How much of a difference can ‘feminine’ qualities – such as empathy, compassion, and even love – really have on a business?
In today's episode, Nilima Bhat & Raj Sisodia share research proving that companies that embrace these qualities see up to a 7X increase in revenue, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.
I’m very excited to introduce today’s guests:
Nilima Bhat & Raj Sisodia, co-authors of Shakti Leadership and pioneers of the Conscious Capitalism Movement.
They join me to talk about how qualities traditionally considered to be more ‘feminine’ – such as empathy, compassion, vulnerability and even love – are helping businesses increase revenue and create higher levels of employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
And this isn’t just their opinion. They came to this interview packed with research and studies showing that companies that embody these qualities significantly outperform businesses that prize domination, competition, aggression, and winning at any and all costs.
These two make such a powerful case for the need to bring a people-first mindset into every aspect of
So have a listen and learn more about what traditional, profit-oriented businesses are getting wrong, and how a new, people-first generation of companies is setting itself up for long-term success.
[00:00:05] David: Welcome to the Human Strike Back by Hotjar, the weekly podcast designed to help you succeed by putting people first. I'm David Peralta and I am super excited to introduce today's guests, Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia the co-authors of Shakti Leadership, who joined me today to talk about the need for businesses and leaders to incorporate qualities that are traditionally considered to be more feminine, qualities like empathy, compassion, caring, honorability, and even love.
Raj and Nilima have plenty of research and studies that show how companies that embody these qualities significantly outperform business that praise domination, competition, aggression, results, and winning at all cost. And this is across the board in terms of stock price employee engagement, employee loyalty, customer advocacy, and more.
These two make such a powerful case for the need to bring a people-first mindset into every aspect of business that if I could make this episode required listening for business leaders, I would. So listen in and if you haven’t already, join us in the THSB Facebook group to let us know what you think. Just search Facebook for The Human Strike Back and you'll find us. So without further ado, here are Raj and Nelima.
I'd love to ask you both a little bit about what your backgrounds are and what led you to connect with each other, and why don't we start with Nilima?
[00:01:32] Nilima: Well, I had a corporate background and my joke that I'm a corporate refugee. After 10 years of really achieving a lot very quickly, I get the crisis of existential questioning, "Am I making a difference? I'm earning a lot of money but does it really matter? Does it have impact?" and that began a journey to meaning and purpose and the study of yoga and Vedanta and a very deep journey of inner transformation that began in 1998 that I haven't come out of yet.
So, that's my background, and I've worked with global multinationals. Then, when I met Raj through the conscious capitalism movement, I realized, between us, I'm the Yoginian and he's the PhD, and it makes a great combination to be able to write a book on how do you bring more feminine values and behaviors to the workplace, to work cultures, to leadership just to restore balance.
[00:02:43] David: Do you mind if I ask you what was it exactly that led to this existential crisis? What was going on in your life at the time?
[00:02:48] Nilima: I was doing the best work with my career. I was looking after corporate communications across 95 countries in Asia Pacific based off of Singapore. I was working for ESPN and Star Sports, and I just had a sense of failure. That's why what it was. It was so dissonant for me that I ticked all the boxes and yet I didn't feel I was really successful.
[00:03:17] David: Can you tell me a little bit more about that? I understand what you're saying but I'd like to hear from your perspective. On the outside, everything was going well and yet, inwardly, you were feeling like a failure.
[00:03:32] Nilima: Actually, even on the outside, I've been a super successful person and, for the first time, I found the work just got very stressful. I had people I was working with who, just overnight, felt like I lost connection with them. It was a mystery to me, and I still can't explain it today. On hindsight, now I see every time I'm in an inexplicable situation like that, I know that something deeper is at work. I don't want to talk about people being wrong, bad or any such thing because I'd rather not go into that but it just overnight went from being a very successful person to feeling like my work wasn't good enough anymore when I know that it was the best work of my career.
[00:04:30] David: That's what started you on a journey to look for different answers and a different way?
[00:04:37] Nilima: Yeah, I was like, "Absolutely." It was success if I know what I'm doing as good as it can be. Then, if it's not being seen as that and not being value at that, then who am I, what is my sense of self-worth based on? For the first time, I started really questioning my own sense of self and my own sense of self-worth.
[00:05:04] David: Raj, what about you? What's your background and what led you into this line of work and conscious capitalism and the work that you're doing with Nilima?
[00:05:13] Raj: I've been a business professor for about 33 years now, surprisingly–surprising to me, that is. It goes by quick. I kind of became a business professor somewhat by accident in the sense that there was an opportunity I learned about that you can go to the US and get a PhD in business and you get a full scholarship. Having lived here as a kid, I wanted to come back, and that was an avenue to do so without having to pay for it and so I did. Having backed into that and just opportunistically done it, I really did not have a vision or a purpose guiding me down that path. Therefore, as I got into it, I was somewhat able to look at it with a beginner's mind as well as with somewhat skeptical eyes. I just didn't buy the whole narrative.
[00:06:08] David: Which narrative do you mean?
[00:06:10] Raj: Well, the narrative of business is just about making money, that it's a dog-eat-dog world and only the paranoid can survive, and the whole military language and metaphor, the sort of violent communications that happen in the context of business. That whole way of being simply didn't resonate with me in terms of just who I was as a child and then, to some degree, as an adult–the lack of trust, the lack of belief in people, the using of people, the constant conflict, the adversarial mindset.
