Episode #9: Conscious Leadership (Part 2)
Conscious Leadership: a deeper dive and a discussion on individual and organizational leadership development.
Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Bhat, N., Sisodia, R. (2016). Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Conley, C. (2018). Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder. Porfolio Penguin.
Kegan, R., Lahey, L.L., Miller, M.L. (2016) Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. Harvard Business Review Press.
Bob Anderson, Leadership Circle Feedback Tool: https://self-assessment.theleadershipcircle.com
Conscious Capitalism main website: consciouscapitalism.org
The Leadership Circle website: https://leadershipcircle.com
Raj Sisodia, Presence Tool, Conscious Capitalism Chicago Chapter: https://www.consciouscapitalismchicago.org/Blog/6736894
Wikipedia: Blind Men and the Elephant parable.
Mackey, J., Sisodia, R. (2014). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Harvard Business Review Press.
Sisodia, R., Henry, T., Eckschmidt, T. (2018). Conscious Capitalism Field Guide. Harvard Business Review Press.
Timothy: Hello everybody! And welcome to Episode Nine of the Conscious Capitalists. And my co-host on this Raj Sisodia and myself. Today, we’re going to talk about the fourth pillar of Conscious Capitalism – Leadership. We talked about it last week as sort of an introduction. We’re going to go a little deeper today. Hey Raj!
Raj: Hi Timothy. Good to see you again.
Timothy: Good to see you! Hey, whose birthday is it today?
Raj: Well, it so happens it’s Gandhi’s 151st, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth and we thought it would appropriate, actually, to start there, because Gandhi did represent a particular kind of leadership, that I think was closer to conscious leadership than other forms of leadership. You know, for his entire life, Gandhi never held any position. He was a lawyer. He worked as a corporate lawyer for a while, until he had his awakening, when he came to South Africa. He was pretty successful. He used to wear these suits and then one night he boarded a train near Durban and boarded a compartment that was whites only, and was thrown out, literally, physically thrown out on the platform. And sat there the whole night in the cold and that’s when his conscious was awakened. His eyes were opened to the suffering all around. And he had been so focused on just building his career and making money that he didn’t see any of the injustice. And so that was the beginning of it. And then, as he became the Gandhi who we know, he acquired tremendous personal power, as we would say. He had no positional power ever. Like I said, never held a title or was advanced at anything. And yet, he had power that exceeded all the others that had all of those positions, because of his moral authority, because of his sense that he was on the right side of history, and his commitment to achieving that through peaceful means. All of which, meant that he became the template for Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, and many, many others. So, I think as an example of tremendous personal power, how do you cultivate that? He was a tiny little man, right. Not an opposing figure, and yet over time, just because he defined his own spirit and consciousness and clarified his own sense of destiny and purpose in his life.
Raj: He was an extraordinary impact on the world. He exemplifies that and also illustrates what millions are calling our vision of the whole leader, the whole human being, with all the dimensionalities that we have. We refer to the wise school of tough love. It is simultaneously wise, tapping into that elder energy of the divine wisdom that exists, and you have this joy like quality, the joy and the creativity that comes with that. You are incredibly strong, as well. And you are coming ultimately from a place of love. And I think Gandhi did embody all of those.
Raj: A bit playful, child-like, not childish, but child-like in many ways. And of course, great wisdom as well as toughness and love.
Timothy: Yeah, I know. I think it’s fascinating because if you look at it from the British point of view, they were so astounded. It was like ‘What do we do?’ I mean, there’s this man, he has… who are we negotiating with? Like, who has the power to make a decision here? And…
Raj: Yeah. Totally. Winston Churchill was completely stunned by it. And he said, who is this half-naked saffir. Like who is he to negotiate with the British Empire? Well they can say that it kind of brought the end of the British Empire? That was the biggest jewel in the crown, so to speak. Right? That once that was gone, that’s the control.
Raj: So, I think that’s a good starting place to think about conscious leadership and come to a deeper sense of self.
