285: From Social Purpose to Business Profit, with Jonathan Bennett

October 31, 2023

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Dr. Pelè: 

Hello happy people, welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. Hello everyone, this is Dr Pelè with the Profitable Happiness Podcast, and today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jonathan Bennett, who is an executive coach and trusted advisor. And get this he helps people fast track their goals in just three months with an ethical, caring approach to executive coaching. Jonathan, how are you doing today?

Jonathan Bennett: 

I am doing so great. It's wonderful to be here.

Dr. Pelè: 

Oh yeah, and I have to read that off of your LinkedIn cover here about your website clearlythencom, because I find that so interesting, this idea of an ethical, caring approach to executive coaching. You have to explain what you need by that. But before we go too far into the nuts and bolts of what you do and how you do it, can you tell us a little bit about the problem, the challenges that you solve for organizations, and we'll talk about how you do the solving a little bit later.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah for sure. I think that often leadership is pretty lonely. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. There is only so much that you can dump on your friend or your spouse or other people in your life before they get bored. I don't want to hear it anymore. And so what do you do? You can't tell the folks that work for you, because you'd probably scare them if they knew what you were thinking about. If you have a board of directors above you, maybe it's not appropriate for you to disclose everything to them either. So where do you go? How do you be with the heaviness? And that's where executive coaching can come in. It's an independent third party who has been there before, who has a lot of seniority and experience and can hold the space and do some deep listening and maybe offer some guidance of other ways. They've seen the challenges that you might be facing or the heaviness that you're contemplating to bust your way through it, and it's a real privilege for me to be able to do that work, because they get to know people in a really, really deep way. Sometimes it gets joked about as being like work therapy, and at times I'm very boundary. I don't do stuff outside of work or career or business. But people tell me a lot of stuff about life and about how they're really feeling, and so it's really intimate. It's really intimate work.

Dr. Pelè: 

You know, I couldn't agree more when you said that leadership is lonely. My goodness, life is lonely. Everyone needs this focus and you talk about this thing I find very interesting. You say that business can have a social purpose that actually delivers happiness to leaders and employees, but the social purpose component is really important. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah. So my own personal journey has been in and around the nonprofit and social purpose sectors, and so when I was young, I worked in arts and culture, I worked in youth unemployment, I worked in healthcare, and when it came time for me to start my own company, I founded a management consulting firm. I really wanted to focus in on serving nonprofit organizations, except I didn't want all the bureaucracy and burden of being a nonprofit myself, and so I founded a small company. And as that company grew, it became increasingly important for us to be able to have social proof that we believe the same things and we held the same values as our clients did. And that's when we became a B Corp. And for those listening in that don't know what a B Corp is, it's a kind of certification that a company can go through around social purpose. So everything from paying a living wage to caring about the environment, to building the kind of workplace culture that really wants to attract the very best and retain them for a long time, that's really at the heart of what the B Corp movement is about, and there's 7,000 B Corps around the world now.

Dr. Pelè: 

Jonathan, I'm interested in how this sort of focus on the heart of people and the purpose that is larger than just the individual, and how all of that occurred to you. What's your life story? What brought you to this challenge in the world?

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, I think I was a dreamer when I was young. All I wanted to do was tell stories, like literally. I wanted to be a novelist, and so I have an English lit degree.

Dr. Pelè: 

And you have a guitar behind you.

Jonathan Bennett: 

There's a guitar behind me. I'm known to occasionally strum, but when I was young like writing songs and writing stories and I graduated and thought really all I wanted to do, I wanted to go all in on becoming a novelist and a poet and I did it and it was great. I published seven books and I also found out there was no money in my career. So I was I'm very proud of the work, of my literary work, and I feel really wonderful about it. But I also knew that there were other things that were important to me and that really meant being a part of organizations that care about the humans that come to work every day. We spend so much of our time at work and it has an outsized impact on our identity, and so increasingly people want to work at places where they've got an aligned ethical model with the organization or the company that they work at. In other words, what's happening inside me and who I see myself as and the things I believe in. I want to go to work every day and know that the people around me and the corporation at large or the organization more broadly feels the same way and when we're in alignment with who we are, with where we work, wonderful things can happen and hopefully you know to your podcast that's actually where happiness can, can spark and can take root.