With that questioning, I became a marketing professor because I didn't like finance so marketing was a field which particularly seemed to be rife with all kinds of problems, unethical practices, a lot of tremendous waste of money and environmental damage. We were spending in 2005 a trillion dollars of marketing in this country. That was the GDP of India. We were spending that on ass coupons and junk mail, which is cutting down forests to give you coupons for air fresheners.
It just seemed crazy, a ridiculous amount of money to spend. A billion people can live, and what are we spending on this? What are we getting? We must be getting some great for it but we're not getting anything, really. Customers, companies and society are not benefiting from that. That questioning led me down a path. I did a bunch of academic research on that but then I also was writing a practitioner book related to that, which was focusing on everything that was wrong with marketing.
I had already done a book called Does Marketing Need Reform then I was starting a second book called The Shame of Marketing, which talked about self-loathing. This was a phrase used by Peter Drucker who's a well-known management thinker. He referred to the consumer movement as The Shame of Marketing and said marketing's job is to look after the well-being of customers. The fact that customers have to organize against companies is the shame.
Fortunately, I got some very good advice from my mentor who said, "You know Raj, in America, people want to hear about the solution and not the problem." It's a simple insight but profound for me. I just turned that around and I called it in search of marketing excellence, and I said most companies spend too much but get lousy outcomes in terms of customer loyalty and trust. Which are the companies that are the opposite, that don't spend a ton of money and yet have great customer loyalty and trust?
That started me down a path of finding companies like that and, eventually, discovered that these companies actually have not just that in common; they have many other things in common. The employees love them, too. Communities embrace them. Suppliers are loyal to them. They have this stakeholder mindset and they have a reason for being, which is why they don't need to spend all this money convincing people that they're good. They're doing something worth doing which people resonate with as with their employees and everybody resonates with their purpose, so the idea of a higher purpose and then the leaders who actually care about people and purpose and not just power and money and cultures that are rooted in trust and caring and not filled with fear and stress.
We discovered what eventually became the pillars or tenets of conscious capitalism through looking at these, and that book was Firms of Endearment. It eventually was published under that title. At the end of the research, having found companies like that, our financial analysis showed that these companies are actually more successful. In fact, dramatically so in the long term, which was a surprise to us and, in fact, a shock because they were paying their people better, they were investing in customers, investing in suppliers, communities, environment, paying taxes at a higher rate etcetera and yet they're making more money as well.
That became a pretty significant story and so that book then led to me connecting with the whole fort now, as part of that, I realized at some point that these companies actually reflect a lot of values which people like to call feminine values–nurturing, caring, compassion, empathy and even love. They use these words, and we know these are all human qualities but they're identified as more feminine.
I saw them contrary to the traditional language of business, which was extremely masculine or hyper masculine–domination, aggression, competition, winning. There's also a lot of costs. Everything is a battle and a war. I said, "Conscious capitalism reflects, in some ways, the rise of feminine values in the world," and you could see that also in the rise of women in terms of education, access to – almost 60% of college students now, and they get much higher grades and graduate at higher rates.
Every white-collar profession, just as a matter of demographics, is going to be statistically dominated by women and, with that, will come a change in society. When you have a few women, then they have to conform to the patriarchal model. They have to be more tougher and more aggressive than the most aggressive men but, when they are enough and there's a critical mass, then they can be authentic, actually, and lead the way there. That comes naturally. A lot of research showing that that, indeed, is now–even if you remove the labels, masculine, feminine, what people want in leadership, those qualities.
[00:11:25] David: What kind of research do you mean?
[00:11:29] Raj: There's a book called The Athena Doctrine, for example, where they did 60,000 interviews around the world, 30,000 actually asking what is masculine and what is feminine and 30,000 just asking what are the traits of good leaders, and then they found a strong correlation between the so-called feminine values and good leadership but also with ethics and morality and with happiness.
Those qualities are correlated with all of these things and those are the ones that have been suppressed in sidelines in terms of not having women but also met not having permission to express those things in the workplace because they were seen as weak. Nilima had been approaching it from a slightly different angle, around what's called Shakti, which is the divine feminine power that animates everything, and had been writing a column on that in the newspaper. We have been friends for a few years. She raised the possibility of writing this book together so we did.
[00:12:34] David: Nilima, can you introduce us to the concept of Shakti leadership?
[00:12:39] Nilima: The idea of Shakti is well-known in the world of yoga. Yoga has taken over the world. Now, everyone knows the word yoga and, when we wrote this book, we were hoping that the world may now know Shakti. If you look around the world and you dive in the problem at the heart of conflict, it's essentially power games. It's win-lose power games. Really, the game is about power but we are playing the very unhealthy kind of power. It's power over versus power with.
It occurred to me that, on one hand, everyone's fighting over what they think is a limited resource and that there isn't enough to go around for everybody and, on the other hand, I know, through my own experience and through the whole world of yoga, that there is this infinite amount of creative energy that is animating this entire existence and evolution. It's not just moving stars, planets, your own atoms and electrons but it's also the fuel behind your emotions and your thoughts. It animates consciousness itself.
There is all this energy going and it's intelligent, and it's called Shakti. In using more western language, you could say that these are trans-personal archetypal forces that you can enter into a relationship with, you can learn to align yourself with. If you do that, it's literally as if evolution's got your back and you can create things way beyond anything your mini-me or personal ego would have come up with.
If leadership is about essentially achieving impact and desired outcomes, then you need to exercise powers. We've cannot run away from the idea of power and say, "It's a bad thing and let's not talk about power." We have no choice but to work with power. The thing is we've got to learn to exercise true power, Shakti, versus ego-based false power which is privileges and who's bigger, who's stronger, who's got more money, who's got the bigger rank. That's all privilege-based power which, eventually, you run out of. It's finite.
