Conscious Capitalism Chicago: Blog

We write monthly pieces about our adventures, tours, gatherings, discussions and more.

  • September 30, 2016 8:58 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    Why Is Whole Foods Englewood So Inspiring?

    The new Whole Foods Market in Englewood opened Wednesday to much fanfare… As much as we don’t like to make Whole Foods the poster child for everything Conscious Capitalism, it’s moments like this that make it clear why they’re the leaders of the movement.

    A couple of years ago I visited the Whole Foods in Detroit and it was a moving, inspiring experience, a community experience. People hung out outside drinking coffee and chatting, and called out to neighbors as they arrived. Moving through the store I saw items on the shelves that were the usual suspects, but also new local and ethnic brands I’d never seen before. At the food bar, strangers helped each other navigate the honor system. One man asked the woman next to him, “You mean I just take it myself?” Being trusted to serve yourself stood in stark contrast to paying for gas through a tiny slot in a bullet proof window not far away. Whole Foods had succeeded not only in engaging the community in planning for and launching the store in way that was culturally sensitive and relevant to the area, but also creating a place that people felt was their own.

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    The Englewood store is a great example of the Conscious Capitalism stakeholder model in action – a win, win, win. Customersget healthy foods, including low cost staples ($1.50 for a loaf of whole wheat bread, cage-free eggs for $1.99). Suppliers include local businesses like our recent conscious business boot camp winner Laine’s Bake Shop – who thrive and grow with Whole Foods’ business and guidance. The Community gets a new source of jobs and a vote of confidence that pulls in other retailers, like the Starbucks next door. Employees get to work in a great, positive environment; learn, grow, and have a good wage and benefits. Whole Foods expands their brand and most importantly, gets to fulfill on their purpose. And their Investors prosper as a result of all of it.

    I’ll admit it – I’m a softie and had a hard time swallowing my food during my visit to Detroit, moved by the sheer goodness of a business doing the right thing in a profound way. I expect my visit to Englewood to be the same.

    *Photos used from “What if Englewood became the new Hyde Park? A battered neighborhood dreams” published in the Chicago Tribune, Sept 30, 2016.

  • August 20, 2016 8:44 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    The Rise of a New Kind of Leadership

    I work from home, and recently I experienced a week of utter disruption in concentration, focus, and flow. The house next door was being demolished to make room for a new home for the new owners.

    All day long I would hear the sound and the vibration of bulldozers as they plowed into the back of the house, of pounding on the roof as they disconnected the house being demolished from the one that I live in, and of bricks falling as they ripped the house apart piece by piece.

    Then… silence.  In a week’s time, a house that took who knows how long to build and lasted for over a hundred years was gone, demolished. A house that had once been someone’s home and provided many memories and occasions… no longer in existence.  All that remained was a large hole in the ground where the old house once stood – and where the vision of the new home to be built was now a possibility.  Fresh ground awaiting a new foundation to be poured.  And in three weeks that new foundation has already been poured, and you can see the makings of an entirely new house rising from the ground.

    As I observed all of this occurring, it dawned on me that the destruction of the old and building of something new is such an apt metaphor for what’s required of each of us to become conscious leaders today.

    Change is happening rapidly whether we like it or not. To keep up with this ever-changing marketplace, organizations are required to think differently, change their internal operating systems and reinvent themselves from the inside out. And to lead the change effectively and steer organizations to new shores, leaders must also transform themselves.

    The book “Shakti Leadership”, by Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia, so beautifully outlines the case for this important shift and demonstrates what’s needed to unlock the source of true leadership. In the past, leaders (both male and female) bought into the notion that effectiveness requires traditionally masculine qualities.  Hierarchical, militaristic and “win-at-all costs” styles have been highly valued and perceived as the way to be successful in life and in the marketplace.  However, as we have evolved and a myriad of challenges have arisen in society and in business, that way of thinking and leading is no longer effective.  

    What’s needed now is a shift into more balanced energy that marks a continued evolution of leadership, integrating what has been considered more feminine qualities of cooperation, listening, and empathy. And to be a highly effective leader we must each raise our own awareness and learn how to integrate and balance both the masculine and feminine qualities that we all possess.  It is power coming from an authentic place that exists within us all and what the Yogic tradition has called Shakti, or life force energy.

