Thursday, 11 April 2013

Leading for Good: the biggest ‘wave’ we've ever seen in business - guest post by Paul Dunn


This a guest post from my mentor and friend Paul Dunn, Chairman of Buy1Give1 an organisation that has revolutionised giving and who will soon pass 25 million giving transactions.

There’s a rapidly growing business movement the
like of which we've never seen before. 

Businesses getting 'on purpose'; 
businesses giving back; 
businesses making a real measureable difference;
businesses that are seriously ‘connected’ to their teams and to their customers. 

I like to call them businesses for good. 

And Leadership is at the heart of it all. 

As Paul Polman from Unilever puts it: “These days, CEOs don’t just get judged by how well their share prices are doing, but by what impact they are having on society.”

Again, Business for Good sums it up neatly for me. Some use more ‘scholarly’ names — Conscious Capitalism is one way of describing it. 

But for me, ‘Business for Good’ sums it up neatly.  

And it’s important we say right up front that this is NOT about the now relatively staid ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ — a term I’ve never embraced. 

As we’ll see, this is about something far, far deeper. So deep in fact that Sir Richard Branson (and what a great leader he is) puts it this way: “So I think that if every single business can find their niche in the world where they want to make a difference, then I think we can get on top off most of the problems of the world.

Fundamentally, it’s about connection.

Fundamentally, leadership (and doing business for good) is all about connection. For example, for the small to medium scale business owner, it’s about a connection first and foremost to who we are as human beings. It’s about recognising WHY we’re here and why we do what we do. It’s about realising that giving is in our DNA.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market gives us an awesome way of thinking about that. “My body cannot exist without red blood cells,” he says. “But the purpose of my life is not to produce red blood cells.

And then he draws this wonderful parallel with red blood cells and profit: “Similarly a business cannot exist unless it makes a profit. But profit is NOT the purpose. Its most important purpose is value creation for its inter-dependent stakeholders.

And that leads to the second element of connection — connection to team (just one group of the inter-dependent stakeholders — others are suppliers, the shareholders and the communities that the business ‘touches’).

Creating a higher sense of purpose is central to having a team of people who are fully engaged — yes, FULLY engaged. Meaning that there’s something other than just money going on. There’s a different (and more conscious) culture.

Just as one example, consider the coffee-shop that makes it possible for a child in Africa to have access to water every time they sell a coffee. No longer will people be concerned about how many coffees they sell, they’ll measure and be motivated by the number of children whose lives they’re saving.

Or perhaps the Accountant who, when she creates a new client, gives goats to families in Kenya so that they can create sustainable incomes. And of course, they measure and get excited about and talk about the number of goats — NOT the number of new clients.

And when you see that link, you instantly see the next connection — a much deeper connection between the business and the customer. And perhaps most interestingly of all, a customer group who themselves unleash their own giving almost by osmosis.

When there’s no connection, it doesn’t work

Contrast that scenario with the one we often see — the smiling broadly CEO of the publicly listed ‘corporate’ on a stage with a very large cheque made out to a charity. Nice, of course. But no connection. And no leverage to inspire customers (or what John Mackey would call ‘inter-dependent stakeholders’) to give.

Connection is central to it because we are all connected!

So often, what businesses do DISconnects rather than connects. The budget airline that charges you to fly business class (as indeed it should) but then charges you $4 for an extra cup of tea. The legal firm that charges you based upon the amount of six-minute units used rather the value they provided. The bank that forces you to go through hoops of totally unnecessary checks as to who you really are when all you wanted to do was complain about a ‘service’ they did not provide. The food court where the conditions are so bad that there’s no way the staff could smile at a customer. 

Often, we think it’s the team members who are doing this. But it’s not. It’s leadership that is allowing this to happen.

Author and blogger Seth Godin expresses the thought brilliantly:We don’t worship industrial the way we used to. We seek out human originality and caring instead. When price and availability are no longer sufficient advantages (because everything is available and the price is no longer news), then what we are drawn to is the vulnerability and transparency that bring us together, that turn the “other” into one of us.

That turn the ‘other’ into us. What a wonderful way of expressing it. 

It’s what businesses for good effectively stand for. As we put it at B1G1, making a difference every second, every day and in every way. And that, importantly, is a brilliant description of leadership in this age.

Find out more about Paul here.

B1G1 is a proud owner of an Enhancing Their Gifts System licence.

Please consider joining B1G1 yourself or give along with my mates and myself at the Changing What's Normal Torchbearer Tribe

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Ian

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