4 levers to grow as a purpose-driven compagny

4 levers to grow as a purpose-driven compagny

Original publication in Forbes on October 31st 2019

As untamed capitalism and corporate greed come under increasingly fierce and widespread siege, the business world has begun to respond, loudly.

In August, the elite CEOs of the Business Roundtable lobbying group released a statement promising to move away from the decades-old corporate belief in “shareholder primacy” toward a more holistic, purpose-driven approach that “serves all Americans.”

Let’s be clear: this move is a huge milestone in the recent history of management. After all, the signers of this statement lead organizations that take in a combined $7 trillion in revenue and employ 15 million people. However, whether the group’s stated goal of shifting commitments actually transpires remains to be seen.

The advantage of purpose-driven companies

Still, the business roundtable’s announcement, while greeted excitedly, shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Over the 11 years since the start of the fiscal crisis, more and more attention has been paid to the ethical, social and environmental responsibilities of co~rporations.

Yet businesses that do operate with a sense of purpose and of bettering society reap economic benefits. Recent studies have shown that the performance of companies with a clear sense of purpose grew by 10 times the median rate of companies on the S&P 500. 

What’s more, purposeful organizations appeal to younger people just entering the workforce. This generation has grown up connected in unprecedented ways by technology to a global community, alert to what threatens it and attuned to social justice. To reach these new or future workers of the Greta Thunberg generation, companies can’t ignore social ethics.

How to promote purpose throughout your business

Purpose is a word that packs a punch. It’s an idea whose meaning, while lofty, may be easily grasped. But attaining a sense of purpose can prove daunting, especially in the context of business and its more practical economic goals.

This can be seen in the gap between society’s expectations of businesses and its perception of results: just 39% of people think that organizations work with the goal in mind of improving the quality of life and well-being of their employees and surrounding communities.

It was with this challenge in mind that I, along with my colleagues A. Lleo-de-Nalda, C. Rey, A. Alloza and N. Pitta, set out to research the promotion of purpose in business. And to develop what we call the Purpose Strength Model compiling the successful techniques and strategies drawn from analyses of 25 purposeful businesses.

How can CEOs and managers promote purposeful business? It’s helpful to first recognize the three pillars of purpose: 

1) Coherence, or the alignment between what a company says and what it does.

2) Authenticity, or the true motivation and intention behind the things a company does. 

3) Integrity, or the naturally occurring behaviors that help maintain a purposeful drive. 

Then, it’s necessary to understand the first and most fundamental step toward building and sustaining purpose, which is constructing a shared purpose that enters the minds and hearts of all employees and inspires them to do their best, most purposeful, work.

How exactly can this communal purpose be achieved? Our model presents four factors, or levers, to attend to while sowing purpose in your organization: 

1. Strategy. The company should define a strategy for the development of a clearly defined purpose. This may sound simple, but it requires deep, prolonged reflection and understanding of corporate responsibility and ethical objectives. This strategy should include specific mile markers to be met along the road to purpose. 

2. Leadership. Company leaders must be depended upon to capably transmit the company’s purpose to employees so that it enters their minds and hearts. This leadership includes directors who promote purpose from the top of the organization and, so that purpose permeates each employee, leaders at all levels and divisions of the company.

3. Management. Systems of management and organizational procedures that guide day-to-day work and ensure that purpose is remembered each day. The organizations we studied saw fit to integrate the company’s purpose into all daily aspects of work including budget planning, talent recruitment and performance assessments. 

4. Clear communication is paramount to demonstrating that what the organization is, what the organization says it wants to be, and what it is perceived to be, all align. 

By following the model of companies who are ethically and financially successful, managers can help lead their companies into a thriving, purposeful future.

By Nuria Chinchilla

What can dishwashing teach us ?

What can dishwashing teach us ?

Original publication in Medium.com on June 27th 2019

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?

The monk replied, “I have eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

One night, I used a plate and a bowl for dinner. The next morning, they were still sitting on the counter. I was about to leave when I realized: I should wash these.

