Help your business to become the best version of itself
“A healthy business is a collaboration of individuals with matching energies, directing that energy in to their individual passions towards a mutual goal.” – The Alchemy Experience
Conceptualising all elements of a business as energy and any interactions as energetic flow allows us to assess the effectiveness, and ultimately to improve, any business, regardless of age, size, geographic location or industry. In simple terms, as the statement at the top points out, all business energy should flow to support the ultimate purpose of the business. Any interaction between any element can either support or detract from that flow. In order for the business energy flow in the direction of the purpose unimpeded each element has to be optimised and calibrated to fulfil its function.
Some elements that make up a business:
– communities (followers and detractors)
– earth (ecological systems and the environment)
- Supply lines
- Business systems
- Policies and rules
- Mission and purpose
- Communications (marketing, PR, etc.)
If we take out the people from a business we can understand that, the people inside the business are key to start generating the business energy and those people are the conduits for any element’s energy to support the purpose. If the people inside the business aren’t congruent with any of these elements, the energy flows away and reduces the support of the purpose. For example, the CRM (Contact Relations Management) system is antiquated and not set up properly for the business, which causes the employees frustration in their workflow. The system which is supposed to make their life easier, is in fact causing frustration and a lowering of the vibe of the user and thus reducing and obstructing the flow towards the purpose.
Fundamental to the business is of course its purpose for existing. If all stakeholders don’t feel any level of resonance with the purpose of the business, they will not be supporting the flow of energy towards the purpose, in fact, they will detract from it. This is where we see many start-ups with novel and innovative ideas do very well because everyone is passionately behind the purpose and will work tirelessly towards it. Unfortunately, in most cases, these start-ups become “real” businesses and start focusing on how to maximise returns to investors, i.e. the bottom line. Many business believe they have no choice because investors only care about their returns. However, in fact, the investor who only support the business for the returns become an obstacle and detractor of the healthy flow of energy. It is, therefore, important for any business to have purposes that support people, planet and profits so that any stakeholder is fully aware and resonate with the purpose of the business. This is also why [insert colour of choice] washing doesn’t work and actually detracts from the business energy flow, it is incongruent with the fundamentals of the business. If the business doesn’t have people and planet in their purpose statement, appointing a Chief Diversity Officer is going to be incongruent with the fundamental energy of the business (Business of Fashion).
“Value flows as blood in organisational culture. Only truthful values can create a healthy culture.” – Sukant Ratnakar “Quantraz”
Of course, an established business with hundreds of employees will not change the fundamental platform it sits on without some pain. However, as Haruki Murakami wrote, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. In this case, enduring the pain in order to make the changes is necessary to allow the business to be sustainable. Businesses, as people, can choose the path they take. In Japanese tradition they talk about Kensho and Satori, both are steps towards enlightenment, but Kensho is a “small steps, one at the time” journey, while Satori is “a leap straight into understanding”. The companies that choose to resist will at some point come to the cross roads of either having a Satori experience, which is going to be very tumultuous, or to perish at once. I am a proponent of the kensho path, where we choose to pursue enlightenment and to actively seek it out. Humanity is evolving and waking up and businesses that are stuck in the old paradigm are not long for this earth, but that is ok, because they will be replaced by others that embrace progress and growth.
It is very important and truly empowering to involve everyone in this process of changing the company’s identity. Vishen Lakihani has shown with his company, Mindvalley, that empowering the staff in the direction of the company is powerful in garnering support for the success of the company. I would go as far as surveying outside stakeholders as to their opinion as well. You are always going to have the category of people that do not like change for whatever reason, and that is perfectly ok, they, as we all do, have three choices; leave, change their perception of the situation or trying the change the situation. Since the latter is beyond their control, the two former are the only ones in play, and if they refuse to change their perception they will end up seeking other opportunities that they resonate with.
When seeking to establish a purpose for a business with people, planet and profit in mind, I find the Japanese concept of Ikigai useful. Finding a balance between the four areas in the Ikigai diagram will help find the optimal flow for the business energy to support the purpose. This is also a wonderful opportunity to discover where a company might have lost its way by re-examining itself.
Unique Purpose Proposition
A while back I wrote an article arguing for moving away from the concept of Unique Selling Proposition (USP) towards Unique Passion Proposition (UPP). The concept is very much along the lines of the discussion in this article, but the concept of the USP is very much ingrained in the business environment today because of it being taught in business schools across the world, so I felt it required a special mention. You can read the full article here “UPP“.
The USP conveys the external factors why someone should by a product and for the sales person it is a tool to sell more, to make more. The USP will mean something different to anyone perceiving it, and sometimes different stakeholders’ perception of it can be fully at odds with each other, e.g. customer wanting the best deal and the sales person making a sale, but the company charging the most they can. Unfortunately, as we have already identified, these types of incongruencies create blockages or drainages of the business energy. Using the UPP we derive the uniqueness directly from the purpose of the business (what are we passionate about) and we aren’t primarily concerned with competition or the bottom line, we are conveying a deeper meaning; our purpose. The stakeholders we want to attract will align with that purpose. In the above, your clients will be happy to buy your product because it aligns with their purpose and values, the salesperson is in flow because he or she is contributing to the purpose of the business and the business is happy because it is getting closer to its purpose; everybody is in alignment and the energy flows in the same direction.
In Joe Sejean’s consultancy, Eleven, they help companies train their staff to convey and embody the emotion (passion) of the brand to engage the customer on an emotional level, this is using the UPP with maximum impact in the client interaction.
Because we are perceiving a business as an entity where energy flows through and connects to a purpose, we can also perceive the quality of that energy as a vibration with a frequency. Stakeholder are energetic elements of the business and thus make up part of the vibration determining the frequency, or quality of the energy. From physics class we know that matching frequencies are in harmony and when they are out of sync they are in dissonance. In the previous section I pointed out that those that cannot adopt to the changes in the business will end up leaving and we can call this that these stakeholders’ frequency are now in dissonance with the prevailing business energy frequency. That is the, on the surface, bad news. The good news, on the flipside, is that, the same way dissonance repels, the business will now attract those in harmony with the business energy frequency. From this process we can learn that if your company has, for example, a employee morale problem, then first place to seek out the cause of the problem is to find where is the dissonance.
Here we can now also see why “… washing” does not work as it doesn’t hold the same energy frequency as the whole. The changes have to permeate the whole business and business has to embody the direction. For example, if you want to improve diversity in the business, it has to be literally written into the foundation of the business and you have to have the stakeholders’ buy in, once there the business now embodies diversity and it will be included in the goals and strategies of the business. In addition to this, since there is a frequency that vibrates at “diversity”, those that resonate with it will be drawn to the business; employees, investors, customers, suppliers, etc. The questions are, “are you attracting the stakeholders you want to your business?”, if not, “why?”.
For the energy to have the bandwidth to flow and to be amplified we seek to improve our connections with our stakeholders; we seek to get to know them better. We are going from copper to fibreoptic wiring. Apart from the appreciation the stakeholder will feel with the improved connection and recognition, we will also understand what motivates them and what the business can do to support them in their growth and wellbeing. When stakeholders are optimising themselves, the business energy increases its flow to the power of magnitude. Knowing our external stakeholders also gives us confidence that they are aligned with our values and purpose, and keep to the standards we set out. Ultimately they will leave if they don’t, but the sooner we take action the better we can control the process.
In the traditional organisational hierarchy energy flows up and down, but the quality of the energy in either direction is different. It lacks collaboration and empowerment. It is stifling to the healthy flow of business energy. The idea of the division of labour in our organisations haven’t changed much since Adam Smith theorised about it in 1776; workers labour and managers manage. This means that we ignore any additional resources our stakeholders bring to the business. We also have a tendency to promote people based on their skill at their job, meaning that we take out our best performers from where they perform the best and move them into management where they will be completely fish out of water until they grow legs and learn to run.
I think a circular organisation where we follow the flow of energy is better suited to today’s business environment. We want to create a structure that is agile, dynamic and agile. It allows us to coach and promote people without losing them from the tasks they are supremely suited. We create an environment where growth and innovation is encourage and we don’t allow anyone to become stagnant.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the optimal flow when we move between being challenged and mastery. Hence, it is the responsibility of the business to give the stakeholders opportunities to be challenged and grow in their roles. Managers for example should be concerned with data and analysis of that data, where as leaders should be concerned with coaching and improving skills among the teams. In “Exponential Organizations” Ismail and Diamandis, et al, show how organisations that get stuck in their ways and stagnate and become victims of disruption. The solution for these companies tend to be to bring in a consultant during a retreat to train the staff and then expect everything to be different, it won’t be. The changes have to happen at the core of the business and, in their daily work, challenge the staff to become the optimal versions of themselves. We can do this by moving people in and out of committees, in addition to their daily tasks, where their job is to disrupt. Make disruption part of the culture and celebrate failure. At Apple they have a saying, “Fail fast, fail often and fail forward”, if we do that then we grow and learn and we remain challenged, seeking mastery.
As an organisation we also focus on what we are good at and what is in our purpose. Despite the instant access and benefits you get from a fully loaded HR, finance or marketing department, they hinder the agility of a business. If you have a select group of experts in these functions that can go out on the open market to hire staff on a project basis suited to the particular project, you get a tailored team to satisfy the goals of the project. You also pay for the time you are running the project and when the project is finished you don’t have any further charges. This strategy well managed and well negotiated does not need to cost significantly more than running full internal departments, but significantly less if you take into account the cost of office space, training, etc.
Leadership in the new paradigm will be affected in two ways; organisational and conceptual. In our current paradigm leaders are appointed and their role is to “manage” their subordinates. These are not conditions that encourage flow. Leaders in businesses that have moved into the new paradigm will be empathetic, self-reflective, nurturing and empowering people. They are people that work with, coach and inspire their colleagues and subordinates. You may recognise this concept as “Compassionate Leadership” or, as Nicholas Janni calls it in his book with the same name, “Leader as Healer“. In the circular organisation they still actively do the same work that the people they lead do (leading from the front), but are responsible for the welfare, growth and development of their team. Organisations may choose to have two leaders for every team; one responsible for professional development and one for welfare and growth. Leaders have to be aware of their own process and be interested in the human condition and be on a journey of self-discovery to fulfil their role. Empathy is the process of recognising the emotions and ideas within others. In order to be empathic we have develop our EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, and we do that by allowing ourselves to experience emotions and feel safe and comfortable in that process. Only then can we be present and empathetic with others, i.e. if we haven’t experienced the emotion (not the experience or event) how can we recognise it within someone else? The second part of defining empathy relates to ideas and leaders need to be able to recognise and be able to process ideas of others; it is a necessity for an organisation that wants to foster innovation and disruption. Similarly to recognising emotion with in others, the leader has to have compassion to recognise themselves in others to allow the idea of others to not be rejected out of hand.
There are plenty of examples of companies that are empowering their employees in a wide variety of decision making processes, ranging from; democratically electing leader/managers, setting salaries, choosing one’s own work hours, etc. Setting out the parameters above staff will be able to elect the person they trust the most to look after their wellbeing and help them become the best they can be. As you may notice the “new” leader does not gain respect by appointment and lead by decree from further up in the organisation, but rather the earn the respect by their presence and energy and are appointed by the choice of those he or she is set to lead. Leaders lead with only carrots, no sticks.
This structure and these qualities allow the business energy to flow through the teams towards the purpose. Staff can focus on self-actualisation as opposed to security. Having leaders that have awareness of their own process and are focused on the wellbeing of others will also be able to very quickly identify where there are energy leakages in their teams and work to reverse that to flow towards the purpose.
Policies and Rules
In the old paradigm policies and rules were written to restrict stakeholders from misconduct. Agreed, it is important for boundaries to be set, but in the new paradigm we want to see how the policies and rules affect the flow of energy. Policies have to reflect the values and purpose of the business and show compassion. They also have to be flexible and dynamic to cater to diversity of the business, while holding to the values. They empower and energise the flow of energy. They don’t create obstacles and unnecessary bureaucracy that hampers the flow.
Few things take you out flow as quickly as poorly designed and slow systems. They create resistance and frustration. On the contrary, well designed systems that are intuitive to the business and are fast support the flow of the business energy, as well as the flow state of the individual working with the system. Major investments in time and resources are required to get this right, so we have to set the systems up so that they are dynamic and agile to meet future changes.
Another key aspect of our systems to consider when we look at the business energy is data. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out”. Designing your systems from a user interface point of view is critical, but also designing the data sourcing, flow and reporting are equally important. If we understand and know our stakeholders, and pairing that with our purpose, we know what data we need and how to collect and report it. Traditionally we have this idea that data is for senior management to use as tools for strategic planning, but in fact data needs to flow and permeate every level of the organisation for everybody to have their finger on the pulse of the business. Let data be a supporting part of the business energy flow.
Locations and Work Environments
Silicon Valley companies have understood for quite a while the importance of creating a work environment that inspires and where people want to be. However, their intention was to keep people at work for as long as possible to squeeze as much out of their productivity as possible, so the intention became counter productive to supporting the flow of energy. We want to be in a position where we need to tell staff to go home and encourage balance, but when they are in the space they are optimised for the flow state. Consultants, such as Claire Boscq with her BizShui, are bringing Feng Shui into the workplace. Feng Shui is all about the positive flow of energy, so very much in alignment with the concept of business energy flow. Feng Shui has been around about four thousand years and was actually central to when they were planning the city of Dubai, so whether you believe in the actual flow of subtle energy, or not, the philosophy and practice has support and validity in supporting the overall wellness and success of people in environments planned according to the principles of Feng Shui.
