Tim Sanders, author of Saving the World at Work and Love is the Killer Ap was our guest last week. During the show he confirmed why he’s a much sought speaker and how he can write with integrity and conviction on Saving the World at Work and Love is the Killer Ap and why they each have inspired people around the world to...change.
You can listen in streaming on-demand at this link. (You should. I so enjoyed our conversation I lost track of time as you'll hear at the end.)
You have thousands of fans. I don’t want to encourage stalkers among them. But where are you, what inspiring project are you working on?
I am in LA and just starting to write my next book, doing research and collecting stories about “How to Cultivate a Powerful Sense of Confidence.” I call it momentum and when people have that sense of momentum they get more things done; they are charismatic. The concept is that momentum either happens to you or it is something you cultivate your entire life. People don’t have to wait for good things to happen to them, they make it happen.
Your latest, greatest book, is Saving the World at Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference. What was your reasonable aspiration or hoped-for goal* with writing this book?
I wanted to contribute to the social responsibility, green sustainability conversation. I wanted to contribute two points:
1. Done right, doing the right thing is free. Whether it is taking care of your employees, or connecting your local business to local communities or practicing sustainability. I wanted to contribute the simple idea that if it is done right and in right sequence of events, it is free, just like quality.2. I wanted to help people understand that one person could make a difference and they don’t have to run the company.
So much of the discussion these days about doing the right thing emanates from the founder or CEO. It is always about that person’s vision and what they did to lead other people. I wanted to write that you could work on the factory floor, be a regional VP of sales or a bank teller, and you can change the world by taking your values to work.
How did we become so cynical to overlook the obvious?
There is a lot of prevailing wisdom out there. Historically a lot of different people in economics believe the only responsibility of a company is to make money for shareholders and owners. If the big companies make enough money, then the “sparrows” on the side of the road can eat.
This way of thinking has dominated the business schools. The problem is that when we talk about doing the right thing for employees or connecting business to the community to make a difference, or the environment we keep talking about it in terms of responsibility. The way business leaders have looked at it for awhile now is that it has added costs and creates added burdens that seem extraneous to the role of being a business. Their first responsibility is to make money for their shareholders.
The way I looked at it is that they are not responsibilities, they are incredible opportunities. So you have an opportunity to grow every employee, physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. If you do, it will create an incredibly engaged workforce and brand. You will have more talent than you could ever want.
BUT, if you flip that around and say, you have a responsibility to educate and inspire every human being, you say you can’t afford that cost. It should be looked at an innovation opportunity, a branding opportunity, and in many cases a way for every employee to take costs out of the system by reimagining how business is done.
How will you know when you have reached it, your reasonable aspiration?
It is difficult when you write a book to say here is the goal and measure it. What I am trying to do as a thought leader is to contribute to the conversation. I will know I am there when I feel like the idea is being replicated, copied and expanded on, a lot.
To give you an example, when I wrote, “Love is the Killer Ap.” back in 2002, I had a goal of changing the conversation about how success is achieved and I wanted people to understand that if you wanted to be successful at work, love people. Love the people next to you like they were your brothers and sisters. Love your customers like they bring you oxygen to keep you alive.
Bringing love to work was a conversation I wanted to see happen. We had squeezed it out of work and made it impersonal. The book made the NY Times Best Sellers List and soon so many other books were coming out with the same topic. I knew we had made it.
Your book’s premise is a bit disruptive for some companies. Maybe even revolutionary. I see there could be pushback against it. Have you found obstacles in your presentation of Part 1 of the book, The Responsibility Revolution?
The Responsibility Revolution says consumers, talent and young investors are starting to buy into a story, not a product or service. They want to know:
- the story behind the product or service...about how that company treats their employees.
- how that company is either a partner or a parasite in the communities where it makes money.
- whether that company is stealing from future generations or leaving some for later.
These are the three key elements.
Companies that innovate around the idea reduce the social cost, increase the social contribution. Those companies will win the customers, get the worker talent in the next decade and the new investing block will put money into them because they are thinking longer.
This is disruptive to this very cozy relationship we have now: as long as I create stock price increase or bottom-profits. All of sudden there is a triple bottom line.
The pushback that I saw had to do with the recession. Much of the research is about people’s concerns where and how they are spending their money-before the recession. As times got harder, people became more concerned with their dollar and were looking for the deals.There are many companies who still want to be in the forefront and continue to invest in their companies and the future. The quality revolution is taking on a new face today. The new generation is very externally focused and companies need to focus on this.
Were you surprised? How have you overcome them?
Yes and no. I was surprised that people always considered this a political argument. I advocate self-regulation. I believe that gov’t regulations fail because they don’t inspire innovation like other countries. I was surprised that I was lumped in with Ralph Nader and Al Gore, when in fact I am the exact opposite of how we get things done. What I found pleasantly surprising was the flood of stories I got about people on the front lines of business who completely changed by finding an innovative idea that made a difference, inspired people, saved money, increased brand strength and somehow it was so powerful it found its way into the “C Suite” and it was adopted.