As I was rinsing the bowl, I remembered this story. I found it years ago. Leo Babauta shared it. He says:

“Remembering to do these things when we’re done with the activity isn’t just about neatness. It’s about mindfulness, about completing what we started, about being present in all we do instead of rushing to the next activity.”

I’ve always liked doing dishes. I think this story explains why. It’s comforting. Satisfying. Mindful. There’s the water, the scrubbing, and you always get an immediate result. Then, it’s on to the next item. Nothing more, nothing less.

Still, there is something deeper to this story. A much more profound message.

“It’s: don’t get your head caught up in all this thinking about the meaning of life … instead, just do. Just wash your bowl. And in the washing, you’ll find all you need.”

What if washing dishes isn’t a chore at all? What if it’s a refuge? A ladder out of the fuss of everyday life and into our hideaway. A sanctuary. A little pocket of peace, where all you have to do is be. Where no stress can reach you. No looming deadline, no existential fear, no weighty decisions to make.

When I chose to clean my bowl, I thought it was a small gesture. A sign of tidiness. But when I did it, I found it was so much more. In fact, it was everything. Enough. All I had to do was wash the bowl.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I’m not a monk and I’m definitely not Joshu. But I know this: We can transfer this enough-ness to all our activities. Folding laundry. Sending an email. Getting coffee with a friend.

Some tasks feel inherently comforting, but all tasks offer comfort if we let them be enough. Whatever we do, if we do it with intention, if we put in our whole heart, the outcome won’t matter. Because we did what we could. Because we were there. What more could we ask from ourselves than that?

Life is big, but it’s made of small moments. Small interactions, situations, and many small tasks. We can spend our days worrying about the incomplete parts of the puzzle or we can choose to look intensely at each piece. Zoom in. Get a close-up. And shape it until it fits.

Like the puzzle, we’ll never be perfect. We have just entered the monastery. But every day is a new chance to be there. And every day, when we’re done eating, we’ll need to wash our bowl.

Written by Niklas Göke



Research Highlight: Optimism is a super skill

95% of the most successful 10% of people scored “I think and communicate with optimism” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’ (in a sample of 21,000).

The human mind is Velcro for the negative. Based on a high threat environment, a negative and threatening explanation might have been advantageous. Today, pessimism disables you.

Only 9% of the least resilient people score optimism with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: How can I explain this adversity in one enabling sentence?

Condition: Notice but reject the easy negative self-talk

Discipline: Think and express yourself with positive language

Caution: Our times are testing. This will take courage.

What you can do right now?

  1. Ask someone close if you are optimistic or pessimistic. Explore an example
  2. Watch the content of your thoughts. Notice the words you choose to make sense of a situation. For example: “This always happens to me”
  3. Explore different ways to express the situation. For example: “What could I do differently” Notice the shift from blame to responsibility.
  4. Be alert for positive news.  Some suggest that we aim to express at least three positive observations for every complaint.

In the background:

  • Fatigue, isolation and distress will reduce optimism
  • Sleep well, be social, relax and play
  • Nurture your positive emotions – joy, gratitude, appreciation, hope, kindness

Note: With the current social instability, political malaise and climate risk, the value and importance of optimism will increase. It is well proven that optimism can be learned and has wide ranging personal and economic benefits. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is proven an effective solution to depression. We use the term situational agility to describe the healthy and adaptive use of the optimism in key situations.

Own your joy!

When is your offline hour today ?

When is your offline hour today ?

Disconnecting incoming emails helps you to stay focused on the task at hand. While minimizing distractions, you are more productive. Working offline gives your immediate world – task or people – your undivided attention and supports your presence.

So here is a resilience practice we invite you to cultivate this week:
I plan to work offline one hour per day.

Would you try this self compassion practice ?

Would you try this self compassion practice ?