Dr. Pelè: 

Wow, no, I, I. I love the idea of a person who walks a walk because of where they've been. In fact, I have a sign on my my wall here that says a leader is one who loves sorry. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. It's so authentic when you are the product of where you've been and what you've actually done. It's just, it's powerful. Whenever I hear that and see that in someone, actually I agree with you that a lot of the creative arts Do not produce income, but what a fusion of creativity and Teaching and leadership when you're you're in a position to be an executive coach. I think that's powerful.

Jonathan Bennett: 

I think I use, I use what I learned as a novelist all the time Hmm, what? What is strategic planning, for example, if not imagining a future that doesn't exist today, with plot points along the way? I mean, it's just, it's just narrative theory. And so I, I really I'm grateful for all of that, all those components of my past. They feed everything that I do.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, I have to agree with you. I have a similar Path, that I've walked a similar path. I have seven books to. Actually I have eight books now with my current book and I've written tons of songs and I've found that music and writing all feed into the kinds of things we're talking about now, such as executive coaching. Now, on that note, can you take us just one step deeper into the how? So you know someone listening here or watching me. They say, yeah, I agree with you. There's this problem leaders are lonely. Executive coaching is important, but what is your unique approach to solving some of the challenges that these leaders face? How exactly do you go about executive coaching?

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, sure. So I I think about executive coaching, the way I do it, as kind of a blend of traditional coaching which feels a little bit like work therapy and trusted advisory work. So I think you need kind of both components. When a when a CEO or somebody on a C-suite or is in senior management comes and wants support and help from me. You know they're not brand new to the game. They might be earlier in their career, but chances are they've been around at least a few blocks and so they for sure want self. They want to, you know, explore their own self and where they're at and what's going on for them at work. But they also need answers and they want to Workshop solutions with me. They want to know what have I seen that's worked before elsewhere in different sectors, in different parts of the country or the world, and so it's really a blend of those two things. It's kind of like one part is a lot of Empathetic work, helping people be vulnerable, admit where they're really at, and the other half is Bringing skills and experiences and competencies to the conversation to help them, you know, break through the problem that they're currently facing or Accelerate through the growth that they're experiencing. Whatever the case may be, and I I don't know if this framework will help, but I often get asked a little bit about like how does it, how does the conversation go when you're in a, when you're in a coaching conversation and there's a sort of model that I think is quite useful and it's called the triple loop model, and the first loop is the do loop and In the executive coaching world, the do loop really is about. It's about management. It's about managing people and time and resources. It's about delegating, it's about projects, and Everyone I coach is dealing with all of those things all of the time and they've got Supta nuts in terms of their problems and skills and abilities. You name it like anything could be on the table. That's where people like to begin, because it's safe. That's what they do every day. They're super comfortable. They use the word we all the time because they're probably a part of a team and it just flows really naturally. So that's a safe place to begin. The next loop is the thinking loop and that's where the strategy happens. People are lots of executives are less good at strategy and it's an area that many of them are developing. And what? Where are we gonna be in three years? And how do we map that out and how do we even talk about it and how do we build innovation into our thinking? That's really. That's really the thinking loop. And then the final Loop is where the real magic happens, which is the being loop and that's where the ethics come in, that's where your values come in. And when things are really difficult at work, if you're really having a dark time, in all likelihood we're in the being loop that something that's going on at work is out of alignment with who you are, how you brought up, how you think the world ought to work, the kind of place that you want to be, the kind of people that you Want to associate with and be around Mm-hmm are not in alignment with it, with that for you. And so we'll often begin at the do-loot. We'll talk about delegation and time management and how do I get more stuff done? And my vice presidents driving me crazy and my Boards, you know, doing all the things. And so you know we problem solve and sort through that and I ask lots of questions and At some point we'll say where's all this going like? Okay, so let's say we solve all these problems. Then what? Where's this company gonna be? Where's this organization gonna be in three years? Why, who cares? So what, like? What's the plan, what's the strategy? And we do a lot of thinking, work, but eventually where we end up is who am I? Hmm, how do I show up what matters to me and is it being manifested in this organization that I'm leading? Hmm, and that's where the social purpose part really comes in. For me is that if you've got an ethical model that believes that there's, you know, needs to be social justice, that the environment matters, that other, you know, progressive things are in play for you, then you want to be in a workplace that cares about those things too, or you want to create a workplace that draws people that care about those things to you. And that's what I really work on with leaders is how to have an external expression of those things that matter to them the most, because otherwise, why do it?

