Wellbeing at work: CEOs are getting it but struggle to find the right solutions

Wellbeing at work: CEOs are getting it but struggle to find the right solutions

Originally publicated in Benefits Pro on October 2nd 2019

Nearly all CEOs in a recent survey say they feel some form of isolation in the workforce, and they recognize that this is a concern for their own well-being and work.

CEOs are getting it: employee well-being matters.

So say 25 top executives, who responded to a qualitative survey by LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell.

“Employee well-being ranks number one, because your organization is only as good as the people that you have working for you, and their well-being determines how successful or unsuccessful you’re going to be,” says one respondent, Michael Colucci, CEO of Idilus LLC, a professional employer organization.

A CEO from an engineering firm responds: “I don’t believe that customers should come first, I believe that employees should come first. It’s a tenant at my company. It is a cornerstone of my company to have happy well-adjusted employees.”

Well-being programs are also becoming table stakes to attract and retain talent, especially younger generations. One CEO says that “employee well-being programs are becoming more of an expectation rather than a perk.”

The importance of employee well-being also impacts the bottom line, the respondents add.

“If my employees are unhappy or they’re going through whatever stresses that they are encountering at home in their personal life, they bring that in,” another CEO says. “If you have a big team environment that we work in…it can cause absenteeism. People who aren’t focused at work, it creates delays with projects so things get backed up at work.”

The respondents are also candid about their own struggles with significant work stress, though many say they are successful in “compartmentalizing that anxiety” – and hiding any signs of it from employees because of the “contagious nature” of workplace stress. As a result, nearly all of the CEOs say they feel some form of isolation in the workforce, and they recognize that this is a concern for their own well-being and work.

But that masking may not really be working after all, some concede.

“I’m sure they feel it when I have stressful situations because I put that back on them,” one CEO says. “They can tell by your disposition, you create a level of anxiety within the team concept that we have at our place and that affects them adversely because it makes them feel anxious or unsure about what’s going on maybe, within the corporate structure.”

While a majority of the respondents measure the success of their well-being programs using metrics such as retention of employees, satisfaction in their role and employee engagement, most of the CEOs agree that a comprehensive employee well-being index would be helpful to measure the level of employee engagement within the programs.

“Employee wellness is increasingly critical to business success and at the top of the agenda for many CEOs and even board members,” says Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell’s vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “But executives still struggle with methods to properly execute and evaluate that support. LifeWorks is positioned to address these concerns.”

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert 

Regenerative business calls for new leadership qualities. Great read (10 min)

Regenerative business calls for new leadership qualities. Great read (10 min)

Originally published in Medium.com on October 1st 2019

In a recent meeting of the Business Roundtable, “the CEOs of nearly 200 companies just said shareholder value is no longer their main objective”. Given the dominant paradigms of endless growth and shareholder profit at any cost, the articulation of this sentiment from prime business circles is a shift indeed. Of course, it needs to be seen whether this is only talk or is it backed by commitment and intention. Nonetheless, it is proof that we have reached a point of stagnancy and exhaustion with our old models and structures. There is no further benefit to be gleaned from them. In fact, clinging to the old ways is now proving to be chaotic, cataclysmic, and even apocalyptic.

In a deeply complex, inter-related and interconnected world, every single thought we have, each decision and action we take has far-reaching impact — often beyond our ability to comprehend. And this is multiplied manifold when the actor is a large organization. Hence, it is time to change the underlying narratives, metaphors, and consciousness that are driving today’s organizations. This requires a complete reinvention and re-designing of the fundamental organizational principles, ethos, and purpose — the very raison d’etre of organizations must shift. New strategies, technologies, and processes superficially affixed on top of the existing paradigms and worldviews will not work. The old debilitating and destructive patterns will creep in through the backdoor, under different names and guises. The shift from maximizing shareholder profit to the well-being of all calls for an awareness-based, conscious transformation toward building life-affirming, regenerative, and thrivable organizations.

