Our World Is At A Crossroads

Which Path Do You Choose To Take?

whichway2

When the British people voted to leave the European Union, they cast their vote for more than Britain’s independence. They voted to protect a status quo: a status quo, which – by the way – might not be so glorious to begin with, but which could be challenged if Britain stayed in the European Union.

However, Britain is not an isolated situation. All around the world we see similar events where nationalist agendas make the headlines: the upcoming elections in the United States with a strong right-wing sentiment, the National Party of Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders’s party in the Netherlands, the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or the recent elections in Austria with an even-further right-wing presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer.

The New York Times writes: “The British campaign featured assertions and allegations tossed around with little regard to the facts. Both sides played to emotion, and the most common emotion played upon was fear.”

A similar dynamic plays out in all of the above examples: little regard to the facts, and fear as a basic driver. And with fear being the driver, there’s plenty to choose from in a changing world: terrorist attacks, migration issues, climate change, financial crises, or the growing inequality gap – skim through today’s paper and take your pick.

Fear or Love

As we cast our vote, however, we cannot forget that we are ultimately choosing the direction in which our world is headed. It does not matter whether we vote for Independence or not. What matters is whether we vote from a basic mindset that’s driven by fear – of separation and judgment – or whether we vote from a mindset of love – of love for our fellow humans, but also of love for ourselves. “Love” might be a word that has little place in politics or global issues. However, as humans, we ultimately only have these two options: to choose from a mindset of love, or to choose from a mindset of fear – in any situation: whether we are waltzing with our spouse into the sunset, or whether choose to eliminate terrorism.

With a rising complexity and uncertainty in our world, more and more people choose fear as their driver. It’s simply our conditioning as humans and the way most of us have learned it. Consequently, as humanity, we will create a world that’s driven by fear (and where some people usually gain a lot of power as a consequence of that fear). But ask yourself: is this really the direction you want humanity to take?

If not, stop for a moment and consider how you would choose if you would not choose from fear? Brexit or not – it doesn’t matter. What ultimately matters is whether we will live as humanity driven by love – by an understanding, appreciation and respect for each other – or by fear of each other.

Personally, I’ll do my best to do the former. Still practicing, though.

 

 

 

Has Your Organization Developed a Stonehenge Structure?

If it has, you know it is time to act – quickly!

Recently, we were invited to present to the management of a large, global corporation. Although the company is currently doing well, financially, the executive board wanted to initiate a culture shift with the goal to strengthen the emotional engagement of the team. There was no clear indication that employees weren’t engaged, however, the executives recognized the need to change as a response to the shifting values in our society. Their point: People are asking for more genuine, authentic and meaningful connections – both to their colleagues as well as to organizations they are involved with.

Essentially, the executives stated: “Our employees are loyal and happy. But we would like them to have deeper conversation that allow for more controversy, so they can improve and learn from each other.” Preparing for our presentation, we interviewed about two dozen individuals involved with the company: employees, executives, customers, even individuals that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the organization but had a distinct opinion from following the company in the news. After only a few interviews it became clear that the company was suffering from what I call a “Stonehenge Structure” – that every department, even groups within a department, were quasi-isolated from other departments, and that the few hundred upper managers had become a group on itself, positioned squarely on top of the individual departments.

If your company has adopted the Stonehenge Structure, it's time to change - quickly!

People from different departments were obviously communicating in meetings and strategy sessions, but without any honest and meaningful information or input exchanged. Everybody was tiptoeing around. Departments held their information, insights and opinions close to the vest, and so they were all getting along just fine – at least that’s how it appeared to the executives of the firm. Upon closer examination, however, it turned out that the majority of the people we interviewed were deeply frustrated about the situation, even about working at the company. Their typical statement: “I have to watch every word I say. That’s really frustrating.” In addition, the upper management team – the square rock on the top – had become a group in itself, disconnected to what’s really going on in the minds of their employees.

“Aside from the frustration and building disengagement”, we asked our interviewees, “how many ideas – how much innovation and synergies do you think are lost as a result of this structure?” Their estimate: between 25% and 50% of the company’s potential. Coincidence? Guesswork? Maybe a case specific to this organization? Possible, but I don’t think so. Even if only a fraction of the estimated potential is lost as a result of this structure, it’s time to act – quickly – before high-performers are looking elsewhere for opportunities. As a matter of fact, we received calls after our presentation from executives that were indeed dissatisfied with the situation that they were already looking for a new job.