Timothy: I think it’s interesting, Raj, because as you get into this discussion nowadays you have so many different versions of leadership. You know, pick your favorite word. You put in front leader; you have servant leader, authentic leadership; you have higher ambition leadership, caring leadership, values-based leadership, purpose-driven leadership, level five leadership. I’m curious, when you think about all of these different words that get put in front to qualify leadership. What do you take from that?
Raj: Well I think, first of all, this is kind of the holy grail to figure out what makes leadership work. You know, it’s ultimately the thing that drives so much else in our world. And so, if you flex the powers that people give to leadership, rightly so. But also, I think it reflects… it’s kind of like the parable of the seven blind men and the elephant. Everybody’s looking at one side of it. Right? So, yeah, authentic leadership is important of course. You have to be leading from a place of being true to who you are. Yes, other leadership is important. You have to be selfless and not selfish and you have to be there to take people to a better place. You need spiritual leadership, of course. We understand meaning and purpose. You have to be a transformational leader. All of those are important, but they are dimensions of what a whole leader is. And so, we have thought about conscious leadership as kind of include and transcend all of the essential elements of those things. Right? This actually incorporates all of those dimensions, right and wrong. That’s why conscious capitalism has been a broader movement than let’s say inclusive capitalism, or the CSR movement, or even I would say Michael Porter’s shared value. I mean, those are all, you know, smaller dimensions of the bigger picture. I think we’ll always try to look at the whole picture in conscious capitalism and I think that applies to conscious leadership as well.
Timothy: Yeah, I also think that the consciousness point emphasizes something that I think is really important, which is around doing leadership, versus being leadership. I was involved with the authentic leadership work for a while, and I remember people would ask me; “Well, if people are authentic, does that mean that authentic leaders just always say whatever is on their mind?” And I would say, “Well, you know, it’s the different between saying whatever you are thinking at that moment and being authentic. Being authentic, is coming from a deeper place. It’s where you’re opening up and being vulnerable and you’re creating great empathy with someone.” And that’s always stuck with me as being one of the values of the conscious leadership element, is that emphasis on the Being, on who you are as a human being, not just on what you’re doing. You don’t do conscious leadership.
Raj: I think that’s a very critical point. It’s really saying we need to become more conscious human beings, all of us. And how do we do that? And once we are, then when we are in position of leadership, they’re going to show up in a certain way, as a conscious human being.
Raj: So, really the emphasis is on the consciousness part first.
Raj: And then, how does that apply to leadership in there? There are some skills and so forth, the behaviors, competencies that you do need, as a conscious human being. But, that’s not really where the true impact comes from. And like I said, reflects the level of consciousness.
Timothy: Well, I think that’s interesting, because I think one of the focuses we’re going to try to put in today is about, I don’t know if it’s a practical side, but it’s about developing yourself and others as leaders. And maybe we’ll start with that ,if I want to develop as a leader, what does that mean? What do we tell someone? How do we help somebody understand what to do next? You want to go on a leadership journey? Great! Let’s talk about it. What do you think are some of the elements of that?
Raj: Well, as you said it, it is a developmental journey, right? It’s about becoming a whole person and becoming who you are meant to be. And in our book Shakti Leadership, we framed it in that way. We can talk about that as one approach to how to become a conscious leader. What that framework entails. The other one that I think really does a good job on that is the leadership circle profile, the framework developed by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams.
Raj: Which is also about that developmental aspect of becoming a more conscious leader over time.
