Conscious Capitalism

I have been watching a movement develop over recent years called ‘conscious capitalism’ or ‘conscious business’.  It provides a different take on what it means to be a ‘social enterprise’.  The idea is being pioneered by amongst others, John Mackey, CEO of Wholefoods Supermarket.  In a recent speech he says:

A Conscious Business is one which has two major attributes that define it:

  1. It has a deeper purpose beyond only making profits. Just like individual people by following their hearts can discover their own sense of deeper purpose, so can the business enterprise. I believe that great businesses have great purposes that inspire them to higher levels of success. Think for a moment about some of the greatest businesses in the world and ask yourself whether they exist to fulfill a greater purpose beyond only maximizing profits. Certainly Apple does, driven by its intense desire to create “insanely great” technology which transforms our lives in positive ways. Clearly Google does too with its passion for discovery and desire to operate an ethical company. One of the best examples in the world is Grameen Bank in Bangladesh founded by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus, which exists to end poverty in Bangladesh and throughout the world. Every business has the potential to discover and actualize its higher purpose—it has the potential to become more conscious.
  2. The Conscious Business also understands the interdependency of all of the major stakeholder groups—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, and the environment—and the business is managed to consciously create value for all of these major stakeholders. Instead of viewing the stakeholders in terms of win-lose relationships with conflicts of interest dominating their interactions, the Conscious Business understands that there is a harmony of interests between the stakeholder groups and that by working together greater value can be created for all of them. At Whole Foods we understand that management’s most important job is to make sure the team members are well trained and happy at their work. The team members in turn understand that their job is to satisfy and delight the customers and happy customers result in happy investors through the prosperity of the business. A virtuous circle is created with all of the stakeholders flourishing together.

Who will create the Conscious Businesses of the 21st century—businesses that have deeper purpose and are managed consciously to create value on behalf of all of the stakeholders?

John Mackey, May 2008

This feels to me like a much more coherent, honest and powerful approach to making business work for the planet than cleaving it along  ‘social enterprise = good; for profit = bad’ divide.

Of course words are relatively easy (although John Mackey has found that words have got him into lots of how water in the past.  We have to judge the movement by its achievements.  But I am hopeful.

You can read a much fuller paper by John Mackey called ‘Conscious Capitalism’ here.

18 tips for Better Partnership Working

I have just completed a 2 day workshop with a great group of partnership managers.  Here is what I learned!

  1. Get really clear and comfortable about your self interest. Your personal  reaction to the opportunities and possibilities offered in your role.
  2. Communicate this powerfully in language that the recipient will understand and value.
  3. Develop your professional self interest – the overlap between your individual/personal and professional/organisational response to what REALLY matters.
  4. Build your power to influence what really matters through investing in person to person relationships. Invest in a series of 121s. Share what really matters to you. Be clear on how they will perceive you.
  5. Use the allies/opponents/adversaries/fencesitters/bedfellows model to help you structure this.
  6. Become power hungry (why wouldn’t you want power to make what you believe in happen? Don’t leave power for the bad guys of this world to grab!)
  7. Building a powerful coalition around your ideas inside the business is as important as building one externally.
  8. Know your reputation – find ways to find what people REALLY think of you and your agenda – but are too polite to say!
  9. Don’t be busy fools. Work on the most powerful relationships. That is the relationships that give you the most power – this has little or nothing to do with the ‘authority’ power of the other party. Think leverage. Think goals.
  10. Think ‘enlightened self interest‘  and here.
  11. Ring fence thinking time – 2 lots of 90 minutes a week – to develop your agenda – rather than respond to the needs and agendas of others. This will increase your sense of control and reduce your levels of stress – as well as making you much more effective and creative. GUARANTEED.
  12. Agree on the ends.   Be different, challenging, creative and risky when it comes to the means. You don’t always have to play by the rules. Think Mandela.
  13. If you play by the rules of bureaucracy it will find ways of stifling change.
  14. Don’t let years of socialisation in being helpful and humble result in you being a selfless partner. Nobody wants to partner with Uriah Heep – but they may just take everything you have.
  15. Resist the safety of bureaucracy – maintenance, safety, dependency (external locus of control).
  16. Pursue the entrepreneurial way – greatness, courage and autonomy (internal locus of control).
  17. Don’t waste too much time and energy on the difficult people. Invest it in those who share your self interest – life is just better that way.
  18. Always take your own chalk and be cautious in your selection of cues….(this is not a mystical metaphor – just a statement of fact).

Anything I have missed?

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung

Management Lessons from Frazer Irving

Had the privilege of attending my first Creative Networks event at Leeds College of Art.  Frazer Irving – a wonderful illustrator talked about his career – from which I took the following:

  1. the seeds of your future are often sown early
  2. just because it sells does not mean it is good – heroin is not better than tofu – even if it does shift more units
  3. provoke, invoke, evoke
  4. 5 years of crappy jobs and being on the dole – being on the dole were the ‘happy days’
  5. ideas burning on the inside
  6. managers/editors can leave you with tears streaming down your face and your soul ripped out and thrown on the floor
  7. the bad times provide the fuel and drive to allow the good
  8. an incessant streak of optimism helps – on being rejected by judges in a portrait competition Frazer chose to believe it was because he wasn’t important – although it might have been because I wasn’t very good
  9. it takes a lot of time, training, passion and life experience to really master your subject
  10. great technology combined with great passion and skills produce remarkable, beautiful and important results
  11. sometimes you need someone to say ‘chin up – you will be alright’
  12. sometimes when your art is ripped off it gets you great new gigs – life-changing breaks…
  13. be a slave to the muse – let the story dictate the style
  14. it is really about finding out who you are and what you can become
  15. treat me as a ‘pencil monkey’ and you will get mediocrity
  16. in the comic world a lot of bad product is there because of poor management – comics and every other industry on the planet – management is perfectly evolved to get the results it gets
  17. if it is bad it is (nearly always) because the managers/editors have put the wrong people on the job
  18. if you have recruited the wrong people then forcing them to compromise WILL lead to mediocrity
  19. recruit great talent carefully and then trust it do deliver on its own terms – not yours
  20. when your hobby becomes your job – you get another hobby
  21. musicians jam and sometimes the results are great – what is the jamming equivalent for you?
  22. be careful about your reputation – one person saying you migh tnot hit a deadline in a public forum can be a killer
  23. sometimes it is best not to claim the credit for all your ideas
  24. it really is full of ups and downs – but you come out of the downs with even more resources – psychological and technical if not financial

