Conscious Capitalism Chicago: Blog
We write monthly pieces about our adventures, tours, gatherings, discussions and more.
Often, we spend our workday on the go. Moving from meeting to meeting, eating lunch at our desks, working on deadlines. This puts us on overload and overdrive.
What if you took the time to slow down and created some space for yourself before walking into a meeting? What if you gave yourself time to think and set your intentions for the outcomes you desired to accomplish?
Practicing mindfulness – even five minutes a day – is enough to make a difference. You can actually change your brain.
Last fall, we hosted Raj Sisodia author, scholar, thought leader and co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, a series of events. At the beginning of his lecture Raj helped bring the room to presence with this short Presence Practice.
Here is a recording of the practice that you can use before stepping into a meeting, at the start of your day or with your team before you begin a meeting together.
Let us know what results you see in the comments below.
For some further wisdom from Raj, listen to our latest episode of the Curious Conscious Capitalist. Raj speaks about How Business Can Heal Our Bodies, Minds, Souls, and Planet.
The last few months have been watershed moments with sexual harassment issues being exposed in the entertainment and media industries as well as in government leadership. At the end of 2017, it seemed that almost daily a new story was being told by a victim coming forward with a horrific story and a powerful man being exposed and falling from grace (not to mention in many cases fired). There is so much to unpack on this issue, but we were curious about the perspective of some of our conscious business leaders. So, we reached out to Daphne Dolan, CEO of City Staffing, and invited her to write a guest blog on the topic. City Staffing is a staffing agency in the Chicago area, whose hiring and placement demographic tends to be majority female. City Staffing has been a member of Conscious Capitalism Chicago since it’s inception, and Daphne sits on our Advisory Board
When asked to write this blog I had to think twice, do I really know what I am being asked? Sexual harassment as a topic in my mind is so wide ranging and so far-reaching it encompasses everything from the obvious – ogling and groping – to rampant and flagrant abuses of power demonstrated by the insidious and sinister activities of movie moguls (and public personalities in all arenas) that are now making the headlines on a daily basis. It is an issue of dominance and power as well as gender stereotypes and societal norms; it is so deeply embedded in our values and our ethics it is like pulling a Band-aid off a festering wound. But the Band-aid is finally off, and we are able to gaze and critique a gender infrastructure that has been destructive for too long.
The headlines have led to public outcry and a movement of people to coalesce around two mantras: ‘I Knew’ and ‘Me Too’.
What has at once surprised me most and yet echoed what we already knew is that these behaviors were in the open, observed and considered, and that no one did anything to stop the rot. Or, at least no one who ‘mattered’ or would be listened to. There is so much media coverage of people trying to ‘out’ the situation, but to no avail – alas those who speak out are often sidelined, subdued, quieted or labeled as heretics, crazy people or trouble makers – a typical whistleblower analogy can be drawn.
Whistleblowing or ‘telling tales’ is something we are programmed to avoid from childhood – ‘no one likes a rat’. It is really no wonder people don’t come forward, as victims have long been blamed and disregarded for their own accounts of abuse.
Our friends, our sisters, our daughters and our colleagues are all suffering, but have now found a voice, and we must grab this opportunity to give momentum to the movement. We must add the ‘me toos’ to the ‘I knews’ and blow that whistle with all our might!
Now that people are talking, we must challenge our companies, our government, and our public leaders to set a better example and stamp out behaviors that will not be tolerated.
As I come down from the podium I ask, how can I effect change? I am the Managing Director of City Staffing, a female-owned and run staffing agency, that has consciousness at its heart. Our most important stakeholders are our people: they have to come first. We have to protect them, and we have to be there for them.
What can you do?
There’s a certain fast-food restaurant near my home that has a distinct impact on our community. First of all, it does meet the need for quick, inexpensive food. It also employs local teenagers. In addition, however, it accounts for at least half of the litter in nearby yards and alleys (both packaging and discarded fries and burgers), the drive-through window creates long lines of cars that extend into the street and cause traffic snarls (particularly during morning rush hour) as well as unpredictable and piercing noise for surrounding homes as teenage voices ask, “Can I have your order?” Finally, the nutrition that it delivers is suspect at several levels. So, while it delivers some measure of value to our community – and certainly to its employees and corporate shareholders – it also leaves a sizable negative footprint.
