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Succeeding Without Losing Your Soul (Part 2)

The following are the author’s remarks at the Financial Leader of the Year (FLY) awards dinner on October 4, 2017, sponsored by the McCracken Institute and Rollins College.  This is Part 2 of 4. 

To read Part 1, click here

Now, you might say that pursuing such a virtuous course is a bit easier when you start with the end in mind. The founders’ firm belief that great damage is caused by burning fossil fuels is the driving force behind the creation of this great company.

But, what if you’re part of an organization whose original purpose was not so high minded. An organization like – oh, I don’t know – an accounting firm.

What would that look like?

Perhaps you’ve heard how KPMG recast its culture to reach new levels of engagement by reframing and elevating the meaning and purpose of their work.

They started with a two-minute video to connect the work of their accounting firm to historical events that had a truly positive impact on world history. Titled “What do we do at KPMG?” it goes like this?

The management of the firm knew that simply showing a video would not change the culture. So, they first created posters meant to inspire and then created an application that allowed each member of the firm from partner to intern to create their own posters. Then they created the “10,000 Stories Challenge.” They asked 27,000 partners and employees to create 10,000 posters by Thanksgiving, offering two paid days off for all if the goal was achieved.

As many of you may have heard, they achieved that goal by July 4 of that year and had gathered 42,000 stories by Thanksgiving.

In their annual survey, 90% of partners reported that connecting to a higher purpose had inspired people’s pride in the firm. 76% of employees reported that their “job had special meaning and was not just a job.”

Perhaps coincidentally, the firm enjoyed one of the best financial years in its history.

This is a great leadership story. The core of leadership is connecting people to a cause greater than themselves. Whether you’re running an accounting firm, building houses, or delivering packages for Amazon, people take pride in doing their job well, especially if they feel as though their efforts are valued. In the case of KPMG, the partners and employees feel not only valued by the firm’s leadership but also by their impact on society.

Both SunCommon and KPMG are stories of great leadership. But, this evening, I would like to take this to the next level. I would like to talk about the impact of ‘shared value.’

Conscious capitalism focuses on leadership culture. It encourages you to ask a broader set of questions when you make strategic decisions about your business. How does this decision affect your bottom line? How does it affect your customers? Your employees? The community in which you and your employees live?

Shared value takes this to the next level. At its root, shared value recognizes that the competitiveness of a business relies upon the health of the community surrounding it. Businesses need not only economically healthy customers to buy its goods and services but also a community that is willing and able to provide critical public assets like roads, schools, and police protection. The surrounding community needs businesses to provide jobs and wealth creation opportunities for its citizens.

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