I recently made the conscious decision to give up my daily tea (chai) and coffee fix for a month. It’s been a great detox, mostly because I have become conscious about how different I feel through the day. When I start drinking coffee again, I think I will enjoy it more because it won’t just be out of habit. Every cup will be a conscious experience!

Habit. The slightly nebulous ‘activity of things’ that become attributed to who we are.

Management practices can be like your daily cup of coffee. Those of us who have led teams for years, have developed some unique practices on how we hire, engage and manage talent. As managers grow in their careers, these practices become habits and soon become codified as part of the culture and values of the organization. But some of these habits may not be good for the organization. Worse yet, these unhealthy habits become difficult to expel from the organization as they spread from manager to employees, who in turn become managers.

The first step towards bringing about change, starts with changing habits. However, it needs a conscious effort.

Human Resources represent the conscience of an organization and play a critical role in identifying and nurturing good habits and keeping unhealthy habits at bay. They help managers in their organizations practice “Conscious Business”, a concept coined by author and organizational mentor, Fred Kofman. Apart from being the author of “Conscious Business” and a leadership coach, Fred is a PhD in Mathematics and Economics. Fred now works at LinkedIn as our mentor in residence and spends time with teams across the globe become more productive and develops Conscious Business practices. This year, LinkedIn Asia Pacific has launched the Conscious Business Leadership Awards to celebrate and elevate like-minded HR leaders in the region.

I had the opportunity to interview Fred when he was visiting Singapore recently. Through the interview, I gathered a new construct for HR leaders in Asia-Pacific to solve their toughest challenges in building and nurturing an organization to become Conscious Businesses.

Virginia: Fred, when you mentor regional CEOs and MDs who are leading profit driven organizations, how do you handle the typical hesitation of taking on the “softer” side of leading global organizations to excellence?

Fred: In a global organization, exclusive focus on local performance creates silos. Focus on global performance creates regional free riders. There is no hard algorithm to solve this problem. The solution is strong leadership, culture, motivation and passion. A shared vision and shared purpose enables an organization to thrive and grow.

Virginia: Our primary research with CEOs and business leaders of growing organizations indicates that one of their pain points is finding specialized skills that enable them to grow at the pace at which they need to grow. How do you suggest they approach talent?

Fred: I would advise a triangular approach consisting of material, emotional and spiritual concepts. The material concept includes monetary benefits and career opportunities. The emotional concept includes relationships. The spiritual concept includes the broader purpose of working in an organization. The marginal value of money increases at a decreasing rate. What trumps this after a certain point is the emotional and spiritual concept.


Virginia: How does this apply to organizations in Asia-Pacific that are attracting global talent all the way across to another region?

Fred: It’s hard to attract talent to another region of the world without making an outrageously competitive offer. However it’s necessary to consider the spiritual construct that influences the decision. Creating an environment that is very appealing and letting people know about it is a complementary strategy along with the strategy of compensation. Are you helping people grow? Are you giving their life a new meaning and sense of purpose?


Virginia: In Asia-Pacific, the cultural context is quite diverse. How does a company drive a strong corporate culture and maintain a strong sense of purpose while allowing local culture to survive and enable success?

Fred: Deep down all human beings are the same. We all want to have meaning in our lives. We want to be respected and we want to be free irrespective of cultural heritage. A company must root itself in human aspects like a common purpose based on value to enable success. We need to have a common purpose based on value not on culture. Don’t try to create a company culture that competes with a local culture. People should not have to give up their heritage to be part of the company culture.


Virginia: Let’s say a growing company in APAC is able to create a culture that attracts people, how do they keep their talent interested and loyal?

Fred: Loyalty should never be a barrier to exit; it should be a permanent conversation about value. If it does not make genuine sense for talent to continue, they should be let go off gracefully. In other words the best approach to building loyalty is by not asking for loyalty, you’ll have to create conditions where you never take each other for granted.


Virginia: Many pan regional teams of global companies employ talent from across APAC, which is very diverse. In the same office, we can have Singaporeans, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Indonesians and Australians. How does this impact their ability to contribute to the global mandate of their organization?

Fred: An environment where people are superficially different could actually encourage the pursuit of a shared vision. Interpenetration of cultures can create an environment for war or it could be enriching. The difference between killing each other and enriching each other is the values through which we meet one another. That’s an opportunity that exists particularly in Asia because of its cultural diversity.

I left this chat with Fred, inspired and eager to learn more about how to lead through Conscious Business practices. To know more, see the video below.

As mentioned earlier in the post, LinkedIn has launched the Conscious Business Leadership Awards for HR Leaders in the Asia Pacific region. Nominate yourself or an HR Leader you respect now and become an example for others in the HR profession on what Conscious business looks like!

Published with permission.

Image courtesy of [Vlado] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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