    Says the book:
    Becoming a conscious leader requires a transformational journey. You do not become a conscious leader just by getting behavioral skills training in “what leaders do.”  Deeper, foundational shifts are required to connect you to new and true bases of consciousness and power. The person you are is the leader you are; therefore, you have to make the journey inward to transform yourself.  The hero’s journey, Joseph Campbell’s masterwork, maps perfectly onto modern leadership and business. You need to push beyond your known zone.  It takes hard work and you will face many obstacles along the way.  It is also a dangerous journey in which you’re going to have to “die” in some ways.

    Human beings and the universe are evolving in a certain direction; there is a distinct trajectory that can be discerned.  There is an evident purpose to this process, it’s not all based on random mutations.  If we can flow into that trajectory and be part of it rather than be at cross-purposes with it, we can have access to extraordinary power.  We become agents of what needs to be; if not, these infinitely powerful forces quickly cancel our feeble efforts.

    How do you connect with a place that fuels you continuously?  How do you become a whole person in order to be a whole leader?  How do you become a flexible person in order to be a flexible leader?

    The book explores these questions and more.

    What is required to lead today, in the 21st century world of business, is a new paradigm of leadership.  In essence, it requires a demolition of our existing house – our way of thinking or what has made us successful in the past.  In its place, we must build an entirely new house that will allow new ways of being and thinking to emerge… the rise of Shakti leadership that embraces all that we are.

  • July 18, 2016 8:50 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    The Opportunity at Madison and Pulaski

    Have you ever been to the intersection of Madison and Pulaski? Even more to the point, have you ever shopped there? If you’re reading this, most likely the answer to both questions is no. The heart of West Garfield Park’s commercial district, the Madison-Pulaski Commercial Corridor, today appears as an array of underused businesses in decline, barely surviving in an economically depressed neighborhood.

    But, let’s go back in time. Madison-Pulaski was a thriving commercial district early in the 20th century, home to many businesses and hotels as well as venues for jazz and theater. Beginning in the 1950’s, the district began a long decline, punctuated by the unrest and violence of 1968. Today, the district is trafficked by primarily local, black patrons, shopping at run-down storefronts owned by white money. There is little or no influx of dollars from outside the West Garfield Park area, and woefully little money within the neighborhood. It is striking to visit this business corridor. The edifices are classic, but the facades are worn and tarnished. There seems little hope.

    What is the opportunity? We must find ways to infuse dollars from outside the community to re-energize its business and residents – because the community does not have the resources on its own. It will take courage and an inspired alliance among city government, community leaders, consumers and conscious business. Conscious business with a commitment to adding value to all its stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers and the community that it operates within.

    Whole Foods is making just such a bold move on West 63 St. in Englewood on the South Side. Investing in a community, encouraging local hiring, disrupting “food desert” eating habits – and inviting dollars from outside Englewood to flow into the community. Too often, we expect someone else to “fix” the urban problems that we have all contributed to over the years. Conscious business is part of the antidote – in partnership with other stakeholders.

    How can we do the same for the Madison-Pulaski Corridor and other neighborhoods so that our city can grow in beauty, prosperity and happiness?

  • April 21, 2016 8:51 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    Conscious Business & Vulnerability: Are You All In?

    After the annual Conscious Capitalism Conference here in Chicago last year (2015), I wrote “Vulnerability is Sexy,” about the work of Corey Blake and his team of Round Table artists. They skillfully rendered–in chalk on a Vulnerability Wall–our hearts, highlighting the core of what makes Conscious Capitalism conscious: our collective vulnerability to life. Uncertainty, risk, emotional openness and heart are key aspects of vulnerability.

    In fact, at this year’s April event, also held here in Chicago, Corey and his Roundtable team were back, this time with a Vulnerability Cube created from the following questions:

    1. “What aspect of your character or personality are you proudest of? (Go ahead, brag on yourself; this is anonymous.)” These responses made up the outside of the cube.
    2. The second question was “What do you fear sharing with the world, or that the world will find out about you? (Lean into discomfort! This is anonymous.).” These responses made up the inside of the cube.

