"The main task of a conscious business is to help people succeed (accomplish their mission) while they develop healthy relationships (belong to a community) and experience an unconditional sense of peace, happiness, and growth (actualize and transcend the self)."
In Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values, Fred Kofman brings us to a new understanding of what it actually means to be ‘conscious’ in a business setting and how this can transform average or even failing businesses into outstanding businesses that have enormous competitive advantage.
This inside-out approach encompasses body, mind, spirit, culture and nature.
Mastery of self at an emotional, mental-ethical and spiritual level is where it all begins.
The Big Idea
Work is Love Made Visible
"The seven qualities that support an extraordinary business organization and an extraordinary life: unconditional responsibility, essential integrity, ontological humility, authentic communication, constructive negotiation, impeccable coordination and emotional mastery"
To develop these skills it is necessary to see work as love made visible.
So we start with what matters most to us. We then commit to achieving a vision that exceeds any individual capacities and unites us with our fellow workers in a common effort with genuine meaning.
Once this collective consciousness has been developed, it fosters peace and happiness in individuals, respect and solidarity in the community, and mission accomplishment in the organization.
Developing a conscious culture is a business imperative. It enables the execution of the organization’s strategy, the achievement of its goals and the fulfilment of its mission.
The only way to generate a competitive advantage and long term profitability is to attract, develop and retain talented employees.
A team that is well managed, and thus well led, operates in alignment, because each of the team members takes the team goal as his own.
Integrity Comes Before Success
"If you want to live a good life, you must subordinate success to integrity, not vice versa"
Integrity encourages full commitment to the task at hand and to winning. Full focus is placed on the task. Integrity also provides a wider interpretation than just success.
True success is not just accomplishing your goals, but feeling happy and at peace.
We are encouraged to be ‘players’ rather than ‘victims’. The victim uses the language of ‘should’ indicating obligation and judgment. The player uses the language of ‘could’ indicating possibility and learning.
You must take unconditional responsibility; you need to see yourself as a ‘player’, as a central character who has contributed to shape the current situation – and who can thus affect its future.
Authentic communication is built upon productive expression and inquiry.
Productive expression is a way to present your viewpoint to others as effectively as you can. You are not trying to convince anyone that you are right; you are helping others to understand why you think the way you do. Try this:
- Describe the problem in a way that feels true for both sides.
- Communicate the facts that support your reasoning. Provide concrete examples and illustrations.
- Own your opinions; they are what you think not the objective truth. Take 100% responsibility for your emotional experience.
- Connect recommendations for action with your interests and concerns.
- Ensure comprehension – invite responses and feedback.
- Accept challenges – For example, you could say ‘I may be totally mistaken. It sounds to me like you have a different perspective’.
How to Have ‘Difficult’ Conversations
"A ‘difficult conversation’ is difficult because we feel threatened in the three aspects of task, relationship and self’"
To maximize effectiveness, deepen relationships, and live authentically, you must ‘refine’ these toxic opinions and extract the truth at their core. Even the most unconscious and impulsive opinions contain very important information.
Exchanging valid information is the first step in any cooperative effort. It is impossible to create a shared understanding of a situation without an honest disclosure of all sorts of information, from basic facts to opinions, feelings, interests and desires.
We need to address everybody’s feelings with equanimity and compassion before getting to problem solving.
The goal is to act in alignment with our essential values, focusing on integrity as the only way to experience true self-esteem. We need to stop all the ‘controller’ attempts to achieve self-worth through proving that we are right and the other is wrong.
In a productive conversation, the goal is to let others know what impact their actions had on us and inquire as to what led them to act the way they did. Conversely, we need to inquire to learn what impact our actions had on them, and to reveal the reasoning behind them.
The first step to processing toxic thoughts is awareness.
The second step is assuming unconditional responsibility.
As a player, you ask yourself, ‘How am I contributing to this ineffective conversation? How can I invite the other’s truth and offer mine in a respectful and honest way?’
Your player voice also asks ‘What mistakes have I made? What mixed intentions have I enacted? How have I contributed to the problem?’
The third step is to strive for mutual learning.
Mutual purpose is the entry condition of dialogue. With a shared goal, you have both a good reason and a healthy climate for talking. Without mutual purpose, the conversation degenerates into an unproductive argument.
In a difficult conversation:
- Learn their story.
- Express your views and feelings with clarity, honesty and respect.
- Address the situation together. How can you satisfy both of your needs? Where your needs conflict, can you use equitable standards to ensure a fair and workable way to resolve the conflict?
- Create a respectful context for the conversation. Respect is like air. If you take it away, it’s all people can think about. The conversation then degenerates into defending dignity.
- Ensure you have a proper setting for the conversation. Is it the right environment? Is there enough time? Is everyone ready to have a frank discussion? Have potential distractions been eliminated?
In conclusion, Fred Kofman invites us to take these newly learnt skills and seek to serve rather than be served. As the Zen masters advise, ‘Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.’
“I hope that with a higher level of consciousness we will enter the marketplace together to support the liberation of all sentient beings,” writes Kofman. “We might then realize then that our business organizations and our work are nothing other than an aspect of Plato’s visible sensible God.”