Jeff Klein is the CEO of Working For Good and trustee and executive team member of Conscious Capitalism Inc., an organization cofounded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods. He’s written two thoughtful books Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living and It’s Just Good Business: The Emergence of Conscious Capitalism & The Practice of Working For Good.
What is “Working for Good” ?
What are the benefits of creating an environment where you can truly “work for good”?
Purpose is among the highest motivations for human beings. If your work is infused with purpose, then you are inspired and energized to bring all that you have and all that you can to the work.
Love and care similarly bring out the best and most in people. If you care about and for the people you work with and if they care about and for you, your connection to them is deep, and you are motivated to serve and support each other.
When people are aligned and alighted in purpose, supporting and serving each other — and others who they come in contact with (including customers and other stakeholders of the business) — the business is alive. It attracts attention and fosters relationships built on trust and loyalty, which leads to resilience and sustainability.
This is very good for business!
How is a business like a garden?
The most essential skill of a gardener is that of attention. “Tending” a garden begins with attention. When you pay attention to the garden, you see what is going on and recognize where care and intervention are required.
When you focus your attention and provide the care that is called for, the garden flourishes. People respond to attention and care the way plants in a garden do. And businesses are composed of people.
Another way that gardens and businesses are similar is their interdependent, systemic nature. Every garden is an ecosystem with interconnected life forms that affect each other. If the garden has the right combination of compatible plants, insects and other life forms, it will be resistant to attacks from pests, resilient to shifts in weather and other conditions, and generally healthier and more productive.
Businesses are also ecosystems. With the right combination of healthy constituencies of stakeholders and strong, mutually supportive relationships between them, the business will be healthy, productive and resilient. As a good gardener focuses on cultivating a healthy ecosystem for all of the species necessary for overall system health, a good business operator ensures that all of its stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, investors, communities, etc.) are cared for and supported for the health of the overall system.
Talk about the importance of purpose in business.
Purpose is one of the key unifying and motivating forces of a business. Human beings are meaning-making beings. Meaning is as essential to our lives as almost any other element. As Dan Pink points out in his best-selling book Drive, and as many other contemporary studies indicate, meaning is one of the key factors in human motivation, more so than material (including financial) incentives after a basic level of the material is addressed.
Since business is a form of human social organization — composed of people, working as people, for their benefit and the benefit of other people — purpose is a powerful driver of the connection of the people in a business to the business and to each other in the context of their work.
And purpose is becoming an increasingly powerful connection between businesses and their customers and the communities in which they operate.
But for all of this to be so, purpose must be authentic and embodied, reflected by the actions of the business, not just stated on a plaque on the wall or in television commercials.
You outline five essential skills: Awareness, Embodiment, Connection, Collaboration, and Integration. I will point readers to your book for the full overview, but would you briefly walk us through these five skills?
Awareness is our foundation as human beings. In any given moment or circumstance, awareness enables us to sense and consider our internal and external environment, state of being, mind-set, and relationship to the world around us. Through awareness, we can recognize the effect of circumstances and events, the effect we have on others, and the effect others have on us.
Awareness asks questions that seek to penetrate, to get behind facades and into the depths. What’s going on here? How can we move with it or transform it?
Awareness is essential, but if it isn’t embodied in actions, its effects are minimized. If we are to be truly conscious, awareness needs to be embodied — literally carried in our bodies — and manifested through our actions and behaviors.
Embodiment means moving from awareness into action; it is the place where we “walk our talk” and otherwise act in alignment with our intentions.
Connection begins with cultivating awareness — connecting with ourselves and working with our minds and hearts — and emerges as we carry awareness into embodiment, into action with our bodies. From here we connect with others, building bridges of shared understanding and aligned action. On the most basic level, we connect by recognizing a shared interest. More deeply, though, we connect by recognizing and respecting each other’s humanity.
Connection opens the way to true Collaboration: explicit, purposeful co-creation, working together to manifest something that we envision together in a way that reflects the ongoing cultivation of embodied awareness.
As with any of the essential skills, we can cultivate collaboration through practice, learning and applying time-tested techniques and methods to facilitate it. But techniques and methods alone do not facilitate deep, sustained collaboration. To be most effective, we need to apply them with awareness and genuine openness to connection, lest they become rigid, mechanical, and manipulative.
Collaboration leads to Integration, which is the dynamic process of combining various elements into a new whole that has its own presence and integrity. As we cultivate and embody awareness and connect and collaborate with others, we become something more than we were before. This, in turn, informs our awareness and our ability to embody, connect, and collaborate, creating a virtuous cycle of learning, growth, and development.
You say “it’s not about money” but about much more than that. It seems that what you teach is directly opposed to the “Shark Tank” philosophy. True? What do you do when you encounter people of that philosophy? Can you convince them?