    What’s all this focus on Vulnerability about?

    Might seem a funny thing to consider in a traditional business context, yet there’s nothing traditional about this movement, nothing staid or buttoned up at all about the participants, their companies, the work we all share in together.

    As Brene Brown, vulnerability researcher and a speaker for this year’s CEO Summit in October, “ vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”

    Brown goes on to share a story of Gay Gaddis, the founder and owner of T3 in Austin, Texas. Gay dared to risk the uncertainty of entrepreneurship by declaring her dream of starting an ad agency, seeded by cashing in a $16K IRA. She’s since successfully built her business over the past twenty years from a handful of regional accounts into the nation’s largest women owned advertising agency. Regarding vulnerability Gaddis said, “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.”

    The key to consciousness is self-awareness; self-awareness by definition surfaces our vulnerabilities. This must-have for all conscious leaders, our intentional commitment to cultivate self-awareness involves not only becoming aware of our vulnerabilities, but also noting the myriad of ways in which we hide them from ourselves and others. An essential practice so as to not shut down opportunities.

    This year’s Vulnerability Cube allowed participants a means to name their vulnerabilities publicly, creating a collective atmosphere of possibility in businesses and communities as we bring our humanity to the table.   On the stage of business and commerce in the 21st century this couldn’t be more vital to our survival and success. Are you all in?

  • March 07, 2016 8:54 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    How do we ensure we have the time and mind space to be conscious?

    It took me 10 tries to write this blog. Each time I began, an email popped up in the bottom right hand corner of my screen. Or someone stopped by my desk. Or my child asked me to read a book. Or I remembered something I hadn’t written on my list and did it. Or I was thirsty. Ten times, I was pulled away from trying to write a blog about finding the time and mind space to be conscious. And there in-lies the problem. I am too busy to focus on being conscious.

    Or am I? I find that it is easy to let myself off the hook, given all I have to do. I have a career. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am an athlete. And the work that comes with those roles fills my entire pie chart of energy and attention. So where can I find more time in my day to focus on being conscious?

    Here’s the rub. Being conscious doesn’t require a slice of the pie. I have finally learned that, thanks to the like-minded leaders I’ve met through Conscious Capitalism. Sure, finding the few hours a month to attend the panels and happy hours to engage with those lovely people takes time. But what I have found most freeing is the clarity that being conscious – and by that I mean really being present to the impact you are making in your business and the world – is not unique to any areas my life. It is the filling, the topping and the crust of the pie. And, to ensure I burn the metaphor to ashes, it should be baked into my entire life.

    How am I trying to do that? And I assure you, I am still trying. Here’s my action plan. To live, make decisions, run my team, love my family, build a race schedule, constantly asking these questions of myself.

    • Am I present in what I am doing?
    • Am I making a decision that is good for me, good for the larger whole or good for the world? Can I make a decision that will make a greater impact?
    • Do I feel good about the action I’ve taken? If not, what can I do to readdress or change it?
    • Have I worked to build a trusting relationship?
    • Was I fair and kind?
    • Did I ensure that I set a strong foundation before building the fun stuff on top?

    This is just my simple way of bringing consciousness into the busy hours of my life. How do you ensure you have time and mind space to be conscious?

  • January 24, 2016 8:56 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    What About the Community Stakeholder?

    connected teamwork with hand

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    Delivering value to all stakeholders is one of the four pillars of Conscious Capitalism. This requires a shift from a singular focus on any one stakeholder group at the exclusion of others (such as the shareholder/investor or the customer) to a commitment to live out purpose and values for each stakeholder. In this pursuit, one stakeholder we often overlook is the community.

    Like fish swimming unconsciously in water (water – what water?), we can be blind to the community (or communities) we impact. Starting almost 40 years ago, organizations began to undertake efforts in the realm of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) – structuring intentional efforts to give back to the community and protect the environment. This frequently manifested itself as “bolt-on” programming separated from the company’s primary business. In the last decade or two, we’ve seen the rise of the B-Corp (Benefit Corporation) and Social Enterprise, movements to formalize businesses with a distinct purpose to better the world we live in.