We need to step away from that power base and just step into this infinite power base of Shakti, but that requires a certain preparation. That requires a certain readiness, a certain worthiness because, as they say, with great power comes with great responsibility so it's not for anyone to just plug into and drive away on. You have to be deeply present. You have to do the inner work of transformation and presencing, becoming very mindful of how you give and take power, how are you exercising power in each conversation, in each transaction. Are you doing power wit where it's a win-win? Both sides are more expanded and better than each one by themselves. One has to know access and then how to embody and then how to manifest Shakti, and that requires practice and training, and that's what the book has outlined.
[00:16:25] David: I definitely want to dive deeper into those aspects. How do you tap into this? How do you embody this? What does it look like when you embody this? I'm also wondering, at the moment. First of all, I happen to follow the same belief. I actually spent several years with an Indian teacher. I lived in India for two years in a small village, three hours north of Bangalore, and I was learning very similar concepts, not as it applies to business but as it applies to life.
I resonate very deeply with what you're saying and, right now, I'm wondering for our audience, who is going to be listening to this, who maybe hasn't already had an introduction to this, who maybe has some kind of spiritual background or maybe they don't have a spiritual background, this concept of infinite power source that animates everything. In my mind, this is actually something quite literal; it's not figurative, but how do we talk about this concept in a way that's accessible and understandable to anybody, regardless of whether they have a spiritual background or not?
[00:17:31] Nilima: Just to backtrack, to complete what I was sharing, the reason this power is considered feminine is because it's the power from which all creation has ever needed in the yogic understanding. Anything that produces life, the creative force of evolution, because it creates, it's akin to a model principle, to a feminine principle. Therefore, the force, we call Shakti, the Divine Mother, and the consciousness with which it moves and it's exercised, that witness consciousness with which it is held, that is called Shiva, the divine masculine principle. One is incomplete without the other and they are inherent in each other just to let everyone know that it's not like there is a feminine without a masculine; there is no Shakti without Shiva and there is no Shiva without Shakti.
Now, to answer your question, it's not a spiritual thing so much as simply becoming mindful of how you're showing up as a leader. At any moment, you can be coming from one of two places. You can be either in your ego where you are threatened by a situation and if you don't have the coping resources to deal with a challenge, you can either go to your gut and want to get into fight/flight, or you can go into your heart and want to self-promote and be validated and liked, or you can get into your head and into fear, and anxiety, and worry, or shame and guilt.
There are many ways in which we basically lose our authentic core. We lose our source. We lose our center. I just say that becoming absent whereas if you can train yourself to return to your center, return to that place of presence, that moment which is here now where you having nothing to defend, nothing to promote, nothing to fear, it's as if you are standing on your pure spine and you are simply witnessing reality for what it is.
Now, this is mindfulness, and there's a lot of training around here. You can also observe your breath. Just step back from the drama that's around you. From a Shakti perspective, you are not just present and still in a dead, sterile inert kind of way; if you become more sensitive, you also recognize that you are feeling very expanded and very alive, and there is a force or there is an energy that is available to you. That is the Shakti.
If you can lead from there, if you can apply that force, that energy, to that leadership moment, which is a crisis or a challenge, you will notice that you just do power differently. You are no longer wanting to be aggressive or to run away. You're able to actually share power in a bad situation. You're able to come from a place of an inclusive compassion, of sense of curiosity and wonder, because you haven't become less in any way. You are still in your place of power.
[00:21:09] David: Well, it makes perfect sense to me because these are the experiences that I've had directly. When I'm able to act and come from this center, this core, this deeper sense of who I really am instead of just who I think I am, things open up. I feel more open. I feel more available. I feel more able to observe the situation as it is instead of my interpretations of the situation and so I'm able to choose my response instead of simply reacting to whatever's happening. It's like you said: I feel a source of energy that keeps me going throughout the day whereas, otherwise, I would just be getting more and more exhausted and tired because there was nothing fueling me. I definitely resonate with what you're saying and I'd love to hear from you, Raj. What is your experience with this has been?
[00:22:00] Raj: It's been very interesting. It's been mind-expanding to think about things in this way, and I've come to realize that when you are in presence and when you are connected to your essence, you are then linking your unique essence, who you are, your unique self, with this global sense of where things need to go, so the dharmic path, the righteous path. When you combine your nature, which is called sopha, which is your personal path.
When you are there–and you only get there through presence, mindfulness and so forth and self-awareness–then you actually become an instrument of something that seeks to emerge. Something needs to emerge in this world, and you, having done that work to get to that place, are now a vehicle for that to emerge. I've personally experienced that. When I wrote Firms of Endearment et cetera, I was essentially connecting my essence as who I was as a child and looking at this evidence, this information, through those eyes.
I was able to then, in a way, alchemize that into a message which, as Nilima puts it beautifully, that is which is deeply personal is also completely universal. That personal experience, now, I'm actually sort of standing in for many, many people for whom that that's an essential message that they are waiting for. You become an instrument of something that seeks to emerge. There is a trajectory to evolution. There's a trajectory for human evolution and even planetary and beyond.
Things are moving in a certain direction, and if we are aligned with that and in harmony with that, and if we can enable that to emerge through us, then, as Nilima said, we have access to all of that infinite power which is driving that evolution. If we are seeking to do something counter to do that, if we are trying to take humanity backwards–and we do have some leaders in the world, I believe, who are trying to do just that right now, whether it's in Russia, in parts of Europe, here or other places as well–they are not in harmony with the zeitgeist.
