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(K)NOW WHEN

(K)NOW WHEN

Love is needed in the now,
But now will not be again.
Ask yourself, “Where art thou?”
And know your now is when.

Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Your Organization’s Purpose

It’s happening again. Companies are confusing important terms. In doing so they are taking advantage of you, the consumer. Equally horrific is that many employees have to stick up for it.

Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR for short. Sounds good. If done right it is good. CSR ought to be a critical component to an organization’s operating ethos, its values, and its purpose. Every organization should be ‘doing’ CSR. Many are doing it exquisitely well.

Take for example The Lego Group, which recently topped the Reputation Institute’s 2017 Global CSR RepTrak list. Among a number of CSR initiatives, Lego introduced their Sustainable Materials Centre, a site “dedicated to research, development and implementation of new, sustainable, raw materials to manufacture LEGO elements as well as packaging materials.” This is CSR at its utmost finest.

But CSR is not purpose.

And Lego’s purpose is not their CSR strategy.

Using Corporate Social Responsibility as a substitute for purpose is Corporate Social Irresponsibility. It’s the dark side of CSR.

For companies that have begun using CSR interchangeably with purpose, please stop. CSR is not purpose.

The Financial Times defines Corporate Social Responsibility as “a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.” The key point is “sustainable development.”

The purpose of an organization is different than CSR. It ought to be thought of as how it provides its various services in totality. Why is it in business? Why does it serve its stakeholders? Stakeholders include the gamut of employees, customers, partners, community members, environment/planet and those seeking a fair, financial return.

What is Purpose?

While CSR can positively affect all stakeholders it is not to be confused with an organization’s purpose.

An organization’s purpose centers around five “Good DEEDS” defined as follows from my second book, THE PURPOSE EFFECT:

  • Delight your customers.Working with and for the customer always remembering why an organization exists in the first place.
  • Engage your team members.Team members need purpose in their role to flourish, and they need to know they are able to create value while simultaneously feeling valued.
  • Ethical within society.Decisions need to be made—be it financially, environmentally, socially—that are always ethical in nature.
  • Deliver fair practices.Consistent and positive people practices inside the organization to unleash the creativity and productivity of team members.
  • Serve all stakeholders.The organization has a responsibility in society to positively affect customers, team members, the community, environment and owners alike.

More practically, the purpose of an organization is to serve society now and into the future.

It exists to aid all stakeholders, solving wicked problems to better society. It must be thinking and making decisions for the long-term while operating in the day-to-day for the short-term. It is a balancing act between today and the future, using the Good DEEDS outlined above.

One country that seems to understand the importance of Good DEEDS is the Netherlands. The Dutch Corporate Governance Code states:

“A company is a long-term alliance between the various stakeholders of the company. Stakeholders are groups and individuals who, directly or indirectly, influence – or are influenced by – the attainment of the company’s objectives: em­ployees, shareholders and other lenders, suppliers, customers, the public sector and civil society. The management board and the supervisory board have overall responsibility for weighing up these interests, generally with a view to ensuring the continuity of the company and its affiliated enterprise, as the com­pany seeks to create long-term value for all stakeholders.”

Nowhere in the “Code” do the Dutch suggest Corporate Social Responsibility can act as a prosthesis for an organization’s overarching purpose. It indicates a company has a fiduciary responsibility to represent and uphold the long-term health of its stakeholders. That is the purpose of a company. The Dutch even put this sentiment into the Code itself as follows:

“Corporate Social Responsibility is not a goal to be pursued in itself but, rather, an integral part of the day-to-day operations of a company that focuses on long-term value creation.”

CSR does not equal Purpose

Purpose is what your organization stands for. What you stand for must include CSR, but an organization does not solely stand for improving sustainable development. Important, yes. In isolation, no.

When purpose has been commandeered by an organization’s marketing department—robbing the concept of purpose by tapping into CSR as its definition—it in fact relegates the concept of purpose to that of green-washing.

Let’s call it purpose-washing.

