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Conscious Business Leadership: An Interview with Marilyn Tam

Marilyn Tam was formerly the CEO of Aveda, the president of Reebok Apparel & Retail Group, and vice president of Nike - and a successful entrepreneur who has built four companies.

Today I am honored to share an interview with Marilyn Tam, PhD.

Marilyn Tam was formerly the CEO of Aveda, the president of Reebok Apparel & Retail Group, vice president of Nike, and a successful entrepreneur who has built four companies. She is a speaker, author, consultant and board certified executive leadership coach.

Dr. Tam’s life is an inspiring example of what can be achieved if one follows their dreams. She grew up as an abused and neglected child in Hong Kong, left home as a teen to come to America alone, and went on to achieve international business and humanitarian success. Her writing can be found on Thrive/Medium and Noteworthy on how to create a happy, healthy, successful, and dynamically balanced business and life. Brand Channel lists her as one of the four most prominent names in Ethical Business globally. Also, Marilyn is one of the top 100 leadership speakers in the world according to Inc Magazine.

What experience has inspired you the most in your journey of becoming a conscious business leader?  

 I was a child laborer and experienced first-hand what business without consciousness does to people and the environment. I acquired the tools and mindset needed to develop and manage a successful and thriving business from that experience. My career and life were built on understanding that being responsibly conscious is key. My life is dedicated to helping others. A conscious business is a positive instrument of positive change and the best way to foster and grow a business in today’s interconnected and aware world.

What 3 tips would you give any leader for making a meaningful difference in the lives of their direct reports?

  1. Establish clear goals that are aligned with the company mission and ensure that your direct reports understand and are committed to them.
  2. Maintain regular free and open communication with your direct reports so that you are aware and responsive to their ideas, progress and concerns. Listen. Follow through. Be honest.
  3. Provide measurable metrics for their performance and perform regular reviews and give feedback for ongoing guidance and support.

What’s the biggest change in the way organizations will need to function in the future related to using its human capital compared to 10 or 15 years ago?

Today’s workforce is mobile, focused on personal fulfillment and have many more employment options than ever before. Workers in the past were prone to stay in one organization, more patient and willing to accept direction without explanation, and to delay gratification in their career. Workers now are looking for meaningful work, coaching and guidance on their career development, and are prepared to leave their current employer to find what they need. Organizational leaders need to understand that they are managing people with a different mindset than before. Share the organizational mission, explain why it is relevant to the world, and how each worker can contribute to the organization’s mission and goals. Their employees will stay engaged and work at their full potential when they are treated with consideration for their abilities, skills and needs.

Purpose and Community are more important to younger generations. How do you see those focus areas to improve business results, retention, and recruitment for your organization?

People today are desirous of making a positive difference in their work and in how it impacts their community and the world. They are motivated by contributing to something that has meaning and purpose. When a business is an active contributor and participant in the local and global community, the feedback loop of information and support will foster productivity, goodwill and meaningful connection for everyone. Employees will feel that their work have relevance in their own lives and the community will positively respond by supporting the business. This also enhances the reputation of the business and boosts the organization’s sales, recruitment and retention. It’s a beautiful win-win-win loop.

Given your commitment as a conscious business leader, what’s your approach to developing leaders to encourage greater consciousness?

The most effective way of developing conscious leaders is by giving them the opportunity to experience the effects of conscious leadership. Give them work assignments that require their active participation in working with their customers and community. When workers see the results of their decisions and work, they will have a visceral understanding of the issues. Key to this process is active mentorship – assign colleagues/leaders who have experience in the area to guide and support them as needed.

 What is the link between a conscious business and being environmentally  sustainable?

The world is all interrelated. How a business operates affects the business, community and the environment. Short- and long-term strategies have far reaching consequences, and a conscious leader can integrate such factors into the company mission, strategies, and decision-making process. The good for business and humanity are integrated into the wellbeing of the environment; humanity exists in and is nourished by a healthy and sustainable environment. 

What do you think the biggest changes we will see in the workplace twenty years from now due to conscious business leadership’s growth?

Twenty years from now, many of the current conversations and developments in conscious business policies will be mainstream. They will be the standards in which successful and thriving businesses function and operate. The organizations that have yet to fully transition to a conscious business way of operation will struggle to maintain their productivity, workforce and relevance. 
 

How can our readers follow you or your company on social media, and get a copy of your book? 

Please visit my website, MarilynTam.com where you will find, blogs, podcasts, videos, free gifts and more information for your use and empowerment. I offer keynotes, training, consultations, and coaching globally at conferences and at organizations’ special events. My books are available on Amazon and other book retailers.

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