How can we change the Stonehenge Structure?

Obviously, it is very difficult to move the standing rocks (the departments) without moving the top rock (the structure of the upper management). Without changing the top rock, first, we’re signing up for a serious challenge. But imagine the top rock breaking its structure and turning into molasses or water, filling the gaps between the standing rocks. This would create a strong unit without an immediate need to move the standing rocks (meaning without the need to change perceptions and behaviors of each employee). Ultimately, building a strong company culture may well require moving the standing rocks, but I believe that the first step must be to move the top rock (the upper management).

What does this top-management change entail? First and foremost genuine interactions and a true care for people. No fake interest. Genuine, authentic connections that break the “we-and-them-paradigm”, and which instead enable truthful and honest conversations. Upon presented to the executives of above mentioned corporation, we learned that the CEO had recently pursued “direct interaction with sales people and customers”. Turns out that his driver took him to one of their sales outlets in town. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about Zappos, the internet shoe retailer that’s known for its unique company culture and customer service, and wondered why their leadership team hasn’t turned into a Stonehenge Structure. Maybe because Zappos requires every new employee – from sales rep to top executive – to work the customer service phone lines for several weeks before they step into their “real” roles within the company.

CSR 2.0 – It’s time to make this work!

From “Doing” Social Responsibility to “Being” Social Responsible

Conscious Business Institute Sustainability Model
Conscious Business Institute Sustainability Model

I just inaugurated a bi-monthly expert blog on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at www.justmeans.com, one of the leading Corporate Social Responsibility websites and communities. The thrust of the blog will be to move CSR and Corporate Sustainability from something we DO to something we ARE – something we embody on every level in an organization.

Why? Because my observations in client companies and interviews with large multinationals show that many of the institutionalized CSR programs are only as strong as the revenues or margins of the organization – and as soon as revenues or margins become jeopardized, sustainability or CSR efforts are placed at the bottom end of the agenda (if they still make it at all onto the agenda at all).

As I mention in the first Justmeans blog post: “The challenge is to shift CSR to something organizations “Are” – something that is embodied throughout the organization; from top executive to the sales person on the road. In my opinion, we only get the necessary traction once CSR touches everyone in an organization, where CSR shifts from a doctrine to a personal matter. As long as companies see CSR as something they “Do”, it becomes like an institutionalized religion: the ideas are great, but as soon as someone comes along stating “This is the way it has to be done”, it turns into a doctrine. And as in any doctrine, the result will be opponents and proponents wasting time as they engage in conflict about “what’s right” and “what’s wrong”.”

In the next posting on Justmeans, I will introduce the Conscious Business Institute’s approach to sustainability (picture) and discuss how corporate ethics, sustainability and CSR can be better engrained into any company’s fabric. To read more on Justmeans, click here.

Why You Need to Graduate from MSU

Peace of Mind for Challenging Times

In challenging situations our mind has the phenomenal ability to create fantastic realities – which in most cases never come to pass. Every one of us knows what it is like when our head takes us on a wild ride and Makes Stuff Up. Particularly in these days of financial turmoil, take a look around you and you find incredible stories happening right between people’s (or your) ears.

Mark Twain’s said: “I have been through some terrible things in life, some of which have actually happened!”

To obtain peace of mind and centeredness so we can enjoy the presence of our families during the coming days of Thanksgiving, we need to graduate from MSU – from Making Stuff Up! An outside perspective can be the necessary impulse to shift our thoughts. With this in mind, I hope you will enjoy the following thoughts from the Elders of the Oriaibi, an Arizona Hopi Nation – individuals that are likely able to provide us with a true outside view on the current economic climate:

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.

And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your
water?

 

Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!

 

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there
are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They
will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the
river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push
off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above
the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

 

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all,
ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes
to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the
word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now
must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve
been waiting for.

 

 

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Are we really an evolved society?

History repeats itself: the Financial Crisis and the War of Peloponnese

I recently came across an article by Stefan Rebenich, a German Professor for Ancient History. The article contained a fitting description of human behaviors contributing to the financial crisis, as well as some elements of “leadership” that we can find in most of today’s businesses:

“Egoistic are their actions, reckless their striving for profit, irrepressible the drive of the individual for more recognition and possessions. In a society that is governed by competition as a leading principle, this drive peaks in the constant desire to be the first!”