Originally published in Forbes on September 3rd 2019

Innovators talk about the importance of being willing to “fail fast and iterate.” Like coaches, they espouse a growth mindset that embraces failure as part of the learning process. I am a big proponent of the growth mindset, but I know that it’s easy to talk in intellectual terms about failure and it is a lot harder to actually fail. Moving on and learning from failures requires resilience—the capacity to recover quickly from or adapt to adversity, trauma or stress. One component of resilience is “grit,” a species of toughness, passion and perseverance in the face of adversity. It’s “the drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time.” Think of Mattie Ross in True Grit, a 14-year old girl who travels long distances on horseback and endures many trials along the way to avenge her father’s death.

It only we could just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on! But the truth is that failure hurts. When you don’t get the job or the promotion or when something you worked on fails, you are likely to feel disappointed, frustrated, sad, embarrassed and maybe scared. And if you are like many driven professionals, you are probably pretty hard on yourself—self-critical, focusing on your flaws and mistakes. You may even have found that this self-critique helps you to push yourself to excel. But maybe you are paying a price inside. Perhaps your inner voice is judgmental and harsh: “How could I have done/said that?” Your confidence and self-esteem get be bruised. Your thoughts spiral around what you should have done differently or you may beat yourself up about your mistakes. When you are in such a state of self-judgment, it is hard to learn or move on. Grit alone may not be enough. 

Self-compassion offers another path to resilience and to finding your growth mindset.

Self-compassion is an antidote to self-judgment, just as curiosity is an antidote to fear. According to psychologist and researcher Kristin Neff, it involves “treating ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend we cared about. Rather than making global evaluations of ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not because we’re worthless or inadequate, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering.”

Neff’s early research compared self-compassion to self-esteem as a source of resilience. Self-esteem relates to one’s feeling of self-worth and is often built upon accomplishment or comparison to others. Unfortunately, because self-esteem is based on an external assessment of our worth, it can desert us when we most need it—when we fail. We are left with feelings of inadequacy and self-judgment. Self-compassion is there for us. As director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Emma Seppälä notes, “With self-compassion, you value yourself not because you’ve judged yourself positively and others negatively but because you’re intrinsically deserving of care and concern like everyone else. Where self-esteem leaves us powerless and distraught, self-compassion is at the heart of empowerment, learning, and inner strength.” Self-compassion has also been linked to resilience in adolescents and young adults and to reduced effects of trauma among Iraq war veterans.

There are three main elements to self-compassion:

Self-kindness instead of self-judgment. Rather than judging ourselves to be less inadequate and beating ourselves up inside, we treat ourselves with kindness.

Common humanity instead of isolation. When we suffer, it is easy to feel alone, but through self-compassion, we connect to the fact that all people suffer, and all people are imperfect.

Mindfulness instead of over-identification. It is easy to get so caught in the grip of our emotions that we over-identify with them and become overwhelmed by our suffering. Mindfulness invites us to observe our emotions and thoughts with curiosity and non-judgment.

Self-compassion is not self-pity or self-indulgence. It is a mindful practice that acknowledges experience and supports individuals in moving through suffering to healthy change.

Here’s how to practice self-compassion:

Step 1. Observe and acknowledge your experience. You might say something like, “This is a moment of suffering” or “I am having a hard time.” Being able to observe your experience offers you the ability to step back slightly from it, even just momentarily and not be caught up in it.

Step 2. Connect to our common humanity. Remind yourself that you are not alone by saying, “Suffering is part of life” or “This is not abnormal, everybody suffers” or “other people face similar problems.” You are human and imperfect like all the rest of us.

Step 3. Offer yourself kindness. Imagine you are speaking to a beloved friend and adopt a gentle tone with yourself: “May I be kind to myself” or “I wish myself well.” Try placing your hand on your heart, chest or cheek if you find it soothing or grounding. After offering kindness, you might ask, “What can I do for myself now? What would help me move on?”

These three simple steps will help you navigate the suffering that can accompany failure or disappointment. People often say, “I’m my own worst critic.” Instead, try self-compassion practice as a way of being your own friend.