They are going against the tide of where humanity wants to go, and where our own deep humanity hungers for. Therefore, what are they doing? They're stealing power from people. They're deriving it, ultimately, from ego and so forth. That may seem like it's working for a while, but it's not working towards any kind of greater good and I don't think, ultimately, it will stand. You talked about the humans fight back. That reminded me of Star Wars. You probably got that from there, right?
[00:24:53] David: That is where it came from.
[00:24:54] Raj: We are in that second episode after The Force Awakens. The second episode is The Empire Strikes back which is the status quo, the patriarchy, the old way, the empire. There's an empire energy that has compelled the world in many ways. Now, we are moving to a healing energy. We are moving to that mother energy. There's the father energy of conquest, domination and expansion but, now, the mother energy of caring and compassion is coming in. I think the third episode, of course, is The Return of the Jedi, which is the humans. I think there's a temporary setback in that regard.
There's an idea which I hadn't talked about but I read a quote recently and that kind of crystallized it for me. The idea of consciousness as a universal force as opposed to something that gets generated within our individual brains, that we create our own consciousness, and this idea that maybe what if it's something like gravity or electromagnetic radiation that's out there? There are many invisible things that we didn't know existed until 100 or 200 years ago, and they've always been there, and what if this is one of them that we haven't quite figured out yet, that there is something that all of us share and that, of course, we uniquely connect through it through our own tuning fork, if you will? We've each got a different way of tuning into that universal thing.
I think the key is we want to be in harmony with all of that and not in conflict with it. As Martin Luther King said, the moral arc of the universe, et cetera, that battle or argument I think aligns with this as well, that there is kind of an intentionality to this, and we can be agents of that unfolding by harnessing our unique place in it. We're playing our role in the symphony, identifying what is our instrument, and then we hear the same music and we know what to create. That's how I've been thinking about it. Again, Nilima is kind of my teacher on this part.
[00:27:01] David: You mentioned a couple of things, actually, and just to finish that Martin Luther King quote for those who might not be familiar with it, it's, "The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice." You mentioned also something about how the masculine qualities are about domination, conquest, grabbing power, but those are the negative aspects of the masculine energy because there's also positive qualities as well, which I think Nilima was mentioning. It's this stillness, this peace, this ability to simply observe what's going on with reacting.
[00:27:40] Raj: And strength, and courage, and resilience, and focus, and all of that. There are many beautiful masculine qualities. This is not about getting rid of the positive masculine but, unfortunately, we have strayed into the hyper-masculine way too often in human history. I think that's starting to change. We had 1,200 wars between European nations in 600 years until 1946 and, since then, we've had zero so there's something changing. The recourse to war is never the answer.
I think we are moving in that direction of letting go of the hyper-masculine, retaining the mature masculine but finally elevating the mature feminine, the mother energy that's been missing. If I take it back to conscious capitalism, capitalism had a father and a mother, and they were both embodied in the same person, Adam Smith, which can happen. This is not the sole purview of men and women; the same person can embody the so-called feminine and masculine or the opposite of what you might expect, but he embodied both and he wrote two books. One was purely or mostly focused on the father energy of self-interest, achievement and freedom and all of that.
That's The Wealth of Nations, but the Theory of Moral Sentiments came first 17 years before The Wealth of Nations, and that was about the human need to care and that was the mother energy that got ignored, and capitalism was built on this one pillar of self-interest. As Nilima has pointed out, in a patriarchal society, we tend to ignore our mothers and we tend to emulate our fathers, whether you're a boy or girl.
I think we dismissed that, we left that aside and so we built this whole system on one pillar, which is the less-human half of being human and, hence, we ran into all of the challenges. The unions, socialism, communism, all of that arose as a response to that one-dimensional and lower-consciousness way of capitalism. Now, I think we have the opportunity to restore that wholeness to capitalism, and we have a third pillar of purpose. Increasingly now, more and more people are driven by purpose as well, and I think that fits in with caring and self-interest.
[00:29:53] David: I'd love to move this from the theoretical and into the practical. What does it look like for a company to embody both of these principles, both masculine and feminine? Obviously, if you have masculine without feminine, it goes out of balance; it turns in a negative direction, but I know if you have feminine without masculine, then you also have instability and other things which aren't balanced. What does it look like for a company to have both, practically speaking, and do either of you have any concrete examples of companies that embody this, and what are they doing differently?
[00:30:32] Raj: I can think of one. If I can take an initial cut at that, I definitely think there's a combination of both that you need. You need the toughness and Nilima, again, came up with a beautiful phrase that captures it, that you need to be the wise fool of tough love. You need toughness and love at the same time. These are polarities that we need to integrate. It can't be bipolar; we need to actually have both. We need toughness and we need love. We need wisdom but we also need the likeness of spirit.
A company that embodies that, I believe, more than anybody else is Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines' stock market symbol is love, and that culture of love, for me, is a place where we love our customers, love our employees, but they are also a fierce company when it comes to doing the right thing. They said, "We have a warrior's heart," so their fun-loving attitude combined with that peaceful warrior. They had to fight tremendous battles to be able to survive in a world of crony capitalism where the market was protected for the big existing airlines, et cetera.
They struggled for many years to do that. Again, they fight for what's right, they have that strength and courage to do so, but they're always coming from a place of love and their culture, and it shows in their results–the most successful airlines in the history of the world, 50 years, never laid off anybody, has always been profitable, always growing, and had their first casualty in 50 years three weeks ago. Not one person had died, and that's almost unheard of for an airline to have that kind of record, over 50 years.
