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When CEO’s Do Counterintuitive Things

The time has come to discover that treating others the way we would want to be treated delivers the greatest dividends of all.

The Business Rountable’s historic statement about shifting away from serving shareholders to focus more on society and community has generated mixed reactions — read on to see why the #HumansFirst gang is very optimistic …

It’s one thing when a few CEO’s do counterintuitive things, but when 200 of the world’s highest-ranking, and most egoistic CEO’s do it together in such a public way —something has definitely shifted.

In our weekly HumansFirst meeting, we talked about how they must be feeling some sort of pressure to suddenly come up with a statement like that. As Douglas Rushkoff pointed out in his viral Survival of the Richest post here on Medium, the super-rich are very afraid for their safety. Nick Hanauer who is part of the 1%, is trying to warn his fellow plutocrats that the pitchforks are coming.

Personally, I put far more trust in CEO’s who do counterintuitive things out of better intentions, not because they’re being pressured in some way. Here are a few great examples:

Before Jonathan Raymond became a guru and author about all things to do with leadership and training —he was a CEO who went through a life-changing experience, which ultimately changed his entire perspective on the world of work. I love the way he outlines everything he did wrong as a CEO in his book Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting For.

Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya’s anti-CEO playbook is an appeal to corporate leaders worldwide, to prioritize people over profits. I love the way he is a huge business success story because he wanted to help the group of workers at the old run down dairy factory he had bought. He ended up lifting the whole region and creating a Greek yogurt empire. What an extraordinary individual.

Then there is VaynerMedia’s EVP, Nick Miaritis, who is always pointing out the benefits and rewards of teamwork, especially in his latest “WE” before “ME” post. I love the way he is so down to earth and always sharing his omelette flipping escapades with his entire business network on Linkedin.

I’ve met with the CEO of AppsFlyer, Oren Kaniel, a number of times, and can tell you 100% that he is the real deal. Being a customer-obsessed company where revenue comes second has certainly paid off in a big way: AppsFlyer has just been ranked as one of the top 5 grossing revenue software companies, along with having the 2nd highest growth rate for companies above $75M. This Israeli startup does many other counterintuitive things such as scheduling a big breakfast for the entire team every single morning.


HOPE OR HYPE?

So back to our HumansFirst hangout call from yesterday where we started talking about the Wall Street Journal redefining purpose, and Bob Chapman’s open letter to the Business Roundtable. (Bob Chapman is actually the poster child for CEO’s doing counterintuitive things that have paid off in a big way).

Many people feel this is just a PR stunt (myself included), and that nothing will actually come of it, but it was very interesting to me to see the HumansFirst mindset on full display, and how differently participants on the call process information compared to normal people:

Culture transformation guru Ozlem Brooke Erol was talking about how it gives us a chance to keep them accountable: “That’s the system we created in this world — you may not believe it and not everyone is hopeful — everyone has a reason to be skeptical. But at the same time — if they feel the pressure to say something like this publicly, it gives me hope. Just the fact that they felt they had to do that … “

People maximizer Laura Sukurokov said that it would take a while. That it was selfish of her to think this way, but she’s very excited because, “This is the realm we all work in and the message we’re trying to convey. This shows that you can be HumansFirst, and profit motivated. It gives legitimacy to what we say. People in the business world are coming on board. I’m not in this business to make tons of money. It’s coming from a grassroots level to make change. I think it will take decades for this to take hold, but we can start making great progress in the meantime …”.

Speaker and consultant Rebecca Scott said, “ We don’t know the intentions behind what was written, but it’s up to us to hold them accountable. What we decide to do with it is up to each of us.”

Brian Kelly spoke about this being a step forward, and feeling hopeful: “This is something I would not have expected. It gave me a sensation that people are seeing what’s happening. Transformation is an event going from A to B. Actions and investment, and commitment behind it. Being aligned to what they committed to is what I’m looking for next.”

Erik Rhoten is always looking on the bright side: “I love this stuff — it gets me super excited — it’s amazing that there are people that are putting humans first. Many were missing the boat — sales people were always, ‘Where is the money connected to this?’ I think humans are much more driven by the purpose and fulfillment of the job. They need to feel like they’re having an impact, and feel aligned and contributing . Those are the changes making a massive impact. Plenty of leaders are all for this, and looking for ways to do it. We’re at the early adopter phase — maybe 20 % of the population. There’s a group of people who are all-in on this like here in this group, but it will take years …”.

Brook: “Blackrock made an unprecedented announcement like this last year at the World Economic Forum: how you have to have a purpose beyond profit. Everyone was talking about it . And even if companies don’t care about their employees — their users do care. They are all seeing this … In an MIT online course I took , everyone was talking about how it all has to change with digital transformation and also humanity. How can they not feel the pressure? But our numbers are increasing every day. They can’t NOT see that this is how I feel.”