Although very timely, this statement did not relate to the current financial crisis. It is a description of the Peloponnesian War by the Greek Philosopher Thucydides, and it is 2,400 years old. After the bitter experiences of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides did not believe in the moral superiority of the upper class:

“At the end of this”, states Thucydides “stands the destruction of the community through intellectual egoism and material greed.”

If we look at the parallels between the War of Peloponnese and the current economic crisis, we have to admit that evolution hasn’t been very kind to us during the past 2,400 years – at least when it comes to human behaviors. Certainly, we have landed on the moon. We have advanced technology at an impressive speed. In most countries, we even addressed the most pressing human rights issues. But we have to ask: Why are many of today’s organizations still driven by the same human behaviors that governed societies more than two millennia ago?

Dominance & Subservience – The Governing Principle of Many Organizations

We find that many of today’s businesses, governmental organizations, and even private relationships are governed by a model of Dominance & Subservience. This model of Dominance & Subservience is a Neolithic model, which we have carried with us for well over 2000 years. To this day, it dictates many of our behaviors. It is governed by ego, competition and control – and as long as we conduct business or lead our relationship based on this model, it is impossible to experience the sense of flow, purpose or well-being that most of our working population is yearning for.

If we want to build companies where people are fully engaged, where they can grow both personally and financially, where teams work together to reach a common purpose, we must break this existing model of Dominance & Subservience. We need to introduce a new leadership model, which is based on partnership and mutual respect, rather than on domination of the resources, or being subservient to a dominator.

I have to agree that breaking 2000 year old habits can be a challenging task to be added to an executive’s calendar. But when we look at this model in more detail, this is actually a task that supports the leader rather than adding more work to an already full plate.

Why? Because the model of Dominance & Subservience requires full accountability from both participants: the dominator (in businesses this is typically the boss), as well as the subservient person (typically the employee). With this in mind, the boss is not the “Bad Guy”, anymore. Once an organization changes this model, the leadership team – the top 1% of the organization – is not expending their energy and time with keeping the remaining 99% of the workforce engaged, anymore. As leaders and employees become responsible and accountable, 100% of the organization can align their energies to follow a common goal.

In working with clients, we have seen that once both the leadership team and the employees become aware and conscious about their contribution to this model, teamwork starts to flourish, respect grows, and persistent issues in the business start to dissolve, allowing the company to grow with more ease. The result can be truly astonishing: our experiences show 700% and more revenue growth within a period of 18 months.

We believe that shifting away from the principle of Dominance & Subservience is one of the most important changes we can initiate in today’s organizations. Changes are certainly required on many levels, if businesses want to survive this volatile white-water economy. However, unless we change the foundation for most of our human behaviors to a “Next Generation Leadership” paradigm, we will find that other changes are not sustainable: Unless we change the foundation, we can only find – as Thucydides outlines – that history will repeat itself.


(Please contact us for more information about the model of Dominance & SubservienceTM or our Next Generation Leadership Programs, or visit www.consciousbusinessinstitute.com or www.cbispeak.com).

    

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Finally ..it hits the fan!

Why the financial crisis is really good news (at least for some of us)…

So far, I’ve been holding off writing anything about the financial crisis. There’s plenty of information and advice in whatever you read and whoever you talk to. However, clients, business partners and friends repeatedly asked about the Conscious Business Institute’s take on the crisis. We also feel that many of the analyses and recommendations out there do not really address the difficulties and worries that many of us experience. So, here are some of our thoughts and nuggets of wisdom.

The crisis has been on the horizon for a long time. We are speaking about the radically changing economic climate in our leadership speeches and public appearances for well over a year (see http://www.consciousbusinessinstitute.com/resource.html and click on “The Economics of Change” for an audio excerpt). But I do agree that it’s quite a different experience to see the storm clouds on the horizon and being whipped around once it hits. So, let’s not spend more time on what we could have done, differently. Rather, let’s look at the current situation, what to expect, and how to deal with it.

We don’t believe that the crisis will be over anytime soon. We are NOT in a finance crisis. This finance crisis is merely one of the many “bubbles of dysfunction” in our economic system that popped to the surface, and we believe there are more to come. We are all familiar what happens when a dam bursts: after the weakest link breaks, it is hard to keep the structure intact. This means, that we are likely to see more dysfunctions bubble to the surface, creating additional pressure, fear and crisis. I just returned from a dear friend in Carmel, California, who has spoken about this financial crisis for many years. He has actually taken his house off the grid, bought some chicken and is starting to become as self-sustaining as possible. Necessarily so? I am not sure, but behaviors like this contribute to sociological and economic shifts in our society.