Timothy: Yeah. Well I think that in our book, The Conscious Capitalism Field Guide, we brought up Srikumar Rao’s approach around what he called Self Mastery. And if I recall, there were four, five different elements of that self-mastery and I thought that was a really good way of starting to talk about that journey. The first one was self-talk. How do you start to quiet that inner voice that’s chattering away? And so the first step in self mastery is being aware of, in a sense, you own self-talk, and the negative self-talk that might be there. And that leads into the whole positive psychology movement and what voice are you listening to inside your own head. Then the second element was around becoming more mindful and the phrase that always comes to mind to remind myself is ‘be in the present moment’. You can only be present right now in this moment. And then think about how an individual starts to think about developing that capability to be mindful and present. The last three were (1) cultivating gratitude and having a gratitude an appreciation kind of mindset, (2) living in another centered universe; a little bit of the servant leadership “focus on the we, not just on the me”, and finally (3) being comfortable with the not making a judgement in the moment and not getting lost in what’s happened right in front of you- of trying to take a neutral perspective on things. He describes it well in the good news, bad news… I don’t know… we’ll see mindset.
Timothy: So, those were the five ways he talked about it and that we wrote about in the book. I’m wondering, you know, what would you add to that and how does Shakti Leadership start to fit in to that?
Raj: Yeah, so I think Shakti includes many of those elements. And the word, Shakti, the reason the book is called Shakti, is that Shakti is the Indian word that refers to power, right? To anything that moves, anything that has dynamism to it. Right? So, there’s the consciousness and then there’s the Shakti, the stillness and then the dynamic force. That is generally seen as a feminine energy in the Indian system, interestingly. And the idea of Shakti leadership is to, first of all, incorporate the idea of the diving feminine energy that propels everything, that gives birth, that gives life – acknowledging that dimension. And then looking at how we can tap into the infinite power that exists.
Raj: And integrating that, because you know, we can get confined by our genders and behave in limited ways because if you are a boy, you are supposed to behave in this way and a girl is supposed to behave in this way. And as we know, at a societal level, we have suppressed women and we have suppressed the feminine. Right, so anything that a man does that you want to ridicule him for, you would call it, ‘Why are you behaving like a girl?’ or whatever. We have that built into our psyche and our cultures. And so, becoming whole means activating the complementary side, right? And so had woman on the sidelines, so men have been forced to operate with only that one dimension and this becomes hyper masculine, and women also when they show up in leadership, they kind of have to manifest that. And fortunately, that’s all changing. But what we don’t want to do is to go from this extreme of my masculine together, extremely feminine, because there are positive elements on both sides, right?
Timothy: I saw something, today, actually around that Raj, that I thought was really pretty cool. It was a sign that said ‘Patriarchy to partnership’ and it’s this idea that we’re not trying to replace the patriarchal society with something the opposite. We’re trying to find a middle ground. Now, to do that, we have to swing a lot to get over there, because we have been very masculine focused. But I thought that was exactly the right kind of sentiment. We’re looking for that partnership in the middle.
Raj: Right, so it’s managing those polarities and that’s a critical one, right? And it’s not saying that we need to dilute everybody down so that nobody’s really anything. It’s saying that we want a full spectrum. We want to be all the positive, beautiful qualities of the masculine and all the positive, beautiful qualities of the feminine, simultaneously, embodied within us, whether we are a man or a woman. And we stay away from the downsides of each, the hypermasculine, the domination, the aggression, the hyper-competition, the winning at all costs, right? Or on the other side, becoming sentimental or needy or dependent and so forth. So, I think that was one of the big elements of wholeness.
Raj: But once you’ve cultivated that, now you are a whole human being and you have access to all those energies. And the next thing is flexibility. So, it’s presence, boldness, and now flexibility, which says ‘I need to be able to discern what’s needed in the current situation and then show up with that energy, right? So I need wisdom. I need to be foolish and playful. I need to be tough. I need to be loving, which are really needed right now. You use the wrong approach and in that situation, it will backfire. So, you have the discernment to know what is needed and then the flexibility to manifest that.
Timothy: So, I love this discussion, because it’s the real stuff that lies at the heart of leadership. And at the same time, I’m also aware that we’re going to have some younger listeners who are early in their careers and I think the message to them is that this is a journey, that this idea of self-mastery is an ongoing process. And what’s important is to bring some attention to what are some of the practices that you are developing personally to begin to go on that journey to go deeper. And I’m wondering if you have some suggestions for people around, you know, we talk about self-mastery. We talk about finding this place of balance and wholeness. What are some of the two or three practices that you think people earlier in their careers should be considering?