On December 1, CEOs from our chapter heard about an entirely different approach to providing value to a business’ stakeholders. Brian Schultz, CEO, shared how Studio Movie Grill (SMG) seeks to provide value to all of its stakeholders, especially the communities in which it operates. SMG operates 30 theaters in 8 states with a total of 314 screens. It creates a complete experience, including in-theater dining, and its declared purpose is to “open hearts and minds, one story at a time.” It pursues that purpose with five clearly defined stakeholders:
Through the lens of their purpose and stakeholder commitments, SMG has created numerous initiatives that extend beyond offering good movies. In the Dallas area, it started with a single school fundraiser that grew to 100 hosted events throughout its locations. They have created special events for youth with disabilities, adjusting sound and lighting to create a welcoming experience for the children and their families – offering a “family night out” opportunity that was previously unimagined. And, they now have a location in the neighborhood of Chatham on the South Side of Chicago.
Why Chatham, and not Schaumburg or Oak Brook or the North Shore? Because Chatham is a neighborhood that can benefit from a well-run, community-focused source of family entertainment. The theater has become an anchor that employs local youth, supports local schools and offers both fine movies and dining. Many local residents come to the theater for a family meal, whether or not they see a movie.
Conscious Capitalism includes four key pillars, and two of them are higher purpose and stakeholder value. Studio Movie Grill demonstrates both of these can be real in a business that makes money while making the world a better place.
Conscious Capitalism Chicago is exploring this possibility – not as wishful thinking, but as a practical reality. At our July 20 event, four leaders from the healthcare sector engaged in this inquiry with us. And, on September 28, Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, will continue the conversation with us, exploring examples of how business can help restore the health of our bodies, minds and souls.
In July, Andrew Sykes, CEO of Habits at Work, a collective of researchers, actuaries and consultants who empower positive habit creation for companies and their employees, said we need to acknowledge “our complicity in work being fundamentally unhealthy.” Andrew asked us if we had ever taken the attitude that ‘I will sacrifice myself at the altar of my company’? I have to admit, I’ve been there. Whether it’s the number of hours or plane flights or cups of coffee, we sometimes consider such measures to be a badge of honor, somehow reinforcing the collective myth that success is giving up our lives? Andrew challenged the business leaders present to shift their mindsets and declare that it doesn’t have to be that way. We can design our work in a way that makes a difference to the performance of human beings. The ultimate promise should be: “come and work here, and we’ll send you home in the best shape of your life.”
It sounds ambitious – and perhaps unrealistic. But, our other panelists echoed Andrew’s perspective. Lyle Berkowitz from Abundant Venture Partners, a purpose-based incubator focused on improving the human condition, said that “the whole healthcare system is aligned to get the results we’re getting – it only kicks in when we get really sick. In many ways, being healthy is counter-productive for our healthcare systems.” We’ve got to focus on designing our work and our lives to nurture our health – and increased energy and performance will follow. Ari Levy, founder of SHIFT, an integrated wellness center (where we met) noted that the keyword is “conscious”. He said that we tend to be largely unconscious much of the time, and healthy work would mean being thoughtful and intentional about our behavior and practices. Patty Riskind, CEO of SIMnext, a developer of simulation software for training healthcare professionals shared that ironically the “most unhealthy employees work in the healthcare industry”, and that as leaders we need to set the tone to change behavior and improve outcomes.
So, can work be a source of health and well-being? We think so. Join us on September 28 to delve more deeply with Raj Sisodia. Raj maintains that most businesses take healthy and whole people and – over time – stress them out and burn them out, adversely impacting their health and happiness as well as their families. Yet, he says it doesn’t have to be that way. Business can be a source of healing, making broken people whole again – and being extraordinarily successful at the same time.
How often do you think CEOs gather over a meal to discuss the humbling experience of their biggest mistake? Or reveal that chink in their personal armor?