A purpose-led or purpose-driven company is not operating with purpose when Marketing uses the term to flaunt Corporate Social Responsibility statistics. Cute commercials with a company switching its fleet of trucks to electric vehicles is superb, but it’s not purpose outright. Cutting CO2 emissions is important, but it’s not purpose outright. Opening an environmentally friendly headquarters is fantastic, but it’s not purpose outright. Being philanthropic and donating money to the community is incredible, but it’s not purpose outright.

Each of these are simply examples of CSR, components of an organization’s purpose.

Author Nilofer Merchant once wrote:

“When corporate executives use the words of purpose to tell a story of same-old-business-models with a focus on profits, they risk being called out for it. When you pursue only the veneer of the idea of ‘purpose’, you miss the opportunity for the larger idea of purpose to change you. You risk ending up with things that are only surface-deep. In the archives of corporate history, this has looked like meaningless mission statements or values carved into the lobby of buildings that nobody lives by.”

Indeed, purpose has become the “new black,” used blatantly as a “feel good” prop to indicate their organization possesses a green thumb.

Language is important. Let’s get it right.

If you work in Marketing, stop stealing the term purpose to exploit CSR. You are purpose-washing.

If you are an executive in the C-Suite, start thinking about purpose as the means to define your organization stands for. (Hint: it’s more than CSR. It begins with deploying some Good DEEDS.)

What’s Lego’s purpose? Glad you asked.

“To inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future – experiencing the endless human possibility.”

News From Dan – November, 2017

Introducing My New Publisher

I am so excited and delighted to announce that I have signed a new contract with a new publisher. The good folks at Figure 1 Publishing are magical, and I am stoked to join the team. The official announcement from Figure 1 is over here if you are interested.

Publishing September 8, 2018,

A New Book

In partnership with my new publisher, my third book, OPEN to THINK, will publish on September 8, 2018.

OPEN to THINK proposes a return to balance between the three components of productive thought: dreaming, deciding, and doing.

More details coming soon. Visit the site for a brief book description.

(Draft Table of Contents in yellow to the left.)

Legends in Leadership.

What an Honour!

The first photo is me with Henry Mintzberg & the other is with Charles Handy. Recently I had the chance to keynote after both of these legendary men. With Henry it was at his Rebalancing Society event in Montreal. With Charles it was at the IMF in Washington, DC. As someone who has read most of their insightful wisdom, I cannot express how humbling it was to share the stage with these two titans of leadership & organizational culture intellect.

Buy Signed Books.

Get Personalized Messages.

Exciting news. You can now buy signed copies of THE PURPOSE EFFECT or FLAT ARMY complete with personalized messages. If you are leading a team, what a fab way to say thanks!  Just tell me their names and something special about them that can be written. See below for more details.

50% OFF PROMO CODE

Valid until December 2, 2017. Use “THANKYOU50” as the promo code on the links below, or visit the Shopify site directly, and you will receive 50% off your entire order of books. No limits on quantity. (Less than $10/book!)

 

KEYNOTE SPEAKING

In 2017 I will have delivered over 50 keynotes about purpose, leadership, culture and engagement. Soon I will be adding “Open Thinking” to the mix. Drop me a line if you would like to discuss opportunities in 2018.

CONSULTING/WORKSHOPS

The work I continue to be fortunate to do with TELUS Transformation Office is very rewarding, my sweet spot. If you or your team needs assistance with organizational effectiveness, ring me up at TTO.

 

Jamie Turner recently placed me on his

Top 100 Motivational Speakers” list.

Check out the entire list over here.

 

Thinkers50 Conference in London

I had the opportunity to attend the Thinkers50 conference in November, a biennial gathering of leadership and management thinkers. Congratulations to my friend, Roger Martin, for landing the top spot, #1 management thinker! My recap of the event can be found on my Forbes column.

That’s me, with (clockwise) David Burkus, Daniel Pink, Tom Peters and Karl Moore at the Thinkers50 gala in London.

And Finally…

The passing of singer/poet Gord Downie affected me greatly in mid-October. I held him in very high regard, be it as a writer, performer, environmentalist, feminist and goofball. He will be missed.