    What about the other 95% (I made that number up) of the capitalist enterprises out there? How can they impact their communities by fulfilling their core purpose and what are the possibilities? On Tuesday, January 19, we had a chapter forum inviting members to explore this question. As business becomes more conscious, what might be the impacts on the external community (Chicagoland in our case) and the internal community (organizational work environments)?

    We surfaced a wide range of results – from people being happier and more fulfilled to better business results to reduced crime and litter. We envisioned improvements in traffic as people opened up to “giving way to each other”. We saw higher levels of engagement, both at work as well as in families and the community. More public art. Reduced boundaries among business, the community and education with greater collaboration. Reduced income gap… and more.

    This inquiry will continue throughout our chapter events in 2016. We’ll share more detailed results from Tuesday’s session on this site and weave its themes through our speakers, panels and forums. Join us in the conversation.

    Who is your community and how can you impact it through your business?


    1. Holly Jordan on January 24, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Who is your business community, how can you impact it and what does the result look like? These powerful questions can begin the change.

    2. Rebekah Metts-Childers on January 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      What a great thing to focus on. We often look far for those that need our help, but we can’t forget about those in our own neighborhoods who can use our support.

  • November 24, 2015 8:57 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

    Impact Engine interviews our own, Thea Polancic

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    Earlier this month, Thea Polancic stopped by Impact Engine to work with our newest cohort of accelerator companies on positioning their social enterprises for growth. Thea is a leader in cutting-edge ideas to help Chicago companies increase their profits while not losing site of purpose. She is the Managing Partner of ClearSpace, LLC; a Chicago-based consulting firm that helps leaders, teams and organizations grow and thrive and also the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. Conscious Capitalism is a movement dedicated to elevating humanity through business. We connected with Thea after her seminar to learn about her purpose, how you can drive change inside and outside of organizations, and what entrepreneurs should consider the “north star” of their business.

    You are a self-described “passionate advocate for the power of business to transform the world.”  What sparked that passion?

    TP: In 2008 after years of running my own business I felt I needed a be playing a bigger game than just trying to be successful. It felt repetitive to set goals and pursue them year after year. This set me on a path to discover my own purpose. Around that time I read an article by Elizabeth Debold entitled “Will Business Save the World?” In the article, she spoke of the incredible leverage that companies have to make a difference in the world – perhaps the most powerful potential force for good that we have. It was a radical concept then – certainly not what people thought about business at that time. This deeply resonated with me, and I realized that helping business be a force for good in the world was my purpose.

    Tell us about your work at Conscious Capitalism and why it fits with your passion. 

    TP: In 2009, I began to convene a group of leaders who all felt the same as I did. We created an organization called the Chicago Transformational Leadership Exchange and gathered together 4-5 times a year to foster dialogue and spread these ideas. In 2010, we realized that we needed thought leadership and a larger platform to really make an impact. Synchronistically, I found out about the Conscious Capitalism movement not long after. Conscious Capitalism was founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and it’s foundational philosophy almost exactly expressed what we had created with the CTLX: that businesses should have a higher purpose as well as being unapologetically capitalistic, be values-driven, seek to create value for all stakeholders and be a forum to develop conscious, servant leaders. We reached out to them and in 2011 began to operate as the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

    So my role at as the Chair of CC Chicago is a natural expression of my passion. We now are a registered non-profit with great leadership team who produce many events every year from informal social gatherings to CEO breakfasts and large-scale learning forums.

    Having started as an “intrapreneur” at Caterpillar and then became and entrepreneur when you founded ClearSpace.  What have you learned about driving change inside and outside of existing organizations?

    TP: Advocating for a new idea, product, or service requires patience and persistence. If you’re truly innovating, you’re going to encounter resistance – it’s a sign that you’re really out there! So shifting the status quo is about change. And no matter what size the organization, change takes time and patience because it ultimately, it’s about helping human beings shift what they think and how they do things. It’s probably less about driving change than about guiding, supporting and facilitating change. These are more complex skills that most of us haven’t’ well developed.