I don’t try to convince people. At the end of the day — figuratively and literally speaking — the question is, “How’s that working for you?” and ultimately, “How’s that working for us . . . for humanity?” People who treat themselves and others well, while getting things done in the world, are healthier and happier. And time will tell what serves humanity best, which is perhaps the ultimate measure.
Are we advancing our individual and collective ability to survive, propagate and flourish? Increasing evidence suggests that cooperation is essential to advance our ability to survive and flourish, as is the embodied recognition of the interconnectedness of life.
What’s intriguing about your approach to me is that you really aren’t just talking about businesses with a higher social purpose. You are also teaching that it’s not where you work or your job description but how you work that really makes the difference. What steps do you recommend to embrace this path, become more of who you are, and to work in this way?
First is to cultivate conscious awareness, which is a process of recognizing what is going on inside and out, the effects of decisions and actions, and the interaction between a complex array of factors and forces. It is seeing our seeing, observing our thoughts, recognizing our feelings and the effect they are having on us and others.
Conscious Awareness is a meta skill — a skill that enhances the performance of other tools. It functions much as a mirror functions for a dancer – reflecting position and movement, providing feedback for the organism to adjust to, or as the coach in the press box serves a football team, providing a perspective on the whole field.
Second is to care for yourself. If you can’t love and care for yourself, you can’t really love and care for others.
Third, naturally, is to care for others, which includes giving them your time, attention and presence. To truly listen to and hear someone is among the greatest gifts you can give them, and it builds the trust and connection that fosters deep collaboration and resilience in relationships. Since business is based on relationships, the stronger the relationships, the more sustainable the business. My friend and colleague Doug Rauch, former President of Trader Joe’s and current CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. observes that, “Love is a four-letter word, spelled T-I-M-E.” To truly take time with someone, with your full attention, conveys your love and care.
I’ve written about servant leadership in the past. How do you encourage leaders to embrace humility and a servant leadership role?
I think humility is an emergent property. Not one you can necessarily encourage someone to embrace. If you focus on serving a higher purpose, on creating value for all of your stakeholders and cultivating a culture of love and care, humility will naturally emerge, and you will become a servant leader through the process of serving.
An insightful quote Doug shared with me and others is, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but it is thinking more of others.” Again, love and care for yourself and others!
You recommend various exercises and practices in your book from yoga to exercise to meditation. Most people think of these as stress-reducing habits for home, but you talk about the importance of these for work. How do these relate to “the job”?
While I am passionate about everything you’ve asked so far, you’ve really hit the sweet spot for me here! Movement is life. And life is movement. If we are going to be vital, alive, healthy, productive, connected and creative, we’ve got to move!
Some of the benefits of moving our bodies . . .
- Gets circulation going
- Oxygenates the blood
- Releases endorphins and enhances our mood
- Boosts energy
- Feels good
- Shifts our perspective and opens space for creativity to flow
- Takes us from one place to another
- And so much more . . .
Similarly, meditation or Conscious Awareness practice is like a cleansing exercise for our minds, cultivating our capacity to observe, reflect and respond, as opposed to sense and react.
Awareness begets awareness, and movement begets movement.
When we move our bodies and minds, our whole being moves. When we move with others, we do more than traverse terrain together: We share the experience and energy of moving, which can transfer to moving together in our work.
If you want to build a healthy, dynamic team and a life-enhancing business, think of your body as a metaphor. Move with passion, purpose, energy, enthusiasm and awareness.
A healthy body and mind foster resilience and sustainability, which are essential to the long term success of a business and to an individual’s life at work.
Many people want to be inspired by a bigger purpose. They’d love the company they work for to have that, but it just doesn’t have an inspiring mission. What do you recommend?
Connect with your own sense of purpose and how it relates to the work you do.
Discover or uncover the deeper purpose of the business your work in.
Find others in your workplace who share a similar sense and explore purpose together.
Ask and engage leaders in the company — your direct supervisors and the heads of the company — about the company’s purpose and their relationship to it.
If none of these steps lead to a deeper articulation, embodiment or connection to purpose, you may want to consider changing jobs.
While some or all of these may seem risky, living in work devoid of purpose is like not living.
What do you hope readers of Working for Good takeaway and do?
I hope they recognize that business is a human endeavor, to serve human needs and aspirations, rather than a mechanical entity designed to generate profit.
The more fully human we are in our work, the more successful we and our businesses will be. By being human in our work, I mean continuously cultivating all of our capacities — sensing, thinking, reflecting, connecting, moving, creating — the more we learn, grow, develop and evolve, the richer our experience and the more we will serve ourselves, others and humanity.
Jeff Klein is the author of the newly released book It’s Just Good Business: The Emergence of Conscious Capitalism & the Practice of Working for Good – a concise introduction to Conscious Capitalism designed to be read in under 30 minutes.
He is a trustee and executive team member of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and producer of Conscious Capitalism 2013 and the 2013 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit. He is the author of the award-winning book Working for Good : Making a Difference While Making a Living and hosts a weekly radio program called It’s Just Good Business™ on en*theos radio.