriously, and others that seemingly ignored all but basic support. It was no surprise that the results produced by these organizations seemed to be directly tied to their approach to support—the better the support the stronger the results. The key question now is whether those companies that offer traditional support are doing enough to meet today’s challenges? I believe the answer is no.

Traditionally, companies would offer employees a wide range of support beyond simple compensation. These included health insurance, retirement programs, savings programs, life insurance, vacation, and many forms of family support. In addition, many companies would provide support for employees to expand their skill sets both with company-sponsored training and tuition assistance for outside education.

In light of today’s dynamic business pressures, many companies are cutting back on support in the belief that belt tightening is in the organization’s best interest. Beyond questioning the failed logic of this assumption, I suggest four best practices of unconventional support that have been proven to help organizations succeed.

Meet the market – Companies that will succeed in the future are those that maintain a focus on market-based pay information as seriously as they focus on market shifts with customers—and pay at market rates. Your business success will be linked to the quality of your people. You can’t hide talent. With increased market transparency, you can bet that if you aren’t paying at market, your best employees will know about it.

Set people up – Encourage managers to take a more aggressive position in setting people up for success. In larger organizations, recognize managers who consistently enable members of their team to get promoted. Encourage co-creation of development plans that will ensure your employees have the skills they need to succeed. Remove obstacles that inhibit performance. Listen to your workforce—you’ll learn valuable information.

Supersize recognition – You can’t do enough, formally and informally, to recognize those people who excel. People feed off recognition. Both formal programs that publicly recognize performance (and, likewise, programs that recognize lack of performance) and informal efforts to recognize the day-to-day efforts of your team members will go a long way to building a cohesive and responsive team.

Create a retention problem – Announce that you co-own the challenge of increasing the value of each employee in your company. Tell people that your goal is to work with them to increase their marketability, and that you are willing to step up to create such a great environment that it will be undesirable for them to leave.

Unlocking employee potential is the biggest challenge facing companies today. Proper support is the key enabler. I’ve given you a starter set of nonconventional ideas to implement support, but there are many more practices that can help move this ball forward. Please share any ideas you have about support success strategies.

Thanks!

This is the second of a series of five blogs about the All-In Roadmap elements:

Unconventional Discipline
Unconventional Creativity
Unconventional Insight
Unconventional Values

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