Change the Aspirations, Change the Outcome

Be the change you wish to see in the world
– Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s just agree – just for the moment – that your company cares more about your own personal and professional development and livelihood, your family’s health and well-being, your local community’s civic integrity, the broader environmental impact of the company’s footprint, building a positive value chain in which stakeholders at all points of inflection on your product’s journey from cradle to biodegradable rest are supported, and even weigh decisions with a long-view lens with the expectation that decisions today have immense brand-impact downstream – and cares more (or at least equally) than making a profit. If this were true, your company’s incentive and value system would reflect an expectation that you would contribute on these dimensions in proactive and meaningful ways. You might be expected to take time to exercise or attend conferences and workshops to develop your own physical and mental capacities. There might be some peer pressure to talk more about the difference you and your team made in developing sustained customer value, rather than high-fiving fat commission checks and bonuses. There might be some big initiatives measuring your team’s contribution to civic well-being. What we measure is what we get back in return. In other words, what we persistently ask questions of, we grow, develop and achieve toward those inquiries.

CLIF Bar CEO Gary Erickson founded CLIF in 1992 with partner Kit Crawford with a vision to make a great-tasting, healthy, organic snack bar, and while they did achieve this, meanwhile Gary’s mind kept drifting to the places that inspired him and the employees of the company: where they rode their bikes, where they spent their free time, and the communities and beautiful country they lived in. As a result, CLIF doesn’t have one bottom line, they have five. They measure their success against Five Aspirations. While constantly being adjusted and refined by the employee community, CLIF is measuring their success based on how well they are doing against their Five Aspirations they have set forth for themselves:
• Sustaining the brand
• Sustaining the business
• Sustaining the planet
• Sustaining the people
• Sustaining the community
How these metrics are valued remains up to the employee community to define, and yet are discussed, debated, and edified in writing such that each associate understands the stated metrics on how CLIF will evaluate performance against these values. To pursue these goals, employees might organize their colleagues to support their own local charities, or collaboratively measure their progress at the gym, or maybe share details of the time and energy they’ve devoted to coaching little league.

Sure, we do this now in our own lives. And then when talking to colleagues, and the reactions are often, “Good for you, how do you find the time?” because implicitly the professional expectation is that performance is measured against contribution to profit. If you have any time for time to make considered and thoughtful decisions by taking a break and trail-running with your dog, …well, that’s just because you’ve already fulfilled the profit punch-list, you’ve already fed the hungry maw of fattening investor equity. CLIF has empirically demonstrated that by sustaining (and measuring) not only the business, but also other dimensions targeted at driving human and social and community and environmental value, companies can prosper successfully on multiple dimensions.

Rick Warren reminded me years ago that the etymology of integrity is from the Latin integer, which means “wholeness” or “oneness.” When we give ourselves and our colleagues permission to bring our whole selves to work, we can begin to achieve, and define, our success against metrics far greater than shareholder value and company profitability. Consistent studies reveal that when we place progress in meaningful work as our paramount motivating factor, then cultures thrive, mood states elevate and companies profit all the more.