I think they embody all of that. I've interviewed both Colleen Barrett, who is the president, and Herb Kelleher, who was a long-time, CEO. Colleen said, "Herb was the dad and I was the mom. That's how we ran the company." Herb himself embodies all the love, et cetera, too, but he was kind of that loving father and she was that loving but also strict mother, and it worked beautifully. I think that's the most clear example. I wish that every conscious company embodies that; they're not afraid to use the word, love, but they're also willing and able to do what is necessary–tough love, that they're able to embody that as well. As Martin Luther King said, we must be tough-minded and tender-hearted at the same time. I think Costco is like that, containers to Whole Foods, all of these companies.
[00:32:57] David: Nilima, do you have anything to add?
[00:32:59] Nilima: I was going to actually play on the other side. He's given you the good example so I would say, "How does it work when it's not there?" I've seen companies that have been overly masculine and paid the price and then overly feminine and paid a price. It was a great time I had there so I don't want to talk down on it in any way but just to diagnose the problem in this lens, it was a sport television and contains lots of libido, lots of boys. Even if they're older men, they're behaving like boys.
If you look at the wise fool of tough love as the right kind of mix needed to balance and be whole, there was a lot of toughs, there was a lot of fools, there wasn't enough love and there wasn't much wise at all. That's why, I guess, I simply no longer beloved there because my soul was hungry and was seeking wisdom and seeking love. Answering the question that you had asked earlier, "What was the existential crisis?" it was my spirit whose hunger was no longer being satisfied. I was just a misfit in that culture.
If I look at a hyper-feminine kind of organization, Raj and I know this startup that a bunch of really young, wonderful people, wanting to do a tech startup and all they did was, every time they rolled in the streets, there was a lot of, "Let's talk about this," and, really, nothing much got done. It was just getting all entangled in this, "Let's just keep talking." There was a lot of love and there was a wisdom but perhaps it was a wisdom not coming from a sufficient ground of maturity, actually.
It was an immature calling upon wisdom and, therefore, incomplete. Really, what they've been missing was some good, tough masculine energy. "Hey, guys, all that is very well but what is the task and who's going to be doing what by when? Are we making people responsible and accountable?" Responsible is the ability to respond to a task but accountability is to be held accountable for a deadline, for the level of productivity, for a level of quality.
If you simply don't have someone who's bringing in that kind of energy an entire culture of that place, then you have such fine, good people but are not just getting anywhere for the longest time. I've both of these first time and maybe I just diagnosed it from this lens of wise fool and tough love, and what is it that you need to dial up and what is it that you need to dial down. Right there, you can diagnose any problem or anything that a company is stuck in. You can use this four-holed lens.
[00:36:22] David: That's really helpful to hear, both an example of a company that's doing it right and has that balance and also companies that go the wrong way by having too much of one without the other. From personal experience, I have to say that being here at Hotjar, the company that I'm working with now that's allowing us to create this podcast, it has exactly that blend that you're talking about even though nobody has ever thought about it this way.
Nobody has ever mentioned masculine or feminine, but there is this really powerful blend of getting things done and making sure that we're focused on executing and that people are responsible for things but, at the same time, there's a very, very deep caring aspect about the people who make up the company. We actually just had a call about this yesterday, a one-hour call. Every week, we have a free-form call where we talk about all kinds of things, and this is one of these things that we were talking about.
There was that space to discuss, to share, to bring up how we're feeling about the company to give feedback and then, at the same time, once the call is done, we get back to work and we execute so that the company can move forward and thrive. I can see the exact qualities that you're talking about embodied in this company but, now, what I'm wondering is, let's say, the three of us decide that we're going to start a company tomorrow. How do we create a company that embodies both of these qualities, both the masculine and the feminine?
[00:37:56] Raj: Well, I can take the stab. It has to do with leadership and culture. We need leaders who, themselves, embody all of this. The wise fool of tough love is one way to screen or look at people. By the way, the US leader right now, Trump, would be in that same box. He's tough and he's foolish. He's incapable of the wisdom and the love. Maybe, Obama, some people would say, was the opposite quadrant although I think he was more whole than this leader.
You want leaders who are whole, who have that capacity or are certainly are close to that and all of that can be cultivated. That's the great thing about this. It's not just that you are born. IQ is something you're born with, analytical intelligence, but emotional and spiritual intelligence can be grown and systems intelligence. Likewise, these capacities, once you become aware of that and what you need to do to cultivate the other, can certainly be enhanced.
We need the right kinds of leaders. I think, to me, that's the greatest impact; it's the consciousness of the leader that ultimately impacts the lived experience within that organization. The word is selfless. We need leaders who are selfless, which means they have transcended themselves. They are not there, fulfilling a personal agenda through this leadership role. They have, in a way, transcended that.
They have become not only self-actualized but gone beyond that to be self-transcendent. They are now in service so they're servant-leaders. It's not their ego, it's not their lack of things or their sort of neediness et cetera driving that, but it then stands for strength, energy and enthusiasm, which comes from having purpose and meaning, long-term orientation, flexibility, which is part of the Shakti model of love and care–again, strength and love, the masculine and feminine, both of those together, emotional systems and special intelligence.
It stands for all of those qualities. I think if you get the leaders not only DC but also all leaders at any level need to embody that. That's what it means to be a leader, and the conscious company needs to be selfless and to be otherwise full of tough love. Then, you consciously pay attention to the culture. The culture should have the elements of caring, trust, fun and all of that but, also, as Nilima said, it needs to have accountability.
