Passion and Purpose: John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, on the Power of Conscious Capitalism Audio CD – Audiobook, 1 May 2009
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Disk one is a live talk Mr. Mackey gave to a group in Austin. During Mackey's talk, we learn about his philosophy of "Conscious Capitalism" and how it will prevail over time. To Mackey, globalization is really an anti-corporate movement. He notes that machine and war metaphors are often used to describe corporations and people don't trust them. There is a need for a new corporate philosophy and Conscious Capitalism is Mackey's view of the type of corporations society needs.
Whole Foods' slogan is "Whole foods, whole people, whole planet." Applying the slogan's connecting logic to Conscious Capitalism, Mackey states "Conscious people, conscious company, conscious capitalism." It also happens to be how the CD is organized. Mackey describes his philosophy of Conscious Capitalism then moves on to describe Conscious Companies. Peeling the onion back another layer, he describes the conscious person.
"Conscious Companies" are those formed by entrepreneurs who shape a higher purpose that pursues the timeless values of goodness, truth, beauty and/or heroism. The aim is to make the world a better place. While a necessity to survive, profit is a byproduct of the pursuit. The happiness of those involved is another byproduct of Conscious Companies. It comes not only from pursuing the deeper purpose but also from the connection that forms among the people who pursue that purpose together in community. Mackey cites other Conscious Companies including Apple, Google, The Container Store, Costco and Southwest Airlines.
In addition to pursuing deeper purposes, Conscious Companies optimize stakeholder interests. Mackey believes that management should focus on customer and employee needs then shareholders will be pleased with the resulting profits. In other words, happy employees make happy customers make happy investors; it's a virtuous circle, according to Mackey. He does recognize, however, that shareholders must have the final word because they are the last to be paid and could be taken advantage of by management and other stakeholders.
During Mackey's presentation we learn all about the myriad of programs and benefits Whole Foods Market has in place. It's impressive. Included in the innovative practices is one Mr. Mackey refers to as "appreciations" -- ending meetings by taking a moment to thank people for services they've done or for their positive qualities. Mr. Mackey notes that even the Whole Foods Market board of directors meetings end with appreciations. He states that it grows love in organizations and he observes that the person changed the most is the one giving appreciation.
The second disk is an interview that provides a deeper look at John Mackey, the conscious person. This might sound egotistical on its face. Listening to the CD, I didn't feel that way. I believe Mr. Mackey's motivation in articulating his views is to help people see a way for corporations to be a force for good in society rather than the psychopathic entities they have been described as in certain media such as the documentary film and book "The Corporation."
During the interview, we learn about John Mackey's journey as a leader and as a conscious person. As an advisor to corporate and government leaders, I'm interested in what shapes them and so I found this part utterly fascinating. The inner lives of corporate leaders are rarely revealed. It took courage for Mackey to be so open. Although some may not like what they hear, most, I suspect, will appreciate his honesty and agree with his values.
In my own research I've found that organizations that thrive and survive for sustained periods of time have thoughtful leaders such as John Mackey. "Conscious" describes them quite well. They are aware because they invest time to reflect on their lives, their work and their values, to do the "inner work" as Parker Palmer described it in his masterpiece, Let Your Life Speak. They also have rich relationships with family and friends, which the research of Insead Business School professor Manfred F.R. kets deVries has identified as being critical to sustained superior performance.
Although Mr. Mackey doesn't use the term "unconscious capitalist," it aptly describes the leader who often irreparably damages organizations. These men and women act with a desire to personally win in a competitive marketplace but their thought processes don't consider whether their actions reflect the good, the true, the beautiful and the heroic. It should come as no surprise then that the lives of unconscious capitalists rarely end well.
Passion and Purpose: The Power of Conscious Capitalism is a valuable resource for leaders and those who aspire to be leaders. I highly recommend it. Hopefully, this is the beginning of John Mackey's work to publicly share his views so that others might learn from his wisdom and experience.
Mackey talks about the impact of healthy foods, but recognizes the positive effects of mass food production, reducing the average family's food expenditure from 50% in the past to around 10% today. At the same time, he believes that one of the great public discoveries to come is just how badly we treat livestock in America today ("truly disgraceful").
Some great gems:
- Most businesses do a terrible job at customer service. "Put your customer service first always, and I guarantee your business will flourish." And "paradoxically, if you put your investors first you probably won't give them the return they would like".
- Salary openness (and salary cap @19x pay, which has increased to fight competitors). Fully-paid health insurance, where benefits are the same for every employee.
- You can beat the stock indexes by buying the Fortune 100 companies - would have doubled return in last 10 years.
- Doesn't like Walmart's mentality of beating up suppliers - vendors must be allowed to thrive.
The ultimate message is that business has a deeper purpose beyond maximizing profits, and must maximize value for every stakeholder (employees, vendors, customers, community, etc.). Conscious capitalism is the ecosystem created by these businesses interacting and he foresees that this will be the dominant business environment of the 21st century.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this audio-book (an excellent alternative to radio in the car). Although Mr Mackey's optimism and vision is not practiced by the majority of companies out there, he clearly states the case for improving the capitalist ecosystem that will pay dividends for shareholders, suppliers, employees and customers alike.
W. Terry Whalin is an editor and the author of more than 60 books including his latest Billy Graham: A Biography of America's Greatest Evangelist (Morgan James Faith)
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