Raj: Well, I do believe the presence practice is one of those. And later on, we can put on the website a link to an audio recording of that practice that I did for the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism a couple of years ago.
We want to become, we need to tailor a beginner’s mind through our lifetime so that we are continually learning and growing and don’t have some of the arrogance that leading that you know, right? I was thinking about, by the way, is the idea of congruence, just to finish the Shakti framework. So, flexible and all the while you’re remaining congruent with your own purpose and your own values. So, what are you trying to achieve in the world? Right, so make sure you are in service of that way and you’re doing it through being whole and being flexible. So, that’s got to be the journey.
Timothy: I love it. And I think that, you know, you brought up Leadership Circle and the instrument that they have, that Bob Anderson has, and for many people, I think you go and you take that and you know, it’s an interesting instrument to give you some feedback. So, you know, you can go to Bob Anderson’s website and we’ll put that in the notes, and you can see what that instrument is and just doing it on yourself and reflecting on what is there, can be quite helpful as part of this self-knowledge.
I also think it’s important to develop certain habits like journaling. Many people find journaling to be a very helpful way of starting to reflect on what’s going on inside of them and start to differentiate some of these ‘self-talk’ voices that they hear or be more aware of ones’ self-talk. So, now we have the presence and practice around mediation and presence practices. Also, journaling, both daily journaling, and also keeping a gratitude journal to build up appreciation. It’s really interesting, these things are becoming ‘popular’ in the popular culture, so to speak. And at the same time, they are also important elements of developing yourself as a person.
Raj: A little more on the Leadership Circle Profile (LCP), I think what I love about that thing was we’ve been searching for which of these frameworks is most closely aligned with conscious leadership and conscious capitalism, and I think by far the LCP is most aligned. What I love about it is that they have, especially Bob Anderson, has done the research and has deep dives into all of the aspects of this that need to be integrated into the systems thinking or whether it’s developmental literature from Bob Keegan or others, whether it’s the Shadow work from Carl Jung, or the Positive Psychology work or work on authenticity or achievement, motivation… all of that has been brought together quite elegantly into a deceptively simple, but really deep framework that not only gives you a snapshot of where you are today and what’s driving your level of effectiveness or not. Called the creative/reactive quadrants and those kinds of things and also a pathway forward. How to develop more of those creative qualities, more of those relational qualities, consistent thinking capacities, a meaning, a purpose, a vision, and all of that. So, it’s really a framework and then you can get a pretty deep assessment for free on their website. And then if you really want to go deeper into that, then you get a number of other people to also do the assessment about you, and that gives you a real pathway and snapshot into what you need to do to develop.
Timothy: Yes, in my leadership coaching, having an instrument like that where the second aspect is having other people reflect on how they perceive you is helpful, because sometimes we have our blind spots. We fill our own survey in, and it’s self-reporting, and then it’s always fascinating to be able to sit with a leader and review this different points of view. For example, the leader may think that they’re very high on caring and connection and that they are a very caring person. Who doesn’t want to be a caring person? And they get this feedback from others, that maybe, just maybe, they’re not being perceived that way and it leads to a really interesting questions like what could be going on with me that I could be seen differently by others versus how I see myself? So, I think that’s a very powerful thing to do if your organization allows you to do it, or just for free, at least getting that first cut at yourself. I think that’s very helpful.
Raj: They have a lot of data and they’ve done this on a quarter million leaders, I think, and it’s something like 2 million assessments that people have done and they’ve been able to then correlate their data, in terms of that correlates with leadership effectiveness, as well as with business performance. Correlations are extremely high, as in like 80% to 90% in R-squared co-efficient. It is geared towards individual development, but it also shows the link very clearly through organizations. The problem is not leadership, the problem which is then going to impact their happiness and wellbeing of the people that your leadership impacts.
