Season of Service

In San Diego we’re in the middle of a six-month “Season of Service” movement with businesses, civic agencies, and churches all pitching in with community volunteers to serve others. For years I’ve been dreaming about how we can make San Diego a servant leadership town – how in the near future people will come here and say, “What an amazing place to live—just look at the way government and business and education and neighborhoods interact – everyone seems to be out to serve each other and solve problems, not to be self serving.”

My larger dream is that leadership throughout the world will be composed of people who lead at a higher level and, in the process, serve first and lead second. That’s a really tall order, and I might sound like a dreamer. But read this wonderful quote from Harriet Tubman:

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.

Always remember, you have within you

the strength, the patience, and the passion

to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Why not? What do you want to do to change the world? Remember, you can do it by the moment-to-moment interactions with your family, your friends, your colleagues, and everyone you meet. What’s your dream for changing the world? Go ahead, be a dreamer!

Sustainability as Your Overall Strategy: A One Minute Interview with Anastasia Kellermann of 2LEAD4US

Make Sustainability a Part of Your Overall Corporate Strategy

A One Minute Interview with Anastasia Kellermann, co-founder of 2LEAD4US, a Netherlands-based consultancy and training company (part of Blanchard International Netherlands) that challenges and equips leaders to integrate sustainability strategies into their organizations.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about the research that you are currently conducting?

A. Our research project has been focused on sustainability and what kind of leadership is necessary to integrate sustainability into companies. We started with this research in Holland and we are expanding it to other countries worldwide. We are looking to get a deeper insight into how companies are integrating sustainability into their day-to-day core business and what the role of leadership is in that process. We also wanted to identify best practices among some of the early adopters. Our goal is to use the information for publication in a future book with Ken Blanchard on sustainable leadership.

Q. When you use the term “sustainability,” what do you mean by that?

A. When I am talking about sustainability, I am referring to what I call the 4 Ps—Person, People, Planet, and Prosperity. In addition to environmental sustainability, I’m talking about all of the decisions people make that impact both their immediate environment and the environment far away. For example, if you buy a cup of coffee and it is made from fair trade then you are also having an impact on people who are in South America.

Another important aspect is what we call “prosperity.” And the distinction here is not only the profit of the organization in the short term but also the profit that we make in the long term. How can we take the current structure where we incentivize people “to make a really quick buck” and also take into account how that impacts the way that our organization is going to continue in the future?

Q. So what you’re talking about is how to create an organization that is socially responsible and that has a plan beyond just being in business for the short term.

A. Yes, if you look at business, you’ll see that no one really looks much farther than about five years. If we are able to look at least 10 years ahead then that already gives us a really different picture for the decisions that we make today. So, if we are able to look ahead 10 years, or 20 years, then we start making really different decisions. A lot of companies are not yet realizing that they will face huge talent shortages in a couple of years and that demographics are heavily influencing HR: aging/retiring workforce, lack of talent, Generation Y versus needs of older workers, etc. Some companies, however, have already adopted very smart workforce planning methods to address these challenges. Deloitte is one example. This is why we see a need for integrating sustainability in human resource management. And it is taking that perspective into account.

It’s true that you need to succeed in the short-term in order to even be able to get to the long term. But what we have done until now is focus just on the short-term, and not so much on what does that mean over a five-to-ten-year period.

Q. What motivated you to get started on this research project?

A. I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and I’ve been working on it for a long time. I have always wondered what triggers people to act sustainably, to take good care of the environment–or not? What causes us to make the decisions that we make, including what we choose to eat, how we clothe ourselves, and what kind of jobs that we take?

If we want to create a sustainable world where we are doing good for the environment, and for others, and in our own economic interest in both the short and long term, then how can we invite people to take a different role and to specifically take a different leadership role? That’s the basis behind the research: how can we trigger people to make that change so that they can think in terms of sustainability and not just focus on that short term?

