Jean-Sébastien Simon, High Performance Coach and Lecturer in Conscious Business at ESSEC Business School, continues the series of features on Conscious Business with a deep dive into the psyche and the possibility of thriving beyond the imperative of well-being.
Conscious Business: The need for well-being and the possibility of thriving, by Jean-Sébastien Simon.
The psyche is usually a topic which has not been dealt with very effectively in the business world to this day. Indeed, the business world as we know it has its conceptual roots in the enlightenment and industrial revolutions, characterized by an emphasis on efficiency, scientific rationalism, productivity and materialism.
This has allowed for great progress and increase in production. However, it has also left aside a crucial part of the equation: the human psyche and psychological well-being.
A modern maladie
This focus on efficiency, performance and results [see CoBS article on “Rethinking Redundancy” – Zicari, Jain, Galdon, Alves for insights into “efficiency” v. efficacy) has resulted in feelings of alienation, burnout, lack of meaning, and depression – in the worst-case scenario leading employees to commit suicide every year in France, the U.S and other countries. The focus on supporting employees in finding meaning, purpose, psychological and physical well-being is a necessity for a Conscious Business. Indeed, the mind and the body are intertwined, and the well-being in one of them leads to a well-being in the other.
Not only do Conscious Businesses encourage practices that support well-being such as yoga, meditation, sports and physical activities, but they create corporate cultures that value more authenticity and psychological safety for employees, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders.
Frédéric Laloux (2014, p. 227) proposes an application of Ken Wilber’s Quadrants model, to include these inner dimensions to organizations, so that the psyche can be healthily integrated in corporate activities:
The inner worlds are represented in the Upper-Left Quadrant, which helps to inform the other quadrants (People’s behavior, the systems that need to be set up, and the organizational culture).
From well-being to thriving
The recapturing of the inner worlds can allow the creation of a livelier outer world, and healthier relationships. Thus, the cultivation of a beautiful psyche can lead to a more beautiful service of the People, while also renewing the relationship with the Planet.
New disciplines can help in this regard, such as the emerging field of Ecopsychology. This field allows one to connect with the Earth and rediscover one’s relationship with it in a new way, which enables psychological healing and well-being. Practices linking the Planet and the Psyche have shown to decrease stress and increase well-being. We can think of the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), and other practices such as Earthing/Grounding, Permaculture, among many others…
Nurturing the Psyche means creating workplaces where employees can thrive. Well-being should be the minimum employee experience at work. There are conditions, that some organizations have already set up so that employees can go at work with a deep sense of fulfilment, excitement and joy. This unfortunately is not the case in many corporations, where employees go to work with feelings of apprehension, fear or even apathy.
This issue is a systemic one: indeed, the Fourth Industrial revolution has created conditions for tremendous material progress. The STEM education system is both a symptom and a cause of this progress. Yet, if the inner progress of individuals does not catch up, there is an imbalance. This is the case with high level executives who are highly successful on the outside, but feel miserable on the inside.
The balancing out of the left and right Quadrants in the model above is a pre-requisite for Conscious Business. Fortunately, the business world is waking up, as we can see in the most recent World Economic Forum study showing that one of the skills that made its way in the top 10 skills to be developed by 2025 is “Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility” in the category of self-management (2 out of 10 items). My guess is that in the coming years, self-management skills will occupy even more space in the critical skills to be developed.
A recent study conducted in Australia showed that workplaces who want to increase employee retention need to invest in the mental well-being of their employees. Indeed, 38% of those who experienced a mental injury take more than two years to return to work, the ROI per dollar spent on successfully implementing an appropriate action is of $2.3 and the results are proven.
When workers believe their workplace supports them to thrive, 90% say they will probably stay in their job over the next 12 months, 80% describe their employer as the best-in sector for creating and sustaining positive mental health and wellbeing for its workers, 75% say they are rarely stressed or not stress at all in their current job, and almost 2/3 report that they love doing their job!
To grasp the difference between living and thriving, feel free to read the article I published on living vs. LIVING!
Well-being and thriving: Concretely, what can be done?
Various approaches can support People in developing a healthy Psyche. We discussed the encouragement of activities that promote well-being and thriving. Various approaches can support the healthy inner development: for instance, Stanford lecturer and CEO coach Shirzad Chamine created the Positive Intelligence approach (2012), which allows individuals to grow their mindset (and PQ – Positive Quotient) to rise up to challenges and experience more fulfilment in life. He explains that in the same way we can flex our physical muscles to grow our physical strength, we can flex our mental muscles to grow our inner strength (understand: compassion, wisdom, the ability to navigate any challenge). There are many other methods to support employees for their inner growth (Non-Violent Communication, using the Enneagram or other personality tests).
In a more practical way, there are basic tips to avoid burnout, stay centred and connected to oneself:
- Make sure the basics are always covered: eat well, sleep well, exercise well
- Slow down to speed up
- Create space in one’s calendar
- Take enough time to rest (Resting is part of the Training).
The COVID pandemic has been a much needed fire
On many levels, this pandemic has been a disaster: illness, death, loss of loved ones, economic loss, uncertainty and fear. And, like any crisis, this one has been a match that lit up the gas filled atmosphere.
Businesses have had to reinvent themselves, and (some) people have started to wake up to what really matters:
- “Is this the life I really want?
- Wow, working from home isn’t that bad.
- Spending more time with my family feels lovely.
- Not taking public transportation that much is great!
- I hate this job.
- I feel miserable.”
Everybody through this crisis has had the opportunity to consider things and make conscious choices about how they want to continue or stop doing what no longer serves them to step more into their Purpose by living a healthy, vibrant and inspiring life at work.
Laloux, F. (2016). Reinventing Organizations. Nelson Parker.
Chamine, S. (2012). Positive intelligence: Why only 20% of teams and individuals achieve their true potential and how you can achieve yours. Greenleaf Book Group.
- Link up with Jean-Sébastien Simon on LinkedIn
- Read the previous article in the Conscious Business series: The Family of Beings – People, Animals and Diversities.
- Discover an overview of the 6 dimensions of Conscious Business in Global Voice magazine #19
- Apply for a degree at ESSEC Business School.
Learn more about the Council on Business & Society
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The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.
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