Sunnybrook Hospital devotes millions of dollars toward research to treat the untreatable. Part of my author/speaker commissions in 2017 went to their Foundation. You can donate, too.

That’s me, Dan, paying homage to Gord Downie, illustrating how he lived & worked a life with purpose. (10-minute video)

Thanks for your support in 2017.

Best of the upcoming holiday season.

I hope we can connect in 2018.

How Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Explains Culture, Purpose & Employee Engagement

I have several favorite chocolate bars. Crunchie is one. Toffee and chocolate. What a combination. So too is a Reese Cup. Peanut butter and chocolate? Yes please. And don’t get me started about a caramel-filled Dairy Milk bar from England.

Reese Peanut Butter Cup

As your mouth waters and the endorphins kick into high gear, let’s think about the magic combination that makes up a high performing organization.

When an organization operates with an open culture while demonstrating a higher purpose as it carries out its mission, the sweetness that results is an engaged employee base that in turn delights customers. In the case of my chocolate bar metaphor, when the organization successfully mixes together culture and purpose, the result should be an indelible positive experience for both the employee and the customer.

I have found, however, that the concepts of culture, purpose and engagement can become confusing. Sometimes employees (and even senior leaders) think the three terms mean the same thing.

They don’t.

In fact it’s a bit like our chocolate metaphor. Take the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup example. Chocolate on its own can be referred to as culture. Peanut butter can be thought of as purpose. When we put both the chocolate and the peanut butter together, we get engagement. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is the resulting effect of successfully combining chocolate and peanut butter. It is the engaged employee. In organizations, we must think this way if we want to delight the customer. We have to understand both culture and purpose are critical to an engaged employee population.

The issue boils down to definitions.

Culture is how an organization operates.

Every organization ought to be developing a systemic leadership philosophy that defines how it functions with one another, external suppliers/partners as well as its customers. It’s the operating ethos.

I’m not referring to values, mission statements or strategic imperatives. These are important, but none of them relate to the how.

A leadership philosophy is made up of behaviors and expectations that inform an employee of their interaction responsibilities. If there is no leadership philosophy, there is no way for an employee to know how they are expected to behave.

The leadership philosophy cannot be something found on the walls of board rooms or on the company intranet, either. These behaviors must be inculcated across the organization, starting with leaders of people.

Culture is our chocolate.

Purpose is what an organization stands for.

The purpose of an organization ought to be to “provide service to benefit all intended stakeholders.” Stakeholders include employees, customers, partners, community members and those seeking a fair, financial return.

Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that human beings were driven by purpose. A person’s ideals manifest when they are pursuing and then attaining a life of purpose, ultimately the end state of human flourishing. Organizations are made up of people. Why? Almost everyone needs a paycheck in order to survive.

If an organization is full of more people who are purpose-driven, that’s fantastic. But if the organization itself is driven by profit, power or bureaucracy, there is not much hope for employees to carry over their purpose-driven selves into the workplace. If the organization only stands for profit, power or bureaucracy there is a very good chance employees fall into the job mindset, working solely for the paycheck and likely (or eventually) becoming disaffected.

Management expert Peter Drucker once said of the link between life and work: “To make a living is no longer enough. Work also has to make a life.” It is this purpose at work that people yearn for. Charles Handy, another sage on the topic of management, once wrote, “Let us be clear, profits — and good profits — are always essential, and not just in business. But the myth dies hard, the myth that profit is the purpose.” In  my opinion, “the purpose” is what the organization stands for. And it ought to stand for something bigger than profit, power and bureaucracy.

Purpose is our peanut butter.

Engagement is how employees feel about their culture and purpose.

Which leads us to the resulting effect of combining our chocolate and peanut butter.

An engaged employee will only happen when the culture is open, transparent, communicative, collaborative and trustworthy. These are just some of the behaviors that must become part of the leadership philosophy that defines how an organization operates.

An engaged employee will only materialize when the purpose of the organization is about more than profit, power and bureaucracy.

When put together we have ourselves an outcome. Engagement of employees occurs as a result of how they feel about the organization’s culture and purpose. Engagement is a feeling. Engagement tastes good, if you will.

