Best-selling author and CEO Richard Sheridan is this year’s keynote speaker at the Purpose to Profits Conscious Business Summit. Sheridan’s recently published “Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear” is his second book on the importance of creating joyful workplaces.
In headlining the May 21 summit, organized by Conscious Capitalism ROC, Sheridan’s appearance appears poised to offer a broader articulation of how companies can create social impact and spur a conversation about how the fostering of such socially-conscious businesses could become a unique economic development strategy for our area.
In his writing, Sheridan—a founder of Ann Arbor-based software firm Menlo Innovations —highlights two key aspects at the intersection of work and life. First, many people today associate “conscious capitalism”—and other endeavors to smooth the rough edges of unfettered capitalism—with efforts by companies to improve as it relates to the external impact of their activities. Examples include corporate efforts to root out human rights abuses in their supply chain or to minimize the environmental impact from their manufacturing. These are important pursuits for companies to undertake. Yet it is in the internal effects—their impact on the lives of their own employees—where companies often produce their more ubiquitous and fundamental consequences.
Working within an organization is among the most common shared experiences in the modern world. And for better or worse, the quality of our lives is very much correlated with the quality of our workplaces. No matter how much we try compartmentalizing our work and personal lives, spending more than 40 hours a week navigating an energy-draining, fear-inducing environment will infuse negativity into other aspects of our lives. On the other hand, workplaces where we feel supported and where we can be our “whole selves” make us not just engaged employees but happier and more effective human beings.
As Sheridan discusses, creating joyful workplaces is not about having a foosball table or free pizza at work. Rather, it’s about creating an environment that enables “joyful outcomes produced by joyful people working in a joyful place.” That may sound somewhat vague and saccharine, but it is actually neither. A joyful workplace is simply defined as one where people are happy to be. It need not be an easy place to work—in fact, joyful workplaces are often ones that are successfully working on big, difficult problems. What makes them joyful is that people act fairly, authentically and humanely. Employees (and bosses) in joyful workplaces care about each other as people.
Employers in our area should be lauded for creating jobs, and especially well-paying jobs. Still, for companies and entrepreneurs hoping to impact the world, they should remember that they are much more likely to do so not through their products but through their treatment of their own people. Personal fulfillment and happiness are not generally considered part of an employee’s benefits package, but they are as important as any of the others.
With that in mind, could Rochester take this idea to the next level and deploy this broad version of conscious capitalism as a regional economic strategy? Could it position itself—as one local entrepreneur once said—as “a place where you can grow a company and a family?” Could we brand ourselves as a place not only for STEM talent but also where numerous companies put employees first?
Toward the end of Sheridan’s book, the following quote appears: “The greatest competitive advantage in our modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.” That is exactly right. And in addition to being a competitive advantage, wouldn’t life—and our community as a whole—just be much better and more satisfying if more of us got to be really happy at work?
For those interested in hearing Sheridan’s talk or attending the Conscious Capitalism ROC summit, tickets can be purchased here.