    You believe in being fully present in your interactions – how does that make you a better businessperson and leader? 

    TP: More and more, the world we face is complex, ambiguous and uncertain. It’s less about what we know, and more about how we respond to what appears or is happening from moment to moment. To be able to do that we have to be aware – of what we are doing, how we’re feeling, how we’re reacting, and how others feel, react and what they need from us in terms of leadership. That’s a lot happening in the present moment! To be really responsive we have to develop the ability to be here, in this moment, where it’s all happening – and not off in our minds, worrying about the future or obsessing about the past.

    What is your advice to impact entrepreneurs to make their business “great from the start”? 

    TP: Get clear about your purpose and your value system from the start. This becomes your north star and your guidance system, helping you make decisions, choose what to pursue – and more importantly – what not to pursue; and retain a sense of self in pursuit of your passion.

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    Noelle Juengling

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    Noelle Juengling

    Program Coordinator

    Noelle Juengling is inspired by the challenge to fundamentally shift the way companies think about their role in driving societal and environmental change. She is responsible for marketing strategy, mentor and curriculum planning, and processes oversight at Impact Engine.

      Republished with permission from the original post at Impact Engine:

    • October 29, 2015 8:25 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

      Purpose: Walking the Talk

      How do you engage the axiom, Walking the talk, when it comes to Purpose in your business practice?

      Bob Knott, Chair of Business + Social Purpose Practice at Edelman, told us how and why. He shared his passion for social purpose and the data that underscores one of the core tenets of Conscious Capitalism. Namely, that operating with a commitment to Higher Purpose is not only an intuitively great idea, but an essential best practice in business today, “Purpose is not an optional sport anymore.”

      Why? Because Purpose gives meaning to the core business. It’s about the difference a business is attempting to make in the world beyond simply maximizing profits.

      In our lively, interactive session Bob shared key findings from Edelman’s recent research on Purpose in business. “As a group committed to seeing purpose flourish, we should strive to see more acutely how purpose impacts overall business performance.”

      Tuesday, Oct 27 Bob Knott spoke at Conscious Capitalism Chicago event: Purpose – Walking the Talk.

      Bob Knott

      Chair of Business + Social Purpose Practice, Edleman

      As Bob engaged with our questions he shared a set of actions that will serve businesses to build and keep trust, to stay in alignment with a Higher Purpose, these behaviors are intertwined. You can’t do one and not do the others:

      • Solve some of the world’s greatest problems 
      • Behave in ways that shows rigor, self-awareness and authenticity for the long haul
      • Engage in dialogue, be consistent in reporting and tell people how you’re really doing in order to foster collaboration

      Big takeaways from Bob and Edelman’s research shared with us at our Conscious Capitalism Chicago event:

      Innovation meets Trust

      Innovation seems to be a great thing, until it starts causing problems e.g. privacy, environment, security

      “People don’t want to work for a great company, but to work for a company that does great things.”  In answer to the question, what drives the increase or decrease of trust in business, survey responses revealed that nearly 1 in 2 highlighted the contribution to a greater good as the reason for an increased level of trust in business, while the converse is also true—a lack of contribution decreases trust in business. In fact, fully 8 of 10 surveyed believe business can make a profit *and* have positive impact.

      While consumer intent reflects a strong interest in Purpose, are people really willing to put their money where their mouth is?

      Hot-off-the-press data from the Nielson Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility indicates that apparently Millennials do, though will this hold up over time as Millennials age, while the rest of us hold varying degrees of skepticism about the purity of business intentions, thereby impacting our trust with them.

      Purpose has strong promise – to attract talent, to support a willingness to pay more for purpose goods, resulting in consumers being more likely to develop a relationship with a company’s brand over time.

      Yet, consumers aren’t fully convinced.

      Less than 1 in 3 believe that business innovations are motivated a desire for personal and societal improvement. In fact, consumers question the motives that drive business to innovate in the first place.

      Two in three consumers, 66%, believe that brands are innovating simply to make more money for the company, apparently a universal experience around the globe. Consumers everywhere seem to believe that the real driver behind brand innovation is to make more money, versus having a positive societal impact or solving bigger problems like childhood hunger, climate concerns, food sourcing, etc.

