Wake Up and "Screw Business as Usual"

It would not surprise me if you are taken aback by the title of this blog – it certainly captured my attention when I first encountered this statement. In 2005, Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group established Virgin Unite – a non-profit foundation, that works to encourage entrepreneurial approaches to some of the tough challenges the world is facing. In Branson’s new book, Screw Business as Usual (see YouTube clip below), he outlines a business that values both the traditional profit-focused model and promotes a philosophy of caring for people, communities and planet.   

You are cordially invited to join the “wake-up-choir” of  business leaders, academics and philanthropists who are attempting to wake us from our slumber and follow the path of sustainability a path that says it is possible to do good and do well at the same time.
Most of us live relatively unconscious lives following our routines.We tend to say and do things without much conscious reason, andwe tend to do the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result. The first step in the journey of sustainability is awareness. The unorthodox tittle of Branson’s book Screw Business as Usual wakes us up.Beside Branson’s voice, I will use four more voices to help us stay awake: John Ehrenfeld; Chris Lazlo, Nadya Zhexembayeva; and the late Ray Anderson.
John Ehrenfeld (2008), an intellectual giant in the field of sustainability, defines sustainability distinctively: “the possibility that human and other life will flourish on the planet forever.” According to Ehrenfeld, flourishing can only occur if we pay close attention to three critical domains that the forces of modernity have dimmed:

Leader's Communicate their Organization's Purpose: Starting with WHY

Purpose enables hundreds of employees to make thousands of decisions in unison.  ~Gary Burnison

Purpose seems so obvious, but is it?  I’ve used a TED Talk several times over the past few weeks and this quote reminded me of the point the speaker is driving home.  Simon Sinek makes a presentation entitled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”  Simon has also authored a book entitled Start with Why

Simon says he’s codified why some organizations are far more innovative and successful than other organizations.  He describes a very simple concept that separates these organizations from all others with something he calls the Golden Circle.  The circle is divided into three rings.  The center ring is why, the middle ring is how, and the outer ring is what.  He says that when we communicate most of us begin with describing what we do, followed by how, and on the rare occasion we actually make it to the center circle and explain why we do what we do.  The really successful organizations (and leaders) communicate in the reverse order.  They begin with why, then explain how, and finally end with what. 

The core of why is being able to both identify and articulate your purpose.  Why you do what you do, many times stated as beliefs or your reason for existence.  For example, below is the description from a prominent Chicago law firm, stated in the typical order of how most leaders and organizations communicate (what, how, why).
We consistently deliver excellence in the most complex and demanding legal matters, both litigation and transactions.  No matter what legal challenge is presented, our powerful combination of experience, professionalism and teamwork will achieve the best possible outcome.  We do not consider the practice of law a job, but rather a calling to serve clients, the profession and the community. 
This is the same description with a little editing and in reverse order (why, how, what).

On Boarding the New CEO: How HR Senior Leadership Can Welcome the New Top Executive

New CEOs come to their first days in office with a lengthy to-do list that includes impressing the board of directors, rebuilding their own executive team, raising stock prices, and mastering the details of a new company and sometimes a new industry. We can expect Research in Motion, Reddit, Avon, and thousands of other companies to be going through this transition in the coming months.

In the midst of this full schedule, the company's senior human resources executive plays an important role. It's his or her job to on board the new CEO: a sometimes intimidating task when you're also trying to figure out the CEO's working preferences, and frankly, make sure you still have a job. But the role is vitally important: it's this process that kickstarts the CEO's working relationship with staff outside his or her direct reports.

NES Rentals is a leader in the $25 billion dollar equipment rental industry. But less than ten years ago, the organization was struggling with cash shortages and senior leadership changes that left employees with a sense of "waiting out" each new executive that came on board.

Bill Doucette is the vice president of human resources at NES, and a seasoned veteran at welcoming new CEOs. When NES hired Andy Studdert, former chief operations officer for United Airlines, for their top office, Bill created an on boarding plan that helped the wider NES team - spread across the US - welcome Andy, and equip the new CEO for success.