In this post, I have attempted to explore some of the key dimensions and facets of the leadership quest that this shift is asking of us…


We are at a transformational moment in human history — on the cusp of a profound transition from an Industrial Growth Society (IGS) to a Life-Sustaining Society (LSS). The breakdowns on multiple fronts are heralding the destabilization of the old order. The system is literally self-terminating. And as Arundhuti Roy says so eloquently, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Joanna Macy calls it The Great Turning. What we are collectively experiencing as decay and disintegration, disequilibrium and dissolution are the death throes of an old-world order.

In the face of this destabilization, our organizations and leadership must become amplifiers and compasses for another world — one which is built on the principles of thrivability for all and not only for a handful of the rich and powerful. Michelle Holliday describes “thrivability” thus:

In practice, thrivability is about identifying and committing to your organization’s own best means of enhancing life’s ability to thrive. And it’s about aligning with life’s core operating patterns across every aspect of the organization.

Is the idea far-fetched? I don’t think so. Is it necessary? I can think of no other purpose for the existence of an organization in today’s context. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. It will require each and every one of us to operate from and aspire to our highest selves, to reclaim our essential humanity lost to years of conditioning, and to push back against the forces doing their utmost to drag us backward. As Umair Haque says,

“Organizational leadership today means building an organization that is a model for the world it hopes to create. That models — demonstrates, displays, shows, exemplifies, for all to see — the better world that it hopes to spark.”

However, our current organizational paradigms and business models reward ruthlessness, aggression, cunning, competitiveness, authoritarianism, and an overarching “what’s in it for me” attitude. Unfortunately, these very traits strip us of our innate humanity and purpose, which are imbued with generosity, gratitude, compassion, courage, joy, love, and meaning. These qualities find little place in our organizations today — or lurk and hide in corners, afraid to reveal themselves for fear of ridicule, contempt, and condescension. This has created workplaces that are devoid of purpose, possibilities, and promise. People are literally ‘Dying for a Paycheck.’

Given this backdrop, I have used the phrase “leadership quest” deliberately. I believe leaders, and each one of us, have to “undertake a journey toward actualizing our highest future potential” in the service of a thrivable and regenerative world. And this quest will see an unfolding of pioneering and regenerative leadership principles and ethos necessary to build a life-sustaining society…. It is a quest, a journey of human evolution, a collective awakening of consciousness that is already taking place across the world in many shapes and forms.


We are at a unique stage in human history where technology and human consciousness are evolving and growing rapidly and exponentially. Their intersection — if put in the service of the well-being of all sentient beings and our Planet — can have an astounding impact. And our organizations can become platforms and holding spaces for The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Wouldn’t that be a worthy quest for all?

The inspiration for this post came while reading Jenny Andersson’s summary of the Connectle webinar on Regenerative Leadership 2  Becoming Imaginal Cells: Co-Creative and Collaborative Leadership for the Future. As I read, a few thoughts arose that I have tried to capture here in relation to regenerative leadership, the leadership quest, and Leading in Uncertain Times.

Pathways for a Leadership Quest

Nurture imaginal cells. Underneath the chaos, disintegration, and disarray apparent across the board lies the DNA of a new order waiting to be manifested. And what is to be birthed bears no resemblance to the old. Just as the caterpillar bears no resemblance to the butterfly, and yet holds the key — the imaginal cells — for its own metamorphosis. In the same way, the key — the imaginal cells — of regenerative, anti-fragile, and thrivable organizations are hidden within this collapse and chaos.

They are to be found in the shapeshifters, the wayfinders, the edge-dwellers, and the norm-breakers within our organizations. These individuals bear the seeds of a different narrative and the visions for an emergent future which is life-sustaining. They carry the possibilities of breakthroughs amidst the breakdowns. Regenerative leadership calls for an ability to identify and nurture these imaginal cells within the organization, to support their endeavors, and protect them from the onslaught of the status quo.