There's a nice tool for this that Richard Barrett has created. the Barrett Values Framework, which looks at full-spectrum consciousness. It identifies seven levels of consciousness that can exist in us as well as in organizations, starting from Maslow's Basic Levels of Survival, safety, et cetera, and then success, and then significance, and then purpose, et cetera, and all the way up to service to humanity.
A full-spectrum consciousness actually includes and transcends all of those levels. In other words, it just doesn't move up and says, "All of our service is to humanity and we don't care about survival and efficiency," you have to have that. That's your foundation and base. Conscious business is still a business. You still have to do those things right, but you don't stop there. Most businesses stop there. They don't top into those higher reaches where the real powerful motivations and human capacities lie, but you have to do those basic things, too.
Make sure that we're paying attention to all levels of consciousness and, as I said, there's a very straightforward tool that allows us to look at our posture and make sure that we are, in fact, embodying all of those things. The leaders then consciously pay attention to that culture and make sure that that's happening. The lived experience is aligned with the words and the language that we use to talk about what we aspire.
[00:41:45] David: Nilima, would you have anything to add to that?
[00:41:47] Nilima: Raj has all his wonderful acronyms and so on so a very simple one from the Chinese Taoist thing would be anything to work and succeed or grow, you need the seed and then the soil at a minimum, and then things happen. If you're starting a company, what is the seed and what is the soil? The conscious seed would be the conscious leader, and make sure you hire the right kind of team.
You buy good seeds, you will have a good crop, but it's not enough to find and hire the right people. It's equally important to then till the soil and nurture the soil, which is the culture, of making sure it's flexible enough, it's being watered regularly, it's being tended to regularly or getting the weeds out from time and making sure there's enough sunlight happening. Even the purpose, I would put, therefore is part of the overall culture.
Does the soil have a sense of supporting the seed with the purpose that everyone can buy into, with the inclusive culture that's also diverse that everyone feels they belong in and can contribute to? I guess at a minimum, I like to just bring things down to the mutually-exclusive collectively-exhaustive minimum thing, and I love Eastern frameworks for that. The concept of the Tao, which is as minimum as yin and yang, seed and soil, at that level of chunk, as these two things: Do we have the seed and do we have the soil doing this one for the other?
[00:44:01] David: I know a lot of people who are part of this community because we have a group and we discuss a lot. There's a lot of pushback that people get. For example, with some levels of consciousness that you mentioned, Raj, that the top is service to humanity, that's the highest you can do. I'm not sure what all the ones in between are but I'm sure, at some point, you realize yourself your own purpose and then you're able to share that in the service of others.
When those kinds of concepts get mentioned in existing cultures and existing companies, there's a lot of pushback from the leaders. I've experienced this myself because the pushback is typically, "Look, we've got to get our numbers done. We've got to make sure we get through this quarter and then the next quarter, and we've got to hit our numbers, and we've got to make sure that we're generating revenue, and we don't have time for this. We don't have time for sitting and talking about levels of consciousness. It's just not practical." What's the response to this kind of pushback?
[00:45:05] Raj: Well, you've got leaders with the lower level of consciousness there. Hitting our numbers is one of the most dangerous ways to lead, to be driven by that. Again, you go back to ancient wisdom. The Buddha said, "Do not be attached to a cherished outcome," because the minute you put that down as a number we need to hit, you're going to engage in the wrong actions, almost guaranteed because you need to hit that number and, therefore, do whatever it takes to hit the number or achieve your goal.
What is going to do? Then, you talk about seeds. You've planted seeds for something else to happen and future quarters. If you focus on those cherished goals, you're going to be engage in those actions so focus on the right actions consistently, and the outcomes and the numbers will be what they are meant to be and they'll take care of themselves and they, in fact, may be far better. They may be different but they have the right outcomes, given your actions.
I think that takes the consciousness and an understanding. It also takes, in today's world, what we call courageous patience. We've gotten into this. This metabolism of Wall Street is now so short-term oriented, quarterly, all of that, the numbers. Too many leaders do not have the courage or the wisdom to be able to withstand that. They just become part of that system, but the great, conscious leaders do have that—all of them basically said, "This is what we are about. This is what we're going to be doing. This is how we're going to go about it, and if you don't believe in that, please do not invest in us."
They actively encourage people not to invest because investors are not only investing money; they should be investing their heart, soul, energy and they should have their own purpose through which that money has a way of manifesting a purpose in life. You have to have that courageous patience. You have to be able to stay focused on your purpose and your values and, at the same time, it is still a business so you're not neglecting the processes and the efficiency and all of those kinds of things but you're integrating that.
Again, I think leaders who don't get it who continue to operate with that, they are always looking at the urgent and not what's important, and that's just bad leadership. A true leader is somebody who's able to create a vision beyond what most people even imagine that's possible and then help us to get there as opposed to massaging the numbers quarter after quarter and having a time horizon that's three or four years because that's how long they probably will be CEOs, and they just need to make sure that their stock options are worth as much as possible by the time they leave. They are not leaders. Those are tyrants; they're using other people to achieve their personal goals.
If you have the wrong kind of leaders, that's what you're going to get. You need leaders with all those qualities that we've talked about. These companies are going to die. These companies are going to be left behind. There's a movie, Dead Man Walking. I think these are dead companies walking that continue to operate in this way. They will be overtaken by more conscious companies in the world.
