Checking references might seem like a boring or unpleasant part of filling a position at a conscious company. But as a values-driven leader, your actions matter as much here as they do in all others areas of creating a purpose-driven workplace.
To illustrate the point, imagine this scenario: A private equity firm is about to hire a new CEO for one of their investee companies. Let’s call this person Sarah. Everything looks great, until someone from the private equity firm decides to find their own references, not the references Sarah provided. Sarah hears from friends and former colleagues that the organization is doing back-door reference checks and decides she can’t work for an organization that invades her privacy and fails to ask permission to check these references. The firm’s top candidate turns down their offer, which leaves a sour taste in many people’s mouths.
Checking references deserves attention and care. Here are five tips to do it in a better way.
1. Know what you want out of your conscious job candidate.
Before you begin referencing and interviewing, it’s important to be clear about what you’re searching for. Make sure you define:
- candidate success factors for the role
- the education and experiences required to fulfill these success factors
- and, most importantly, the personal characteristics needed to carry out the job.
2. Check A LOT of references.
After the search profile has been defined and your reference framework prepared, ask the candidate furnish a list of six to eight references. People often think I’m crazy to ask for so many, but given that hiring the right person is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your organization, it’s vital to take the time to acquire as much empirical evidence as you can on candidates. Asking for so many references also sends a message to the candidates that you care.
3. Respect the candidate’s privacy.
If you want to reach out to potential references that aren’t on their list, ask each candidate for permission before you do so. If they say you can’t contact them, this is worthy of a conversation in and of itself.
4. Ask good questions.
While you should customize your set of reference questions to each search, here is a general template that I like to use:
- How do you know the candidate?
- How many years have you known them?
- What are their principal gifts?
- We are all human. What would you say they have to work on?
- What have their significant accomplishments been, along with their failures? [If they don’t have any failures, there’s a problem, because who hasn’t failed and gotten back up on occasion?]
- [List all the success factors and experiences that suit the role.] How would you rate the candidate on each one of these, and why?
- [Most important, list all the personal characteristics desirable for the role.] How would you rate the candidate on each, and why?
- What advice you would give me on how I can best work with the incumbent? [This is one of my favorite questions]
- What are the candidate’s values?
- What motivates the candidate?
- How would you describe the candidate’s personality?
- Do you have any concerns about the candidate’s ability to fill the role?
- Is there anything else I need to know?
5. Actually listen.
It’s vital to be really present when listening to a referee, not in any way treating the task as perfunctory. As you consider the responses to each question, feel free to dig a little deeper into what’s being said. The role needs to be a fit for the candidate as much as the candidate is for the organization. Take time to really care about the candidate and how they might function in your organization.
Remember, we are all learning together. So take a breath with me and keep in mind that being awakened and functioning consciously involves adding humanity, kindness, and joy into the equation. This is true in daily work life, and also true for all stages of the hiring process.
Article originally appeared in Conscious Company Magazine by Catherine Bell.
Are you a bosshole?
Most people rate time with their bosses as the worst time of their day. Consider what that means: interacting with their manager is less enjoyable than waking up to an early alarm, dealing with a rush-hour commute, or taking out the trash.
Depending on your own personal experience, you may find that surprising—or sadly obvious. Either way, this widespread dissatisfaction should not be ignored. Why? Employee productivity is directly related to an individual’s relationship with his or her supervisor.
A Harvard Business Review study that looked at nearly 3,000 leaders in a financial services company found that people assigned to the least effective of the group (managers rated in the bottom 10%) had satisfaction, engagement, and commitment levels that were lower than 96% of their colleagues. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the top 10% of leaders oversaw employees that were happier, more engaged, and more committed than 92% of the company’s employees. The correlation was clear, and theirs was not the only investigation to come to this conclusion.
Furthermore, studies have shown there’s not much you can offer in the way of perks to balance out the effects of a bad boss, and there’s a seemingly endless amount of rewards—from employee satisfaction to increased revenue—that can be derived from having a great one. While writing The Awakened Company, I interviewed many top CEOs who had come to the same conclusion. As a senior executive or business owner, finding and cultivating great leaders needs to be a priority. (And if you have employees reporting into you, ask yourself, “Am I a bosshole?”)