This was a great networking event – convival atmosphere – great facilities – good food – great speakers and good managment.

If only all networking opportunities were this good!

Are you Getting the Gifts?

Initiative, creativity and passion are gifts.

They are benefactions that employees choose, day by day and moment by moment, to give or withhold.

They cannot be commanded.

Gary Hamel – The Future of Management

Nor can they be bought.

You can’t get these gifts from employees by challenging them to work harder.

Nor by exhorting them to ‘beat the competition’ or ‘care for the customers’.

You will only get these gifts from employees when you give them a purpose that merits their best.

Using the Right and Left Brain at Work

Most organisations are designed to maximise the contribution of employees left brains to the pursuit of success. Targets are set, plans are laid, logic is deployed, progress is measured and accountability is maintained. Such ‘left brain’ activities fit nicely the milieu of meetings, time pressures, deadlines and procedures that form the social system of most organisations.

However most of us choose an employer based on ‘right brain’ criteria in pursuit of ‘right brain’ goals.

  • Will the work be fulfilling?
  • Will I part of a great team?
  • Will my efforts help to make the world a better place?
  • Will the job give me a lifestyle that works for me?

It is the ‘right brain’ that is the seat of creativity, imagination, innovation and passion. Unless we build a social system that feeds, stimulates and enables right brain contributions we should continue to expect as many as 1 in 4 of our employees to be looking to leave in the next 12 months, while 2 of the remaining three will be in survival (‘count the years, months and days until I retire’) mode.

Take a quick audit of your social system (meetings, processes and procedures) at work. How many opportunities in the average week are there for meaningful ‘right brain’ conversations that are likely to lead to the successful pursuit of right brain goals?

Of course it is easy for our left brains to rationalise away this paucity of ‘right brain’ opportunity in the name of efficiency and the pursuit of effectiveness. To overcome this tendency just remind your left brain of the critical importance of enabling good people to do great work, and of the need for frequent and regular innovation and renewal, if your organisation is to survive never mind thrive in the next few years.

You may find that it gives your right brain just enough time and space to do some big picture thinking.

Building the Social System for High Performance

Whenever you see an organisation doing something consistently well, you can be sure that there is an effective social system behind it. The social system is made up of both a hard and a soft landscape. The hard landscape is that of meetings, information flows and decision making processes. The soft landscape is to do with behaviours, attitudes, values, respect and commitment.

Effective managers recognise their role in developing both the hard and soft landscapes of the social system – but recognise that it is the soft landscape – the way people and teams work together that really drives culture and performance.

When trying to initiate change, less effective managers work on the hard landscape. They change the organisational structure, replace key people or alter what is measured and rewarded. While such changes maybe necessary, they are NEVER sufficient.

It is the interactions between people that need to be changed, the information flows and the decision making processes. If people are not having the right discussions or behaving in ways that drive values and performance then the managers’ job is to influence them to adopt different ‘value creating’ behaviours.

In most cases this can be done using feedback. In other cases it may require more concerted efforts at coaching for the desired behaviours.

Recognising and shaping the behaviours that drive values and performance is the hallmark of an outstanding manager.

The social system changes and enables the organisation to perform consistently well because managers use mechanisms that ensure that the right conversations happen consistently and frequently. These conversations improve the quality of decision making and encourage behaviours in people’s every day work to accomplish the elusive goal of culture change.

Get rid of managers and we’ll all be happier

This is the title of a provocative post over at Management Issues.

Rather than adding value to their organisations, two thirds of British managers actually create negative working climates that leave employees feeling resentful and frustrated.

Research by Hay Consultancy has shown that a fifth of UK workers are frustrated in their jobs, with rigid bureaucracy and poor management structures and systems hampering innovation and productivity.

Half of workers believed they did not have the authority to make decisions crucial to their jobs, with the same proportion complaining of being discouraged from participating in decisions that directly affected their work.

Managers were failing to design jobs in such a way as to capitalise on the talents of their workers, Hay also argued.

More than a third of the workers polled believed their job did not make best use of their skills and abilities.

The study of more than 3,100 leaders across 12 industries found that close to half of the managers were creating demotivating climates for employees, while a further 15 per cent generated only a neutral environment.

Good managers who really add value (in the eyes of their employers and their team members) are few and far between.  Just a quarter of managers were able to create a high-performance climate, according to employees, and only an additional fifth managed to generate a ‘moderately energising’ working atmosphere.

But while the findings do not surprise me the headline (Get rid of managers and we’ll all be happier) does.

Getting rid of managers is not the answer.  Managing their failure to perform is.  In my experience if we manage managers well – tackle management under performance – and make sure that they manage effectively using feedback, coaching and delegation it is possible to quickly build a management culture that promotes high performance.