These individuals will often come across as fearless and bold contrarians, and the natural tendency will be to resist and fight them, to try and eject them from the system, to sideline them. The dominant status quo can be a formidable force. And this is precisely where leadership comes in — it will be the job of leaders to nurture and protect these people, to ensure they can grow, connect, and collaborate till a tipping point is reached. Once these wayfinders form clusters, and clusters of clusters, we can be sure that we are on the brink of a transformation.

Goto the edge of the system. The explorations and experimentations typically take place at the edges of a system. The edge is an interesting place; its very fluidity fills it with possibilities. It is also where two or more ecosystems come in contact with each other and give rise to interesting phenomena, like the mangroves (where the sea meets the land). Similarly, the edges of an organization are where the seeds of its next stage of evolution can be found should the leaders care to look.

A leader’s task is to be a bridge between the edge and the center — not to diminish the burgeoning potentials of the edge but to infuse the center with its spirit, vision, and energy. As more and more edge practices find their way into the center, the old patterns embedded at the core start to loosen and dissolve. With the releasing of the old ways, new practices, mindsets, and beliefs take root, transforming the organization. As Bucky Fuller said,

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Recognize the power of intention. This is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of regenerative leadership. A leader’s intention is the North Star that guides an organization towards becoming a regenerative business. It is about holding onto the vision of a life-affirming organization, and then putting it in practice. It involves not only recognizing that an organization is a living system but also following through with life-sustaining ways of being and doing. (I have been writing about these shifts in my earlier posts — Leading in Uncertain Times and Leading in Uncertain Times: The Journey Within.)

No amount of re-engineering, reorganization, and re-training will work if the fundamental intentions and consciousness are still rooted in the past. In short, the foundations of a thrivable organization cannot be built on profit maximization. The inner conditions of leadership have a profound impact on the outer reality. Only when leaders stay steadfastly true to the purpose of the organization, uphold its capacity to be a regenerative and healing force, and take actions and decisions rooted in their intention, can they propel an organization to move to its next stage of evolution.

Create conditions for emergence. Emergence is a fundamental property of living systems as they adapt to their constantly changing environment. When we move from the metaphor of “organizations as machines” to that of “organizations as living systems,” it is easy to understand why creating conditions for emergence is important. Emergence in organizations takes place at the intersections of relationships — their divergence and their synergy. Synergy arises from maintaining and facilitating a fine balance between agency and symbiosis among diverse and different individuals for something fundamentally novel to arise. This means that diversity and inclusion are pre-conditions for emergence, and it behooves leaders to design for this.

One of the foundational qualities of regenerative leadership is then to create and safeguard an inclusive culture based on embracing widely divergent worldviews, perspectives, and even paradoxes. Holding space for emergence is an active process of staying in the liminal space, listening deeply, engaging all our sensemaking capacities, and staying open to the “magic in the middle.” Leaders who can lean into the emerging future are the ones who create magic in the face of chaos.

Go beyond collaboration. Collaboration has become an increasingly important aspect of 21st century’s boundaryless, distributed, and fluid workplaces. Individuals and teams collaborate across borders to pool expertise, accomplish a set of pre-defined goals, and share learnings. I am proposing that in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity, we need to move beyond collaboration. Collaboration works when the path is known, an outcome is defined, and solutions are clear.

But when there is no path and outcomes cannot be predicted, then it is time to go beyond collaboration and embrace co-creation — a process of manifesting what is wanting to come through; giving shape to the emergent future by staying present, curious, compassionate, and courageous. Leaders need to become enablers and connectors — balancing divergence with synergy, facilitating the letting go off familiar outcomes, and holding the space for collective co-creation toward an ‘evolutionary purpose.’ This act of collective sensemaking requires deep trust in oneself, in the process, in human potential, and practice in Presencing. It should be a central part of today’s leadership quest to cultivate one’s capacities to create the conditions for co-creation.