To put it into larger perspective: researching leading cultures throughout the past 2 millennia – the Roman Empire, The British Empire, The Egyptians, for example, we find that all of these cultures went through similar transitions from a production based economy, to a service based economy, to a knowledge based economy, and, lastly, to a finance based economy. After being a finance based culture, there’s a pattern of collapse that is common to all of these cultures. And guess where we are…

So, what’s good about this crisis?

This crisis brings the truth to the surface – the dysfunctions that are deeply engrained in our system. It is a rare opportunity for change, and as outlined in previous blog post, this change is not only necessary, but actually desired by a large percentage of our population. All we want, though, is that change to happen without experiencing pain or struggle. But I am sure you intimately know from conflicts in personal relationships: Change always comes with friction – with resistance – and often with pain. If we really want to make space for a new, more healthy and inspiring economic and leadership paradigm, the old one has to crash – and with that some of our material attachments to it. So, the question to ask is not “When is this crisis finally over?”, we think a more productive question is “How can we effectively manage the resistances, the pain and conflicts associated with it?”.

How can we best deal with the financial crisis as a company or as individuals?

This crisis is a rare opportunity to grow. Learning to flow with this crisis allows us not only survive as businesses, but to flourish once the crisis passes. Everyone of us (as individuals and business leaders) has a choice: we can either fall back into the “old model” of dominance and subservience and fear-based behavior patterns, or we can use this opportunity to look at the underbelly of things: to become aware of constraining fears, behavior patterns and issues that are triggered by this financial crisis, and use the slow time of the economy to sharpen our team and our personal abilities.

Personally, I recommend the latter strategy, which has actually worked out quite well for us. I am actually grateful for the financial crisis. In fact, thank you, Richard Fuld, for running Lehman Brothers into the ground. We have spent much time working on the dysfunctions, and thanks to you and your colleagues, this financial crisis has put us in an extremely good position to work with businesses and executives (If you are interested how, please check http://www.cbi-executivebriefing.com).

Welcome to the Conscious Business Institute Blog

We believe that it is time for a new business paradigm to emerge – a paradigm that is based on integrity, honesty, trust and cooperation, instead of the prevalent model of dominance and subservience. We find that businesses embracing this new paradigm can provide an environment for their managers and employees to combine personal and financial success with inspiration, empowerment, fulfillment and personal growth – a key for attracting and retaining the best talent for your organization.

In my life as an Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, I have found that 9 out of 10 people are disengaged from their job. Most people are yearning for a way to work and live in a more fulfilling and balanced way. …and I was one of them. When I was a Venture Capitalist, I thought: “How can we invest millions of dollars in companies if most of the people are disengaged. How much money are we wasting – and how much potential and life-force gets lost along the way?”

Let’s be honest: the current model for a “successful life” that is propagated in our society only works for a tiny fraction of our population – maybe 5 or 10%. Everybody else is struggling either with money or with time. That, in my eyes, is not a very healthy model.

If organizations want to stay alive – let alone thrive – they need to reevaluate the way they conduct business. The United States is facing radical changes, which could well create a “new poverty” in this country. The global resource crisis and the mortgage crisis (including the recent collapse of some of the most well-established financial institutions) are just two examples of the changes we need to deal with. I believe that if we want to build healthy and thriving companies, we must start to compete on a different level. We must learn how to engage people so that they want to become involved with our businesses – as investors, employees or customers. To remain successful, we must learn to engage people emotionally, because we are not in a position to compete in traditional ways with emerging nations such as China or India.   

We have founded The Conscious Business Institute (CBI) to provide leaders and individuals with answers to some of the most pressing questions about their businesses and their personal lives; questions that consume a great deal of our daily energy and – although they are the big white elephant in the room – remain mostly unanswered. These pressing questions are around money and business matters, but in most cases spill over into our personal lives: our personal relationships, our well-being, our level of engagement, and other aspects of life. Our approach is different in that it combines real-world business matters with deep insights into human nature. We believe that what the future holds for you or your company depends on your level of consciousness, so if we really want to make a difference, we must address the issues in our businesses and personal lives at this underlying level.

This Blog will address some of the most widespread issues we have found working with many hundred businesses and executives. We will write about operational issues, such as, Next Generation Leadership principles, fundraising, IP protection or people engagement, as well as personal issues, including purpose, stress, conflict management or work-life balance.

We look forward to your suggestions and feed-back.

Peter Matthies