It is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that organizations ought to be seeking.

Goodbye, Gord

How did it get this late so early, Gord? The gem of your great soul was plucked far too early. You were happily at transformation. And now, your vacancy has left me at the lonely end of the rink. Every morning moon going forward will forever be a mourning moon. With the journey to the waterfall now complete—with the 1000 pound feather you held retired to the fireside sofa—I’d like to thank you for inviting us in and for making stops along the way.

You were loved, Gord.

Transfixed we were by a stage presence like no other. For over thirty years, spastic pantomimes were the norm. It was exhilarating. Sometimes you would paddle across the stage in a phantom powered canoe using “microphone and microphone stand” for an oar. I often wondered if microphone and microphone stand had taken out insurance policies. They sure took a beating from you over the years. Every once in a while you would portage. I’d laugh uncontrollably.

There were basketball shots, Jane Goodall impressions, shoeshine episodes, faux smoking and of course hundreds of paintings painted. As the sonic engine of your Tragically Hip mates hummed, you were in your element. Indeed the blues are still required. It was laminar flow at its finest.

You were loved, Gord.

For others it was the lyrics. Not only were you a better high school teacher than those that taught me during the late 1980’s—what with your various history, geography and societal lessons—you had an endless supply of incredible poetry. “Coulda been the Willie Nelson, coulda been the wine.” C’mon, that’s downright magical. “I write about words, I find treasure or worse.” Oh my. “And it sounds heroincredible, Sound that makes the headphones edible.” Mic drop. You set the lyrical and poetry bar for many an aspiring writer, including yours truly.

You were loved, Gord.

There were the solo projects, too. Never to let a good lyric, poem or riff go to waste, the music that came adjunct to the Hip prior to 2016 was sublime. Released in 2001, Coke Machine Glow contains one of my favourite songs ever, Chancellor. Haunting while simultaneously caressing, the song really is musical poetry.

I remember memorizing the words to Every Irrelevance before it officially released, taken from a bootleg I had scored. Three solo albums later saw the partnership with Toronto indie-band, the Sadies, give birth to the album, And the Conquering Sun. Our three young children dance freely to Los Angeles Times, a rocking jam with one of the most exquisite lines ever: “May we be at ease with ourselves.”

You were loved, Gord.

And then there was the musical championing. You were truly the Gordfather of Canadian music. Having been to well over 100 live Hip shows and ten or so solo shows, most concerts were opportunities for me to be introduced to up and coming talent. They were the openers but you treated them as equals. The list reads like a who’s who of Canadian music history. Blue Rodeo. Broken Social Scene. Skydiggers. Hey Rosetta! Rheostatics. Arkells. Sam Roberts Band. Julie Doiron. It goes on and on and on.

You were loved, Gord.

Let’s not forget your civility, equality and feminism. In the early days of the Hip, even as the front man and lyricist you ensured song writing credits (and royalties) were split evenly across all five band members. That sentiment never wavered.

When on stage you would constantly admonish the beer swilling lunatics and thugs who made life miserable for women wanting to be closer to the stage. Both acts taught me to respect everyone, to treat everyone with decency and dignity no matter the circumstances. It was a luxury to see you act with honour.

You were loved, Gord.

Finally, there were the causes. Behind the scenes you would do so much for our environment and country. Back in 1993 you spearheaded the recording of Land, a song in partnership with the likes of Midnight Oil, Hothouse Flowers and Daniel Lanois, that focused on the clearcutting rainforest epidemic of Clayoquot Sound.

But there was also your leadership with Bullfrog Power where you not only acted as an ambassador of the company’s clean and renewable energy mission, the Hip tours became Bullfrog powered. Waterkeepers was another example. As a Canadian water charity working to protect Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes, you worked as an ambassador in many ways not the least of which was writing about the importance of healthy water in your lyrics.

Then there was your fifth solo album, The Secret Path, released one year before your death. You set the bar on how to conduct yourself if life becomes mathematically fleeting. It was nothing short of admirable. Making it your mission to increase awareness across Canada of the many wrongs the country has inflicted on our First Nations, you became the new Terry Fox for my three children.

