Here are five steps to building a conscious culture in your organization:
Have you identified the core values for your business? Too many times, companies spend time and money creating mission, vision, and values statements and then put them on a shelf to collect dust.
Conscious companies are continually living, breathing, walking, and talking their core values. They hire new employees for their alignment with the values; they terminate people who cannot live up to them. They tell stories about the values. They look for ways to recognize employees and promote managers who can live the values.
The most common values seen in conscious cultures include trust, accountability, excellence, fun, compassion, integrity, fairness, and transparency.
Accountability is an important value because it might be counter-intuitive in talking about culture. Don’t be tempted to think that Conscious Capitalism is soft or mamby-pamby. To build a conscious culture, you have to be tough enough to hold all people accountable to both the values and task expectations you have of them. I’ve seen some great companies ruin their culture by tolerating poor performance in their favorite workers and insulating them from consequences. Don’t get me wrong – I espouse compassion for episodic life events that can derail someone’s effectiveness for a short time, but established patterns of low productivity or destructive behaviors should be dealt with fairly.
Hiring and Firing
Conscious cultures hire for their values. In every job interview, the interviewer presents the company’s core values to the job candidate and asks behaviorally-based questions to ascertain the individual’s alignment with the company’s ideals. This alignment predicts in large part the person’s happiness and performance in the job. A values clash does no one – not the company, the customers or the prospective employee – any favors. Fail early – find out in the interview if this person will fit in culturally.
The opposite is also true. Conscious companies must compassionately terminate employees when they no longer live up to core values or have the skill set for the changing marketplace. Netflix, in its slide deck called “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility”, describes how the company “hires, develops and cuts smartly, so we have stars in every position.” If a team member’s performance is merely adequate, Netflix offers them a generous severance package to leave the company.
A compensation program is a powerful communicator of core values. If the company’s compensation structure is not aligned with the espoused values, then the values are wishful thinking only, not a way of life. Strictly speaking: money talks.
Some questions to determine the “consciousness” of your compensation structure are:
- Would we be comfortable sharing everyone’s compensation information with all employees? (If salaries and pay are not equitable, you probably don’t want to do this.)
- Do we conduct annual performance reviews? (Some companies haven’t quite gotten to this discipline.) Does the annual review hold people accountable to behaviors that support core values?
- Do our variable compensation programs (bonuses, perks, and commissions) uphold our values or just the acquisition of new revenues?
- Is variable compensation awarded on a team or individual basis?
- Do we conduct 360-degree feedback on all our managers as part of the annual performance review?
- Do our executive salaries have a cap on them to be no more than 20 times the average worker’s salary?
Storytelling is one of the best methods of translating values to a group. Our ancestors told stories to define their identities and pass on aspirations and traits to the next generation. Storytelling is one of the most powerful teaching methods. Human beings love stories, much more so than boring lectures, and this love of storytelling exists even in the workplace.
However, beware of telling negative stories. One company repeatedly told the story of how a partner was unexpectedly called on the morning of her wedding to join a conference call with a client. And she did! What this story tells me is the company puts no value on work/life balance or on respecting employee’s family time. Don’t perpetuate those stories! Actively work to change behavioral norms that demand that kind of sacrifice.
Conscious companies recognize that the culture is a result of how the leadership team behaves. Leaders are the behavioral role models for the rest of the company. The quickest way to make a mockery of core values is to not hold executives and managers accountable to living them. At Caterpillar, a poorly-performing division drafted nine new Common Values and defined the behaviors that upheld them. Executives courageously decided that of the 24 current managers, 22 could not make behavioral changes to act in alignment with the values. The 22 old-style managers were let go. iii This was the keystone to their cultural change and, ultimately, to the survival of the division.
Leaders in today’s marketplace must possess intellectual, emotional, and spiritual intelligence and an understanding of systems theory. They must have self-awareness, they must have the ability to scan a room for its mood, and they must have empathy and compassion. They must be able to see an organization as a system in which everything is connected and the sum is greater than the parts. Lastly, they must have a long-term and holistic perspective of the decisions they make in order to account for all stakeholders of the organization.
Choose your leaders well, develop them through mentoring and executive coaching, and demand that they walk the values they talk.
Human beings are a company’s most precious asset. A positive culture will bring out the best in people and provide the company with high productivity, lower costs, higher revenues, and greater contributions to society.
Join YES this fall as we hear from successful businesses that are rooted in Conscious Capitalism. We are honored to have Rand Stagen, a thought leader in Conscious Capitalism, joining us on September 25.
For more information on Conscious Capitalism, here are several resources:
- Two podcasts are available from McCuistion TV called “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.” You can find these informative videos at http://www.frtv.org/2013/11/conscious-capitalism-liberating-the-heroic-spirit-of-business-part-one/ and http://www.frtv.org/2013/11/conscious-capitalism-liberating-the-heroic-spirit-of-business-part-two/Whitney Johns Martin of Texas Women Ventures, is featured in this segment.
- Visit the Conscious Capitalism, Inc. website for many resources: http://www.consciouscapitalism.org/
- Buy the book: Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey, co-CEO, Whole Foods Market, and Raj Sisodia, professor of Global Business at Babson College. http://www.amazon.com/Conscious-Capitalism-New-Preface-Authors/dp/1625271751/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390342291&sr=1-1&keywords=conscious+capitalism
i J. Mackey & R. Sisodia, 2014, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press. P. 218.
ii J. Mackey & R. Sisodia, 2014, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press. P. 217
iii J. Despain, L.M. Leinicke, J.A. Ostrosky & W.M. Rexroad, “Work values at Caterpillar: A process,” Organizational Dynamics, Volume 32, #4, 2003, pp. 405-414.
The content of this blog was repurposed from Kristin Robertson’s original blog: http://www.brioleadership.com/blog/five-steps-to-building-a-conscious-business-culture
Board Member, YES