So how do we make great leaders? Instead of self-preservation, separation, and isolation, we need to cultivate one-on-one relationships in organizations. That means doing more than relying on group meetings to interact with your team. You may be getting face time, but you aren’t getting the kind of quality time that leads to happy, engaged employees. Only by fostering these deeper connections can we create “Awakened relationships” that enable higher employee satisfaction, greater productivity, and broad company success (which cannot only be measured by shareholder value).
Try taking each member of your team out for lunch. If that’s not feasible with your schedule, try taking them out for tea. Making time to connect should be a priority, not a bonus. This can be achieved on a daily basis by recognizing your employees for what makes them unique and valued—comment on what is their awesome. With an open heart and effort, you have the power to be the best part of their day.
Ready to awaken your own business? Get your copy of The Awakened Company, enlist The Awakened Company’s services and learn how companies are achieving a new standard of success. A best-seller within a week, one of Eight of the Best Business Books of 2015, and a Nautilus Silver Medal Winner for Best Business Book for 2015, it explores a new way of doing business: incorporating mindfulness and wisdom traditions to ultimately benefit companies, those involved in them, and the planet itself. It has earned praise from business leaders and industry experts, and is the blueprint for the successful executive search and team transformation company, BluEra.
Catherine Bell is the founder of BluEra, an executive search and team transformation company, and the best-selling and award-winning author of The Awakened Company, a thought-provoking read that explores how treating businesses as communities can transform them for the better. Catherine speaks around the globe, and offers The Awakened Company’s services to help other teams awaken to a new concept of success.
Article originally appeared in Women of Influence by Catherine Bell
Article originally appeared in Women of Influence by Catherine Bell
Catherine Bell is the founder of BluEra, an executive search and team transformation company—that has successfully implemented its own unlimited vacation policy. She’s also the best-selling and award-winning author of The Awakened Company, a thought-provoking read that explores how treating businesses as communities can transform them for the better, and how trusting your employees sets them up for ultimate success. Catherine speaks around the globe and The Awakened Company’s services help your team awaken!
By Catherine Bell
Take a moment to contemplate the idea: unlimited vacation. What words does it conjure up in your mind?
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s certain to garner mixed feelings. On the one hand you’re probably thinking, wouldn’t that be nice? So nice, in fact, it may sound too good to be true. How could a company function if its employees were allowed to take off whenever they pleased? Wouldn’t it be a logistical nightmare?
If your thoughts on unlimited vacation quickly moved from blissful to disastrous, keep reading—I’m about to tell you how, why, and when it can work.
It may sound farfetched, but unlimited vacation is actually a proven concept. It’s a policy that has been offered successfully by large corporations, including General Electric, LinkedIn, and Netflix, as well as small and medium businesses, like the company I co-Founded, BluEra.
We have been offering unlimited vacation to our employees since 2013. Our decision to institute the policy came after we realized there are better ways of working together. We had great people working with us—sixteen passionate, motivated, high-performers—but we recognized that burnout could become a serious problem, and trust is one of our core values. From a broader picture standpoint, we didn’t want our company to have a sweat-shop mentality. We value our employees as stakeholders in our business. In addition, we can easily measure success in our business.
The announcement was made to our team at our annual strategic session. SInce then, we’ve managed the policy using an online spreadsheet. All employees have access, and they are free to block off any days they plan to use for vacation. We don’t ask for advance notice.
I was initially worried people wouldn’t take enough time off. Our experience since then has been the same as what many other companies with the same policy report: nobody abuses the system, they take about as much vacation as we would have “officially” allotted them, and they are respectful of deadlines and busy periods. In fact, it has brought about more accountability and collaboration. Our team members support each other so that everyone is able to take time off.
And the greatest benefit of unlimited vacation? It may not be what you think. Yes, it’s a great perk for attracting and retaining highly skilled workers, but the concept goes much deeper than that. It’s a sign of trust. Empowering our employees to be in charge of their time off shows that we believe in their ability to manage their responsibilities, workload, and results. We also believe in the power of the pause and this gives people the time to regenerate themselves.
