Welcome to our interview with Andrew Bennett. Andrew is a leadership consultant and executive coach partnering with leaders building cultures where people can thrive. Andrew Bennett began his career as Ross Perot’s personal assistant, and for over three decades he has been a leadership consultant and coach to organizations of all shapes and sizes around the world.
For almost 50 years Andrew has been a magician and is a member of London’s Magic Circle, the highest honor in magic. Founder of EDS and former US Presidential Candidate Ross Perot encouraged Andrew to use magic in his business presentations, and he has been wowing audiences for the last 35 years. Magic is the art of transformation, and Andrew uses it to teach people how to rethink possibilities and obstacles, opening the door to new ways of thinking and acting. Watch Andrew demonstrate his magic and the power of our words to create in The magic of words – what we speak is what we create presented at TEDx.
Welcome Andrew, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0.
How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
First, what you described in your question has to be valued by leaders as a basic starting point. We credit Milton Friedman with saying the sole purpose of business is profitability and return on investment to shareholders. In his opinon, that’s the only obligation that a business has. I think his idea has been a prevailing focus for most businesses, but there’s a growing number of people and leaders who believe business can be so much more than that. It’s a shame when it’s not.
I’m very encouraged by the growing number of leaders and organizations that are creating the environment you’re describing. But it begins with a leader who values people and the human spirit. A leader who feels that it’s not enough just to have a profitable business. Someone who believes that business can be a place where people can become more of who they fully are. A place where people can bring their gifts and pursue what they care about – fulfilling that fundamental drive to make your life matter, and to have meaning.
Igniting the Spirit
On a more tactical level, I’ve been doing consulting, coaching, and speaking on leadership and culture for 25 years. I believe there are three parts to your question. The first part is igniting the spirit or the heart. That means unleashing the energy available to all of us when we deeply care about something that gives us joy and fulfillment. Not just for us personally, but to make a difference in the world, serving our fellow human beings, and knowing our life matters.
So how do we create those kinds of environments? From a leadership perspective, it’s looking at your organization for how it makes the world a better place and putting that first. Like all of our decisions about what we do and how we do it, is it in service of that deeper purpose? I come from Michigan, which is a big auto country. Some people are making stuff. They’re making gaskets, mufflers and assembling cars. It all started with Henry Ford, but it wasn’t articulated as a vision statement if you look at his vision. He talked about the automobile becoming a way of life. It was not about profit. It was about families enjoying God’s Great Open Spaces. Those are literally the words he used. He realized the deeper purpose of his work. No matter what your organization does, you can discover it if you take the time to look. Finding your deeper purpose gives people something to connect with. If they don’t, then there’s someplace else for them to do that.
Freeing the Mind
Another part is about freeing the mind. I think so much of what unconsciously is at play day in and day out is fear. No one wants to talk about fear. We’re afraid of talking about fear, but it shows up in the work environment. The workplace is fertile ground for fear to grow because of all the different power structures. Freeing your mind is about being aware of the role that fear plays in your life, but particularly as a leader in understanding how fear and anxiety influence how one leads. Becoming curious about that is super important. Being willing to have the humility and courage to lean into that and ask, where might I be unconscious of how fear is getting in my way? What can I do not to make it go away, but how can I work with it in a way that allows me to transcend it? And how do we address that as an organization?
Building the Culture
And that leads to the third part, which is building the culture. Building a culture where people lift each other, where we see the best in each other. The default assumption is that people do things because they mean well⏤, not because they’ve got a sinister plot. So those three things have become the foundation in my practice for how you create the kind of environment you describe in your question. First, it inspires the heart and the spirit, second is free the mind, and third is building the culture.
Note: This is a preview of the full interview. The complete interview was selected by Apress for publication and continues in The Future of the Workplace.