Timothy: Well, having said that, and that’s at a very being level, I also think there’s probably two other elements for a person to be thinking about as they are considering their own leadership development . One of those elements is to be conscious about the choices you are making about how you ‘practice your leadership’. In your career, what are those next steps that are going to challenge you as a leader to grow? Where’s that learning edge for yourself and how do you start putting yourself in positions where you are constantly having an opportunity to practice your leadership and get better. People can get stale after a while doing the same job over and over again. So, if you really want to continue to develop as a leader, it’s important to be on your learning edge and exposing yourself in that way. I also think it’s really interesting, and Chip Conley really drove this home, Chip Connelly’s been involved with the Conscious Capitalism Movement for a long time. He used to run Joie de Vivre, boutique hotels. But most recently, was the Chief Hospitality Officer at Airbnb for a while. He just stepped down fully from that position, I think last year. But what he said was very interesting. So, here’s Chip, a guy that’s in his late 50’s and he’s working for a CEO who when he started working, was in his mid-to-late 20’s. And it was a typical sort of Silicon Valley startup technology focused, got all of the energy of a Silicon Valley young group. And here was this guy in his 50’s coming along and sort of saying, ‘I might have something to offer you, in the sense of mentoring you and mentoring the team as leaders’. And Chip went on to write a book about that, about eldership and the whole idea that and as you pointed out a moment ago, the wisdom of the elder and the energy of the youth. How do you bring those together? So, if you’re a younger person, on your leadership development journey, finding some mentors, some people who bring a wisdom and bring a set of experiences, can be very helpful in terms of your development. So, seek out opportunities to practice leading. Look for somebody who’s a mentor, who can be very helpful with this.
And then the last, and often dismissed it at one level, but it’s still important, which is that there are certain skills that you need to develop, for example, a leader has to be a good manager at some level. And we do understand that there are certain skills a manager needs to have. You need to be able to read a balance sheet. You need to be able to give good feedback. You need to be able to communicate clearly. You need to be able to write a strategic plan. There are a set of skills that are important and that’s how, traditionally, people looked at leadership development. Come, we’ll train you. We’ll give you a bunch of skills and you’ll be all set. But the pendulum’s swinging in a different direction, but you still need those things. You still need to be a good manager in that sense. And I think that’s important.
Raj: So, yeah, I would just add to that list… so it’s not just communicating, though people can always speak better. That also means I listen empathetically. The listening is an important part of that.
Timothy: Oh, absolutely.
Raj: And then making good agreements, making clear agreements, right? And then all the other things that you mentioned, giving feedback, of course, is very critical. So, all of those elements are important, but that’s kind of the outer game of leadership. And there’s the inner game of leadership, which is where it’s all sourced from, so you have to do both. It’s not either or the other, but all of those tools will become that much more positively impactful when your sourcing from the right energy. You can have somebody who is a very efficient manager, but sourcing it all in the wrong way, right? And then what they are trying to do in the world doesn’t inspire and it might be healthy, but are they doing it very efficiently and effectively, so you don’t want that, right? So, I think it’s a combination of those things.
Timothy: I think it comes back to your word, congruency. In a sense, I’m doing the inner work and the outer work. I’m learning. I’m developing. I’m putting myself in situations and environments where I can keep pushing on my learning edge and I’m getting mentoring and coaching advice in a way that helps me to continue to see maybe sometimes from a different perspective.
Raj: I mean the ultimate goal of this journey is full alignment between every aspect of who you are, between your purpose, your values, your behavior, in every aspect of your life – as a leader, as a parent, as a human being, generally. How can you move towards full alignment, so we don’t have any disharmony or inconsistencies? And I think that’s a lifelong journey. We are never going to get there fully, but my friend uses the metaphor, becoming a self-cleaning oven.
Timothy: Explain that one. Go ahead!