Many policies were created with the worst employees in mind, as a means to keep them in check. We want to work with rockstars. Do rockstars want unnecessary boundaries put on them? This approach of giving freedom to employees and expecting the best of employees encourages them to be just that – the best.
Will it work in your organization? I’ll answer that question with a few more: what kind of culture do you have, and what kind of culture do you want? Do you want your employees to be leaders, or followers? Do you want them to feel accountable to their results, or just punching a clock?
With the right team in place, unlimited time off can help your employees focus on the work they are doing and the results they are achieving, and feel empowered by the trust you have shown you have in them. So evaluate the idea based on the message you want to convey, rather than how much vacation you think you can afford to have your employees take. You may find you need to encourage them to take their allotted time off (yes, companies with unlimited vacation policies have reported this phenomenon), and if you have an employee that immediately books a month-long getaway, they probably aren’t a great asset to your business anyhow.
At BluEra, we have found that our unlimited vacation policy has been a positive and important element of our company culture. It is a way we live our values. And a happier rested person is a more productive and engaged person. Of course, this won’t work at all companies, but it’s certainly worth taking into consideration.
Ready to awaken your own business? Get your copy of The Awakened Company, hire The Awakened Company, and learn how companies are achieving a new standard of success. A best-seller within a week, one of Eight of the Best Business Books of 2015, and a Nautilus Silver Medal Winner for Best Business Book for 2015, it explores a new way of doing business: incorporating mindfulness and wisdom traditions to ultimately benefit companies, those involved in them, and the planet itself. It has earned praise from business leaders and industry experts, and is the blueprint for the successful executive search and team transformation company, BluEra.
Focus – where to put it as a leader.
Article originally appeared in Women of Influence by Catherine Bell
Catherine Bell is the founder of BluEra, an executive search and team transformation company. She’s also the best-selling and award-winning author of The Awakened Company, a thought-provoking read that explores how treating businesses as communities can transform them for the better.
Whether you are working for a private or publicly-traded company, you are likely familiar with the concept of maximizing shareholder value. It’s a business model that was born in the eighties, and three decades later, it’s still widely regarded as the ultimate measure of success. Unfortunately, most CEOs I meet with solely focus on financial metrics, simply because this is the mantra they have grown up with.
The model is indicative of a pervasive mindset across the business world: “business is business.” The purpose of a company is to make money, and whatever it takes to do so is okay—as long as it’s legal, at least quasi-legal, or can be gotten away with. While few would admit this publicly, the impact it has had on our economy is impossible to deny. And few would argue that “business as usual” is working well.
The evidence is clear: maximizing shareholder value is a failing concept.
It brought about the global financial crisis of 2007 through 2009. Fed by a drive for “more,” for decades a select class of investors increasingly used its clout to defang regulations and aggressively engage in high-risk activity, bringing the world’s most powerful economies to the brink of a narrowly-averted global depression.
It has led to corporate scandals—from Enron to Goldman Sachs—that have been met with far fewer repercussions for the perpetrators than for the people they negatively impacted, giving little incentive for corporations to change.
Most importantly, it has ruthlessly sacrificed the broader workforce, by creating a stressful, unfulfilling work environment that prioritizes profit over their welfare. Workplace dissatisfaction is on the rise, while the middle class is steadily shrinking.
Why do we assume that to increase shareholder value is of utmost importance to businesses, when the reality is that increasing shareholder value benefits the few, not the majority?
There’s another option: maximizing stakeholder value. That includes end-users, employees, management, and shareholders. It includes our suppliers, competitors, the communities and countries we operate in, and the planet earth. We need to put value and emphasis on the quality of our experiences and the joy we are cultivating moment to moment.
This new mindset requires that businesses focus on innovation, improving the wellbeing of their community, and making decisions for the longevity of the company and its team. It enables employees to come into their own, in a fulfilling and creative life. And for all those of you who are still wondering about profit: for the companies that have already shifted into this mode of operation—from Patagonia to Zappos—the financial rewards for the leadership, the team, and the shareholders have been substantial.
