Andrew Thornton on ‘Eat the Elephant, one bite at a time…’

As some of you know, we ran our first Human Potential Forum in London last month. We had 20 business leaders drawn from 8 different organisations who feel the call to take a more ‘heartful’ approach to their organisations.  Most were businesses and one was an Arts’ College – this works just as well in not-for-profit organisations.

For some, this was another step on the heartful journey and for others, it was the first step. One which involved spending two days immersed in this way of being, getting a flavour of what it would be like to work like that all the time.

Alas as I was hit by a nasty dose of Salmonella food poisoning and was not there, so I can’t report in detail on what went on. What I can say is that my colleagues were really impressed about how everyone stepped into a different place, even if at the start some people found the ‘being’ approach more challenging than ‘doing’.  Let me expand on this.  In most organisations today, we spend all our time doing, doing, doing – so task focused, with very little time to reflect and to be. This creates the stressful hamster wheel way of living, which is causing so much dissatisfaction at work.

The heart approach requires time to reflect, time to properly connect with colleagues and to consciously develop a culture in which people matter, where we focus on individual’s unique potential rather than treat them as a thing.

Post the Forum, I’ve had some really interesting conversations and meetings with people who participated. One had a major breakthrough when he realised that culture and mindset was driven by emotions and that if his business did not start to engage with people on an emotional level, they were never going to change the culture.  This has led him to agree on a strategic objective to ‘Refresh the emotional connection’.

At another, two to the team who shared the experience realised just how task-focused their company had become. One, in particular, felt that ‘we don’t make time for each other, to build trust and to support each other’.  She felt that it had got to the point where the demands of work made it impossible to for people to enjoy their lives – not a great place to be.  And again, that they needed a change in culture.

How I see culture is that it is the underlying driver of a business. This either comes (consciously) from a Vision or Mission statement that is so clear and is lived by everyone, starting with the board or it is (unconsciously) developed based upon the behaviour of the leaders of the organisation.

Let me give you an example of both types.

Apple under Steve Jobs: driven by the mission “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind”, the culture of the business was groundbreaking design-led innovation, where everything they did infused their values and where achieving the impossible was expected (for the right reasons) and achievable.

Contrast this to Tesco under Phil Clarke, where the culture was fear based, one of survival and demands to achieve the impossible that were expected (for the wrong reasons) and not achievable.

Given the observation about culture being driven by emotional connections, I believe that to shift culture (and ultimately performance), you need to get below the skin to see what is driving people and how you can make better use of their Human Potential.  Helping people to get in-flow (doing what they are good at and love doing) and using more of their potential. We know from our work at Thornton’s Budgens that accessing more of people’s Human Potential grows sales (Driving Business From the Heart Case Study) and we now have new research at Fontys University in the Netherlands that there is a direct correlation between use of potential and happiness.

So the answer is to change your culture by tapping into more of your human potential, grow your performance and have a happier team – all in one go.

Easy? No way, it’s a journey that takes persistence and dedication, and one that it makes sense to eat the elephant, one bite at a time!

Photo by Corentin Marzin on Unsplash