23 Ideas for Your Green Team this Earth Month

A valued WeSpire customer made a special request recently.

In addition to her “day job” directing Sustainability at a Fortune 200 energy conglomerate, she organizes a volunteer group of “Green Ambassadors” from around the organization, many of whom have arrived via acquisitions of the past few years, and who do not know each other well.

It’s hard to think of something fresh for our meetings every month,” she said. “I want to keep them inspired with interesting things they can do that somehow relate back to the company.”

Could we help? Of course we can! We love a challenge, so we came up with almost two dozen ideas, which we share with you now, with a call for your thoughts and projects: What works at your organization, in your community, with your group?

1. You know best your colleagues’ appetite for climate-science/big picture vs. individual impacts, cool products, and daily actions that contribute to a positive impact. We prefer a balance. Smart first step: ask the group to complete a quick assessment survey, and see where everyone comes out.

2. With that, you can also poll the group to find out how they first became interested in the Green Ambassador group. Encourage them to share the story of their own original interest in sustainability.

3. With permission, or anonymously, share the most interesting stories in a post for the group. There will be interesting stories, we promise. They may also be painful or slightly embarrassing, so please remember to be sensitive and respectful.

4. Are people willing to relate their stories on a monthly Green Team meeting, in-person, call or webinar? Even better. Gently encourage quieter members to talk about their “green journey.” As individuals get to know one another, they’ll want to collaborate more.

5. Find out if people have a favorite art installation, data visualization, designer, book, film, building, lipstick, running shoe, or cartoon relating to the environment. Share these. (See 14, ahead.)

6. You do not have to direct all of this yourself. If a natural leader for a theme or activity surfaces, delegate! Good: now you are building a team!

7. Dive into the most popular blogs relating to sustainability. Offer your favorites and ask others for theirs. You’ll all get fresh ideas and data. Do not know where to begin? Maybe start here or here. (Then look at 18, below.) If your group has an appetite for news, some of you can choose a topic, lead a conversation, and create action items for the group.

8. If people enjoy this, call it “Pass the Mike,” and ask small groups on the Green Team to lead the monthly discussion.

9. Now you can create a calendar for the next twelve meetings! Why is that a good thing? First, you’re planning ahead and sharing the program. Second, you’re able to assign tasks and share the load (see 5, above). Third, you can be strategic.

10. If your corporation has stated goals for the year, incorporate them on your Green Team program. Everyone likes to know where they’re headed.

11. Continuing education: Scout local or online classes that relate to corporate goals and individuals’ interests. Some corporations offer a vetted selection.

12. If group members are participating in a training, course, or certification, organize a study group to discuss and get even more from the experience. Including, undoubtedly, more ideas for the larger group.

13. You probably have a bunch of new Green Team group members by now! Decide among yourselves if “Green Team” is the best name. Order some cool swag!

14. Films you could screen together, with discussion to follow: Years of Living Dangerously (here is episode 1), Vice environment channel, Merchants of Doubt are a few that we know and like. Ask for a couple volunteers to scope out the library of TED talks to view together and discuss. Here’s a playlist of TED talkscalled Earth, appreciated.

15. Dive into the new Sustainable Development Goals that nearly 200 countries agreed on in Paris, to be ratified on April 22nd. Which of these 17 big audacious objectives is your company already working on? Probably a few!

16. Academics: their institutions, think tanks, and their work; to follow and discuss:Yale Program on Climate Change Communication; University of Minnesota IOE/Ensia; MIT ClimateCoLab; Presidio; Arizona State University, Columbia’s Earth Institute; Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment; the Metcalf Institute for Environmental Reporting, Princeton Andlinger Center for Energy & the Environment; the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan. Climate Central, the World Resources Institute, NASA. eyes on earthDo not worry about struggling with dense wonkiness here: you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the clarity and modern, fresh imagery.

17. If you have a college or university nearby, you have your own local source of academic insight. Cast a net for other VIPs you’d like the group to know: a business leader or community problem-solver a chef-entrepreneur intent on zero food waste; or a couple of moms who are organizing a green schools initiative. Reach out and invite them to join you for a meeting. They’ll be delighted.

18. Leverage relationships with the NGOs that your company is already associated with or might become associated with. I’m thinking of world-class orgs focused on large companies, such as Ceres, RE100, EDF, World Wildlife Fund, We Mean Business, The B Team, Net Impact, CDP, Connect4Climate at the World Bank, the Nature Conservancy. Many of which have local chapters. All of which have excellent content and events that your members might like to participate on. Maybe youll run a community planting project, or support a water-conservation pledge in your city. Your Green Team will have lots of suggestions.