      In fact, consumers even tell us they have some real concerns about where innovation is leading us in the future. Innovation seems to be a great thing . . . until it starts causing problems – e.g. issues with privacy, safety and security, and its impact on the environment. Crucially, 87% tell us that because of these concerns, they’re hesitant to trust.

      The way forward for business is through building trust.

      Engagement, authenticity and integrity were cited as the most important values critical to enhancing trust-business innovations in the marketplace.

      Fully, eight in ten consumers want greater transparency, even to the point of asking business to make test results available to view.  They’re looking for academic endorsements, strong clinical trials, beta tests—tests that are done comprehensively and frequently-to ground the belief in businesses espoused Purpose.

    • September 30, 2015 8:27 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

      Field Report – Our Member Tour to METHOD’s “Southside Soap Box”

      Colorful awnings and flags waving in the breeze greeted our group when we arrived at METHOD’s new North American manufacturing headquarters in the historic Pullman Park neighborhood of Chicago’s south side. Thirty intrepid members of the Chicago Chapter converged on the site to get a private tour of the facility, and spent the next hour with our great tour guides.

      Method is a $150m soap company, founded by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry in San Francisco, now owned by the Sorenson family, founders of the Ecover brand. METHOD have been participants in the Conscious Capitalism movement for a while – some of us remember Eric Ryan, Founder and then CEO, from the annual conference in San Francisco in 2013 – and how we entertained us with his live enactment of the white jumpsuited “people against dirty” video. METHOD has also been leading the way in the B Corp movement. The values and discipline of being a B Corp were really evident as we toured the plant. Method’s motivation for building this new manufacturing facility was driven by their desire to improve their B Corp ratings and to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to sustainable business practices.

      In seeking a site for their new state-of-the-art facility, Method specifically sought out a brown field site – one that was condemned due to contamination and was considered beyond repair. It’s worth noting that prior to starting construction, Method was tasked with cleaning up the 22-acre site, formerly occupied by Ryerson Steel. Their commitment to the clean up, as well as the construction the manufacturing facility, was done without receipt of any tax breaks.

      They then proceeded to turn that site into a LEED platinum certified plant that has an urban rooftop farm (operated by Gotham Greens) that cools the building without air conditioning and uses less energy than the standard building footprint.


      Method is one of only two companies in the United States to carry the LEED platinum certification designation.

      We learned that Method’s environmental commitment didn’t end with the construction of the building. Method does all of its manufacturing, bottling, labeling, packaging, and distribution onsite. For example, the company also looked to its supply chain to reduce its environmental impact. These partnerships include Amcor Rigid Plastics and JB Hunt. Amcor Rigid Plastics operates an onsite bottle facility to manufacture all of Method’s corn-based plastic, post-consumer recyclable bottles. And, JB Hunt operates four dedicated bio diesel trucks to fulfill Method’s low-emission transportation strategy for delivering its products to market.

      Method’s vision for this manufacturing facility extends far beyond its ecological benefits. Contributing to the economic and social well being of the community is also critical to the company. Currently, Method’s manufacturing facility employs 66 full-time employees, 30% of which live within the zip code of the plant. Method emphasizes the importance of hiring employees based on personality and values versus specific manufacturing or technical experience. Their philosophy is to utilize employee cross-training to help their people learn their roles.


      Our tour guide is one of these new local hires – and her joy in working in such a special place was obvious.

      On the wall in the stairwell was a mural that the employees created ,“Together we can: 
      Make a difference
      Change the world!
      Believe in each other
      Keep it weird
      Pullman Redux – but better.”

      That said it all.

      After the tour we gathered together to connect and enjoy lunch. It was great to see new faces, and rewarding to hear “this is my tribe!” Thanks to all of you who came out. What did we miss? What was your favorite moment?

      A big thank you, Andrea Spudich, for your contributions to this post and photos. Andrea is a long-time advocate for sustainability-oriented leadership development. 