You list 5 phases in the first part of your book which you call The Responsibility Revolution. What are they?1. A change in circumstance that changes the context of life.
2. Sampling – or a new value is created.
3. Innovators show up to serve the new value needs.
4. Disruption. The innovators get in enough to make a difference and all of a sudden a tipping point is reached, where the existing companies have to change or die.
5. New order. The new way things are done.
When companies moved from quantity to quality it changed the way businesses functioned.
As a country, where are we among these 5 phases? Why? How can we pick up the pace?
We are clearly in the disruptive phase. Detroit is the perfect example. They lacked a value structure when the economy went down. When there is urgency you don’t close down. The rise of the hybrid gave people reasons to buy. Here they are today trying to rework the hybrid and then convert to electric. We are not seeing every industry go through this right now though. It is all about quality with social responsibility and sustainability. It will continue to hit different businesses like it did Detroit for the next decade.
Is there any industry which is further along? Why?The commercial carpet industry. They are the only vertical industry in the United States that actually meets the terms for Global Warming. It all started because of one company called Interface Corporation that makes modular carpet and the CEO of that company received a book about the impact of companies on the environment. Back in 1994, they changed the way the company worked, changed the impact on the environment by about 70%, saved 300 mill$, and poached all of the best talent. By 2001, the carpet industry led the green building movement that we all talk about today. It all starts with one person, one company and creates a landslide.
As a country, how can we make a change?
We have to take our values to work, innovate, pick our poison, and start out with things we can do to improve financial performance as the same time we are making a difference. Reduction of waste is a great way to begin. People want purpose with a paycheck.
Can you profile another company who’s moved through these 5 phases, gotten an extreme makeover, as you write?
I think Wal-Mart is another story, although incomplete. They got back to the environment. They realized they have a reputation issue in 2005. They needed to change their sustainability – in terms of packaging, fuel and storage, and reinvent what they were doing. After they set the bar, many companies followed suit.
Other companies making positive sustainable changes are Microsoft and Aveda.
You spoke in Dallas last year about an epidemic that’s hit businesses and the people who lead them. What is that epidemic?
I call it small pie. It is like a disease of the perspective – causing the victim to believe there is not enough to go around. With the recession people thought more of short term and not long term. They changed how business was done and how many was spent. People get scared, combative and lose intelligence. This disease is more airborne- meaning it is spread via words. It is here where individuals stop being leaders. People need to be able to see and find opportunity at the bottom. It isn’t terrible news – it is a wake up call to innovate and rise above it.
Are we as a nation beating that epidemic?
In the 1930’s we had the Great Depression. And we started to beat the Great Depression in the 80’s.
Hopefully, we will start much quicker. It takes a long time to get over it. We are seeing contribution go up, but we need to cultivate a sense of confidence.
When a person believes in themselves or a team or a company, they have more confidence and are immune to this disease. The secret in business is confidence. I call it 360. A belief.
I believe in myself. I believe in my team that works with me. I believe in my faith and what I am doing is driven by faith.
That calmness allows me to be generous in the face of real scarcity.
What are three things people can do right now to eliminate the small pie thinking?
1. Deal with yourself – feed your mind good stuff. You have to stop absorbing all the negative stuff.2. Change the conversation at work. Stop gossip; stop talking about lack and the negative.
3. Set an example and give. If you want to create abundance, show and share what you have. Compassion is contagious-give until it hurts.
Find a smart strategic way to give and focus on what you have, not on what you lack.
What are the early-warning signs an organization, or country, is tipping towards the scarcity mindset epidemic.
The conversation at work changes. Look at the emails that come in – look at the tone. Analyze your own. Small pie manifests when people talk about it and it changes the way people behave. They become more negative and less cooperative.
One of your tips for maintaining a good emotional health and mindsets was to turn it off and get some sleep. Why?
We have the Super Bowl coming up – let’s imagine that team A goes out everyday this week and party till 4 AM and then they read about sport’s analysts writing about them until the sun comes up. They do this all week.
Team B decides it isn’t important what the analysts say; it is the yes’s and no’s that are important. They eat well, sleep and condition. WHO will win the Super Bowl? Team B. The freshest, most well rested will always win. You make fewer mistakes; you are focused and can manage everything. They have a good emotional mood state.
You say the only mission statement for all companies is to reduce suffering. What’s the response when you tell businesses this?
It is a very common value proposition. Make life less painful, less hassle and better for the customer. People are loyal to any provider that reduces the pain in their life. A mission statement should tell people what to do when the leaders aren’t around. It creates the social operating statement for the business. You know a company has a week culture when they use the “THEY” term versus the “WE.”New hires can be a great source of new ideas, new energy, and renewed commitment. And yet, too often that doesn’t hold true after a few years.
They lose their gratefulness. Gratefulness causes an acceleration of brain activity. Gratefulness is a muscle that we need to work out all of the time. We have to constantly give and guide people to the gratefulness and they will continue to act like this throughout their employment.
You regularly share great quotes, many or most them you’re own. Can you share with us a current favorite?“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou