I once delivered a keynote that took so much preparation, it ended up changing the course of my professional work, my personal focus, and ultimately my purpose.
The goal of the keynote was to motivate and inspire a group of already successful small business owners and entrepreneurs. For the record, I do not (and never will) consider myself a motivational speaker. It’s just not my thing.
I do view myself as an information synthesizer, a sort of Ray Kurzweil, if you will, of content. I love to read, research data and explore ideas that inspire new thoughts. Then I love to share those thoughts, ideas and data with others in hopes of engaging them to live lives with purpose.
So as I prepared to deliver this keynote, I wanted to discuss something unique. After all, we are approaching the end of the year and now seemed like the perfect time to be thinking about how we want our next year to be remembered. I wanted to leave these people with the one idea I felt was more important than any other that I could discuss in an hour. I wanted to speak to them about purpose.
I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose lately, and did a fair amount of research on the topic in preparation for what I wanted to be a provocative keynote. After all, if there’s one thing I’ve always stood for, it’s a life with purpose. I’d surrender all of life’s riches and rewards for just a day filled with purpose. I believe it’s the heartbeat of humanity and it is the driving force of successful business. During my research, I ran across this quote that was the perfect illustration of why business is so essential to our existence:
“Business has always been a way for humans to come together, to perpetuate our survival and flourish as a community.”
Beautiful! It embodied everything I had always felt about business, but was unable to explain with such romanticism. To me, business is the ultimate expression of creativity through a shared human experience, and it offers everything we need – connection, survival and community.
As I continued to develop the keynote, I felt a sense of gratitude as I realized that all of the businesses I currently help grow and manage all share one thing in common – they are all driven by a purpose. These conscious capitalists who I have the privilege of working with daily share the common belief that we are all here to leave people, the environment, the economy and our communities better than we found them. What’s great is the speed with which these businesses are spreading like wildfire!
What does it mean to be a conscious capitalist?
There are four distinctions that embody conscious capitalism, and I presented all four in my keynote this past week with the intention to leave all in the room better than I had found them.
1. Higher Purpose
In the words of Ed Freemen, University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor,
“We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).”
While making money is essential for the vitality and sustainability of a business, it is not the only, or even the most important, reason a business exists. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit.
Conscious Capitalists first believe that they must unite themselves then their teams with a common purpose. After all, this is why their businesses exist in the first place.
2. Conscious Leadership
Conscious leaders know their job is to inspire their teams, create value for all stakeholders and have an intense focus on the “we” rather than the “me”.
Have you ever worked for a conscious leader? They’re charismatic, strong, empathetic, and intuitive and they’re real, approachable people. These are the leaders willing to get their hands dirty, to be there “in the trenches” with you to ensure the business leaves all stakeholders better than they found them. And most importantly, conscious leaders embody the culture of the company and go above and beyond to instill this culture in all members within and surrounding the company.
3. Stakeholder Orientation
This is a great one! As mentioned before, to be a conscious capitalist, you must positively engage all of your stakeholders, with an eye towards growth. By making sure your teams are growing personally, professionally, socially and beyond, you no longer need to focus on the traditional model that merely grows profits, customers and operations. By the way, the companies who are focused first on growing people, celebrate success in more ways than just a growing customer base and bottom line.
Jim Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, is a great example of a conscious leader who understands the importance of stakeholder orientation. Jim Tindell, a retail legend, chooses to pay his employees more than double what his retail competitors do, with an average salary of $50k. By taking a financial risk, Jim has been successful at attracting motivated and productive employees. One case study reported that the employees at The Container Store were three times more productive and his organization enjoyed a less than 20% turnover rate.
4. Conscious Culture
In my opinion, having a conscious culture is the most important detail of a conscious capitalism, just after higher purpose, building a conscious culture is my favorite distinction of conscious capitalists. One of my favorite examples of a conscious culture is the one created at Mindvalley under the leadership of Vishan Lakhiani.
Vishan Lakhiani has successfully led Mindvalley to become one of the best companies to work for on the planet. But how does he do it?
Vishan Lakhiani has made it his mission to create a conscious culture by getting to know the hopes and dreams of all of his employees through a dream manager process. The process is made up of three questions:
1. What objects/ experiences do you want?
2. What growth experiences do you want to have?
3. How do you want to contribute to this world?
Each employee is asked to print and post their dream manager, made visible for the entire company. Lakhiani believes that you can learn a lot about the people on your team by gaining a better understanding of what dreams they are in search of.
How cool would it be to work at a place like this?
As I finished up my keynote, I looked into the audience and observed evidence of a transformation. The room was filled with intensity, invigorated interest and palpable excitement. There was a curiosity piqued in their eyes, and a new wonder of what business (and life) could be like with a purpose. Without a doubt, we were all leaving the room better than we were as we entered it, electrified by and empowered to share this newfound energy of purpose.