I’ve always been looking for what kind of leadership is needed to make this change. I did a similar research project before in The Netherlands for 24 CEOs on sustainability. I wrote a book on it called The S Factor, A Personal Guide to Sustainable Leadership. And that is how this research started. From my original focus on the Netherlands, I wanted to see what is going on worldwide in terms of sustainability. Is it just a sort of “greenwashing” with a quick treatment in a sustainability report, or are companies actually integrating it into their day-to-day business? To what extent are they taking that longer-term perspective into account and translating it into their decision-making?

What drives certain companies and certain leaders to act sustainably while others do not? And we also wanted to find out, what are the success factors that make one leader do it, or what is in the system of the company that makes it possible? For example, if people are evaluated for taking sustainable decisions, then of course you’re going to get a different behavior within the company than if people are constantly evaluated on short-term decisions and don’t take the longer term into account.

We also wanted to get a picture of what kind of challenges companies are facing. I think that’s really relevant because a lot of companies are going through hard times during this economic crisis.

Q. So to summarize, you’re looking at the traits of leaders that adopt a sustainability mind-set, the factors that encourage a sustainability strategy, and the barriers that get in the way from organizations doing that.

A. Yes, and when we look at success factors we look at those different traits, behaviors, and mind-set which has a lot to do with leadership and then we’re also looking at what kind of systems you can put within your organization so that it makes it easier for that behavior to develop. Because you always have believers within organizations—those who believe in sustainability—along with a more skeptical group of people who need to be challenged to find new ways instead of doing things as usual.

We see a lot of similarity with change management in that you have a couple of people who really want to change and move on to something that has more to offer than the old system while there are always people who don’t want change and who want to keep things the way they have always been.

Put this against an economic background where we’re seeing so much happening around the world and companies are facing a lot of different factors coming into a play. So, there is the environmental issue, the economic issue, combined with what does the company want to do, and then of course all of the normal challenges with implementing any type of change within a company. And sustainability really asks you to fundamentally change a lot of things. We are using the research to identify the drivers for why companies would do this and the opportunities for these companies in the short and long term.

Q. What have you learned from the research project so far?

A. What we learned from the original Netherlands research is that the biggest drivers promoting sustainability are cost and efficiency, which is interesting. Most people would say that sustainability is more expensive, but among the companies we’ve worked with they see a lot of advantages in how sustainability can cut costs. For example, what we are all spending on energy bills could go down significantly if we are able to tap into alternative sources of energy—solar instead of oil, for example. So, that is a driver for a lot of people who maybe are not a believer in sustainability, but they are a believer in the bottom line.

What we’re also seeing is companies looking at sustainability as opportunities for new markets and new products. Look at the car industry, for example, and how much of that has been changed with the introduction of electric vehicles. It’s seen as a new market and it means investing. And you can see how all of the other car companies are now starting to follow the leaders to try and develop the best electric car that they can manufacture. We are seeing in China that they are moving towards sustainability, especially because of new markets and products.

That’s one of the surprises from the research. We originally thought that regulation might be the first reason why people choose to go on a path of sustainability, but I’ve found that the search for new markets is considered a bigger reason—at least in Holland—than regulations. Regulations are still a factor, but the new markets are even more of a trigger.

One other finding is that personal mission, among top leaders, but also among change agents in other parts of the organization, play a vital role. What we are seeing is people aligning their personal mission and finding a way to incorporate it into the sustainability story. People are also doing it for a certain sense of pride and the self esteem that comes from getting behind something you can be proud of.

Also being a preferred employer is another reason for a number of organizations to also embrace sustainability because you can get and attract highly qualified and motivated personnel—especially among some of the younger students that are coming from universities who are looking for a challenge. While they might not choose sustainability for purely idealistic motives, we are still seeing that some want to find some fulfillment in their work and sustainability can provide that fulfillment. It also gives them a challenge, something that they can get their teeth into, and to do things really differently than before. Also, the younger generation tends to be more conscious about social and environmental aspects and a better sense of work-life-balance. With regard to human resource management, we have found that these characteristics are addressed in companies that are frontrunners in sustainability and hence become preferred employers.