You could have turtled, crawled under a rock or hid in the attic. But no. You chose to step smack into the very public light of dying while simultaneously pushing for Truth and Reconciliation. The will and determination—and grace, too—was something the country will never forget. With the creation of the Downie Wenjack Fund your legacy will be the great righting of the wrong. I feel like, finally, we’re on the verge. It’s almost heartening.

You Gord will always be Wicapi Omani, the Man Who Walks Among the Stars.

As I looked to those stars over the past week, tears fell in real time, tears fell through the night. Indeed it was something to cry about.

But I’m not crying anymore. It’s time to stoke the fire. There is more music at work to play.

You were loved, Gord.

You were streets ahead.

 

50% Off Dan’s Books – Until December 2

If you’re looking for signed copies of Dan’s first two books (FLAT ARMY and/or THE PURPOSE EFFECT) now is your chance to buy them for 50% off … not the cover price, but the already discounted price of $20/book.

That’s right, you can get an individual copy of each book for only $10/book.

Use the promo code “THANKYOU50” at the checkout of Dan’s Shopify site to take advantage of this special deal.

But there’s more…

If you are interested in bundles or boxes of both books, those too are on sale … 50% off the already discounted price. (It’s even less than $10/book)

For example:

  • Book Bundle (FLAT ARMY and THE PURPOSE EFFECT) – $15.00
  • By the box (FLAT ARMY – 14 copies in each box) – $75.00
  • By the box (THE PURPOSE EFFECT – 28 copies in each box) – $150.00
  • By the box (FLAT ARMY [26 copies] + THE PURPOSE EFFECT [28 copies]) – $200.00

Offer expires December 2. What a great way to say thanks to your team or a client.

Order your book today. Visit the Shopify site.

(Shipping and taxes extra)

 

 

Respect Is The Starting Point For Society

Debate is at the heart of a democracy. Discourse is what fuels growth in any organization.

When our aim is to silence one another rather than to discuss or challenge with dignity and respect, it’s a sign that society is beginning to fail.

Ikhlasul Amal

In the United States, President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was recently deleted by an unnamed, disaffected employee for 11 minutes. It was the employee’s last act before voluntarily leaving the company. Some called for the employee to win the Nobel peace prize. Whatever your politics, the situation was frightening. This is not Nobel prize worthy. For Twitter to be in a position of power to silence a sitting U.S. president speaks volumes to the issue of ensuring each of us remain open to debate and discourse. At a minimum each of us must have the tools in which to do so.

But President Trump is not helping the situation either. He too is guilty of diminishing the importance of open dialog. He too is a culprit of forgetting the core values needed for a healthy society.

His own mercurial Twitter feed exemplifies my point.

Trump repeatedly denounces the opinions of others, refers to elected officials and journalists by derogatory and divisive names, and attempts to minimize ideas that are not his own by twisting truths into lies. (e.g. climate change) When members of his own cabinet propose alternate ways in which to handle situations, rather than being respectful and listening to the idea, Trump uses threats to counter-punch.

Secretary of State Tillerson provides a prime example. Most recently he has been tasked with stick-handling the bombastic file that is North Korea. Trump’s confidence building leadership is to suggest it’s unlikely that Tillerson will even finish his four-year appointment term. That’s not being open. It’s sociopathic, closed-minded and egregious.

In Canada, the governing Liberal Party’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has been repeatedly called “climate Barbie” by members of the media outlet, The Rebel, including its founder Ezra Levant. A political opponent of McKenna, Conservative Gerry Ritz, had the audacity to use the same derogatory term in a tweet. The intimidation tactic did not phase Minister McKenna.

She fought back admirably with verve. But the aim of Levant, Ritz and others is to silence McKenna. Their real quest is to mute her. It won’t happen but it also will not inspire other women and men from getting into politics in the first place. This is when democracy, debate and discourse is lost. These are the acts of silencing future generations.