I call this being an “awakening company”—an organization that has moved from “me” to “we” in its thinking and practices, and that sees their employees, the communities they serve, and the planet itself as more than mere resources. I’ve seen the benefits in my own business, and I’ve interviewed experts and business leaders who have achieved the same results. So if you’re still focusing on maximizing shareholder value, it’s time reevaluate where that’s taking your business.
Ready to awaken your own business? Get your copy of The Awakened Company, and learn how companies are achieving a new standard of success. A best-seller within a week, one of Eight of the Best Business Books of 2015, and a Nautilus Silver Medal Winner for Best Business Book for 2015, it explores a new way of doing business: incorporating mindfulness and wisdom traditions to ultimately benefit companies, those involved in them, and the planet itself. It has earned praise from business leaders and industry experts, and is the blueprint for the successful executive search and team transformation company, BluEra.
Broken? Fix it!
Article originally appeared in Women of Influence by Catherine Bell
Catherine Bell is the founder of BluEra, an executive search and team transformation company. She’s also the best-selling author of The Awakened Company, a thought-provoking read that explores how treating businesses as communities can transform them for the better. She shares how the idea was born, and the impact it’s capable of having.
I co-founded my boutique consulting business on a credit card, during the global economic crash of 2008. Needless to say, it was a challenging time. Eight years later, BluEra has a small but mighty team of dedicated employees. We’ve worked with Fortune 500 Companies and clients across multiple industries. In 2015 we made it to #123 on the PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, and we’re in the top 10 for Calgary as well as HR companies Canada-wide. By all measures, we are successful—but it’s not the financial success that I’m most proud of. It’s the kind of company that we run.
We are, as I like to put it, an “awakening company”—an organization that has moved from “me” to “we” in our thinking and practices, and that sees our employees, the communities we serve, and the planet itself as more than mere resources. We use mindfulness as a tool. You’ve probably heard of the term, but might not be sure of the meaning; simply put, it is being very present to where we are now, in our heart, head, and hands. We use other wisdom traditions as well.
Why do I believe in the awakened company model? And why should other businesses, including yours, be interested?
Quite simply, the old model of doing business doesn’t work very well. Most companies fail before their tenth anniversary. The overwhelming data on worldwide employee disengagement is staggeringly sad, with the vast majority disengaged and demoralized at work. Instability is the norm, with all its accompanying ups and downs in the economy. I believe we can do better. In fact, we must do better, for ourselves and for future generations.
The solution I put forward in The Awakened Company has been in development for about seven years, and it really grew concurrently with BluEra. As a new company we made a lot of mistakes, but each one was a learning opportunity (and I believe contributed to our future success). We were gathering invaluable research about teams, team dynamics, innovation, and engagement. I was also witnessing a world where disconnection, apathy, and failure are the norm. I began to understand that business can never be “just business,” but impacts every aspect of our lives. There was a deeper problem this book needed to solve.
Along with my two brilliant collaborators, I interviewed over twenty world-renowned business leaders, including the CEO of Patagonia, Rose Marcario, Otto Scharmer from MIT, and Tony Hsieh from Zappos. We were excited to discover just how many were aware of the severity of the problem—and how many of them share with us the simple realization that we not only can do better, but that some of the leading corporations are already pioneering a new business model, with amazing results.
The Awakened Company is more than just a business book, it’s an urgent call to action. It is my hope this book brings humanity back into organizations and that the data on business success and engagement awakens amazing and revolutionary results.
Ready to awaken your own business? Get your copy of The Awakened Company, and learn how companies are achieving a new standard of success. A best-seller within a week, and one of Eight of the Best Business Books of 2015, it explores a new way of doing business: incorporating mindfulness and wisdom traditions to ultimately benefit companies, those involved in them, and the planet itself. It has earned praise from business leaders and industry experts, and is the blueprint for the successful executive search and team transformation company, BluEra.
You wake at 7am with a smile on your face and no need for an alarm clock. Your first thought is, “Mmm, nice. Today is Tuesday. I’ve got some cool stuff to do today.”
You take an extra couple minutes to just lie there in bed, savoring how cozy it is, and how good it feels to simply be alive. Then your thoughts turn to some of the projects you’re working on and the awesome people you’re working with. You practically leap out of the bed, eager to get on with what is sure to be a deeply fulfilling and creatively expressive day. Let the fun begin!
