Here we are at the end of 2017 still talking about diversity, gender parity, equitable compensation and developing an integrated workforce that reflects our customers. In an increasingly divisive national (and international) conversation, the issues we face in our companies require an integrated approach with a common goal: to serve our customers and our employees. Easy to say, but that requires balancing our creative and logical minds. Solving problems with an open mind through multiple perspectives and using systems thinking results in innovative solutions. Looking at a problem holistically and nurturing a multidisciplinary dialogue will enable an organization to flourish by giving everyone a voice. Diversity in thinking, problem solving and innovation promotes outcomes greater than those generated by like minds. Put bluntly, talking only to yourself generally doesn’t produce great results.
The Power of the Whole
People who work together and respect their differences can create extraordinary results. And we have the proof. According to Motiv Strategies 75 companies from the Fortune 500 have outperformed the S&P by 211% over the past 13 years by defining creativity, design and innovation as their driving forces of progress. This may run counterintuitive to the traditional CEO approach that believes driving bottom-line results to please shareholders is the only metric that matters.
Leaders are the barometers of the change they envision for the company. I have had the good fortune early in my career to learn a different measure of success from selfless leaders who guided me throughout my journey from the prop room to the boardroom, leading first with empathetic curiosity. An enlightened leadership creates a culture that invites employees to go beyond their jobs in service for the greater good of the customer, and therefore the company.
The Happiness Quotient
The successful leaders I have worked with have built a diverse culture, supported by their board and leadership team. A values-based leadership ensures the diversity required to perpetuate the sustainable life and growth of the company. Placing people first — maximizing their strengths and investing capital in their development — yields higher returns than the popular approach of buying back stock. According to a recent Gallup poll, 70 percent of our workforce today is unhappy. Why? My belief is that it is due to the encumbrance of a numbers-driven environment over a people- first philosophy. This accounting practice lacks empathy and is the vehicle for driving talent out of the organization.
Put simply, integrating humanity with capitalism is a paradigm that is long overdue. The Container Store calls it conscious capitalism. It is the vision, passion and people that created our businesses in the first place. Somewhere along the way, creativity, curiosity, empathy and developing talent took a back seat to the short-term thinking of driving EPS for the quick fix of quarterly gain.
It is the union of a long-term vision with a strategic business plan that creates sustainable growth over time. A company must not mortgage the future while fixating only on the business of today. Living in the short term alone suspends the company’s ability to innovate, challenge the status quo and develop disruptive incubators for the future.
Our purpose is to build the future generation of leaders. This philosophy guides everything we do from succession planning to leadership development. A modern compensation plan creates incentives to reinforce behaviors that establish an environment of trust through collaboration. “We” is always greater than “me.” Inspiration activates motivation, empowerment accelerates action, and collaboration creates breakthrough results.
This new breed of leadership has a call to action that injects creativity, design and innovation as a strategic imperative to live on the edge of disruption within the parameters of business-minded principles. This enlightened culture will drive purpose to vision. Strategy will steer structure, allowing people to deliver profitable results at the intersection of humanity and commerce. This, I believe, is our pathway to progress.