Dr. Pelè: 

Does that involve some kind of internal marketing skill or maybe change management skill to build culture, you know, to sort of get the ship pointed in the right direction of one or two or three social purpose you know topics. Is that how you would frame that?

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, I mean that's certainly like a component of the implementation, like I think it needs to begin with an articulation of what you stand for Got it. As Simon Sannick would probably say, you know your why or your purpose. There's lots of different ways of describing those sorts of things, but whatever floats your boat is fine with me. It's really just who are you in this world and how do you articulate that inside your leadership and inside your company? And if you don't know that, you can't expect other people to be able to figure it out for you. You know they'll be equally lost. So that sort of self exploration and self actualization for leaders is paramount. As they're able to do that, well then, what do they do? And I think that's where your question's coming in, Dr Bellay. I think it's like it really is about drawing people in, having those brave and hard, courageous conversations about what we're doing. And if it's not good enough, then how can we do new and different things to get better outcomes and get better results and show up as more of our authentic selves in our work?

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, you know, it's clear and it's obvious to me that the success of the leaders you work with will eventually be the beginning that will propagate other success with the employees. It sort of goes in that direction. I wonder, when you're dealing with these leaders, first of all give me a sense of who they are in terms of you know what makes them your ideal client, but then, beyond that, if you could give us a sense of what they struggle with. You know their blind spots, the things that they don't see, that you see. You know those blind spots. Boy, are they dangerous, and I'm sure you know what I'm talking about generally. But just give us some of your favorite stories, if you will, of some things that leaders really need to start to see better so that they can achieve what you're trying to help them achieve.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, that's so cool. I love where you went there. I help leaders and work with leaders from across many different sectors and right across North America and beyond, so there's no exact one kind of. You know the marketers would love me to have be super niched and have an avatar. You know that I could describe. I resist that wholeheartedly and with some glee. The reason is because I'm really attracted to people's values and what they show up within the world, and that's what I'm really looking for. I work with leaders that care about social justice issues, that are running for profit and not for profit organizations and think that they can build workplace cultures that care about their people, that think that they can you know, if they're a for profit, can make good money and do good things in the world but reinvest it in things that matter to their stakeholders, to the people that are attached to that company's success. And if they're in the nonprofit sector and they're serving you know clients that they're doing so with you know as much agency and as much sort of like powerful input as they can. So whoever kind of fits those sorts of molds tends to be drawn to me. They tend to pick me out because they're like I want a coach that is gonna challenge me and push me and help my thinking, because I don't want to get stale and maybe challenge my blind spots. So I love that part of your question. So just this week I worked with a very senior leader. She runs a huge, huge not-for-profit organization that's national, has many employees and she is dragging her feet on performance management. Somebody out the door. She needs to let somebody go, and we have talked about it over the course of quite a few sessions now and eventually I had to sort of just say what's going on here? We've gone around it. I know you fired people before. I know you don't want to do it. No one ever does. We don't like the way that makes us feel and we would rather never do that. But the harm that this person is doing is really not great for your culture. Everyone is watching you not let this person go and everybody is judging you negatively because you're doing nothing Like what's going on there. And we were able to open it up and she has worked with this person for many years like 15 years and has helped her personally through some pretty difficult times. She completely agrees that it's past time and she needs to move on, but she feels like she's letting down on that supportive role that she had previously for this person and that she's out of alignment with that caring person that was there for her during some really dark, difficult times. And so we were able to just say, okay. So two things can be true you can have been that person that got her through that and you were an awesome boss when you did that, and she kept performing well during and after those times. But other things have changed now and it is not working and it's having a really negative impact on your whole organization. So how can we hold those two things as being equally true and okay for us to be able to say, okay, let's figure out an elegant, thoughtful, kind-hearted way of helping her move on to the next thing, because I can tell the brutal walk you out the door thing is never going to happen. This person is never going to do that. It's not in alignment with who she is. But it's wrong also for her to sit there, because everybody else around is being hurt by the lack of performance, and so the ripple effects of not taking action can sometimes be way worse than just sitting on your hands. It's not just that, it's really got some downside to it. So we worked on some kind ways to help and we actually ended up just like workshopping the conversation, like I pretended to be her and she pretended to be the person, and we ended up just like actually theater sports. We played it out, we workshopped it out, but that made her feel a lot better, and I haven't heard from her, but I'm hoping that she's moved through with it, because it needs to happen.

