Purpose, Authenticity, and Trust

Highlights from Day 1 of the Great Place To Work Conference

The most remarkable thing about the Great Place To Work Conference is the shared aspiration of the leaders assembled there.  They all want to create great workplaces.  Sure, the conversation may focus on increasing employee engagement, or understanding how workplace trust impacts financial returns, or how a different emphasis and approach to employee wellness, diversity, career pathing, etc, impact the employee experience. 

We can get pretty granular.  But at the heart of is all is this grand, shared aspiration for greatness.  Greatness.  What a powerful concept!  We’re not just talking about being like everyone else, or being passable or good-enough, we’re focused on being great.  I find it mind boggling.

Today we heard keynotes by John Mackey, co-Founder and CEO of Whole Foods, Dr. John Noseworthy, President and CEO of Mayo Clinic, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Founder and President of DreamWorks Animation.  Despite the vast differences in their businesses, a few themes came through loud and clear from all three of them: Purpose, Authenticity, and Trust.

John Mackey, Whole Foods Market
(@wholefoods on Twitter)

John Mackey spoke extensively on the notion of a higher purpose, emphasizing that companies must have a purpose greater than profit.  Ironically, when a company has a purpose greater than profit, often more profit is realized.  A company with a higher purpose can help employees to self-actualize, to understand and value their contribution in the world, and to act with creativity and passion.  Without authenticity, trust is not possible.  Leaders must walk the talk, be not just honest, but transparent, and be willing to be a little controversial along the way.

Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic (@mayoclinic on Twitter)

The first thing Dr. Noseworthy said to me is, “I am honored to be here.  Our people at Mayo Clinic are so amazing.”  Running one of the world’s most reputable medical centers has only added to Dr. Noseworthy’s sense of humility, in part because he is so in awe of the great lengths Mayo Clinic employees, regardless of role, go to in order to satisfy their mission of putting the patients first.  When you create a sense of purpose that all your employees can get behind, it is easy to trust that they will act in the best interest of the patient, and the organization. 

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation (@DWAnimation on Twitter)

“If your people feel passionate, dedicated and loyal about their work, it will pay off in great business results,” was Jeffrey Katzenberg’s closing message, echoing so many of the other messages we heard throughout the day.  Each day, Katzenberg writes an internal blog detailing his affairs and how they drive the business.  He entrusts his employees with this very sensitive information, believing that it conveys authenticity and transparency, and created a trust his people have not violated.

Click here to purchase the full video recordings of the 2012 Conference Keynote Speakers.

Read Day 2 highlights