Not too often, right?
It’s only human to look good in front of our peers and feel as though we have all the answers or only share our victories with each other. The facade in business can be “everything is fantastic,” “we are killing it,” or “sales are through the roof”. It’s the business equivalent of answering “I’m fine” when asked how we are.
Yet, the business leaders on the journey of Conscious Capitalism who gathered for our recent CEO breakfast have found value not only in sharing best practices, but also in being vulnerable to share those moments (or chinks) when they had failed and what they had learned from those experiences. Below’s a smattering of what they shared.
One leader openly shared his company’s journey aligning itself with its core values and making people their top priority. Making this choice exposed a lot of practices and relationships that were not aligned with their foundational values, resulting in their choice to to walk away from their largest client.
While this move had a significant cost,and they felt like they were taking a step back, it really allowed them to move forward, while staying true to their operating principles.
Another leader shared the challenging decision to keep or fire an employee who had an encyclopedic knowledge of their product technology, but who was also killing morale. Postponing and fretting over the decision had had a high cost in the culture, until the employee finally moved on.
Lesson learned? Not only to make sure new hires are a fit with creating the culture, but also to make decisions sooner before the cost becomes too high.
Across the conversations, it was clear that being willing to be vulnerable and share mistakes can not only be liberating for the leader, but it also creates a culture in which employees are more self-expressed and less afraid to fail.
It’s important to share our stories. And, our stories also include challenging moments.
Yet, what becomes possible when we authentically share those moments where we don’t do our best or we let our team down or we cost our company time or money?
If we have the courage to allow them, those opportunities for learning can open up new pathways for ourselves as leaders as well as for our businesses.
CC2017, the annual Conscious Capitalism conference, is behind us now, leaving a wake of inspiration and meaningful connections behind it. This year, 400 leaders converged in Philadelphia for two very full days of keynotes and breakout sessions. In conjunction with the conference, 45 chapter leaders from all over the world spent an additional full day sharing ideas, building skills and learning from each other.
The movement is certainly alive and well, and expanding rapidly across the globe.
Two members of our Chicago community presented practicums at CC2017: Katlin Smith, CEO of Simple Mills, and Dan Golden, CEO of BeFoundOnline. Katlin’s session was titled: “The Art of Un-Compromise: Growing without Diluting Your Principles.” Dan’s session focused on “The Ownership Culture: How to Build a Culture of Employee Engagement and Empowerment.” They both graciously agreed to spend an evening and share an encore of their Philly sessions with our Chicago community. Here’s a sense of the wisdom they shared with us:
Based on her experience with Simple Mills, Katlin gave us some insight into how to enable a company to grow without compromising its purpose and values:
Be clear about your purpose and stay in touch with it as you grow. Know what your “lines in the sand” are – what absolutely won’t you do as you grow?
Align your employees and other stakeholders’ interests around what the product stands for and product quality, and the metrics you use to measure success.
Have a battle plan for “grey decisions” – the calls you have to make in situations that aren’t cut and dried, may have conflicting demands, and require time to think and different perspectives from team members.
Dan, with his trademark candor, humor and humility, shared how BeFoundOnline created an ownership culture using appreciative inquiry and open book management. The BeFoundOnline team navigated difficult times by engaging all the employees in brainstorming, voting and aligning together on how to handle the challenge of losing
Through the transparency and empowerment of open book management, even the newest, youngest employee was able to contribute to a solution that helped the whole company meet its annual plan and enable the whole team to receive their bonuses.
Our Chicago group responded enthusiastically to Katlin and Dan’s insights. As we wrapped up and shared takeaways, one leader shared, “You’ve completely changed how I’m going to handle my staff meeting tomorrow. I was going to focus on a list of customer service issues that are frustrating me, and instead I’m going to focus first on the much longer list of what we’re doing right, and how we can learn from them. I’ve never started a meeting with what’s going right before!”
“Yesterday is gone and its tale told. Today new seeds are growing.” ~~ Rumi
Crimson, spicy-sweet, and essential to a perfect paella or seafood risotto, saffron is known the world over as the Queen of All Spices or Red Gold.