[00:48:21] Nilima: Finally, your research is its own answer, that companies who follow the tenets of conscious capitalism, they're not just successful; they are widely successful. They are nine times more successful or 11.5 times more successful. Right there, you have this incredible business case for numbers. You're not poor for being good; you're almost widely richer for being good.
[00:48:53] Raj: Not just financial but we talked about the eight kinds of wealth that businesses create or destroy. Businesses also can destroy wealth as we saw in the economic crisis and the times, but there's also intellectual capitalists, social capitalists, emotional well-being, spiritual wellbeing, ecological well-being, the impact on the culture and the impact on people's bodies and health. These are all the outcomes or consequences of how we operate, and we act like money is the only game in town but there are other games in town and some of those actually matter a great deal or maybe even more than money.
That's what we've got caught up in this great illusion around business, that it's all about money and it's all about immediate outcomes and so forth, and that's just causing so much harm and so much suffering. I'm writing a book on healing right now, The Healing Organization, and I'm in this section of the book where I'm making the case that traditional business causes suffering because a lot of people have that idea. If you look at the data, it's overwhelming. Heart attacks are higher on Monday mornings, 20%.
A new book called Dying for a Paycheck by Jeffrey Pfeffer at Stanford tried to estimate the number of incremental deaths every year due to the way in which we work, our toxic work environments and cultures–120,000 extra deaths a year just from the US due to the way in which we work. Now, this is not counting the 8 million deaths a year that happen worldwide due to pollution; a lot of which has to do with the way in which we run our businesses. 15 times more people are killed by that than by wars, murders and terrorists put together.
There's a lot of suffering that we account for everything. We put a price on everything except suffering, and the human cost of doing business is so extraordinarily high. People have this one life and they're sacrificing so many aspects of it and so much of it in terms of year. It's a multi-generational impact we're having on those families. Their children are affected and the children's children. You set in motion a series of forces that cause so much damage, and it's unconscionable borderline criminal, I think, to operate that way.
Doctors and lawyers get sued for malpractice if they use obsolete information or not the right approach. Leaders and managers continue to run the companies in ways that are deeply harmful. Sometimes, suffering can serve a higher purpose. There is such a thing as noble suffering. If your suffering can prevent a huge amount of suffering somewhere else, that's well worth it. All of this suffering serves no higher purpose; there's no inherent mobility in having an employee suffering at your worksite just because you are that callous, indifferent or ignorant to know any better.
[00:51:51] David: I think a lot of people intuitively feel that this is the right way but they don't have the experience and they don't have the academic backing nor the research. Could you mention a little bit more for the sake of those people to give them the understanding that, yes, this is the right way, this does lead to more success? Nilima, you mentioned that companies that embody these values are 11 times more successful. Can either of you share with us more about this data that supports the fact that companies that follow these models and these values do tend to do better than companies that follow these other, more traditional, masculine, non-feminine models?
[00:52:32] Raj: The book that Nilima is referring to is called Firms of Endearment, which I wrote in 2007, and I did the second edition in 2014. We had 28 companies in the original study with 18 public and 10 private, and those companies are outperformed by 9:1 over a 10-year period. The second edition, we have a lot more data and many more companies. That's one of those cases that we do. We have 72 companies in them which includes private and public but a larger number and then we tracked it over a longer period of time. We found a 7.7 times outperformance over a 20-year period.
[00:53:04] David: What kind of outperformance? Is this in terms of revenue?
[00:53:08] Raj: This is in terms of stock price. For public companies, the standard measure is stock price appreciate. If you've invested in that–worse, is the broad market, the SMB500–you would have performed 7.7 times better than the market. There's that and there's tons of others. It's not just my studies but lots and lots of them. There's a report called The Purposeful Company that people can find on the web that has a table of about 40 different studies cited within it that found links between awareness aspects of this.
This includes employee engagement, employee loyalty and no turnover, and customer engagement, and customer advocacy. For all of those things, how would they link to performance, ethical operation, purposeful companies, environmental, social and government types of things? All of these things, individual and then collectively, are linked to higher performance. It's logical. These companies have to spend less money on marketing. They don't need to convince customers that what they're doing is good or their product is good. People can experience them and they get positive word-of-mouth and word-of-web. Employee turnover is dramatically lower.
I was at a supermarket in Spain a few weeks ago and it's the leading chain there with a turnover of 2.5% but the industry average is over 100% employee turnover, and this is 2.5%. Costco is 7% and Walmart is 70%. Walmart has hired 2 million people to replace those who left every year. The productivity, commitment, engagement and all that is through the roof, lower legal costs, lower administrative costs. You spend money where it makes a difference. You give people decent wage and good benefits and also please your suppliers, enable them to be innovative and profitable, but you don't waste money on excessive marketing, employee turnover and legal costs and all this stuff.
It really does work. In terms of how to do this, we have a new book that just came out a few weeks ago called the Conscious Capitalism Field Guide: Tools for Transforming Your Organization. For each of those pillars, we've got four chapters and it tells you how to do that and some tools and ways in which you can go on that journey. Whatever size company you happen to be, whether you're a startup or an existing company, there's a road map now that can be used for that.
[00:55:37] David: Again, from personal experience, I just want to say that working at a company that embodies these values, my productivity has shot through the roof because instead of being constantly checked on, "Am I doing the right thing? Is there someone on top of me who's monitoring every single step that I'm taking?" I've been given the autonomy, the freedom and the trust to do what I think is right, and I have done the best work of my life working at a company where I have the freedom to work on these things, which is the opposite at any other company where, when I was constantly being driven by numbers, it was causing so much stress and anxiety that I was maybe a third to half as productive as I've been at a company like this. I can definitely say from experience that my personal experience supports the kind of research that you're saying.