Stevie Borne: I’m noticing that while it sounds like a great idea, they don’t know what to do — how to put people first. It appears to be a touch feely concept and they’re afraid of that. Calculating dollars — we know how to do that … but helping your staff see a meaning and purpose … We don’t know — we as leaders don’t know our own purpose here ….”.

Brian Buck : “This has been the promise for 20 years — they don’t know the HOW — until they have the skills and desires to get those skills.”

Stevie: “I’m on this mission in the agile community, to bring ‘the people’ back …people want to talk about agile process/tools. People just don’t know what to do. We all bring our unique selves and don’t know how to communicate — and that’s messy.”

Kevin Monroe: “Conscious capitalism —it started on fringes. Just the idea that these conversations are happening is good for us. It’s an opportunity for us to seize the moment. You now have permission to talk about this in your company. So how do we use it? Many will say — yes, but how ? It’s a good time to write books.”

“The energy around this worldwide is what brought us together, and sparked this conversation that is growing and is in many groups. As long as we stay together, and connect, and collaborate, and move forward together — hope is great and acceleration is possible.” Mike Sr. Vacanti

HOW WILL WE DO IT?

Erik: “It’s so difficult dealing with humans. We’re the worst. We’re aligned on this humans first thing. Our challenge here, is how we get people to change. We have to treat these people like humans too — they are lost and just doing what’s worked all these years — focus on finance and management. “It worked really well for them. We need to meet them where they are and align with what they’re looking for. Research shows that investing in people is good for your bottom line — it’s not a conversation about how to love each other more. There’s evidence now — data shows that investing in people — giving them the space to be free and their full selves is good for business.”

“Research shows that investing in people is good for your bottom line — it’s not a conversation about how to love each other more.” Erik Rhoten

Brooke: “We see them resist of every day — but it’s a great opportunity for consultants like us …. a good chance to show them the how …”.

Mike Vacanti: “When you look at the impact that something like this can have … I was [working with] Microsoft when Steve Ballmar left [after] the Nokia fiasco. When Satya Nadella [stepped in], a company wide memo went out: ‘If you come in tomorrow the way you did yesterday — your job may not be there.’ [And then] his book Hit Refresh came out. In the 4 years he’s been there their stock has tripled. The empathy first attitude rather than know it all attitude pays off. [With over] 100K [employees, making this shift is hard to do, some] on his core team are still in Ballmer mode. What I applaud these people for the most, is that he took a step into the headwinds of the financial community — that takes strength.”

Kevin Monroe quoted Jonathan Raymond’s Good Authority: How to Become the Leader your Team is Waiting For — 3 key principles:

#1 — Deepest purpose of business is to change the lives of the people who work there.

#2 — Role of leaders and managers is to show how personal and professional growth are inseparable.

#3 — The way to get people more engaged is to be engaged with them.

Kevin: “Really investing in your people and when you do that — and do it well — it does provide a return on relationship — and impact, and it is good for business.”

Lynne Putz —talked about how she learned to listen for the I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO: “Comes across in many ways — we can’t change what’s happening because it’s working, so leave it alone. This news allows showing them a simple way — to focus on stakeholders — mainly their people — to bring the shareholder value. I’ve built up trust and credential — now they look at me and say ‘you’re gonna help us get there’. The openness is finally showing up …Get them over the hump where they’re really focused on HumansFirst.”

Kevin — Jonathan Raymond was a CEO: “I decided to do what I could to make a great place to work — one conversation a time — just getting to know the people ….”.

Erik: “Super vulnerable for the leaders — Renee Brown says we have to be vulnerable first.”

Laura: “This has made me so hopeful — maybe people will say. ‘we should try this stuff’. You don’t have to invest a lot — it just takes a bit of work — talk with your people — see what drives them.”

Mike: “My friends talk about people before profit. We do this because it’s the way to sustain the health of your business. There’s an awakening right in front — disruptive forces every day. ‘Same old’ — is dying. Not a good condition for business.”

Brook: “Investing in your people leads to profits — at the very least it reduces costs.”

Mike: “The energy around this worldwide is what brought us together, and sparked this conversation that is growing, and is in many groups. As long as we stay together, and connect, and collaborate, and move forward together — hope is great and acceleration is possible.”


Conclusion

I feel that the Business Roundtable statement is a symbol of this transition we are all making from the old way of doing business to the new. In the old egoistic system we rewarded those who trampled on others to get to the top. The new system will be built on a new kind of foundation — where helping others grow and succeed creates greater abundance for all.

The next stage can be called many different things, such as a state of higher or expanded consciousness, having higher emotional intelligence, etc. But what it really is, is an entirely fresh journey where we discover how treating others the way we would want to be treated delivers the greatest dividends of all.

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