Raj: Well, he works like if life keeps happening, right, and the things keep coming up. And it’s not like once you are done learning about all these things, you are done. So, you have to continually then look at, okay, what new things have happened? How do I need to process those? What have I learned from them, and what do I need to let go? That’s kind of the self-cleaning aspect of the conscious leader.
Timothy: It’s a journey. The Leadership Journey that we all are on at one level, and which is particularly important if you are involved in helping to lead organizations. So, that’s the leadership journey from the personal side. I also think it’s interesting, Raj, is that you then step back and you sort of say, ‘And, I’ve got an organization with 50,000 people in it. And we’ve got to think about what it means to develop leaders at scale. So, how do we start to think about creating, a “leadership development program” or exercise within an organization?
Raj: Yeah, I think we have to first get very clear about what does good leadership look like as an organization? What traits do we celebrate? What do we consider to be outstanding leadership? Because if the definition of that is purely in terms of numbers and metrics and efficiency and all of those kinds of things, that’s going to cultivate a certain kind of culture and atmosphere, right? But is it actually centered in people? Is it about taking people to another place? Is it about achieving the purpose that we have? So, we have to be very clear about that, and then we have to figure out which potential leaders are in harmony with that. My experience in this is from Barry Wehmiller, looking at what they did, Bob Chapman and the leaders of that company did in terms of once they determined what they stood for, they wrote down their guiding principles of leadership, their core values, etcetera, and then they said, ‘Okay, what kind of leaders do we really want in this company?’ And then they look at putting people at the center and enabling them to grow and being happy and feeling respected and all those kinds of arrangements. And so then, based upon that, they developed a detailed leadership checklist by using the analogy of what pilots and surgeons have to do. There is a checklist and they need to make sure that every item is checked off, when they take off on a flight or start a new operation and at Barry Wehmiller, they believe that leadership is equally vital, in the sense that you, too, have people’s wellbeing in your hands as a leader and therefore you need to not just do some of those or most of those, but all of those things that are on that list. And then they train to that. They develop… and one of the key elements there is they don’t, like many companies, look at their people and then identify those that are on the fast track or those who are on the high potential side. They actually require people to apply. There’s an application process. You have to put your hand up and say, “I aspire to be a leader in our system. And I know that leadership here means it’s the awesome responsibility of leadership. It’s the stewardship of the lives entrusted to me that we measure success by the way we trust the lives of people, etcetera.” If all of that is highly motivational and inspirational to somebody, it doesn’t matter if they are working on the factory floor, they can say, “I want to learn how to be a leader.” You apply and then you get selected to be that, so people are not anointed, but have to self-select and then earn their way into those roles. It shows that people are seeking to become leaders for the right reasons to serve and to take people to a better place, rather than to just to get the corner office and the higher pay and status that comes with it.
Timothy: No, I like that. That’s the idea of leadership at all levels. You know, there is leadership in many, many ways that it can demonstrated in an organization. And so, I think that the two important things that came out of that little discussion we just had was one, be clear about what good leadership looks like in your organization. Don’t pick somebody else’s model and try to impose it. Understand, like what does good leadership look like for our culture, for the environment we’re trying to create here, and for the business challenges we have. And given that, then what does a good development program look like to help us get to that point and help people with the self-mastery, with the right set of skills, etcetera? And then, I think you raise a very interesting point, which is this issue of leadership at all levels. And when I sort of start and look at 50,000 people or 30,000 or 70,000… pick your number, when you have large numbers, it’s interesting to look and say, “Where are the important transition points that are sort of natural leadership transition points in our organization?” So, for example, the first time someone is frontline leader; for the first time, you have somebody reporting to you. That might be on a factory line; it might be you’re a store manager in a small retail organization. So, that’s a point where there’s sort of an inflection point of leadership and people step up in a different way. So, I think it’s important for an organization to sort of look and say, ‘What are those for us, those three, four, five key inflection points for leadership that might be everywhere from, like I said, first-time leaders to the first time having to lead through people. So, that means I’m now promoted to a level where I have people who that are two or three levels removed from me and now, I have to lead through others in order to influence where my department or my group is going. And then, clearly, another big one is when you start to step to senior P&L responsibility and now, suddenly, you are having to figure to out what is that blend of business skills I have, along with developing a lot of people inside my organization to be motivated and inspired to perform at a level that’s higher. So, I think it’s important for an organization to look and say, ‘Okay, within our business, where are there certain clear inflection points where responsibilities shift significantly and how do we develop a program for being able to meet people where they are at those points in their journeys?