Saffron is variously grown in Iran, Spain, and Kashmir yet it’s in Afghanistan where you’ll find the highest quality saffron. The high altitude, dry winds and intensely arid climate create an ideal environment to grow the purple crocuses f
What comes to mind when most of us think of Afghanistan, however, isn’t saffron or delectable dishes, but pictures of war-torn lands, stories of terrorist activity, and the reality of the opium drug trade.
Kim Jung and Keith Alaniz, two of the three founders of Rumi Spice, a local Chicago start-up, joined us recently to share quite a different story of Afghanistan.
Deployed to address war, terrorism and drug trafficking as US Army soldiers, what Kim–as a platoon leader in search of roadside bombs, and Keith–as a regional expert working with tribal elders, observed stood in stark contrast to the devastation all around them.
They saw a proud people with a rich culture and history. They saw a generosity of spirit amongst the Afghani farmers. They saw a land covered in tiny purple flowers that contain the rarest, most expensive of spices: Afghan saffron.
Later, back in the US, Kim and third founding member, Emily Miller, had been accepted into Harvard Business School and were in search of a project. While still in Afghanistan, Keith contacted them with an idea.
He’d met Haji Yosef, a local Afghani saffron farmer who could only sell his saffron in the local market. After 30 years of war the Afghanis had effectively been cut off from the international marketplace, and without investment in agriculture, Afghan farmers had few prospects for growth, making them susceptible to the influence of the Taliban’s pressure to grow poppies.
Could this be the project that Kim and Emily were looking for at Harvard?
Kim set out to find out, despite her parents thinking she was a bit crazy. She bought a ticket to Afghanistan where she met up with Keith and Haji Yosef. Deeply moved and inspired by Haji’s story, they set to “become entrepreneurs like Haji Yosef, to start a business, and to do something with this one wild and precious life that actually meant something.”
Rumi Spice was born.
Named after the Persian poet, Rumi, whose life and teachings involve coming home to a spiritual center, Rumi Spice’s purpose is ‘to lay a foundation for peace, one saffron flower at a time.”
To that end, Rumi’s stated purpose is at the core of everything they do: “economically empowering Afghani farmers, inspiring Afghani women through earning direct wages, building out Afghanistan’s agricultural infrastructure, and reinvesting back into the community.”
Rumi is the largest foreign employer in agriculture in Afghanistan. They currently partner with more than 90 farmers, employing more
While the average Afghani household earns around $500/year, Afghan farmers can more than triple their income with saffron while providing an alternative to poppy and opium farming – one of the primary sources of income for the Taliban.
Uniquely positioned to overcome barriers with their social networks and in-country expertise, Kim, Keith and Emily have built important relationships, partnerships, and organizational infrastructure necessary to operate within and out of Afghanistan to bring this top-quality, sustainably farmed saffron to customers around the world.
In addition to its unique flavor, saffron’s amazing health benefits range from improved respiration and heart health to reduced inflammation and pain. Its healing properties have been known throughout time as it is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium.
Chosen by world-class chefs and Michelin-rated restaurants, Rumi’s additional products and luxury items include saffron gemmies, saffron cocktails, green tea and saffron mixes.
Kim, Keith and Emily see their competitive advantage as their ability to navigate the Afghan business landscape, which is built on trusted relationships and strengthened by their insistence on quality. Rumi’s Afghani saffron received the highest rating at the International Taste & Quality Institute in accordance with ISO Standard 3632 at an outstanding rating of 236. The Institute has rated Afghan saffron #1 three years running.
“The social impact piece is great, but this saffron stands on its own.” At Rumi they believe that a for-profit, social enterprise is the solution to long-term post-conflict development, and Afghan peace is worth fighting for.
When asked about what they’ve learned in building their business, they shared the following:
This conscious company is making its mark in the world in big ways. On May 7,2017 all three founders appeared on Shark Tank in hopes of securing investment monies for their growing business. After presenting their business case, graciously addressing the pushback they received, shark Mark Cuban agreed to finance them to the tune of $250,000 in exchange for 15% of their business.