Q. Any final thoughts or advice for companies looking to integrate sustainability into their organization?

A. Align sustainability as much as possible with the core business and strategy of the organization and with the personal motivation of people. If you see sustainability as a side project, or as just as occasional volunteer work in the community, that is not really going to lead to sustainability being integrated within the organization. That is a great start, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the way that the organization does business. Sustainability is really asking us to think longer term and let it come back and impact what we are doing today instead of seeing it as something separate.

Would you like to learn more about this research project? You can contact Anastasia Kellermann at  You can also meet Anastasia at this year’s Blanchard Summit 2010 where she will be a featured speaker.

Lean Into Life

I was fortunate enough to see Betsy Myers deliver a keynote recently. Betsy said a really interesting thing that I think is worth sharing with you all. She said that some people start from a place of “yes” and the result they get is adventure. Some people start from a place of “no” and the result they attain is safety. She said that there seem to be more naysayers in the world than “yes”-sayers. She has this wonderful concept about leaning into life—you know, really going after your life. She was telling this audience of government workers how, if you’re bored, if you’re not having any fun, if you’re not passionate about what you are doing, then change your job. Find something that brings out the best in you. Find something that makes you passionate about things. I thought that was really good. I love that idea about leaning into life. What are you doing today? Are you passionate? Are you excited about what you’re doing? If you’re not, let’s see if you can find another spot where you can get excited and passionate. Life is a very special occasion and you don’t get a lot out of it if you back off of life. You get a lot if you lean into it. So take care of yourself. Have a great day. And remember, we need all support and encouragement.

Being the Best You Can Be

I had a real treat when I recently got to spend some time with Henry Blackaby and his son, Richard. Henry’s been a really important mentor to me. He’s a wonderful theologian and philosopher of life.

One of the things I think is relevant to all of us is when they talked a little bit about revival. A lot of people complain about, you know, “My organization has this problem,” or “My church has this problem,” or “My child has this problem.” They say that revival, or change, really starts with you—that whole thing that Gandhi said, you know, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  So if something isn’t going well in your department, the real question is: How can you be different? How can you be a catalyst for change rather than a complainer about what’s not going well? What can you do to change yourself?

A man came to Henry and asked if he would pray that his son would be in better shape and things would be better. He said to the man, “That’s really nice that you’re praying for your son, but I think what your son needs is a better father.” So what you need to do is focus on what you can do to change yourself so that you can help revise or help change somebody else or another organization. I think that’s a wonderful thing, rather than complaining. What are you going to do to change yourself? How can you be a better person, and in the process maybe influence other people that are limiting your department or your family from being their best? Focus on yourself.

I’m constantly looking at how I can be a better person who helps people be the best they can possibly be, and organizations be the best they can be. So as I always say in sessions, don’t wish somebody else was here at this training. Don’t miss it yourself, because there are people who are glad you’re here. I’m glad I’m learning and I hope you are too. I still need a lot of improvement and I’ll bet you do too.

Starting to Make a New Ending

I got up really early a few times in the last month to do TV shows with Garry Ridge about our book Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A. I was also up early doing radio shows all over the country for Who Killed Change?

You might say, well, what is this all doing besides selling books?  I think the two big areas where we can really start to help our companies in tough times is, first, how they can get the best kind of performance out of their people. The whole concept of Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A is so helpful in these times so people know what an “A” looks like and what they need to do to help their company. We’re going to be putting in a whole version of that system in our company so we can all get a clearer sense of what an “A” is for us. I think we can make some real interventions in that and help change the way performance evaluations are done. In terms of Who Killed Change? I think one of the biggest issues for companies is how to implement change in a way that sticks and makes a difference—because we are in a constant flux of change. I don’t think these two things are just about books; I think they are really about opportunities for companies to survive and thrive in tough times.

I got a wonderful quote in the mail the other day from Paul Kreider, who has been with Hershey’s Chocolate for thirty years: “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anybody can start today and make a new ending.” That’s really interesting, you know. You can’t redo the past, but starting today, you can say, “What am I going to do differently today to get a different ending at the end of this week, the end of the year, the end of my life?”  I just love that quote. So today’s the beginning of the rest of your life. How are you going to get a new ending for what you’re doing now?