October 29, 2012
This October, I'm reminded of a company effort to battle breast cancer, started by a handful of passionate people in Canada. We focus so much on the power of one person, super-woman, but forget that more often than not it takes a core group to really move the needle.
This is why Margaret Mead once wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." She didn't say a person, she emphasized a group.
Here’s a good example from CIBC, a national bank in Canada. In 1997, the community relations group of the Edmonton, Alberta, branch signed on to sponsor the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s annual Run for the Cure fund-raiser. The sponsorship program offered a modest amount of financial support and encouraged CIBC employees to participate either by running in the event or pledging money to those who did. The program received a pleasant reception but was not deemed strategic to the company’s core interests.
For the next three years, hundreds of tellers from Edmonton to Toronto—mostly women—signed up to run for the fund-raiser. They organized individual teams at each of the bank branch locations to strategize how to increase participation and raise more money. They took advantage of available corporate resources and participated in corporate promotions, putting up posters and wearing T-shirts and pink ribbons provided by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. They talked up the fund-raiser to coworkers, friends, and family.
Involvement became a point of pride. By 2001, with thousands of CIBC employees now program participants, the fund-raiser was a major source of job satisfaction. Bank executives asked the brand-marketing group to research the impact of the company’s sponsorship; the resulting data suggested that it was driving the bank’s popularity with customers, especially women, and that a side benefit was a boost in employee retention.
Because of these efforts and their results, bank executives re-classified the Run for the Cure sponsorship program as strategic to the company and moved it from the community affairs department to the powerful and well-funded brand marketing group, which upped the ante by approving an additional $3 million in sponsorship money to promote the event through television, print, and Web advertisements.
In 2001, approximately $10 million was raised for the Run for the Cure. By the following year, more than 140,000 people participated in the program, due largely to CIBC advertising. Later that year, when new management took over the bank, they continued the support. Today the Run for the Cure is the largest breast-cancer fund-raising event in North America, all because a few hundred passionate tellers decided to use the workplace to organize an event about which they truly cared.
(This was an excerpt of Saving The World at Work, my third book)Tweet
March 14, 2012
One person, or a small group of likeminded individuals, can accomplish anything. Likely, they have more power than mega-organizations, due to their nimbleness and ambition. One of the greatest impacts a conference can have on an organization is to unleash this type of thinking! Leaders then align this energy towards the mission and vision - and presto, big things happen..
It's not just a matter of enthusiasm. That's necessary for the change-the-world person, but not sufficient. This was my study focus for a few years, while writing my third book, Saving The World At Work. There are three key ingredients that all roll up to unlimited power:
1. Be Audacious - When Martin Luther pinned his note to the church door, he defined the concept. Ask for the seemingly impossible. Challenge the wrong headed and unjust. Risk all by asking for all. Consider, what's the worst that can happen?
In 1989, City Year officials asked Timberland for 50 pairs of boots for a local project in Boston. Intrigued with the program, CEO Jeffrey Swartz Jr. approved the donation. When Jeffrey visited with City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, he had no idea what he was about to be pitched. Jeffrey commended Alan on how City Year was saving and improving lives, pining that he wished Timberland could do the same. Alan pounced on this with an audacious request: "Let me show you how you can..." then he pitched a merger of sorts, where Timberland made a deep investment in City Year by giving all employees a week off annually to volunteer there. Ever audacious Alan asked for City Year to office at Timberland, and have access to its resources: Legal, HR, etc.
Since then, City Year's strength has increased exponentially, due to an audacious request.
2. Be Judicious - Alan Khazei showed good judgement, striking while Swartz was waxing philosophical. That's the next ingredient - ask for the impossible very intelligently. For Joyce Lavalle, at the time a regional director for sales at Interface, it was the key to her success.
More than timing, she understood protocol. If you want to ask for the impossible in order to change the world, make sure you ask the right person! Her daughter had sent her a great book on business and ecology at a time when Joyce's sales reps were telling her that Interface (a carpet company) needed to form a sustainability program to attract future clients.