Learn more about Rumi Spice. Check out Chicago Tonight’s story from this spring.
How do you not only bring an 85-year-old company into the 21st century, but innovate to create a sustainable future?
This was a question that Marc Blackman, CEO of Gold Eagle Brands, and his team were asking. Golden Eagle Brands is a Chicago-based manufacturer of fuel stabilizers and ethanol treatments. They have built a family of brands that are driven to protect and preserve the things you love.
The challenges that Gold Eagle was facing as a company were both external and internal.
External ChallengesThe way people buy products has changed over the last 10 years and will only continue to change as e-commerce grows. Many retailers are closing their doors, so it poses the challenge of how to connect products to the market. The way we communicate has changed. Digital and social media are replacing TV as a way to effectively connect with customers and build a brand. And consumers want to feel that connection to a brand as they buy their products – they don’t just want to hear about the product, they want to hear about the company.
Internal ChallengesHow do you make an 85-year-old manufacturing company on the Southwest side of Chicago, sexy and attractive to millennials and continue to create a work environment where people can thrive?
You realize that as a company, you need to change.
Marc became involved with Conscious Capitalism and saw the impact it can have on business. Marc shared, “You have to be successful, but business owners are going to be the stabilizing force. Gold Eagle has always been known as a great place to work with a family culture, but as we learn about what it takes to be successful in the future, we see that our good culture can be so much better.”
How are they doing it? For starters: Marc and his executive team made the commitment to transforming their work culture. By reading, Everyone Matters, by Bob Chapman the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, they became interested in learning how well they are balancing their operating performance, operational stability and people-centric leadership.
Barry-Wehmiller created the BW Leadership Institute. They they teach companies how to implement their Truly Human Leadership model.
Marc and Dan Stewart, Head of HR for Gold Eagle Brands, paid a visit to Barry-Wehmiller company in Saint Louis to learn from the BW Leadership Institute and are kicking off a workshop with their team at Gold Eagle Brands this month.
Here are some of the things that they have learned so far as they start implementing this model:
Hand-in-hand with their efforts to evaluate culture, Gold Eagle invested in transforming its physical space. Their older office space was ready for an upgrade. They were intentional in their design by creating spaces that inspire collaboration, attracts more millennials and has natural light filling rooms and a floor plan of open space. The new space is truly inspiring. The impact on the company has been connecting the teams, enabling them to communicate more face-to-face with larger, open meeting spaces and a new physical environment that fosters collaboration.
Gold Eagle Brands is among the many companies who are authentically purpose-driven and passionately changing their corner of the world by creating cultures in which their employees are thriving, their stakeholders are served and their leaders are inspiring, creating value and making their companies profitable.
We look forward to checking back with Marc and his team for updates on their cultural transformation. This is how business transforms – one conscious company, leader and employee at a time.
In the last month we’ve heard about big brands like Pepsi, United Airlines and Fox News and their epic failures to connect to their stakeholders, serve their customers and create a safe culture for employees to thrive.
In case you missed it, Pepsi caught flack for a commercial, featuring Kendall Jenner, that tried to capitalize on the protest movement of this new political climate we are living in, in a very manipulative way. Not only did the ad NOT tug at our heartstrings and have people rushing out to buy a Pepsi, it missed the mark so badly that there was immediate consumer backlash and the ad was pulled rather quickly.
United Airlines had its worst week ever when, in a bad customer service move, security was called to remove a customer who refused to give up his seat when the flight was overbooked and they needed to make room for a flight crew. The scene of the man being brutally dragged off the plane and humiliated in the process was filmed by other passengers and played over and over again in the news media, in what must have been a very slow news week. To make matters worse, the CEO of United Airlines issued an initial statement that left an impression that he was blaming the victim for the situation and not taking any responsibility for the actions of the United Airlines staff or the authorities who removed the man.
