Conscious Capitalism is a powerful new business trend. I didn’t come up with the concept, but it aligns deeply with my purpose and inspires me daily. I believe in a world where people’s hearts, minds, bellies, and wallets are full. And, I joyfully see that world coming into being through the progressive adoption of Conscious Capitalism in mid-market businesses.
This movement is rooted in the belief that capitalism, executed with the right intention, is the path to a world that works for everyone. The basic pillars of Conscious Capitalism are conscious leadership; having a higher purpose; maintaining a conscious culture; and stakeholder engagement. I discuss these principles on my show with CEOs from an array of industries, and I see more and more CEOs truly taking on this ideal. On this week’s show, we talk about ways that I’m seeing mid-market CEOs implement the principles in their own businesses. And, more importantly, how you can pull this trend towards your own company, if you choose. (Spoiler alert: It starts with you.)
Define Vision, Ideals, and Higher Purpose
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – define your company vision and ideals in a way that your team can participate. It might exist in perfect form in your mind, but if it’s not articulated and communicated, it’s not going to make a difference. Profits are necessary for business, just like breathing is necessary for our bodies- but breathing isn’t the whole purpose in our lives. Know what your company is up to in the world, and communicate that.
Lead From the Front
Are you, as a leader, clear on your purpose in life? Your company’s purpose acts as an extension of your own. Make it a regular practice to check in to see if the two are aligned.
Modeling the behaviors you want to see in your company is the most reliable and effective (and least expensive) way to install a new belief system in your company. Many CEOs I talk with approach the art of driving culture and values in a deconstructed manner. They start with themselves, and then work to implement the desired ways of being in their next line of reports, who then drive it throughout the organization.
Don’t Preach it if You’re Not Going to Live it
When leaders say that they believe in integrity, but then do things that don’t have integrity, their team notices. It has a negative impact on the enactment of ideals throughout the company. If you aren’t willing to take the ideals of your higher purpose on in your own life, don’t preach it to your people. You’ll do more harm than good.
That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. But it does mean you have to give a genuine effort to walking the walk when you talk the talk. When team members hear their leader say one thing and then behave a different way, it gives them permission to dismiss the company ideals, as well.
This is a big one. When you create a higher purpose for yourself and your company, it calls you into being a bigger person than you are at present. That’s the nature of the game. You may find that you have bigger shoes to fill than you have feet to fill them. It’s not easy. You can’t do it alone. You are going to slip, and sometimes you’re not going to see (or want to admit) that you aren’t living up to your word.
The CEOs that I’ve met who are the most effective at this game have created a culture that invites communication. They have a trusted core team around them and set up structures for their own accountability. By communicating their commitments and cultivating these core relationships they set up the first level of accountability for themselves.
Successful CEOs pull on their larger team for support as well. One CEO on the show made a practice of walking the halls of his company daily to check in with employees, inviting an honest response as to the experience of his team. The team knew him, and understood his commitment to the ideals of the company. When he hit a rough spot personally, his team noticed. One of his employees came to him and gently pointed out the changes in his behavior, asking him if everything was okay. It was that interaction that had him realize that he’d stepped out of living his ideals, and gave him the opportunity to step back in line with his commitments.
As a CEO it is crucial that you do your best to live your ideals, but you will never do it perfectly. Creating relationships and culture that invite accountability is key.
Be Willing to Have the Conversation
This piece is for everyone on the team – not just the CEO. If you are truly committed to the purpose of your business, sometimes you need to be willing to have a difficult conversation. Approaching your CEO, as did the employee I mentioned above, takes a great deal of bravery. If you see your CEO, or someone who reports to you, behaving in a way that is out of line with the ideals of the company, be willing to approach them, but do it with compassion. Start from stating what you are committed to for the company, be honest about what you are seeing, and check in to see if there is an area that they might need support.
Like in any relationship, it’s key to focus on the specific behavior that is causing the issue, and not attacking the person as a whole.
Put the Integrity Back in
I am personally working hard to practice what I preach, but it’s not a perfect art. It’s a journey. As I work to model behaviors for my own team, I see ever more clearly all of the areas that I don’t live up. They key here, as a leader, is to continually reinstate the integrity when it goes out. You will not do this perfectly. When you see that you are not in integrity with your word (or when a member of your team is brave enough to bring it to your intention), don’t spend time beating yourself up. Just get back in line with your word. This might simply require your own awareness and realignment, or it may necessitate having honest conversations with people who have been affected by your behavior. Clean up your messes, recommit, and keep moving forward.
Implement Practices that Support your Ideals
The more structures you have to support your ideals, the more likely you are to effectively implement them in your company. Creating relationships and inviting accountability is one of those structures, but there are a myriad of ways to communicate your intent. Offering great benefits to your team members, implementing generous polices that care for your customers, and finding ways to give back to your community are all concrete ways to bring your conscious ideals into reality.
Know the World is Bigger Than You Are
When you are truly trying to live as a conscious leader it can be easy to get focused on yourself. Keep it in perspective. It isn’t about you. Conscious Capitalism is about making our world a better place to be. It is about ensuring that the people we share the planet with have what they need to live happy and fulfilled lives. I find that if I can keep the focus there, I can forgive myself when I’m not perfect. It gives me the inspiration I need to clean up my messes and move forward – even when I’d rather not.
Being a conscious leader is not a perfect game. In fact, I apologize if this article is a little preachy–I think I’m talking to myself as much as I’m talking to you. We will screw it all up from time to time. We have to be willing to be honest with ourselves, see the bigger picture, and start again from right where we are. We’ve got this.