Ray Anderson, the founder and CEO of Interface, wasn't a fan of the green movement at the time. He bristled at the social-responsibility arguments that looked like cost drivers to him. But Joyce just knew that if she got this book into his hands, he'd realize it was a smart long-haul move. She knew that if she tried to deliver it, she'd fail. He didn't know her and it would be takent wrong.
So she asked her boss, a VP back at corporate, to arrange for the book to appear on his desk. It did, Ray read it, and Interace was transformed in less than three years into the most sustainable carpet company in history.
3. Be Tenacious - It's going to take some time, and some serious persistance if you want to change the world. You'll need a long term plan, and a thick skin to withstand criticism and adversity. For Louise Young, that was her secret - along with her audacity and judiciousness.
She was a quality assurance manager at defense contractor Raytheon. Her mission was to bring domestic partner benefits to the company; where it would acknowledge same-sex unions by offering health, club and death benefits to partners. Imagine how hard of a sale that would be to a mostly-military executive group. For several years, she served on the GLBT stakeholder group and built relationships with VPs from different parts of the company.
She developed a reputation as a warrior for this cause. She also built up a business case for it in two areas: Productivity & Recruing Talent. In 2001, SVP at the time, Bill Swanson, invited her to speak at the company's first diversity/hr summit. There were 400 business managers in the room, and you could her a pin drop as she made her simple plea for business-sanity. (See a clip of it here).
After the talk, she handed out cards and forged relationships. Within a year, Raytheon stunned the business community by enacting a comprehensive domestic partner benefits program. The Dept of Labor gave them an award for diversity and inclusion a few years later. She combined all three of the ingredients into a winning way to accomplish what most of us would think of as impossible.
In her remarks, she quotes Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
March 01, 2012
This week, I gave a rare talk on the subject of Social Responsiblity at a convention for credit union executives and board members. The talk is based on my third book: Saving The World At Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do To Move From Making A Profit To Making A Difference.
For the credit union industry, this is a natural. The Credit Union Movement in North America started when a Canadian reporter named Alphonses Desjardines found out about a man in Quebec who was being charged $5000 against a paltry loan of $150. The "Just-For-Profit" banking system, he reasoned, wasn't working for people. Within a decade, St. Mary's Credit Union was founded in New Hamphire and by 1934, the Credit Union National Association was founded in Estes Park Colorado. Many of you benefit from this socially responsible structure of banking services: By and for the members. Not Just-For-Profit.
I challenged my audience to extend the vision from fairness in banking to complete social responsiblity. This includes community and cause projects as well as environmental sustainability programs. Most of all, I encouraged them to talk the walk - sharing the cause with members.
Some might argue that you should just do-the-right-thing and not make a fuss about it. Some are put off by cause marketing, so they get involved with local community projects or global concerns...and neglect to offer the giving opportunity to customers and/or employees.
This is missing the purpose of marketing. In his classic book, The End Of Marketing As We Know It, former Coke CMO Sergio Zyman declares that good marketing is "a service, that adds value when you purchase, own or consume the product." Example: Coke is refreshing!
He's right too. Think of Tom's Shoes and it's compelling one-for-one value proposition: When you buy a pair of them, a pair is given to a needy child in the developing world. By making the choice to wear these (lower quality) shoes, you have a chance to help someone far away. In our new-reality where conscipuous consumption is uncool - this is a way to spend and enjoy.
Making a difference with your purchase dollars is the new Buy One Get One Free. So, whether you are reducing environmental impact by eliminating paper (receipts, printed bank statements, etc.) or supporting the local food bank with a portion of profits - make sure the customer knows about the program! They will garner more satisfaction this way, and it may also drive loyalty and incremental purchases of your products and services.
One caviat: Be very transparent about the difference you make. If it's cause marketing, communicate exactly what percentage of profits flows through. If it's environment, provide a metric that everyone can understand (for each year you go paperless, you save a tree). This way, the customer (or in the credit union case, the member) can make an informed decision about what they are supporting - and whether it's just better to give straight to the cause.
November 11, 2011
So many victims and casualties this week. A mighty institution and it's revered leader are disgraced in internet time. The above picture, of a smart mob, capturing raw JoPa, is just surreal. Everywhere I go this week, people talk about it, with strong opinions in all directions. To some, it's a devisive issue, to others just plain sad. My PSU alumni friends are thunder struck.