And in other news, Fox News fired Bill O’Reilly over longstanding sexual harassment allegations and settlements of over $13 million dollars to women who were either current or former employees of Fox News. Make no mistake, this wasn’t conscious capitalism at work; this was a financial move, as it wasn’t until advertisers started pulling ad revenue from the O’Reilly Factor, fearing backlash from their consumers. Fox realized that O’Reilly was becoming a liability, and they took action.
That’s enough to make even the most optimistic person feel disheartened about the state of business and the future of our society.
But for every Fox News, United and Pepsi we have seen wonderful responses from other companies working hard at transformation.
In April, Dove released a case study of how they hacked Shutterstock’s search results to portray women that reflect society with their IMAGE_HACK campaign. The New York Police Department is working alongside the New York Housing Authority to improve customer relations. The New York Time’s article, Customer Service in Blue, highlights, “As New York City’s police department, the largest in the country, undergoes a transformation in how it serves and relates to the communities where faith in law enforcement has eroded, it is a good moment to ask just how happy the customers are.” And the American Association of Universities released their Campus Activities Report: Combating Sexual Assault and Misconduct. They, along with 60 institutions are working to make American campuses safer for every student. The report offer examples of campus activity now underway to better inform universities about sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus, and to affect change.
It’s a shame initiatives like these aren’t viral pieces consumed en masse and applauded. But if we look for it, remain aware of it, we can find inspiration in private enterprise, government and within our strongest institutions.
We live in a time where many people are asking the question “What’s my purpose?” That question can come at any given time… when we reach midlife or when we experience a life change (divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, health scare).
To explore this very topic, Conscious Capitalism Chicago hosted Tim Kelley, acclaimed speaker and author of True Purpose: 12 Strategies for Discovering the Difference You Are Meant to Make.
People have the view that purpose is something that we do outside of work. Some of this may come from economics… we “work toward retirement”. Our end goal is to avoid work and maximize leisure, so we end up living into this future that assumes meaning lies outside or beyond what we do for a living.
The context that we live in suggests that people go to work not expecting to find meaningful value but expecting to find economic value by trading time for money. Current movements, like Conscious Capitalism, are trying to break down this belief that somehow purpose and work cannot go together.
Why is Purpose So Important?
About one third of people are purpose-driven. Purpose-driven people are more likely to stay with a company if they find meaning in their work. And if they find meaning in their work, they are more productive and create better relationships with their co-workers. Their co-workers are fellow travelers on a mission to change the world. This is why purpose-driven companies seek out purpose-driven employees.
Purpose-driven leaders are usually more inspiring. Leaders who are only managing – just moving around parts or who are only focused on the bottom-line of profit – typically do not engage our hearts.
Purpose is also a good guide in a confusing world. Classic business strategy that is based on predicting the future and planning moves ahead like chess is not as effective in this current market. It’s difficult in this market to be able to predict and plan for the future. A company with a larger purpose has a rudder to deal with the uncertainty, because the purpose will help guide their decision-making and bring them back on course when the waters get rough.
Companies that are authentically “on purpose” and who share that purpose with their employees and customers tend to have a loyal fan base and the relationship becomes one of a shared movement, rather than a transactional exchange of goods and services. There is also plenty of data to support that purpose driven companies are profitable and sustainable over time. A company does not trade profit for purpose, in these business models, profit becomes a natural outcome of a purpose driven company.
So How Do I Find Me Some Purpose?
You can start by asking questions like:
During our session with Tim, he led us through an exploration of purpose at work and in life, and he went further to facilitate an exercise to help us connect to our own purpose. Tim’s book True Purpose, is a helpful guidepost for the journey. This excerpt of the book serves as a practical resource to get you started.
Here’s a parting thought on purpose: when you become clear about your purpose, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need blow up your current life or find a new job. We can bring who we are and our purpose into our own current workplace or life situation and create greater fulfillment right where we are.
What’s your purpose?
Katie Simmons on April 18, 2017 at 8:07 am
Thank you for this reminder on seeking purpose-driven work. I have found it particularly powerful to retaining my clients. They can see my passion and that builds a relationship of trust and loyalty lasting many years.
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