Here we are at the beginning of 2019. In this week’s article, I’ll synthesize what I believe are the key conclusions from over 200 interviews with CEOs since our first interview over three years ago. In particular, I’ll discuss what we’ve learned from 2018 and what you can expect in the coming year. And, for anyone coming to CEO Exclusive newly, I’ll catch you up on what I think you should know.
From the beginning, we have been interviewing mid-market CEOs—that hasn’t changed. We also continue to focus on covering trends that you bring to us, showcasing mid-market innovation and thought leadership. What’s been evolving on CEO Exclusive is our focus on culture and the relationships that make businesses thrive.
In 2017, we were introduced to Conscious Capitalism as a megatrend for us to follow. Last year, we were privileged to interview numerous luminaries and leaders in this movement, which promotes using business as a platform for good in the world. And, I was surprised and delighted to find that CEO Exclusive has been in the middle of this conversation all along—we just didn’t know it. Our voice inside this discourse is maturing and taking on a life of its own. What follows are my three takeaways from 2018.
Eat Your Own Chili
The purpose movement and conscious capitalism have been topics on CEO Exclusive for over two years. Since I’ve been talking about everyone else’s higher purpose, it’s time to eat my own chili.
Here’s my higher purpose statement: I see a world where everyone’s hearts, minds, bellies, and wallets are full. To my mind, business and mid-market companies are the vehicle through which this objective can be accomplished. Everyone’s needs get met—not just physical needs, but mental, spiritual, social, and emotional. All needs met everywhere. Where there’s a need, there’s a business. Where there’s a business, there are jobs. One outcome of our work is that all capitalism becomes conscious. A second is that there’s abundant, dignified, and desirable work for every person on planet earth.
CEO Exclusive promotes this way of thinking and operating. It is a tool for evangelism. It helps get CEOs to adopt. The show and articles are places to explore and deepen the discourse. We’re trying to get everybody in the world talking about conscious capitalism, conscious principles, and running their businesses this way. Conscious Capitalism, INC (the non-profit), GoBeyond Profit, and like-minded entities are strategic partners in moving this belief system into the larger business community.
Go Beyond Black and White Thinking
An important outcome of continued discussion of conscious capitalism on CEO Exclusive is education of our audience. I’d like for regular listeners to develop understanding and proficiency with the concepts to the point where they are using them with increasing levels of effectiveness in their businesses. In this regard, one important lesson from 2018 is the importance of going beyond binary thinking. What does binary mean in this context? It means speaking and casting these ideas in black and white terms—either you are or you aren’t. You are member or you’re not a member. A company and its leaders are either conscious or not conscious.
The risk here is both that conscious capitalism devolves into a label and that companies (and individuals) do not have room to grow inside the conversation. I believe this creates distorted incentives, especially as people start to think in judgmental terms, such as “People who are conscious capitalists are better than people who are not.” If the discourse becomes an exercise in judgment, companies will be incented to engage in social performance rather than authentic adherence to the principles–trying to *appear* like they’re “conscious capitalists”, without following through on the deep inner work of manifesting a higher purpose, caring culture, conscious leadership, and stakeholder engagement.
In private conversations, I’ve been engaging in a thought exercise: What if the scummiest, sleaziest company you can imagine shows up at a Conscious Capitalism meeting with a genuine desire to participate? Black and white thinking will leave them out in the cold, which is unhelpful for those of us who are serious about growing adoption. Expansive thinking will find a way to include them and effectively address the sleaze. Companies and people are of varied character, and my strong hope is that every business will authentically find its way into this discourse.
To this end, the goal is not to start a club with an insular membership, where all the “good” business people meet every month. Instead, the goal is to facilitate any company’s development along these principles. The end game is to create progression towards more transcendence in all people anywhere that commerce occurs.
Get Better One Step at a Time
Reflecting on progression as the objective led me to incremental improvement as my final conclusion for CEO Exclusive from 2018. What does getting better incrementally look like for us? We did a content survey where the clear request from the audience was that we start to niche down by industry. Launching one or two shows with a niche or industry focus is a key initiative for the show.
Hopefully, we’ll also do more shows on the road, much like what we did at the Vistage Executive Summit in 2016. As always, I welcome your feedback—you don’t have to wait for a survey to tell me what you’re thinking. I’ve really appreciated the encouragement from listeners and readers who continue to affirm that our coverage is making a difference. Sometimes I can’t believe it, but people are actually listening and paying attention to our show—even my mother joined the audience this year.
Thanks so much for your contributions. I also want to express my gratitude to the CEO Exclusive team, who make this possible:
- Angi Shields, our program manager, who keeps the ship afloat.
- Andrea Templeton and Bill Gibron (deceased), writers
- Erin Edgecomb, administrator
- Business Radio X, our producers
All the best in 2019. Have a prosperous, productive, and profitable New Year!