It's a teachable moment, that's for sure. With the phone firing of Joe Paterno, all of us are put on alert: Alert the authorties when you are informed of child abuse by a credible source. Do NOT fall into organizational process mode, putting your career or group ahead of the children. Your boss is not the authority, in charge of protecting society against predators. The police are. No matter how important you may be, if you don't tell the authorities about crimes like this, we'll reclassify you as an accomplice to the crime and ostracize you like a common creep. Really.
There will likely be a movie made about all the backroom conversations that took place: JoPa's conversation with Jerry (after 30 years of being his mentor, you KNOW he had one with him), the admin telling JoPa to stand down, and in rare form, he does. The likely conversations by community affairs, PR handlers and most of all The Admissions Empire - all debating who was more important: PSU or the victims. That's how group think works, though. We objectify the victims and personalize our risks if 'we do the right thing by law.'
I read this quote by Edmund Burke today, and it really speaks to why this is a lesson to be taught to a generation: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
So, let's point our energy toward the lesson, not the gruesome details. Let's share unity around an idea: #HerosDoSomething. We can't turn back the hands of time, but we can leverage tragedy to shape our future into a safer, better place.
October 26, 2011
Then, after the owner called me to say it had arrived, I stopped at the store to pay him and get my product. Hassle? Maybe. Paid a little more? Sure thing. Sorry? Nope, made me feel great to support Freakbeat Records.
I think we all need to do more of this, especially for the record stores that struggle to stay open, watching their best customers download records on their iPhone (really!).
I still listen to CDs in my car for several reasons: My iPod was recently lifted by either a valet guy or the cash wash crew. Even then, it was a real hassle to dial up albums in the console (most cars don't yet have the iPod functionality worked out well, yet). I like to listen to entire CDs, not just playlists, and my iPod was detracting me from that.
Freakbeat deserves my loyalty because they merchandise indie-records to me, bring in hard-to-find records (Funk, Regional Blues, etc.) AND they buy back my CDs, as well as sell me used ones at a discount to even iTunes. Likely your local record/book/magazine shop does too. If you aren't 100% digitized, don't resort to the online Wal-Mart solution (AKA Amazon) when you could support a local merchant that slogs into work everyday to add some value to your life.
October 06, 2011
More like a Tsunami, in that his equipment helped me write Today We Are Rich and his business concept has provided employment for my son for over four years. Even though we can't all be Steve Jobs, reweaving the fabric of society, we CAN have a meaningful ripple effect.
No matter who you are, your life makes a difference. Someone is watching you, experiencing what you create and living through your wake. You are not insignificant now, or into the future. So don't act like it - take responsiblity today to be the ripple you want to see in the world.
Think of it this way: You throw things into the world, like rocks into a pond. Some may cut the water like a knife and disappear with little impact. But there are still little circles that eminate out, no rock can cut the water's surface perfectly without leaving a trace.
In my life, I've been a part of the ripple of others, and all my work I owe to them. From my grandmother Billye, to my first big boss Bob Cione to my fave author Leo Buscaglia to an early speaking mentor Tom Peters - all of them changed me and helped me change the world.
There are two things you can do to unleash your ripple effect:
1 - Define your higher values, influence others through your example. If you are a Greenie or a Community Builder, then go out into the world and influence through your actions. This is what drove the heros in my Timberland Story "The Ripple Effect" video. Think of your spoken words as pebbles, some as big as golf balls. Think of your actions as rocks, some as big as boulders. Every once in a while, someone actually hurls a boulder into the pond and the ripple goes very far.
2 - Pass along your knowledge and wisdom. Your life experiences are important, because you've achieved verified learning. You know the ropes, even if they are only for the front door. You should always have a mentee, that you are sharing your insights and advice with. You should always have a graduation date with him or her, so they can push the ripple out there further.
For those that worry that sharing your precious knowledge will somehow drain you, I quote one of my mentors, Stanley Marcus Jr.: "You will never get dumber by making someone else smarter." Pass it on.