Dr. Pelè: 

It's interesting. I like the idea that you've shared, really, which is that tough and love are not mutually exclusive. You can do both if you infuse some kindness, as you've shared. Another thing that I think I'd like to learn more about is the idea that profitable businesses are also not mutually exclusive from the idea of social purpose and a socially conscious business. For anyone who might be wondering how having a social purpose can actually be a driver of their business profitability or their employee happiness, help us make a connection there.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Well, for sure, I mean. The B Corp movement has done a lot of research on this way. Better retention rates, more profitable. They can articulate what they've done for the environment. So as we move on in the world and we understand that there's more than just rampant capitalism and the Almighty. Bark that there's more things at stake. It can be okay for us to say I want this company to be profitable, I want to provide for my kids and family, but also I'd like to create a workplace where people want to come to work and they want to stay, where people see themselves valued at work, where it's safe, psychologically safe, where people feel accountable at work and where they're really proud to say where they work. When we have an open job, imagine this we have an open job. We don't need to post because everybody inside calls up everybody they know who they really like from previous jobs and does your recruitment for you. That's what happens at B Corp, because they are very focused organizations and really clear on their purpose. And I think that all those things can be true. You can be really profitable, and I think it's just the most cynical now who think that these things are mutually exclusive, that somehow you need to grind and just leave people behind. That's the only way is to just squeeze and squeeze. I don't think that's true at all. I think having a mindset that's abundant and drawing people to you that care about the same things you do really can make a company be amazing, and I'm testament to the fact that you can grow one and sell it. That's always a founder's sort of thing. It's like well, if we get into the B Corp thing, wouldn't that harm my ability to be able to sell it? I don't want to be selfish, but and I'm here to say it ain't true you can exit from a B Corp and it can be a beautiful thing.

Dr. Pelè: 

Are there companies that you work with sometimes that are not B Corps but, as you said, it's a question of the leadership values but see themselves in a picture that you paint about how becoming a B Corp could actually be the missing link for them. Do you also have that sort of?

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, for sure, most leaders I work with are not at B Corps. There's only 7,000 B Corps around the world, so it's a pretty niche kind of club. I suppose, and, frankly, purposefully quite a high bar that you have to reach to get in. So it isn't for every company and it certainly isn't for every company right away, but I'm always drawn to leaders that have aspirations in that vein. And so if the things about the B Corp movement or about social purpose business, if you would just like to be a better community member, a better employer, a better leader, then, they're the sorts of things that I care about and that I can help with.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, no, you talked about earlier the three Ps. I love that. You said you got to care about the planet. You got to care about profit, of course, and you got to care about people. Let's talk about people for a second, and how you sort of funnel down to employees their happiness, their well-being, and how, once again, that becomes another driver back up to profit and then, of course, up to the planet. How do you bring in the employee aspect of this, even as you work through leaders?

Jonathan Bennett: 

So I think a lot about two concepts psychological safety and accountability. And I'll tell you a little story. A while ago I got brought in to give an address. I felt like a workshop, a half-day workshop with a medium-sized firm there, actually a B Corp and the owner called me up and said Jonathan, our staff have asked for a workshop on psychological safety in the workplace. And of course I got bells going off here. I'm like tell me more, what's going on there for you? And he's you know, well, oh, there's been some changes and we've got too much work. And everybody's stressed and I'm like, okay, okay. And he said we'll listen. You know, like the leadership. We're kind of also wondering like, could you work some stuff in about accountability? Like, oh, tell me more about that. Well, we just need them to dot, dot, dot.

