*** Original post from Forbes.com
More and more, we are hearing about purpose statements, values-based cultures and social responsibility in the marketplace. Personally, I feel like this emergence has been a good thing, as social good is becoming a necessity for us as businesses and business leaders, which makes us all better in the end. Why does it make sense for companies to focus their attention and resources on these types of things? We have found one of these movements, conscious capitalism, to be impactful to us as a business, so many of the things we do are rooted in its philosophies.
Conscious capitalism is founded on the belief that our business exists for a purpose greater than just profit. It is “a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world. Conscious businesses are galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders.”
Skeptics may question who can or cannot be a conscious capitalist. One thing to keep in mind is that having social responsibility or being a values-based company does not mean being a nonprofit. Yes, there may be some overlap, but if you go back and look at the main premise of conscious capitalism, it’s assumed that profit is there. Otherwise, the company would cease to exist. Rather, it’s about how we spend this profit and where we provide value. If we look at the stakeholder model, we see that this image encompasses more than just shareholders and owners. It brings a focus to providing value to our partners, the community around us and even the industry as a whole.
At our company, we measure our success in providing value using external assessments like the Inc. 5000 and Best Places to Work lists. It’s about providing for people both financially and culturally. It’s about reaching outside of ourselves and serving a larger community. And while you might think that providing value to what could be seen as our competition might be problematic, I believe that’s an old-school, zero-sum perspective that negates the very real benefits of collaboration and cooperation. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. If we can advance our communities and partners in such a fashion, it will benefit us in the long run.
Another area to focus our efforts and investments is in our company culture. Every company has a culture; it either happens by default or decision. When you get a group of people together, there will ultimately be some norms that emerge from the group. That’s your culture — or at least the start of it. Just like a living thing, culture needs attention and care so as not to be misaligned, stunted or toxic. The kernel of your culture is primarily about your people, but starts with your values — not aspirational values (those that get thrown up on the wall and may even become jokes around the office), but the values your team and especially your leadership live out on a daily basis.
A great way to become more intentional with your culture is to start with the idea that you’ll “do for one what you wish you could do for all.” In your day-to-day interactions, think about what one thing you could do that would make that person’s life better or their job easier. Where might you be able to invest a little bit that would bring about a greater impact? For us, we saw a need for user groups and meetups to have space to get together. Since we had training rooms that went unused in the evenings, it was a great way for us to support that community with the resources we had. The one thing we did that went a little further, buying pizza for them, has gone a long way to making us not just a place for gathering but a group that cares and supports those local communities.
Finally, I believe the best way to grow your business is to grow yourself. People want to follow leaders who are real — not just real people, but people who are realistic about their need to pursue further growth and tackle new things. When there is passion and drive emanating from the top, it’s near impossible for it not to be felt all the way down through the organization.
By changing our own mindset about things, we change the way we act and even the way we feel — and that’s a great thing. By running our own leadership program each year, I get to engage our rising leaders and invest in them, but I also get to invest in myself. Reviewing the materials that we teach as part of that program keeps me in tune with what has gotten us here and pushes me to find new ways to reach the next level. Find an area of your life you need to grow in, and start by modeling that behavior for your people. I assure you, your teams will be grateful.