Does this describe a typical Tuesday morning for you? How about your employees? Would you like for it to?
For most North Americans, whether they are the boss or an entry level worker, a typical morning goes more like this….
The alarm rings. Everything in you immediately rebels against the idea of leaving the sweetness of sleep for the harsh realities of the day ahead. You hit snooze. You try to fall back into the sweetness, but you can’t quite let go of the dread of what comes after you inevitably must get out of bed. You start debating just how long you can put it off.
The alarm rings again. Sometimes you hit snooze a second time. Other times you remember the disapproving looks greeting you as you walk into the office 5 minutes late, so you brace yourself and get on with it.
Who in their right mind would choose the second scenario over the first one? Who would choose it for themselves or for the people who work for them?
Wouldn’t everyone rather live in a world in which the people you encounter throughout your day are actually happy to be there? The people who provide you with services, happy to be doing whatever they are doing for you?
You may be asking yourself if it could really be the norm for things to be this bad for most people.
According to Catherine Bell of BluEra consulting, who interviewed thousands of employees across North American companies for her recent book The Awakened Company, the situation is even more extreme than I’ve described.
“It’s important for us to consider the data, and the majority of people at work are disengaged. Then you couple that with that the majority of people would rank taking out the trash and doing household chores as more enjoyable than spending time with their boss….”
And it isn’t only the employee having a rough ride. Catherine continues, “And then a whole other layer, is that the majority of business, over 80% of businesses, fail within the first decade. So from both the perspective of the leader and the person who is kind of leading upwards, we can do better.”
What do we do to get from where we are to where we want to be as a work culture?
Catherine sees the key to creating the kind of workplace we all would choose for ourselves as being a company culture that makes team self-awareness a primary objective for the work being done. In fact, she recommends selecting people to be hired by vetting candidates for self-awareness ahead of even job skills.
“The majority of people don’t even know, or aren’t willing to admit, what their blind spots are.
I interviewed thousands of people and asked, ‘What are your greatest gifts?’ And people could clearly explain what their greatest gifts were. And when I asked, ‘What are your work-ons? or ‘Why wouldn’t you be a fit for this role?’ The majority of people say, ‘Well there’s no reason.’
So there’s a self-awareness gap that we really need to be genuine about when talking about performance, when talking about hiring….
In interviews, when people say they don’t have anything to work on, I say, ‘Well I have pages and pages of weaknesses that I need to work on. And there’s a direct correlation between self-awareness and performance, so what’s going on here?’
Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Seth Godin, and Tony Robbins are agreeing with her. Not only have they endorsed her book, but they are also supporting the approach to creating a company culture that sees the self-awareness, personal fulfillment, and development of each worker as just as essential to the bottom line as any financial profit-seeking objective..
Patagonia has such a complete commitment to creating a values-aligned company culture that when a major company that didn’t align with Patagonia’s values approached them about buying Patagonia-ware they could put their logo on, Patagonia refused to make the sale.
You may balk at the idea of putting values ahead of revenue, but Catherine’s research has definitively shown that by increasing self-awareness and related personal responsibility, business profitability actually increases!
“What’s interesting is that when [corporations] are two-thirds about culture and one-third about profit, they’re more profitable.”
If you want to help build a happier, healthier, more profitable work environment at your company, then there are a few very simple things you can do:
- Accept responsibility for managing your own self-awareness and personal integrity, whether you are officially a manager or not.
- Start building your self-awareness skills, whether by meditating or using a resource like the free Stop, Breathe & Think app.
- Take responsibility for your moods. Don’t demand that your external situation change before you are willing to contribute a positive mood to your workplace. Combine a joyful mentality now with a commitment to creating structural changes that will be conducive of well-being for all.
- Get real about where you’re in need of growth, and be willing to admit fallibility without shame, blame, or defensiveness.
What are you ready to do differently to create the workplace you want?
Indigo Ocean Dutton is a business consultant for conscious entrepreneurs at Awaken Business Consulting, where she guides clients toward lives of impact, prosperity, and joy. Connect with her on her blog or on Twitter.
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Article appeared in Huffington Post by Indigo Ocean