Creating a Yes, and Culture

Creating a Culture of Yes, and. . .

By Jodi Clark

(Originally published for NHBSR’s November 2016 Newsletter )

“Would you lead us in an improv game right now?” That was the question I received at the conclusion of a panel discussion on how to build a network at the recent Sustainatopia conference in Boston. I responded with, “Yes, I would be glad to!” I had not known that would be asked of me. I had simply shown up to the session wanting to participate, to be informed, enlightened, and make new connections. I was delighted to be invited to co-create the end of the session! I was grateful that I had something I could readily contribute and that it was so openly and enthusiastically received. All of the participants took part in the activity. It was a magical, emergent moment of group co-creation.

This is the essence of the improvisational theater concept of “Yes, and. . .” One person makes an offer of an idea. Another person in the scene accepts that offer without question, and then builds off of it with their own. The scene continues in this way, birthing into being one offer after another until the actors collectively decide it has come to an end. There is never a moment of “No, and. . .” or even “Yes, but. . .” as the ethos of those statements is to negate, shut down, and exclude. Improv theater is about accepting what is brought, building off of it and unequivocally supporting everyone in the scene, no matter what, in order to co-create the best possible story together.

“Yes, and. . .”  and weaving the principles of the ensemble or what we call Shared Leadership is something we are committed to supporting in our work with organizations and teams at Global Round Table Leadership. In our definition of Shared Leadership, everyone is equally responsible for the vibrancy and high function of the whole, no matter their role, status or expertise within their team or organization. When everyone in your organization shows up leading with your full selves in support of and in relationship to everyone else’s success in the organization, there is greater purpose and meaning for the team and the whole company. Your team experiences greater creative sparks in the work itself and greater capacity to create positive impact in the world with your work.

W. S. Badger is one of these workplaces where you do not need to leave parts of yourself out. The company has said “Yes, and. . .” to all who work for them by the nature of their everyday practices with each other. Recently named as one of NH Business Magazine’s Best Places to Work and also named Best for the World and Best for the Environment by B-Lab, Badger’s culture reflects their commitment to the wholeness of their employees, accepting the offer of everything that’s brought. In addition to the initiatives my colleagues, Lori Hanau and Claire Wheeler featured in their recent spotlight article in Conscious Company Magazine: 3 Lessons From a Case Study from a True Sharing Model, there are a number of practices and initiatives which honor the wholeness of each employee in their everyday lives with the company. When an employee asked if there could be a labyrinth on site for meditation, Badger said “Yes, and…” by supporting the employee to construct it. They have said “Yes, and. . .” to families being an essential part the work environment by implementing a Babies at Work program and building a daycare center down the street on their old company site. Badger has said “Yes!” to committing to sustainably grown ingredients for all of the products “and. . .” to ensure that the food they eat together is partially sourced from the onsite organic gardens the employees cultivate.  Badger’s “Yes, and . .” ethic has provided the opportunity for community, nourishment, and stewardship of the land to be woven into their everyday experience together.

Badger’s participatory, ensemble-like culture recognizes the inextricable link between the wholeness of each person to the wholeness of their work together and their impact on the world around them. We at Global Round Table Leadership are continually inspired by companies like Badger who offer the “Yes, and…” power of shared leadership by creating the space for their employees to be their whole selves in order to offer their full gifts.

(Thank you once again to NHBSR  and Conscious Company Magazine for inviting us to share our thoughts and shining the light on companies living into shared leadership!)

Exploring the Benefits of Creating a Yes, and. . . Culture at work @BadgerBalmUSA @ConsciousCoMag… Click To Tweet

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Collaboration is the New Competition: Guideposts for Leading Conscious Growth

Collaboration is the New Competition

by Jodi Clark

“Collaboration is the new competition.”  This was a running theme at a recent panel event on social enterprise hosted by Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies which featured a range of local social entrepreneurs. The depth of the conversation spanned the origins of our current corporate structures, steeped in the plantation model which relied on slave labor and padded the pockets of the British elite, all the way to the emergence of various modern social enterprise structures that enable entrepreneurs to pursue social missions in addition to profit.

Throughout the discussion, themes of collaboration and shared leadership punctuated questions around shifting the current business paradigm and leading consciously:

  • What does it look like to work together across sectors and industries to shift the definition of business?
  • Does that require that we completely shed the competition default built into the traditional business paradigm?
  • How can companies fulfill their missions and provide meaningful engagement with employees and communities in the key decisions??

Some answers to these questions certainly lie in the story of Impact Makers, the company featured in Lori Hanau’s most recent article Guideposts for Conscious Growth in Conscious Company’s Winter 2016 Issue.

A Total GameChanger

As a for-profit, IT consulting company,  Impact Makers has made a radical move in ensuring that all of their assets are owned by two community foundations which serve the city of Richmond, VA. They are a certified B-Corporation, an increasingly popular certification offered by the non-profit B-Lab. One marker of the assessment is a company’s community benefit, which is where Impact Makers soars above the average of 17 points with a total of 91 points. In their recent video, they tell their full company story and speak to their transformation into a completely publicly owned company that gives away 100% of their profits in addition to the direct support they give to four other organizations that align with their mission priorities.  

When an organization is able to make that kind of direct impact on its community, the reverberations are huge.  My gut reaction to hearing about this model was exactly in the words Michael Pirron himself uses to describe his company, “this is a total game-changer.” It completely disrupts the norm for how far a social venture can go to not only benefit their community, but weave their own thriving into the fabric of the thriving of their community.

One of the biggest challenges facing communities engaging in systems level transformations, such as those working on population level health and wellbeing initiatives, is a lack of sustainable funding.  What if the primary source of funding for long-term systems change could come directly from the community seeking to transform?  How would that impact the community’s perception of their ability to achieve their goals?  What does that do to their ability to move with more agility and commitment because they are working with a social enterprise that not only understands them, but IS them?

Scalable at Any Level

The model for Impact Makers is scalable at any level, can be based in any industry, and has proven that profit does not suffer when inextricably linked to social good.  This is Shared Leadership from the inside out.  The keys to making this work are outlined in the CCM article.  May companies and communities far and wide be inspired to take make this kind of deep commitment to their collective thriving.

What opportunities do you see for innovative social ventures to contribute toward social good in your community? We would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and inspirations! [Click to Tweet]


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While they were saying it couldn't be done, it was done.
— Helen Keller