    • September 06, 2015 8:28 AM | Rachel Duch (Administrator)

      An Evening of Insights with Notre Dame

      Written by Chelsea Slaggert

      Our August 27th event was something a little unique for us. We partnered with Notre Dame’s Stayer Center for Executive Education and Program Faculty Member Mel Dowdy to explore how to make purpose stick. We gathered in Notre Dame’s classroom space downtown for a night full of insights, discussions and practical applications.

      Mel Dowdy opened the evening by discussing John Mackey’s book, Conscious Capitalism. He defined two key points that stood out in the book, setting Mackey apart in his concept of leadership:

      1. Mackey had the courage to deliver: he models the courage that it takes to be a conscious leader by committing to identifying his purpose, living his purpose and living out his purpose through his leadership.
      2. Mackey engaged in constant practice: he was mindful in how he translated his personal, inner purpose into purposeful outside work. This wasn’t done through one or two actions, but through consistent striving to live his purpose as a way of life, both personally and professionally.

      The qualifying word in Conscious Capitalism is conscious; this is a call to wake up as leaders! It’s a call to be mindful of what we’re doing, be less reflexive and more intentional, less dependent on what we know or are taught to work conventionally. But how are we to do this in the midst of an increasingly complex business environment?

      Mel introduced us to the Integral Leadership model, used in Notre Dame’s leadership programs, which is a holistic approach and methodology that can help us navigate complexity by helping us define and align our values with our actions so that we may step into conscious leadership. It takes into account interior and exterior factors that affect leadership, as well as individual and collective forces:

        Interior Exterior


      What are my values?

      What sacrifices am I willing to make so as to not stand in my own way of realizing my purpose?



      How are my actions, skills and practices aligned to the purpose I intend?




      How do you create a “we” in an organization that has a sense of a shared meaning?






      How will achieving results change organizational/community capabilities?

      *Graphic adapted and used with permission.

      Mel challenged us to “wake up” and understand that we can be skillful but, if our actions and practices, or the culture we strive to create, or the sacrifices we make don’t align with our intentional inner purpose, we are wasting our time as leaders. He stressed that the way we add value through our leadership is through consistent practice of aligning our behaviors with our values.

      Mel concluded the evening by guiding the group in a thought-provoking exercise meant to help us identify our purpose and the things in our lives that hold us back from realizing and executing on that purpose – in other words, making it stick.

      For more information on Notre Dame’s Executive Education programs, visit

      To learn more about our next Conscious Capitalism Chicago event visit our Web site.


      1. Lee Capps on September 14, 2015 at 3:44 pm

        Here’s a little more on the “immunity to change”. The exercise from Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey had us consider what we are committed to and other – potentially hidden – commitments that might be getting in the way. For instance, if I’m committed to leading in an empowering way, but I am also committed to being in control or being right, I have competing commitments that derail my primary purpose or intention – making me “immune to change”. For each of us as leaders, where are we declaring a purpose (personal or organizational) that might be in conflict with other, deeply held intentions? For our purpose to be “sticky” or fulfilled, we need to surface those competing commitments, test them and potentially let go of them.
        Thanks, Mel. Great session.

      2. Thea Polancic on September 15, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        Thanks, Chelsea, for the great summary!

        I think it’s important to add a note about John Mackey since he’s an outspoken guy and has some controversial opinions. Representing Conscious Capitalism Chicago, I often get questions about whether his perspectives are those of the Chapter – or the movement as a whole.

        Here’s what I’d say: in the context of Conscious Capitalism, we’re not holding up John as a the model for all aspects that are ideal in a leader or human being. (None of us could aspire to that.)

        However, we are saying that John is a model to look to for these two capacities of conscious leaders that Mel highlighted in his talk: John had the courage to stand for his convictions and took action to engage his fellow peers and his organization in making a difference in the world; and he stays in the game of his own growth and development. Rand Stagen frequently says “leaders get the organizations they deserve.” John lives this and has been known to say “I know I need to have a breakthrough when there’s something about Whole Foods that’s bothering me.” And then he does the work – and the business gets the benefit.

        It takes incredible courage and commitment to start a movement – to start anything. We’re deeply grateful that he did.

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