19. Arrange a field trip to see local and sustainably produced chocolate, beer, or socks.

20. There are lots of interestingconferences out there. Send a delegation to network, get inspired, and bring home ideas to share, use at work and at home.

21. Do not forget your own backyard! You may have innovative, effective projects and practices ongoing in different areas of your business. If you’re not sure, ask the CFO where decisions are being made to reduce waste and improve efficiencies. Why not organize a tour of your recycling facility, a solar installation, or the HVAC systems? Your facilities managers may be doing amazing things.

22. Invite in your most exciting executive leaders and partners for updates. Perhaps your Chief Marketing Officer can chat about a campaign that positions your brand in a game-changing way. Maybe you send her some questions in advance. How did she come up with this? How does she measure success, and what’s next?

23. Get social! Is someone on the Green Team great on Twitter, Facebook? Create a dedicated feed to keep it going between meetings. Coordinate with the company social media team to support their efforts. P.S. Be sure to follow @goWeSpire and please subscribe to our blog!

What’s Number 24? Please tell us your ideas!

P.S. Be sure to follow @goWeSpire and please subscribe to our e-newsletter!

What are our turbulent weather events trying to tell us?

I’ve read many articles recently linking the multiple turbulent weather events to global warming. However, I believe there is a deeper meaning and connection, that few people are noticing and it’s called apocalypse.

The word does not mean the end of the world, but an uncovering or revelation. And what is that revelation? I believe the natural disasters we are experiencing should be viewed as a wake-up call that there needs to be a shift in mass consciousness.

What is mass consciousness? According to Gloria Excelsias, president of an educational platform with focus on psychological and spiritual development, it’s the consciousness of the masses. And unfortunately, it isn’t positive. It means being led by your subconscious mind, living on automatic pilot, not owning one’s power, not loving one’s self, and attacking others for lack of self-worth and personal power. How many people do you know who are actually in control of their minds, feelings, emotions and lower-self desires? The majority of people are not and because we are all connected, it’s having a negative impact on everyone.

How does this show up in the workplace? Lack of leadership, Corporate greed, decisions made based on ego and out of fear, clinging to the status quo and an unwillingness to change, people throwing one another under the bus instead of taking personal accountability, etc. And what is the byproduct of this? Dysfunctional cultures and disengaged workers.

BE AWESOME!

If you’d like to begin the journey out of mass consciousness, Excelsias offers a few tips:

  1. Own your personal power and be assertive.
  2. Become completely whole within yourself so you don’t look externally to fill a perceived emptiness inside of you.
  3. Be vigilant for love and against fear.
  4. Understand that Earth is a school which you graduate from by learning to move out of mass consciousness.

Are the multiple turbulent weather events linked to global warming? Most likely. But I choose to believe that they seek to serve a greater purpose: the revelation that what we’re doing and how we’re being isn’t working. There’s a better way.

Jill Christensen is an employee engagement expert, best-selling author, and international keynote speaker. She was recently named a Top 100 Global Employee Engagement Influencer, authored the best-selling book,If Not You, Who? Cracking the Code of Employee Disengagement, and works with the best and brightest global leaders to improve productivity and retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth.

Jill can be reached at +1.303.999.9224 or jill@jillchristensenintl.com.

WeSpire’s founder was honored to be included with Jill on a list of 100 Most Influential People in Employee Engagement. This post was used with permission from her award-winning blog.

3 Actions for an Innovative Culture: Advice from Lazlo Bock

Lazlo Bock, the co-founder of Humu, a stealth mode start-up, spoke at this year’s HR Tech conference. Prior to being a fellow startup founder, Lazlo was the head of People Operations for Google. Many consider him to be the most innovative and analytical HR leader of this past decade.

He and Google have brought the business world incredible insights around performance, including the importance of psychological safety.

His keynote was about what one should DO to create a more innovative culture. His advice was practical. The path to innovation starts with small actions that collectively have a big impact. Here were three that jumped out:

Connect people to a greater purpose

Adam Grant’s research shows that fundraising success went up 40% when agents were visited regularly by people who benefited from the funds raised. But how do you DO this? His advice is pretty straight forward — ask! Find out why people are doing their jobs and what’s meaningful to them and then help them see how the work connects to what they care about.