For my final question, aside from your book, Shakti Leadership, if there was one resource that both of you could recommend to our listeners to help them succeed by putting people first, what would that be, whether it’s a book, a video, experience, anything? Let's start with you, Nilima.
[00:56:45] Nilima: Well, I know Raj has written Everybody Matters which answers directly to your question of a company succeeding because it puts people first. That's the best example I can think of. Maybe Raj wants to talk about that.
[00:57:03] Raj: Yeah. This was a profoundly moving experience for me to be involved, and I'm just telling the story about the leader, Bob Chaplin, who, through a series of awakenings, transformed from a traditional business leader who had an undergraduate and an MBA degree from leading business schools. He was taught how to manage so he managed people and he did all the things, laid off and didn't really care about the people; they were just a means and he was focused on the numbers but then he had these awakenings, starting at a wedding in a church of his friend's daughter.
The awakening on the inside there was everybody is somebody's precious child. If my friend's daughter came to work for me, I would make sure that she's not only happy and safe but also growing and challenged and thriving, and he would do the same for my son, but why would I do not for somebody else's daughter? Everybody deserves that. That insight became one of their mantras, and then the idea of inspiring people, again, at an awakening at the church, where the sermon lifted the entire congregation up and inspired them to be better human beings in less than 30 minutes.
Bob's insight that day was, "I've got people for 40 hours every week. What am I doing to inspire them? He realized there's nothing," and the realization that our opportunity to inspire people is 100 times greater than the churches if we change the way we operate in business and so forth. Turning towards treating people and, ultimately, the way they describe it–how we measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.
If you have to just use one touchstone to say, "Does this impact the lives of people in a positive way or not?"–all the people, not just employees–their children, families, customers, communities, entire towns–here's about 100 companies and never sold a single one. He doesn't really buy so much as adopt them. It's like when you adopt a child, it's not like after a while and, "Look, we're going to get you out of this tree," and then keep those down.
He's still acquiring 10 to 12 companies a year and he's 72 years old now. I was just him in Wisconsin last week and I've had this dialogue with him before. Why is he so driven? He's flying all over the world. I spent a week in Europe with him, my country, and visited 15 companies in seven days. He said, "I don't know how much time I have. On my deathbed, I would not be proud of the machines we made but I will be proud of the lives we touched."
That got me thinking, "All businesses want to grow," but the question I ask is, "Why do you want to grow?" If the answer is rooted in ego, hunger for power, more money and all of that, to me, that's an empire building anarchy. Are you trying to build an empire here? Empires got built on conquest and on suffering, taking over, wars. That's how all those so-called great empires got built. What happened to them? They caused all this suffering and then, what happened once the emperor died? They fell apart. There was no lasting positive impact.
Are you building an empire or are you spreading a ministry? That's what Bob is doing, is really spreading a ministry. He's got a way of running a business which actually improves lives for everybody it touches and, therefore, he knows that he needs to take this to as many people as possible. That's why, again, with all the money in the world, that's why he's still driven. There's a beauty line in Hamilton where he wrote 26 for the 52 federalist papers in six months and the line is, "Why do you write like you're running out of time? You write day and night like you're running out of time, fight day and night," and he said, "I don't know how much time I have. I need to do this. There's a sense of urgency to this."
Again, are you spreading a ministry or are you building an empire? I think that's really the question for business. If you're spreading an empire, that's almost like a form of cancer that's just spreading. The more you grow, the worse life gets for more and more people whereas, if you're spreading a ministry, then life gets better. As an example, in India, I was in Kalinga, in Odisha where Nilima is originally from, actually, and the Emperor Ashoka had his awakening there.
He went down on that battlefield and saw those dead bodies and people still alive or dying and that river which was running red with blood–it's now called Mercy River–and he had that awakening. "Oh my god, what am I doing on this suffering and why am I causing this?" and he completely renounced all forms of violence and dedicated the rest of his life to spreading. He was responsible for the spread of Buddhism all through Asia.
He went from that empire. What's been the lasting legacy of Ashoka is not the empire he built; it’s the fact that he spread this Buddhist philosophy around the world. He converted them into a ministry. I think that's what we need. We're so comfortable using military language in business. Everything comes from strategy factors, open capture market share, aim for this and shoot for that and, yet, when we use language like healing ministry, people are all, "Why are you bringing that kind of language?"
[01:02:24] David: That's not practical.
[01:02:25] Raj: That sounds religious. No, ministry just means to serve somebody, to care for them, to heal them. I think you build a healing organization and spread it like a ministry, and you have an obligation to do that, I think.
[01:02:40] David: Those are profound words to end on. Thank you so much for taking the time, both of you. Where can people go to learn more about each of you and the work that you're doing?
[01:03:01] David: Thank you so much, for sure, in this profound wisdom. I know it's going to have a major impact on our listeners. Thank you for taking the time.
[01:03:07] Nilima: You're welcome.
[01:03:09] Raj: You're welcome, David. Thanks.
[01:03:19] Louis: Thanks for listening, my fellow human. We know how fast paced life is. If you're listening to this on your daily commute, while running, or even cooking, you can always go to Hotjar.com/humans and look for today's episode. That's where you'll find access to all the resources and humans we talked about, the full transcript of the conversation, and even links to really see the episodes.
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'The Humans Strike Back' is hosted by Louis Grenier (Content Lead) from Hotjar.
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