And then I think the other thing that’s really important, and it comes out of some of the work from Keegan and Lahey as well, which is this whole idea of a deliberately developmental organization. And particularly, what does that mean for leadership and I think the Motley Fool does a great job of this, by the way, where they call it the Self Curating Process, you are self-curating your own development process. You are taking responsibility for your own development and sort of saying ‘Okay, given the feedback I’ve got, what do I need to be doing? What can I be trying to do?” And at the same time, that being coupled with the organization creating the infrastructure to support that. So, it takes an infrastructure to support that and that includes having the right kind of programs available. But it also involves an attitude of saying, “We’re going to help you find the right place for you to get the right set of experiences inside our organization, so you can grow. And it’s not just like it’s a step ladder that you walk up and you go, but we’re going to sit with you and try to understand, given who you are, given your strengths, given your developmental opportunities, how can we put you in a position to win and to improve and get better.
Raj: Everybody’s assigned a coach or has the opportunity to work with coach there at Motley Fool.
Timothy: That’s correct – who will help them pull together everything they’ve got and sort of say, “What does my individual plan look like?” But then organizationally, they have also got an ability to look across and it’s a relatively small organization, 400 people, but be able to look and say like, ‘Where could I… what are the opportunities for me to do this?’ And you get into a larger corporation, it begins to say, ‘Hey, listen, maybe you need to be put in finance for a while’ or ‘maybe we can put you in a foreign station for a while’ or we’ll…. But that ability for the people system to have the flexibility and the awareness of how to help customize something for the individual. But do that at scale is a non-trivial capability for an organization to have.
Raj: Yeah, and I think let’s just talk a little bit about coaching, because I’ve become a big believer in the power of coaching, and I believe that every leader should have a good coach. And I think that’s just part of the developmental journey and there’s just so much insight that comes from that and so much growth that happens. It’s quire refreshing actually.
Timothy: Yeah, I think it’s a bit self-serving on my side as somebody who does sometimes coach leaders. I think it’s incredibly important, every now and then. Two things that I think come out of it. One is just the discipline of having time in your calendar. It is so easy as a leader to get pulled along by the events and flow of the every day. Having a coaching session in your calendar, where you know you’re going to stop and you’re actually going to focus on this. There’s an incredibly important discipline of just having that. And then I think the second observation I would have is that it is sometimes lonely at the top. Sometimes, you’ve got to have a place where you can go and let down your guard and reflect and have somebody reflect back to you, what’s going.. And so, I think of this trusted advisor role. “You know, I’m here to listen to what’s going on and every now and then, nudge you with some questions or perhaps raise some things that you ought to be thinking about.” So, I think that’s a really important part.
Raj: Along with that, there is the idea of the communities, it is lonely. It’s probably one of the more lonely jobs out there, being a CEO, because you don’t have any peers within the company. And so being part of a community of like-minded leaders is very important to be with leaders who are also on that journey and aspiring to be conscious leaders. In Conscious Capitalism, we have our CEO summit. We have a community of people who are striving to be these kinds of leaders and there’s a lot of learning and support that can happen through those communities for people.