Dr. Pelè: 

And so somewhere between the staff, a little bit unsafe right now. Here's a hint Right.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Somewhere between the staff wanting psychological safety and the leadership wanting accountability is actually a beautiful opportunity, because they're really two sides of the same thing. When a workplace is psychologically safe, it means you can show up as your authentic self. It means that you don't fear reprisals or repercussions to sharing an idea. It means that there's a level of trust that exists and you have a learning environment. If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. Somebody will help you clean it up and you'll be able to share the lessons learned. On the accountable side, we've all been on teams at times that had really low accountability, which sounds like that's not my job. You didn't ask me to do that. Why should I All that kind of stuff? But when you're on a high accountable team, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about you and the team broadly and the organization as a whole, because I know they're all thinking about me. The organization cares about me, the whole team cares about me and you, as my colleague, you care about me, and so I'm looking out for you and you're looking out for me, and so accountability and psychological safety are actually tightly interwoven and high performance cultures have both, and I like to work with teams and leaders that care a lot about both those things and can see how they intersect. Often it doesn't take much to peel them apart and figure out where we're hitting wrong and how do we rebuild. It takes work and it takes a plan, but you got to commit and then do.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, you've just described pretty much what I do with my software, because I think what you're really saying is you can't just click your fingers and it happens. There's got to be a process of culture building that happens over time, and employees adopting and becoming these new sets of behaviors and maybe even values that the leader is pushing into the reality of the organization. I happen to do that through software, but I love something that you've got on your website. Your website is called ClearlyThencom. I would love to know what you mean by ClearlyThen. I bet you there's a story behind that.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, that's funny. There is a story I don't know if it's a super deep one, but it's hard to name companies. It's actually hard. It's hard to think of a name and get the website URL, yeah, correct, it's really tough. So when I was brainstorming so I saw my company, the management consulting company I referenced early out about two years ago. I knew in my heart of hearts the next thing for me was I just wanted to practice by myself. I had lots of employees and I felt like I'd done that and I really just wanted something simpler. I wanted just to work by myself and for myself and have lots of partnerships and a wonderful network, and I'm blessed to have those things in place. But at the time I was trying to think of what do I call this? And I was reminded when I was my wife reminded me when we were in university, we had this little joke we were both in English and we wrote a bajillion essays and we had this shorthand that happened between the two of us, which happens in couples all the time, which was like how close are you to finishing the essay before we can go out with our friends, or whatever? And it became are you at clearly comma then comma, which meant are you at the beginning of the final paragraph? And so it was like where are you? And you're like I'm still a bit away from clearly comma then comma. And that became a kind of thing that we would say and I thought, here I am in kind of like maybe the second, last or the last act of my career, and it felt like I'm at the clearly comma then comma stage of I feel like I know what I'm doing and I feel like I know what I need to articulate and wrap up and help people with, which feels like a version of the final paragraph. So that's where the name came from.

Dr. Pelè: 

You know, what's interesting about that is you got to tell that story because that's where a lot of leaders are, that's where the leaders that you're talking with. They're right there. It's the clearly, then clearly. Then can I say it in Australian accent Clearly yeah, you can totally.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, clearly Right.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, oh, that's funny. So you know, tell us a little bit about what you're working on right now, what you're excited to share and how people can get ahold of you online.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Yeah, sure, so I do a couple of things. So I do one on one, executive coaching a few times a year. I'll run a group. Usually it's invitation only. Best place to reach me is on LinkedIn. I am a real human and I respond to DMs Pretty pretty good. I'm strong administratively, which so I'm, you know, I'm good at getting back to people and you know, if you're a leader that is, you know, think would benefit from some time with me, feel free to reach out. I always like to spend some time with people before I work with them, just to get to know them, and you know, there's never any charge to having a trial session, so I always do that. So LinkedIn is usually the best you know. Obviously also, you can read lots about me and listen to other stuff I've done on my website, which is clearly thencom, and other things that I'm excited about doing. I love being on podcasts. I write a lot, I blog a lot, I push stuff out on LinkedIn quite a lot and it's a way for me to just keep processing. And one of the things about working by your and for yourself is that you know you haven't got any colleagues and so you've got all this stuff in your head and what are you going to do with it? And one of the things I've found that helps is to write, and so I push out stuff on LinkedIn and I enjoy that. I enjoy the engagement that I get there, but I also just enjoy the kind of the brain dump and the sort of formulating of my thoughts.

Dr. Pelè: 

Yeah, no, I couldn't agree with you more For me. I love meeting new people on podcasts because they help me recharge my brain. They you know I speak only with people who teach me something, and you've been one of my great teachers. I want to say thank you so much for having been a guest on the Profitable Happiness Podcast.

Jonathan Bennett: 

Thank you so much.

Dr. Pelè: 

Thanks for tuning in to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. For more episodes, visit DrPalletcom. And remember get happy first and success will follow.