Make life-affirming decisions. Organizations today can hardly be called life-affirming. They abide by and are driven by systems and policies that have turned them into profit-making machines at profound cost to their people and Planet. We are in the midst of a crisis that is beckoning us toward a different future possibility — one characterized by harmony, balance, resilience, and generativity. The purpose of the leadership quest today will be to make this potential a possibility. This will require leaders who are self-aware, mindful, and operate from a conscious understanding of the inter-connectedness and interbeing of everything. Without this felt sense of inter-relatedness, they will not be able to make life-affirming decisions.

The process is neither easy nor linear. It is an inner quest as well as an outer one. Leaders will be faced with infinite paradoxes and ambiguities, forces which will compel them to play by the old rules, and circumstances which will cloud their vision. However, by holding on to the overarching intention to be life-affirming, they can still act as stewards and facilitators of life. As Daniel Christian Wahl says in the context of regenerative leadership:

“Re-patterning the future regeneratively requires the transformation of the whole playing field, the redesign of our economic system and our monetary system, and — ultimately — the collective redesign of the human presence and impact on Earth.”

In conclusion, I believe that we are at a point in our evolutionary history where we are collectively being called to listen to our deepest truths as human beings, as stewards of life, as imaginal cells of the future, and to direct our intentions, thoughts, and actions toward co-creating a life-sustaining society.

“Thrivability emerges from each of us holding the persistent intention to be generative: that is to say, to create more value than we consume.” ~Jean M. Russell

Written by Sahana Chattopadhyay

FULFILMENT

FULFILMENT

Research Highlight: Fulfilment is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 91% scored “I am contented, joyous and fulfilled” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Sadness (disappointment), fear (anxiety) and anger (frustration) are easy emotional traps to fall into. Far too many indulge in these destructive reactions. They will leave you in perpetual freeze, flight and fight states. This is deep suffering and ineffective.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score fulfilment with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is the constructive emotion for this moment?

Condition: Be intolerant of complaint, frustration and blame

Discipline: Actively seek positive emotional expression

Caution: When necessary, tell your truth with courage and empathy

What you can do right now?

  1. In every moment – even the darkest – there is a positive response. In sadness there is learning and growth. In fear there is courage and calm. In anger there is tolerance and altruism. Be assertive in searching and expressing the positive response.
  2. Complaint spreads discomfort. Reject it. Frustration disables you. Reject it. Blame steals your power. Reject it. Respect, experience and name these negative reactions. They are real. Use the signal to say “NO”. Seek the positive angle.
  3. Learn to strengthen your positive emotions. If sad, seek the lesson learned. Be grateful. If afraid, seek calm presence. Be content. If angry, seek kindness. Be compassionate. If fatigued, seek energy. Be resilient.

Positive emotions are like muscles. If you work on them, they will get stronger. Even the toughest moments can be fulfilling. Enjoy your discomfort. Appreciate the moment. Strengthen your joy.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
  • Work on connection with those who matter to you
Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Originally published in Programme Octave on October 17th 2019

Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Today’s world scene urges us all to accelerate change in the global economy and the society at large: economic growth is too slow, social inequality is too high and the Earth is suffocating. While no one can claim having the magic bullet for global challenges, one thing is clear: we need to transform the way we live, the way we work, the way we lead… we actually need to transform ourselves and be resilient!

“Let him who would move the world first move himself” Socrates

As is often stated by Bertrand Piccard, founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, solutions do exist to address global challenges in a realistic way. What is missing is the will to activate these solutions fast enough. Beyond, processes and ideas, individuals are the stoppers or enablers of transformation. As politics tend to favour short-term views, the private sector may well be a powerful lever to accelerate changes on a large scale. The recent launch of the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) by the OECD is encouraging: a coalition of 34 leading international companies – employing 3,5 million people around the globe – with a commitment to step upbusiness action to honour human rights throughout their value chains, build inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in the economic ecosystems. An increasing number of CEOs and executives are ready to play their part and – as suggested by the growth of the B Corp movement – with approximately 3000 certified companies in the world – they aim to use business as a force for good.