Timothy: Yeah, I think one of the things that we experimented with and has sometimes gotten traction and sometimes hasn’t is at the chapter level, creating CEO roundtables. I think it’s really helpful, based a little bit on the YPO model of forums, of creating a tribe of other leaders who you feel comfortable with who are on the same type of journey and share the same set of values. I think it’s invaluable to be able to say, “Oh, you have that problem, gee, me too.” And that raises the final point I want to make about the scale, the systems that you put in place that reinforce the right kind of leadership in an organization. And that’s around how do we hire leaders? How do we actually promote people? And how are we compensating people in such a way that we’re getting the right kind of leader that we want in our organization? It’s always interesting when I go into an organization for the first time and we’re talking to people a few levels down and say, “So, tell me, who gets promoted here? What kind of leader gets ahead in this organization?” It’s a wonderful question to go down two or three levels in an organization and get that feedback about how people perceive the type of leader who gets ahead in this environment.
Raj: Yeah, I know it’s very true because very often companies say one thing, but then there actions reveal something else and everybody’s watching and listening. If people get ahead simply by delivering numbers regardless of the human cost, and yet we claim to be a people-centered company, then we know that that’s not true. But it’s really critical who you promote, who you hire into positions of leadership…
Timothy: Well, I think that that raises the last point I want to make, which is the role of the board. I think that it is incredibly important for the board to have knowledge, perspective and be watching over the leadership development process in an organization. And that means being really clear about what kind of leaders are good leaders in this organization and are we developing them? And then that ties to the final point, which is the compensation system, and of course, there is a compensation committee at the board level, which is deciding, ‘How are we trying to reward and incent behavior in this organization?’ I was listening to somebody yesterday who was telling me that the studies are in, in fact there are no supporting studies… maybe they were exaggerating only slightly, but they said there were no studies that support pay for performance compensation driving high performance. So all of this discussion, that at the corporate level that we were going to pay for performance, and we were actually going to see it, there is not a strong correlation between those pay-for-performance models and the performance of a publicly-traded organizations. And that’s a board failing. So, the board needs to really be on top of ‘What are we trying to develop here? Are we doing it? And are we rewarding the right behavior in our leaders.?’
Raj: Yeah, this can go backwards actually because we can end up with leaders who do things to attain certain numbers on a certain timeline, that will also cause their stock options to be worth a lot, etcetera, that are actually planting the seeds for future problems for the corporations. This happens when people only work for money and the more money, the more you offer, the theory that the more the better qualified candidates you’re going to attract. No, it’s purpose, it’s meaning, it’s values, it’s all of those things that really drive performance. All of a sudden we act like money is the only game in town, but there are other games in town. And many of them are actually more compelling. At a certain level, money is not a motivator and we’ve seen that, and I think that companies like many conscious companies tend to pay their leaders more modestly compared to the industry averages. At Wholefoods I think it’s been at like 10% less than the industry. I think of what other CEO’s might get, and yet they did not have a problem attracting and retaining talent at that level, because these are people who are driven by purpose and they are passionate about it. When you just use money, you get mercenaries. Hired guns, right, they will go anywhere. They will bump up the numbers in that period of time that they are there for and you pay the cost of that later. The dues come due later on, so we have to have a well-rounded approach to compensation, and it has to include non-financial metrics, such as employee and customer and societal and mind mental and well-being and so forth. I think the good companies I’m seeing are as much as 50% based on these unconventional metrics.
Timothy: So, yes, if you want to get more involved in conscious capitalism, Raj, what do you suggest?
Raj: consciouscapitalism.org, which is the website for the Conscious Capitalism movement that we are both part of and have been part of. You can also look there for local chapters, based upon where you are, or you can think about starting a chapter at some point to join as well to build this community of conscious leaders.
Timothy: Well, Raj, we’ve gone through another podcast very quickly. Thank you for your time and energy today and thank you, everybody, for listening in and if you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to go to TheConsciousCaptialists.com. There’s a little form and you can leave a message and if you look on the podcast that you are listening to us on, there’s a little subscribe button. Feel free to hit that and also on the website, we will also have some notes from today in terms of some reference to some of the things we mentioned. Thanks very much.