Written by Hanna Hart

Mindfulness In The Age Of Remote Work Communications

Mindfulness In The Age Of Remote Work Communications

Originally published in Forbes.com on August 19th 2019

“When I move half as fast, I notice twice as much,” says psychologist and mindfulness teacher Dr. Tara Brach. It’s a truth we’ve all experienced in one way or another, often when it’s forced upon us by life circumstances. Brach shared one such insight in a talk earlier this year when she described a new mother who was diagnosed with cancer and not given much time to live. The mother’s mantra became “I have no time to rush.” It was her way of savoring every last drop of her life.

These quotes can serve as a reminder of the benefits of slowing down to wake up, of the timeless and practical wisdom in this line from The Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal: “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.”

But how can the lessons of mindfulness be applied to workplace communications in the “fail fast and break things” culture of many startups, including those that are increasingly embracing remote work?

First, it’s important to note that mindfulness has become a buzzword and even spawned a thriving McMindfulness industry, where it’s often used in the workplace for “subduing employee unrest, promoting a tacit acceptance of the status quo and as an instrumental tool for keeping attention focused on institutional goals.”

With that realization out of the way, let’s establish a shared understanding of how we’re defining mindfulness.


What’s the definition of mindfulness?

Mindfulness definitions vary slightly across disciplines and speakers, but the thread remains the same. Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, considered by many to be a pioneering figure in bringing mindfulness to the West, describes it as “the capacity to be aware of what is going on.”

Having attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, I can attest that this “what is going on” applies and can extend to everything. When sipping tea, for example, it could mean being aware of the bodily sensations that arise with each sip and having gratitude for every element of the tea’s long journey to your cup.

Another definition comes from the American Psychological Association, which defines mindfulness as “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.”

With those definitions as our base, here are a few practical ways to bring mindfulness into your remote work communications.

1. Choose the medium that maximizes human intelligence.

This advice comes from a recent workshop by Dr. Donald Rothberg. During a conversation about how best to communicate with colleagues in increasingly digital environments, Rothberg explained that it’s critical to step back, consider the context of our communication and then choose the medium that gives us the best chance to establish a human connection.

If, for example, you typically use a workplace chat tool for quick back-and-forth dialogue on tasks, consider upgrading to an audio conversation or, better yet (and if both parties are comfortable with it), a video call for longer or more important matters. These upgrades can create a more mindful environment because they bring the nuances of voice and natural human contact into the picture.

I’ve recently “upgraded” from audio to video calls with a public relations firm my company works with and, even after just two weeks, I feel our overall relationship has improved dramatically.

2. Give the speaker your full awareness.

Productivity can come to a grinding halt when, for example, one party “ghosts” the other in a workplace chat app. This occurs for a variety of reasons, often because one colleague has been interrupted by a human-to-human interaction with another colleague, or because one is trying to juggle multiple chat conversations.

“Ghosting” isn’t likely to happen on video chats, but other challenges can arise, such as one colleague typing to someone else when the other is talking, or when one gives the other the “profile view.”

The profile view occurs when one colleague has two monitors and is looking into a webcam that doesn’t correspond to the one the other colleague is looking through. I’ve found that this break in eye contact can, in subtle but powerful ways, make one colleague feel as though they aren’t receiving the full attention they deserve.

3. Set your best intention before conversations.

This is especially helpful for managers whose schedules are often booked in 30-minute blocks, but it applies to most meaningful remote work communications. Before jumping on a call, take a few moments to mentally check in with yourself. Becoming aware of your emotional state, for example, can help ensure that frustration from a previous and potentially unrelated situation doesn’t spill into your upcoming conversation.

At my home office, I have a Post-it note on the wall above my desk that says, “What’s your best intention?” Before calls — and sometimes even briefly during calls — I’ll glance up at it as a reminder to bring my best, most helpful self to the conversation. On many occasions, this small reminder has helped me be a more mindful communicator, particularly during those moments when I catch myself listening more to respond or give advice than to truly listen.

Mindfulness, though it’s a practice and a state that can lead to personal realization, is also a critical communication component for high-performance teams working remotely. As Harvard professor Robert Kegan wrote(subscription required) about two companies he analyzed, “The quest for business excellence and the search for personal realization need not be mutually exclusive — and can, in fact, be essential to each other.”

By Cameron Conaway