This is a fascinating time and here is our opportunity: contribute, as a leader, to accelerate the transformation within our organisations leading to higher level of consciousness of all stakeholders and favour the emergence of a new paradigm. Proposing a strategic vision that is economically viable and socially responsible. That requires resilience! No doubt today’s leaders face challenges that require a different set of skills and a shift in attitudes. In his recent book “21 questions for the 21st century”, Yuval Noah Harari suggests that, in view of the unprecedented level of uncertainty, the best bet we can make today to be “future-fit” is to build our resilience. At the Resilience Institute, we do view Resilience as a learned ability to demonstrate the capacity to bounce back but also to grow from challenges, to care for others and nature, to develop talents and opportunities. Mobilising all of our resources – body, heart, mind and spirit – we are much better equipped to embrace transformation and inspire others on that path. It is about expanding the concept of sustainability to include the self: when you are more self-aware and committed to manage your personal resources properly, you are aligned; you develop a more integral view about others and become more conscious about the impact of your behaviours on the world.

Here are 10 best practices to strengthen resilience and prepare a solid ground for successful transformation.

Cultivating resilience leads to personal alignment and supports organizational “readiness” to embrace transformation with confidence. How is a culture of resilience created? Culture is shaped essentially by the behaviours of leaders. Leaders need to manifest the behaviours they want to diffuse in their organization.

Create calm and rejuvenate. Top athletes know well that a condition for high performance is regular, quick and effective, rejuvenation. This is a physiological condition for reaching high goals, sustainably. Likewise, leaders need to consider simple ways to integrate rejuvenation in a busy agenda.

  1. Take regular micro-breaks.
  2. Start a meeting by taking 3 deep and conscious breaths.

Cultivate physical energy. Transformation requires perseverance and energy. Next to regular exercise and healthy nutrition, restorative sleep is essential. As quoted by Matthew Walker in his book “Why we sleep” (2017): Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting.

  1. Avoid electronic screens before bedtime as they keep your mind alert. An hour on screen postpones the release of melatonin (the “sleep inducer” hormone) by 3 hours which at its peak will then be 50% lower. It therefore affects easiness to fall asleep and quality of sleep.
  2. Enjoy a 10-minute stretch when you wake-up.
  3. Consider walking or standing meetings.

Engage emotions. Positive psychology confirms that positive emotions have a signature that favours calm, energy, focus, creativity and engagement. Unfortunately, physiologically, humans tend to be negatively wired. It therefore requires a proactive effort to stimulate positive emotions in a team.

  1. Celebrate success or, at least, milestones to success.
  2. Demonstrate appreciation and provide constructive feedback (positive or progressive).

Train the mind and focus. As stated in the 2018 Global Resilience Report (The Resilience Institute, 2018), the ability to focus is the common thread between the most resilient people. While information overload puts us at risk of “infobesity”, controlling attention requires serious self- discipline.

  1. Switch off your emails one hour a day to focus fully on a task.
  2. Be more selective in the information you consume and produce.

Put your spirit in action. Ethics and value have never been more relevant. The young generation wants to work for companies that take a stand on the global challenges. According to a study by Korn Ferry (Korn Ferry & Hay Group, Executive survey 2016), companies focusing their employees on the organization’s purpose tripled annual growth rates versus the average in their sector. Having an authentic purpose can also help recruit and retain talents, attract consumers, and have a positive impact on the broader society.

  1. Be clear and loud about the purpose of the transformation. Share the “why” and articulate clearly an appealing long-term vision.

When shared and modelled in an organization, these practices foster a culture of resilience that can be a springboard to accelerate transformation. It gets to the heart of what may well enable us to thrive in the future: the idea that each business should be totally human and create societal value.

“Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water every ship has a good captain” (Swedish proverb).

Originally from Belgium, Alexia Michiels is the co-founder of The Resilience Institute Europe.After gaining a degree in commercial and consular Sciences, she works 10 years in marketing and media (Procter & Gamble, RTL Bertelsmann, World Federation of Advertisers). She then lives 5 years in China where she meets Dr Sven Hansen, founder ofThe Resilience Institute. She understands that resilience needs to be cultivated on a daily basis mobilising all our resources : body, heart, mind and spirit. She accompanies, in many countries, leaders and teams to face, with joy and success, the challenges of a world in transformation. Alexia is the author of the book « L’Elan de la Résilience » / « The Resilience Drive » (FAVRE, 2017).

4 tips to stop overthinking

4 tips to stop overthinking

Written by Darius Foroux on Septembre 3rd 2019

How many hours per day do you think?

 

“I never thought about that,” you’re probably saying. So let me get this straight: You’re thinking all the time, and yet you never consider how much time you spend thinking. That sounds like an addiction to me. I know, because I’m addicted to thinking, too.

Overthinking is a common problem, but when it gets out of hand it can lead to sleep disruption, “analysis paralysis,” and even threaten mental health. It’s also a difficult one to diagnose, let alone cure.

When I eat too much, I can say, “I’m overeating. I need to eat less.” When I work too much, I can say, “I’m getting burned out. I need to stop working.” When I drink too much, I can say, “I need to stop. I need a bottle of water.” But when I think too much, it’s not enough to just say “I’m overthinking.” I need a different approach to unclog my brain.

The problem is that most people don’t consider overthinking a problem. When someone criticizes overthinking, we often assume that the problem is dwelling upon or spiraling through negative thoughts. We tend to assume, by the same token, that positive thoughts are good. But it’s a mistake to assume all positive thoughts are good.

What most self-help advice says is to scrap the negative thoughts and double down on the positive thoughts. On the surface, this sounds like good advice. But the truth is that when you overuse your brain, for positive or negative, it can get clogged just like a drain. The result? Foggy thinking. Which leads to bad decision- making.

You are not your thoughts

Thinking isn’t considered a habit to curb because it’s so closely connected to our core identities. No one said it better than Marcus Aurelius in Meditations: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

What he’s saying is that our lives are shaped by the quality of our thoughts. I believe in that. However, most of us assume that we are our thoughts.

We say: “Well, I can’t help but think these things. That’s just me.” No, that’s not you. You can decide what thoughts to ignore. I like how Eckhart Tolle puts it in The Power Of Now: “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity — the thinker.”

The only way to stop identifying yourself with your thoughts is to stop following through on all your thoughts. Instead, decide to live in the present moment — where you don’t have time to think, only to experience.

How do you live in the present moment?

Thinking is a tool. Instead of using that tool constantly during the 16 or 17 hours that you’re awake, pull it out to use it when you need it.

But how do you do that? Here’s the four-step process I’ve used to stop overthinking:

  1. Raise your awareness throughout the day. Realize that too much thinking leads you away from your goals, not toward them.
  2. Start observing your thoughts. Every time you begin a thought, don’t follow through on it. Instead, simply notice that you started thinking. When you do that, your brain won’t get carried away.
  3. Limit your thinking to dedicated times. For example, when journaling or setting your daily priorities, sit down and really think. Give yourself a specific amount of time — say, 15 minutes. During those moments, it’s perfectly fine to follow through on your thoughts. What we’re trying to stop is the constant thinking.
  4. Enjoy your life. Let go of all your thoughts about yesterday and tomorrow. No matter how much you want to achieve in the future, and no matter how much you’ve suffered in the past, appreciate that you are alive now.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you to “enjoy doing the dishes.” That’s not my style. When I’m doing something I dislike, I’ve learned to just do it without judgment.