In this short video, part of our Champions of Responsible Business video series, Bill shares his tips for on-boarding a new CEO. Bill's lessons are transferable, no matter the size of your company or your industry.

For more from the Champions of Responsible Business video series, visit our YouTube channel, or check out these links:

You can find additional videos on our website, www.CVDL.org, where you can also learn about our PhD/DBA program in values-driven leadership.

Do Single CEOs Take More Risks? Are Married CEOs More Stable?

Here's something new to consider when deciding where to invest your stock market dollars: you may want to look for companies headed by a married CEO.

New research conducted by University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research, shows that single CEOs are more willing to take risks with the company's fortunes, leading to a less stable stock price. The study looked at 1500 companies, about 20% of which were headed by single executives. 

"The companies with an unmarried CEO tended to spend more money on things like R&D, acquisitions and other investments that could more rapidly increase the size of their businesses, but also had a higher chance of blowing up. The result was a more volatile stock price," says coverage from Fortune/CNN

We Must be the Technology to Achieve Sustainability

by Joe Ricciardi 
Technology plays a prominent role in discussions of sustainability. In Mid-Course Correction, Ray C. Anderson modifies Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s well known environmental impact equation I=PxAxT, proposing moving T (Technology) into the denominator – completely changing the context of the original equation:

Environmental Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology becomes

Impact = Population x Affluence

Andin ‘Sustainability by Design,’ John Eherenfeld writes that the shift to technology is at the very root of the problem – shifting the burden of responsibility from where it belongs.

The Business Case for a New Foundation in Sustainability

The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Leonardo de Vinci said that, “it is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”

I wonder if these sentiments help explain why sustainability has been so difficult for human beings to embrace. Is it because it requires us to admit that the way we are doing things today no longer works? Does recognition of the flaws in our behavior causes us to become defensive and to hold on to the validity of our previous positions?  Could it be because that admission means we are going to have to change, and change is inherently difficult for human beings?

Perhaps is it simply because sustainability requires us to let go of the way things have always been done and try something completely new, something that we cannot even imagine today. If true, then that is not really change, or evolution, or even revolution. If true, it means starting from scratch, recognizing that the facts and assumptions upon which decisions are made today are completely different from what they were 50, 100, 200 years ago. So different, in fact, that the old foundation is no longer relevant.

How to Make Branding More than Just White-Washing

C-suite executives know that protecting and growing their brands is Job #1 on their daily to do lists. But how do they do it? Most turn to marketing to drive public perception of the brand, and as a result, public trust can suffer. It can seem like white-washing. 

Consumers are savvy - they know that a brand is made up by more than its most recent advertising campaign. Your opinion of a particular brand encompasses what you hear about it in the media, but also your own experiences, your expectations of it, and (increasingly) your assessment of the brand's social and environmental performance. 

"A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence," wrote marketing blogger Seth Godin in a 2009 post.

So how do you make your brand more than just a shadow? Dr. Mona Amodeo of idgroup (a change management consultancy that works on brand development) says it involves combining performance, reputation, story-telling, and traditional branding approaches. Hear about it in this short video, part of the Champions of Responsible Business video series. 

If sustainability is part of your brand, you'll also want to check out Mona's video on Moving Sustainability from Doing to Being. And, as a starting place for creating your own sustainability initiative, see What Works in Sustainability, and How Interface Led the Way

The Softer Side of Leadership - Three Responsibilities that Might Be Easy to Overlook

What makes an executive good? Or great?

The surface level response to that question often focuses on pleasing shareholders: keeping profits high and expenses low, moving the needle up and to the right at a steady pace. The best leaders do this, consistently, even in tough circumstances like the current economy.

But truly great executives know leadership takes more than just a generous bottom line. It requires people skills, emotional intelligence, and a clear sense of vision and trust.