Strike a balance between the big and the little

Companies need a portfolio of BIG ideas [moonshots] and continuous innovation and improvements [roofshots] in order to be innovative. The temptation by leadership is to focus most attention on the moonshots. However, arming yourself with stories of roofshots to share at All Hands Meetings ensures people are excited to be part of those efforts to improve something a little bit, all the time. And due to the laws of compounding, roofshots can be game-changing.

Manufacture casual collisions

Note that this advice was what to DO in order to “Be Lucky”. He talked about how the lunch line at Google was engineered to encourage people from different teams to have to wait at least a little bit and talk to people. One of Google’s most successful products came from one person overhearing another persons problem in the lunch line. How can you create physical elements that force people to change their patterns and interact with people they might not normally talk to? What can you DO to create moments of serendipity?

What I noticed in his presentation is that actions that create an innovative culture are familiar. They look pretty similar to those that create a positive culture. It suggests that a focus on creating a positive workplace will likely lead to a much more innovative workplace too. It’s something we see atWeSpirewith our customers. Once they run sustainability and social impact campaigns, they often want to use our platform to drive ideas for innovation. As a result, we are working on a cool new feature to support employee idea sharing and feedback. We are also developing metrics to demonstrate that employees who participate in positive impact initiatives are more likely to generate innovative ideas. What are the other connections you see between positive culture and innovation? Love to hear more in the comments!

To Be Resilient, Don’t Be Too Virtuous

I thought I was done with homework when I finished grad school. But I wanted to be prepared for my commencement speech. So I did what any self-respecting social scientist would do. I started reading studies of graduation speeches. And I decided I would give a graduation speech about graduation speeches.

Note from Team WeSpire: Today we kick off a weekly blog series highlighting how focusing on taking positive actions improves our lives, our workplace and our communities, particular during chaotic and challenging times. We couldn’t be more thrilled to kick off with a graduation speech that our advisor, Adam Grant, gave on resilience. We are so grateful to him, and his team at Wharton People Analytics, for all they do to help us and others understand the power of positive actions.

It would be like the Seinfeld episode with the coffee table book about coffee tables. Wait, wrong generation. It would be like when Ryan Gosling wore a shirt with a photo of Macaulay Culkin, and Macaulay Culkin then wore a shirt with a picture of Ryan Gosling wearing that shirt.

So today I want to give a meta-graduation speech. I want to tell you what I think is missing from most graduation speeches.

It turns out that almost every commencement speech is about virtues. Living by a set of worthy principles. It’s easy to be virtuous when things are going well. It’s when you’re down that your virtues get tested.

Last week Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and I published a book, Option B, about building resilience. We all face challenges in life, whether it’s a failed exam or a failed marriage, the loss of a football game or the loss of a loved one. Resilience is what gets us through these events. In the face of adversity, how do we find the strength to stand by our virtues?

In graduation speeches, three of the most popular virtues are generosity, authenticity, and grit. If you want to live by these virtues you need resilience. You need resilience to stay generous on the days when you lose faith in humanity. You need resilience to stay true to yourself on the days when others lose faith in you. And you need resilience to persevere on the days when you lose faith in yourself.

But if you’re too obsessed with any of these virtues, you might undermine your own resilience. Virtues can be a little bitlike vitamins. Vitamins are essential for health. But what if you get more than your body needs? If you take too much Vitamin C, it won’t hurt you.If you overdose on Vitamin D, though, it can do serious harm: you could wind up with kidney problems.

A great philosopher named Aristotle thought virtues were like Vitamin D. Too little of a virtue is bad, but so is too much. He believed that every virtue lies between vices of deficiency and excess. Too little humor is dry; too much is silly. Too little pride makes us meek; too much breeds narcissism. Too much self-restraint leaves you doing homework while your friends are tailgating. Too little self-restraint means you’ll really regret eating that fourth Scotsman Dog.

If you’re not a fan of the ancient Greeks, the same point was made by another great philosopher named Goldilocks. Like porridge, virtues can be too hot or too cold. More isn’t always better. Barry Schwartz and I have argued that if you want happiness and success, you need to find the sweet spot between the extremes of too little and too much. You need to look for just right.

Let’s start with the virtue of generosity. The single most common theme in commencement speeches is help others – it shows up in nearly two thirds of them. I’m a huge fan of generosity. I’ve spent my whole career studying it and I wrote an entire book about how it can drive not only our happiness but also our success. I found that in the long run, givers tend to outperform takers. It’s true for engineers and salespeople and doctors. And even if giving doesn’t guarantee more success than taking, it’s a more meaningful way to live our lives.