But when I’m doing something I actually like, no matter how big or small, I genuinely enjoy it. When I’m listening to music, watching a movie, or spending time with my family, friends, or my girlfriend, that’s when I’m in the moment.

I don’t think about my goals, failures, or things I have to do tomorrow. I’m just here. Right now. Just like the moment that you’re taking to read these words. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Realize that on a deeper level, and you’ll never even dare to leave the present.

Are you with me? Don’t think too much about it.

The 5 criteria that define a “just cause” by Simon Sinek

The 5 criteria that define a “just cause” by Simon Sinek

Originally published on Simon Sinek website.

A significant part of feeling value beyond our compensation is working on something bigger than ourselves.

Everyone has a vision or a mission statement. But we lack a standard definition of those terms, using the same words in different ways. This leads to more confusion than cohesion, both internally with our people and externally with our stakeholders.

So let’s throw out the words and start over. Words must be simple to be understandable. They must be understandable to be repeatable. And if they are repeatable then they will spread.

In our founder Simon Sinek’s upcoming book, The Infinite Game, we put forward a new term: advancing a Just Cause.

A Just Cause is linked to our WHY, our noble purpose for being. Our WHY comes from our past—it is our origin story and it is who we are. Our Just Cause is our WHY projected into the future. It describes a future state in which our WHY has been realized. It is a forward looking statement that is so inspiring and compelling that people are willing to sacrifice to see that vision advanced.

There are five criteria to have a Just Cause. It must be 1) for something, 2) inclusive, 3) service oriented, 4) resilient, and 5) idealistic.

For Something

It serves as a positive and specific vision of the future.

While being against something may be effective in rallying people, it doesn’t inspire and it won’t last. A Just Cause is what you stand for rather than what you stand against.

Inclusive

It is open to all those who wish to contribute.

A Just Cause attracts people from diverse skillsets. Too often visions and missions are tied to a specific product or activity. If your stated purpose is about the technology or sales, for example, then it is mostly designed for engineers or salespeople. Everyone else who is not an engineer or salesperson may feel like, or even be treated as, second-class citizens. A Just Cause inspires all to make their worthwhile contributions and feel valued for it.

Service Oriented

The primary benefit of the cause has to go to those other than you, the contributors.

For example, if you go to your boss for career advice, the expectation is that the advice you receive will benefit your career. If your boss gives you advice that benefits their self interests, they are not service oriented. This extends to organizations, leaders and investors. The products and services an organization develops must be designed to primarily benefit their customers, not the company itself. If you are a leader, your leadership has to benefit the people in your span of care. And, if you are an investor, the investments you make have to benefit the company with which you are investing. Of course, you can expect a return on your investment, but it must be of secondary benefit. The primary benefactor of the investment is the recipient, not the investor.

Resilient

Be able to endure political, technological and cultural change.

Again, if you define your Just Cause based upon the prevalence of particular technology or a specific product and there is a market change, your Just Cause will not last.

Idealistic

Big, bold and ultimately unachievable.

It’s not about becoming the biggest, the best or number one. It’s not about reaching some arbitrary revenue target, even if it is huge. It is about pursuing something that is infinite—for all intents and purposes you will not ever attain it. It is, indeed, a vision and not a goal. And as you make progress toward that better future state you imagine, you will be able to feel and measure your momentum. A Just Cause is an ideal. It is something so noble that we would be willing to devote our lives and careers toward advancing it. And, when our careers are over, the Just Cause can live on and serve to inspire further progress; that can be our legacy.

Most people and organizations do not write good vision or mission statements, not because they are bad people, but because we do not yet have a standard definition or guidelines. We are hoping that this framework helps you cast a Just Cause that inspires people for the long run. And, remember, it is the leader’s job to ensure people feel a part of something—not that they simply have a part in something. Inspire your people, and they will inspire you.

Written by Stephen Shedletzky