One of the pillars of Conscious Capitalism is a business’ commitment to a purpose beyond just making a profit. As Conscious Capitalism co-founder, Raj Sisodia, is fond of saying, our bodies have to produce red blood cells to survive, but our purpose in life is not to make red blood cells. Similarly, business needs profit to fuel the pursuit of their purpose, but profit is not a purpose.
I had the pleasure of attending an Executives’ Club breakfast in September that featured Allstate CEO, Tom Wilson. Tom’s message (“Building and Leading a Purpose Driven Culture”) was intriguing; I don’t often think of Allstate as a conscious company. The insurance giant, headquartered in Northbrook, is the second largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S. – and insurance does not naturally spring to mind as a conscious industry. But I was at the breakfast to learn and be curious.
Tom shared the genesis of Allstate’s journey around purpose beginning with leadership development at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando. One element of HPI’s program is exploration of personal purpose. Tom shared his personal purpose as to “help other people have more meaning and success in their lives”. As more Allstate leaders engaged in their own purpose work, Tom brought the process in-house and engaged his leadership group together to develop Allstate’s purpose. Today, their stated purpose is to “help customers realize their hopes and dreams by providing the best products and services to protect them from life’s uncertainties and prepare them for the future.” Helping people realize their hopes and dreams – I can get behind that!
And, having a clear purpose is not the end; it’s just the beginning. How do you align your business with the purpose and lead from there? Tom said it requires balancing stakeholders, and Allstate has a few: 40,000 employees, 11,000 agencies and over 16,000,000 customer households – not to mention shareholders as well as the communities they serve. He aspires for Allstate to be a purpose-driven company, fueled by purpose-driven people, such that customers come before company and people come before policies. That requires a shift to a conscious culture, and Allstate has surrounded its purpose with clear values, priorities and leadership and operating principles.
Tom shared further about his recent tenure as immediate past-Chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While there, he challenged the Chamber to articulate its purpose, and the result was two-fold: to help businesses grow and create jobs. For him, the purpose of business is to create prosperity by:
- Serving customers – adding value for them
- Making a profit – which is a measure of their effectiveness at transforming resources into that value
- Creating jobs – as technology improves human productivity (and reduces jobs), business has a mandate to create more jobs that will be both engaging and rewarding. He said we need to “pay people what we can, not just what we can get away with”. In the end, he maintained “engaged employees is where the money is”.
- And, improving our communities, so that we all have better lives.
Great lessons from a conscious leader. Thank you, Tom Wilson!