But there’s such a thing as being too generous. It’s a recipe for burnout. Take teachers. Education is about helping students, so we love teachers who are selfless. But in our research Reb Rebele and I found that the most selfless teachers ended up being the least engaged in the classroom’and their students did the worst on standardized achievement tests.

And you know what this means about the best teachers: they had about as much compassion as Frank Underwood’if he were half-Demogorgon.

No, the effective teachers were the ones who cared deeply about their students but also did what we’re all supposed to do on airplanes. They secured their oxygen masks before assisting others. George Carlin laughed at that advice “Idonotneed to be told that” but it came in handy. They felt less altruistic, but they actually helped more. Their giving was energizing instead of exhausting.

So help others, but don’t sacrifice yourself.

A second beloved virtue is authenticity. “Be true to yourself” is a core theme in more than half of commencement speeches. I wouldn’t encourage you to be false to yourself. Of course you should be genuine.

But if authenticity is the value you prize most in life, there’s a danger that you’ll stunt your own development. To be authentic, you need to be crystal clear about your identity and values. You need to know exactly who you are. And that can tether you to a fixed anchor, closing the door to growth.

When I was in grad school, a friend asked me to give a guest lecture for her class. I was terrified of public speaking, but I wanted to be helpful, so I agreed. I figured it would be a good learning opportunity, so after the class I handed out feedback forms asking how I could improve. It was brutal. One student wrote that I was so nervous I was causing the whole class to physically shake in their seats.

My authentic self was not a fan of public speaking. But I started volunteering to give more guest lectures, knowing it was the only way to get better. I wasn’t being true to myself, I was being true to the self I wanted to become.

A few years later I was turned down for my first professor job because after watching me give a presentation, the hiring committee was convinced I wouldn’t be able to teach. I ended up getting hired by a different school, and in my first year I was asked to teach a four-hour class for colonels in the U.S. Air Force. I was 25, they were twice my age, they had dozens of medals on their uniforms and thousands of flight hours under their belts and billion-dollar budgets under their command. Plus they all had cool nicknames, like Striker and Sand Dune.

I knew I needed to establish credibility, so I began by sharing my credentials. Their feedback forms were even less fun than the ones from the college students. One wrote “More quality information in audience than on podium.” Another said “I gained very little from the session. I trust the instructor did gain useful insight.”

I had already signed up to give one more class for their colleagues. I didn’t have time to change my content, let alone learn something new. All I could do was change my introduction. Total authenticity would’ve been to tell them that I had bombed the first session but I was going to be teaching them the same material. That would’ve made me look weak. Instead, I tried to find the sweet spot. I didn’t say a word about my expertise. I opened by saying, “I know what you’re thinking right now. What can I possibly learn from a professor who’s 12 years old?”

The only sound I could hear was my racing heartbeat. Finally, a colonel code name Hawk’piped up: “Come on, that’s way off base. I’m pretty sure you’re thirteen.”

I taught the same material, but the feedback was much more enthusiastic. One wrote: “Although junior in experience, he dealt with the studies in an interesting way.” And another: “I can’t believe Adam is only twelve! He did a great job.”

So be true to yourself, but not so much that your true self never evolves.

A third popular virtue is grit. “Never give up” appears in more than four of every ten graduation speeches. Persistence is one of the most important forces in success and happiness. There’s the author whose novel was rejected half a dozen times. The artist whose cartoons were turned down over and over. And the musicians who were told “guitar groups are on the way out” and they’d never make it in show business. If they had quit, Harry Potter, Disney, and the Beatles wouldn’t exist.

But that’s only half the story. For every J.K. Rowling and Walt Disney and Lennon and McCartney, there are thousands of writers and entrepreneurs and musicians who fail not for lack of grit, but because of how narrowly they apply grit.

I know from experience. As a kid I loved sports. I spent hours shooting baskets and when I didn’t make my sixth grade basketball team, I went to Chris Webber’s basketball camp. When the Orlando Magic drafted him, I spray-painted Shaq and Webber kick butt across our driveway. The Magic immediately traded Webber away but the kick buttstayed on my driveway. I worked my butt off practicing. But I didn’t make the seventh grade team. I didn’t make the eighth grade team either. When I started high school I was under five feet tall, and I finally gave up. I suddenly had a lot of free time and I decided to try my hand at diving. My coach told me I walked like Frankenstein and his grandmother jumped higher than me. But diving was a nerd sport: it attracted people too short for basketball and too weak for football. I ended up qualifying for the junior Olympic nationals twice and competing at the NCAA level.

