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How to change the world and build amazing company culture with CorePower Yoga Chairman and CEO Eric Kufel and Rabbi Jacob Rupp

I believe the world is missing a tremendous opportunity to lead with compassion, to lead with empathy, to not be afraid of vulnerability and be servants — in the sense it’s our role to serve the organization so the organization can serve our students, so our students can go out and make a bigger difference in the […]

I believe the world is missing a tremendous opportunity to lead with compassion, to lead with empathy, to not be afraid of vulnerability and be servants — in the sense it’s our role to serve the organization so the organization can serve our students, so our students can go out and make a bigger difference in the world.

Eric Kufel is Chairman and CEO of CorePower Yoga, the largest privately held chain of yoga studios in the United States.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?

I started as Chairman and CEO of CorePower Yoga in January of 2016. However, I had been involved as a board member since March 2014. Before joining CorePower Yoga, I was an Operating Partner at L Catterton, working with CEOs in a variety of high growth consumer companies.

Prior to my time at L Catterton, I was CEO of Van’s Natural Foods, a market leader in better-for-you, non-GMO and allergen friendly foods, with products in the bar, cereal, cracker, frozen breakfast, granola, pasta and snack categories. Before that, I served as CEO of Inventure Foods, a publicly traded marketer, manufacturer and innovator of better-for-you snack, fruit and smoothie brands. My experience also includes brand management leadership positions with the Kellogg Company, the Coca-Cola Company and the Dial Corporation.

What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?

I grew up in Alaska and spent my summers on an island building a log cabin by hand with my family. We had no power and had to hand pump water from a well we dug. Then I worked on commercial fishing boats in a small village for seven years to put myself through college. Both experiences taught me the value of hard work and gave me a deep appreciation for nature and the outdoors. While I split my time between Denver and Arizona now, and I raised my own family in Arizona, I spend as much time as I can at my cabin in Alaska and it’s a very spiritual place for me. It’s my true north and reminds me that material things don’t matter, but places, experiences and relationships do.

How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?

To me mindfulness is both personal and professional. Personally, I meditate for 20 minutes and spend five minutes writing in a gratitude journal every morning. My kids used to roll their eyes at me when I would ask them what they were grateful for each night over dinner. Now that they’re grown it’s fun to see these gratitude practices play out in their own lives.

Professionally, mindfulness is a big part of the leadership practices at CorePower Yoga. In simple terms, mindfulness is the act of being present and leadership is the act of bringing out the best in others.

The first step to practicing mindful leadership is having a clear set of core values that serve as a compass for how we act, interact and deal with decision-making and issues that arise. We walk the talk with CorePower’s core values and it is ingrained in our culture that we each consistently exhibit all four values to achieve our full potential:

  • Having an Attitude of Gratitude (positivity is contagious)
  • Being a Team Player (putting CPY ahead of ourselves)
  • Delivering Results (achieving our goals with integrity)
  • Living Our Mission (we deeply believe in what we’re doing and the impact it can make on our students and the world)

Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?

Without a doubt, yoga and meditation have had a tremendous positive impact on my business, family and personal life.

An important facet of mindful leadership is a focus on gratitude and positivity. We have difficult challenges on a daily basis, but how we choose to address them as an organization defines our character as a team. We can’t change a situation, but we can choose how we deal with it. By seeking positive behavior and practicing gratitude throughout our community, we have been fortunate to be able to do well by doing good.

Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 12 years ago. My life was not hitting on all cylinders, and my health was not good. I didn’t have the energy or stamina to do all the things I enjoyed — and was used to — doing. The medications prescribed to me only made me feel worse, and my wife was instrumental in helping me find other, more holistic ways to feel better. This is when I discovered yoga. I began practicing 3–4 days a week (which I still do to this day), and eating more mindfully. I went from being really sick to having more energy than I’d ever had.

Five years after being diagnosed with Crohn’s the doctors were shocked. They told me I was actually getting better, not worse. The physicality of yoga, combined with the mindfulness produced a dramatic life change for me, and has really allowed me to live my life to its fullest.

What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

Early in my career I worked for big corporations and I was pretty unhappy. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s it was really important to me to lead a life of greater significance. I began to pursue a career with which I had a personal connection and that gave me a sense of purpose. Eventually, this led me to CorePower Yoga.

I always thought to myself that if I were ever lucky enough to run an organization, I would like to do it in a different way. We’re often brought up to believe that family, traveling, and friends are fun, and work is bad. At CorePower I get to do it differently. To create a culture where great people want to come to work every day. It’s a mindset. It’s “I get to do this” versus “I have to do this.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m very grateful to have a terrific life partner in my wife Kristy. She’s a constant source of inspiration for me, and a reliable, grounded sounding board. She is a lifelong learner and avid reader who listens to multiple podcasts daily. She has deeply studied functional medicine and nutrition and has kept our family on the cutting edge of health and wellness. Most important, she is grounded in core values and is my closest and most trusted partner and advisor in every facet of my business, family and personal life.

Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?

I believe the world is missing a tremendous opportunity to lead with compassion, to lead with empathy, to not be afraid of vulnerability and be servants — in the sense it’s our role to serve the organization so the organization can serve our students, so our students can go out and make a bigger difference in the world.

We do this by having a culture that fosters healthy debate, where others are encouraged to share their opinions without judgment or fear. We are able to more fully vet topics and identify more thoughtful solutions. By fostering trust in one another, we aren’t afraid to address the inevitable difficult choices and issues that arise.

When a decision is made, even if we disagree with it as an individual, we support the team wholeheartedly because we were part of the process and authentically spoke our opinion. To create this process, we coach learning how to disagree without being disagreeable and having the courage to be comfortable being uncomfortable. These are great lessons in business and in life.

Last, many people tend to avoid choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong. Healthy and uplifting work cultures typically live by clear core values and the paradox is that many leaders believe anything that is hard or will cause short pain isn’t good for culture. The reality is there are simply times you need to have the courage to make difficult decisions for the long-term benefit of an organization. It’s important to be transparent and treat issues or people with dignity and respect, but making difficult calls show you “walk the talk” with core values and that fosters a healthy and uplifting work culture in the long run.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The decision to take my first yoga class truly shifted the course of my life. Yoga has had such a profound impact on me, and I am passionate about helping others discover its benefits and make a real difference in people’s lives. And I get to live this mission at CorePower Yoga where we’re inspiring a movement to show the world the incredible things that happen when you root an intensely physical workout in the mindfulness of yoga.

I think we have a real opportunity to be a positive force for good in a world that is truly in need of that kind of positive change.

How can people follow you and find out more about you?

https://www.corepoweryoga.com/content/our-team
https://www.corepoweryoga.com/blog/live-life-fully-whyiyoga

About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Authority magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live

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