April 19, 2011
April 20 has a variety of meanings leading to various celebrations - some in the moment and others for future generations. For me, it's a big day I'm conducting a media tour to support my new book, Today We Are Rich. One of the key points of the book is that you can give your way out of burnout. In principle four, Give To Be Rich, I echo Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's obsersvation: Generosity is a Wonder Drug.
In the spirit of Carpe Diem, I'm claiming 4-20 as a national day of giving, observing and sharing of emotions. Much like Dicken's Scrooge, anyone can lift their spirits dramatically by giving, helping, volunteering or directly donating to those in need. Researches have a name for the medicinal power of giving: Helper's High.
When you share what you have to help others, in that moment, you are worth something - and it will help you ease any pain. Looking for a blanket to throw over your blues? Here's what Dr. Stephen Post of the Institute For Research on Unlimited Love would deal to you: "To rid yourself of negative emotional states, push them aside with positive emotional states and the simplest way to do that is to just go out and lend a helping hand to somebody."
Looking for a buzz? Volunteer. Women participating in a study by the Institute For The Advancement Of Health reported that after volunteering time to help others, they had a physical experience similar to meditation or a vigorous workout. In a compilation of fifty studies recently published by Case Western University's Stephen Post, the exact phenom becomes clear: When we perceive that we've helped someone, we trigger the reward center in our brain, which produces Dopamines, Endorphins and Serotonins. These powerful chemicals give us feelings of profound joy, calmness and spiritual connection. We get as high as a kite, or gain the internal/chemical feeling of true Richness.
We lift off, emotionally, and it lasts for days, sometimes weeks. Researchers found that you could reinject yourself with the WonderDrug Of Helping just by thinking about it (but you need to focus your energies on recollecting all the details to generate empathy). During my book tour stop in Franklin TN, I had a cup of coffee with Sandy Griffin, fellow author and big giver to the homeless in greater Nashville. As she recounted how she secured some corrective shoes for one of her new friends, and the difference it would make to his quality of life - she lit up, high on the loving-giving experience. Proof positive that this research is true!
In his research, Dr. Post also observed that when we are in Helping Mode, our body produces Oxytocin, which is known as the "bonding hormone." When faced with a crisis or a problem, people on Helper's High spring into "Tend and Mend" mode, instead of the more aggressive "Fight Or Flight" mode. In other words, Helper's High brings out the emotion of trust and nurture.
And that's not all, choosy drug shoppers, you also get relief from Helping too! In a surprising study back in 1956, stay-at-home moms had less emotional stress markers than the breadwinners, because their mothering gave them natural relief. Post explains it this way: Helper's High (fueled by the brain's reward center) dominate Cortisol, the stress hormone. Help and you'll conquer stress, and according to research in teens as well as adults: You'll beat most depression too.
Giving is a WonderDrug, the only one to take when you need a dose of Euphoria or a cure for the blues or a stressful life. It lasts much longer, probably costs you less than substance or alcohol and more importantly - converts your selfish approach to 'coping with life' to a life of service and significance. Try it out today, you'll see. Turn up for 'helper's radar' and find an opportunity to do something helpful for someone. The research warns that writing a check or texting a donation will NOT produce the high, you need direct contact with someone you generally care about or feel sympathy towards. Give encouragement, a hot meal, a hand up or some volunteer time. Keep your eyes open for the difference you make and savor the high that will come. Make a note to reinject your psyche with the experience on May 1. It'll work then too!
Here's How To Spread The Word: Retweet this post if you a Twitter-head or click the Like button is Facebook is your thing. After you help someone today, either comment about your emotional experience (document your Helper's High) or share your deed and feeling on Twitter with #HighOnHelping as a hashtag. The more you talk about it, the more you are dealing a new solution to your extended network: Take Giving, It's a WonderDrug.
Thanks to Jon Acuff, Randy Elrod, Ken Coleman, Ron Edmonson and others for joining this campaign via their blogs, podcasts and networks. If you decide to participate, send me a note and I'll add you to the #HighOnHelping bandwagon.