Never give up is bad advice. Sometimes quitting is a virtue. Grit doesn’t mean “keep doing the thing that’s failing.” It means “define your dreams broadly enough that you can find new ways to pursue them when your first and second plans fail.” I needed to give up on my dream of making the NBA but I didn’t need to give up on my dream of becoming a halfway decent athlete. And if you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, I bet you’ve seen a pitch from someone who has potential as an entrepreneur but desperately needs to give up on the current startup. (Not that I have anything against a cafe where you can sip latte next to cats, a tongue brush that lets you lick your cat’s tongue, or a wine for cats.)

Sometimes resilience comes from gritting your teeth and packing your bags. Other times it comes from having the courage to admit your flaws. When I decided to write my first book, my literary agent asked for a proposal. I got so excited about the ideas that I ended up writing the whole book. Over 102,000 words. I sent it over and my agent gently told me that they might interest fellow academics but that was about it.

“Never give up” might’ve meant going to another agent or trying my own hand with publishers. Resilience meant having the strength to take the feedback to heart and start over from scratch. Same goal (writing a book about generosity) but different strategy (writing something people might actually want to read). My agent told me to write like I teach. So I started over from scratch. I threw out over a hundred thousand words (there were a few hundred I just couldn’t let go). The book I wrote that time became Give and Take and it’s the reason I’m standing here on this stage.

So don’t give up on your values, but be willing to give up on your plans.

Today, my advice for you is to take a page out of the Goldilocks story. Watch out for virtues that burn too hot, not just too cold. If you want to be resilient, find the right amount of generosity and authenticity and grit.

But there’s one part of the Goldilocks story that you shouldn’t take literally. If you know your thermodynamics, the biggest bowl should retain its heat the longest. Yep, Papa Bear’s is the hottest. But why is Mama Bear’s porridge too cold and Baby Bear’s just right? As an academic I spend a lot of my free time thinking about questions like this. Apparently Mama Bear’s porridge got cold while she was busy making sure Baby Bear’s was just right and then reheating Papa Bear’s bowl so he could build his character by burning his tongue like a proper misogynistic male bear.

I’m thrilled to see that unlike the bear family, Utah State University has played a pioneering role in challenging traditional gender roles. Your alums include astronaut Mary Cleave, one of the first ten women in space, and Paula Hawkins, the first female Senator from the South and still the only woman elected to the Senate from Florida. And now President Cockett is the first female Aggie president.

We should celebrate when glass ceilings are shattered. But we need to be careful not to get complacent, because the fight to support underrepresented minorities is never finished.

This is one virtue that doesn’t follow the Goldilocks rule. “Appreciate diversity” shows up in a third of graduation speeches. I believe it’s the one virtue where a lot more is always a lot better. There is no such thing as too much diversity in our lives.

Diversity lies at the heart of resilience. In biology we have diverse genes to protect different species against disease and prepare different species for different climates. In companies, we have diverse expertise to protect against groupthink and prepare for a changing, turbulent, disrupted world. In countries, diverse backgrounds and values are essential to a strong and successful democracy. And in communities, diversity is an unlimited virtue because it keeps different virtues in balance.

That’s what you all contribute to the world different virtues. You should be incredibly proud of the diversity of those virtues.

***

Adam Grant is a Wharton professor and the New York Times bestselling author of three books on how we can lead more generous, creative, and resilient lives. This post is reposted with permission. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter on work and psychology at www.adamgrant.net.

Working With A Purpose

This summer, WeSpire had two interns working in the marketing department. These interns had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of digital marketing, but also about employee engagement and purposeful work. We asked them to reflect on what this internship has taught them, here’s what they have to say. Continue reading

Customer Spotlight: Philadelphia Insurance

The work that our customers do and the innovative ways they bring purpose to their workplaces continues to inspire us. One of our customers, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, has an amazing story about how they enhanced their culture of volunteering and bringing their program to a new high-point. Continue reading

New Data: Purpose in the Workplace

Call it purpose, passion, meaning, or whatever you’d like, but these days, everyone is trying to find a job that they’re excited about and that provides them with a sense of accomplishment. We hear it from our clients, friends and family members, but we wanted to dive deeper into how people view purpose at work, its importance and whether they’ve found it or not. Continue reading

The Positive Business Conference, Day 1

This year, I have the great opportunity to attend the Positive Business Conference, hosted by the Ross Michigan School of Business. The conference focuses on the potential positive impact that business can have on society, and how we, as leaders, can help drive that change. Obviously, this is a message very near and dear to the hearts of us at WeSpire!
Continue reading