Key aspects to consider in planning any work environment are:
When we analyse the work environment we always go through this list and ask, “does it support or detract from the energetic flow?”. Does everything in the environment convey creativity, positivity, growth and wellbeing, and does it resonate and align with the business purpose?
Suppliers, of course, fall under the category “stakeholders”, but it is important to look beyond the person who is in charge of us as a customer. We see many companies in today’s global economy that are caught out using suppliers that abuse both people and planet, and the companies look between their fingers as it serves their bottom line. When they get caught out they find a scapegoat and apply some “wash” of some sort, but because they are primarily concerned with profit, they gradually float back to that situation because that is the energy the business embodies. With our new purpose and focus on people, planet and profit, it is in our core and vibration to seek out suppliers that match those values. We want to partner with the suppliers that we value and resonate with and to make them a positive contributor to the flow of business energy. Knowing our suppliers means knowing the people that make up those businesses and engaging them in our purpose
Engaging and empowering our suppliers as partners allows us to expose every aspect of our supply lines to the scrutiny of our other stakeholders; full transparency, nothing else is good enough. If a supplier falls short, we engage to rectify, or if no other option is available, seek out a new supplier. We hold ourselves accountable for the supply line. These are the reasons we get to know the supply line, because it is critical to supporting the business energy flow.
Communications (Marketing, PR, Branding, etc.)
Very much the same way we as humans heal by unlocking and allowing old trauma and stagnant energy (old beliefs) to surface and be released through communication, whether that is by speaking, writing, creating or any other means of putting it in to the physical world, the company acts the same. When a company shifts into the new paradigm, all this pent up energy has to be released and the new flow to be transparently revealed. Sharing this process and being accountable to stakeholders and the wider community can be very cathartic and restoring. These are also the first steps to rebuilding the relationships with stakeholders and of course broadcast the new frequency of vibrations that the business holds.
Transparency, accountability and courage are keywords in the new paradigm when it comes to communication strategies. As with every other aspect of the business, in order for the energy to flow, we mustn’t create blockages or resistance by holding back and hiding, flow happens when we accept our reality for what it is and work with that. In the book “The Four Agreements” Don Miguel Ruíz talks about “doing our best” and it is important to understand this concept in our business. We always do our best and accept that our best today is different from our best tomorrow, but we are always striving to be the optimal version of ourselves. So, if we are falling short in the expectations of the stakeholders, we accept that it was our best at that time, but we immediately, also, seek to do better by understanding what we could do differently and communicating that. Of course that is then followed by implementing a plan to do better. We are not playing for optics here like we were in the old paradigm, this is raw, honest and transparent communications.
Communication should come from the core purpose and values of the business and reflect the desired direction of it. If our messaging is incongruent we create a resistance to our purpose and cause a detraction of the energetic flow.
In this respect, I refer to community to any stakeholder who is doesn’t have a financial relationship with the company. This could be neighbours of a factory of a supplier, supporters of common causes, media, etc. Essentially they make up the collective public opinion without having financial interest in the business. It takes a while to build up a community that supports the energy flow, but only a few scandals to reverse it. If we have managed the changes explored in this article, we simply need to communicate our truth and radiate that business energy and the support will be there. There will always be detractors that are triggered by the energy of the business, we accept that and we engage them with empathy and compassion to dowse their fires. These detractors aren’t going to affect the overall energy of the community, which is how we determine if the community is supporting or draining the energy, it is the collective force.
The main importance of the community in this flow is that it acts like a catalyst one way or another. The energy of the community will affect the stakeholders by either filling them with pride or shame, which do you think will help support the flow towards the business purpose? Spend time with your communities and communicate with them. They will respect your vulnerability and transparency, so if something goes wrong, you do not need to activate an “emergency communications plan”, you have it in place already. With that trust your communities will continue to support you and your purpose and might even love you even more after a crisis where you showed your business’ mettle. Don’t manipulate them, but treat them with respect and they will return it to you ten-fold.
I hope, at this point, you are having glimpses of perception of how your business is a flow of energy. Our job as leaders is to help guide businesses to becoming the best versions of themselves and that means for all elements in a business to align with that same desire and goal. This is how we allow the business energy to flow in full force towards the purpose allowing your business to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.