January 21, 2011
It's the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For award, and for the second year in a row, it goes to SAS Institute from Cary N.C. I like this award because it relies heavily on internal interviews with employees, crafted in such a way to guarantee a high level of authenticity - and good takeaways for leaders in all industries.
I've known co-founder Dr. Jim Goodnight since 2003, when his company hired me to speak at a customer summit in Las Vegas. Between 2003 and 2005, I spoke at six other events, from sales rallies to a product launch at the company's HQ. Over that stretch of time, I learned a great deal about the company's culture, and specifically Dr. Goodnight's math-based approach to regarding human beings (Read the SAS Institute case study, an excerpt from my book Saving The World At Work).
He's created a culture of leaders and managers that understand the people-customer-company model of reciprocity: Give to people, they give to customers, customers give to company. It's hard to do over time, though, especially if you are public company with Wall Street gamblers demanding budget cuts with each burp in the business cycle. That's why SAS Institute stays private.
But really, if you align HR, Finance and Operations to measure the same metrics, it's a business no brainer. Compete to be the best possible employer, and reward thoughtful innovations of the employee experience like you reward process and product improvements. It requires leaders to lead more, managers to manage better and a lot of trust to be distributed throughout the organization.
When I read the announcement yesterday, I was struck with one quote from an employee: "People stay at SAS in part because they are happy, but to dig a little deeper, I would argue that people don't leave SAS because they feel regarded -- seen, attended to and cared for. I have stayed for that reason, and love what I do for that reason." This explains two things about the company: Record low turnover, especially of high performers. Record high productivity, from sales to operations.
Why don't more leaders understand the secret here: 1- Notice your people as people. 2-Attend to their issues, both personal and professional. 3-Care about them as brothers and sisters, not profit or cost centers. Leaders that commit themselves to this must change hiring, employee experience design, succession plans (no bullies in management) and business process measurement. The payoff is simple: Leverage the norm of reciprocity and create a company that you can profit from, and be proud of later when you look back on your legacy.
Listen to a VERY insightful interview I participated in with Dr. Goodnight in 2008:
June 21, 2010
In late 2008, I sat down with author/radio host/biz owner Dave Ramsey for an interview. In this case, I interviewed him about his business values and practices. We were backstage at one of his public seminars where I was about to appear as a special guest.
I'd visited his company headquarters in Tennessee earlier in the year, and was impressed by the family-like culture of his group. The company, Financial Peace University, offers financial management teachings for people via churches. I spoke at a morning devotional they have every Friday (they call it DEVO), and observed how loyal and energized employees were.
During my video interview, I learned why. Check out this interview to take away valuable employership values from Dave's simple-yet-profound point of view.
June 17, 2010
Today I gave a talk at the Board Of Trade in Vancouver.
The theme? Community synergy for companies. The point of my talk was that when a company makes a contribution to its community, it benefits all parties - including itself. "When they do well, we do well," is a mantra of companies that build-in community service as part of its value system.
One point: Obey the Law Of Reflection if you want to get this right. This law states that companies should contribute to communities or cause as a reflection of its values, and if possible, from its core assets and capabilities. Examples in shipping: UPS has a value of education and training opportunities. In its shipping hub (Louisville), the company invested in a school-to-work program for high schools students as well as a university for full time employees. Fedex, with a core value of safety, built a successful "Walk This Way" program for kids to learn pedestrian safety.
Meanwhile, Enron's involvement with the arts in Houston was driven by Kenneth Lay's passion for the arts, not the company's values - and was promptly cancelled when the economy started to go soft. Moreover, it didn't 'make sense' to employees or Houstonites as it didn't come from a logical place.
Here's the other side of the Reflection idea: Give from your core assets and it will work even better. That's what health care group purchasing company Consorta did when it wanted to contribute to United Way. The CEO dispatched some of the best negotiators to help the United Way trim its operating budget, saving the company twenty one million dollars in its first year! This was way more than the company could directly contribute (and would have crashed its P&L).
So, if you want your company to make a difference, make sure you are not pursuing an unrelated passion or trying to write checks to 'check the box.' Proper social outreach is good business - which keeps it sustainable over time.