Citizenship is defined as having membership in a community. Democracy is a community. Our organizations are a community. Society is a community. We cannot silence members of the community. Our aim must not be to hush what others bring to the table of possibility. It has to remain an endless feast. Our democracy and our organizations deserve the opportunity to review the thoughts of everyone.

When we silence we kill democracy. When we bully we destroy our organizations. When we stop listening we ruin society.

Respect for the opinion of others is the starting point for society. At this point in time in 2017, it seems to me as though our respect for the opinions of others is spiraling out of control.

The first values-based meteorite crashing to earth is respect for debate and discourse.

We need to do better.

 

For Democracy To Thrive, Openness Must Prevail

Debate is at the heart of a democracy. Discourse is what fuels growth in any organization.

When our aim is to silence one another rather than to enter into a respectful discussion, it’s a sign that society is beginning to fail.

For democracy to thrive, openness must prevail. 

In the United States, President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was recently deleted by an unnamed, disaffected employee for 11 minutes. It was the employee’s last act before voluntarily leaving the company. Some called for the employee to win the Nobel peace prize. Whatever your politics, the situation was frightening. This is not Nobel prize worthy. For Twitter to be in a position of power to silence a sitting US president speaks volumes to the issue of ensuring each of us remain open to debate and discourse. At a minimum each of us must have the tools in which to do so.

But President Trump is not helping the situation either. He too is guilty of diminishing the importance of open dialog. He too is a culprit of forgetting the core values of a healthy society.

His own mercurial Twitter feed exemplifies my point. Trump repeatedly denounces the opinions of others, refers to elected officials and journalists by derogatory and divisive names, and attempts to minimize ideas that are not his own by twisting truths into lies. (e.g. climate change) When members of his own cabinet propose alternate ways in which to handle situations, rather than being respectful and listening to the idea, Trump uses threats to counter-punch  Secretary of State Tillerson provides a prime example. Most recently he has been tasked with stick-handling the bombastic file that is North Korea. Trump’s confidence building leadership is to suggest it’s unlikely that Tillerson will even finish his four-year appointment term. That’s not being open. It’s sociopathic, closed-minded and egregious.

In Canada, the governing Liberal Party’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, has been repeatedly called “climate Barbie” by members of the media outlet, The Rebel, including its founder Ezra Levant. A political opponent of McKenna, Conservative Gerry Ritz, had the audacity to use the same derogatory term in a tweet. The intimidation tactic did not phase Minister McKenna. She fought back admirably with verve. But the aim of Levant, Ritz and others is to silence McKenna. Their real quest is to mute her. It won’t happen but it also will not inspire other women and men from getting into politics in the first place. This is when democracy and discourse is lost. These are the acts of silencing future generations.

Citizenship is defined as having membership in a community. Democracy is a community. Our organizations are a community. Society is a community. We cannot silence members of the community. Our aim must not be to hush what others bring to the table of possibility. It has to remain an endless feast. Our democracy and our organizations deserve the opportunity to review the thoughts of everyone.

When we silence one another we kill democracy. When we bully we destroy our organizations. When we stop listening we ruin society.

Respect for the opinion of others is the starting point for a values-based society. At this point in time in 2017, it seems to me as though our values are spiraling out of control.

The first ominous meteorite that is crashing to earth is our respect for open debate and discourse.

We need to do better.

 

Dear CEO

Dear CEO,

Now more than ever in our history we need you to lead.

Frankly, with all due respect, what you have been serving up as “leadership” since the 1970’s has not been good enough. There have been some bona fide exceptions—Marc Benioff, Ursula Burns, Oprah Winfrey and Nick Meriggioli come to mind—but much of the leadership emanating from CEOs has been less than stellar. It is time to hit the reset button. Let us first start with the facts and conclude with several reflections for change.

First, ask yourself if your employees—the ones carrying out your strategy—actually care about your organization, their role or even the customers they serve. It matters not what firm does the surveying, employee satisfaction remains anemic. It has been like this for decades. Gallup, for example, indicates global levels of employee engagement continues to hover around 13 percent.

When upwards of 90 percent of your employees are not proud of where they work it does nothing for your brand. When these employees interact with a customer, imagine the residual after effects if the exchange is unprofessional. Rest assured there is virtually no chance for your employees to go above and beyond the call of duty if they remain disengaged or worse, disenfranchised. Furthermore, have you considered the infighting that rages across your departments due to your corporate culture calamity?

Second, have you ever wondered aloud why you are in business in the first place? As the planet simultaneously melts and heats up, as the gap between the haves and have-nots increases, as business teeters “on the brink of distrust,” have you thought about your organization’s purpose? Perhaps you believe the only purpose of a business is to grow revenue and profits or to increase shareholder return. If so, may I suggest a rethink?

As management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” Research suggests a purpose-driven organization ends up not only improving its financial results, but employee engagement, retention and customer satisfaction in addition to shareholder return. This is on top of improving the welfare of our communities and the planet. Sadly there only a few purpose-driven organizations to look up to. The likes of Patagonia, Fairphone and LSTN are exemplary role models.

Third, our organizations are quickly becoming hives of inordinate stress. Wherever you look on the org chart, people are mentally and physically breaking down. According to the World Health Organization, workplace stress will become the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” As a result of the omnipresent “do more with less” mindset in the workplace—where employees feel excessive pressure to complete tasks, meet targets and innovate with shorter deadlines, less investment and distracted colleagues—employees are suffocating. There is no time to reflect, to dream.

Pausing to think is frowned upon. Consequently the entire organization is in action overdrive. The “do more with less” mindset is resulting in a frenetic operating culture that has effectively squashed both creative and critical thinking. When your organization does not have the time to reflect—when employees spend all of their time in a feverish quest to get things done—mistakes are made, learning is missed, new ideas are squandered and the stress mounts. To be blunt, it is unsustainable.

What to do?

You must start by analyzing your corporate culture. Do employees collaborate? Are they fearful? Do fiefdoms run rampant between business units, departments and teams? Does your organization innately connect with others first and consider options before making a decision and executing? By analyzing the current state of your organization’s culture you are taking stock of how things are actually working. Get real. Get out of your office. Get personable.

Once the results are digested, develop a cross-functional team that will work with employees across the organization to create and then implement a new leadership philosophy. Define your behaviours as well as organizational disciplines and attributes. This becomes the bedrock of your culture. Spend as long as it takes to enact the new philosophy. Rest assured it will take a while, but failing to make it a priority will leave you caricatured as an ATNA: all talk no action.

In parallel to redefining your organization’s internal behaviours, you must redefine its purpose. Why are you in business? Craft an organizational declaration of purpose, a pithy, thoughtful statement that outlines who you serve and how you uphold meaning as you conduct business. Then shift the way you do business. Your purpose is to serve all stakeholders not simply shareholders or profit seekers. You are a part of the community and our planet. By virtue of that circumstance your purpose is about more than money, more than the stock market. Your purpose is to ethically create and keep a customer, serving all stakeholders equally in the process. Unilever and the work of its CEO, Paul Polman, is one to admire.

To complement a more collaborative culture with your organization’s higher purpose you must simultaneously introduce an open thinking mindset. The first step is to start discussing with your direct and skip-level reports the importance of time. Time is the enemy of open thinking. When senior level executives embody an attitude of “do more with less” they typically create environments where there is no time.

Teach them to give it back, both to themselves and those they lead. Teach them to block time off in their calendars to think. Not every minute of every day has to be in a meeting. Further, have open conversations about workload and perfection. If time is the enemy of open thinking, overburdened to-do lists and quests for flawlessness are rampant viruses.

In summary, if you commit to these recommendations there is no doubt in my mind your organization and its employees will benefit, customers will be delighted and all stakeholders will be rewarded. Moreover there will be a boon to communities and the planet.

The question that remains is as follows: do you have it in your heart, head and soul to change the way you lead? Remember, each of us are all flaws in progress.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Dan Pontefract

<Note: a version of this letter was originally published to Thinkers50>

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Dan Pontefract is the author of THE PURPOSE EFFECT & FLAT ARMY. His next book, OPEN to THINK, is publishing in 2018. He is Chief Envisioner at TELUS.