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Is Your Organization Putting a Stake in the Ground? Do You Want it to? By Suzanne Elshult/Your Executive Coach

Lately I have been doing some thinking around a discussion I had with my group of top HR executives a while ago. The general topic was around how organizations position themselves in the market vis-à-vis their values, a question we discussed in the context of knowing that consumers of products and services are increasingly paying attention to what our organizations stand for – particularly when the price is equal. Millennials, for one, are pretty clear about wanting to be a part of values-driven organizations.

So, do you want to be a part of an organization that tries to be all things to all people? Or, do you want to be a part of an organization that puts a stake in the ground? What if the stake represents something you strongly disagree with?

The answer to those questions may be particularly interesting in today’s general climate of polarization. Is your C-suite discussing how they want to position your organization towards issues such as diversity and inclusion, immigration, gay rights, politics, environment, animal rights? For example, do they know whether they want to support gay rights or just take a compliance approach. No matter what they decide, are they discussing their willingness to walk away from some customers and at what price? There certainly are CEOs and leaders of companies that do have a point of view on certain issues and put a stake in the ground, and appear to do so with gusto. Starbucks and Patagonia come to mind?

It is an interesting question. If we see more companies stepping forward with a “point of view” what might some of the consequences be? Will we see more politically segregated workplaces with workplaces being “blue” or “red” because employee candidates will gravitate towards workplaces and organizational leaders that are like-minded and outspoken about what they stand for? What would the intended and unintended consequences be?

Intriguing questions for your C-Suite:

  • Do we have a point of view on issues such as:
    • Gay rights? White supremacists?
    • Sports teams taking the knee?
    • Environment/Climate change?
    • And lots more…..
  • If we don’t define ourselves, who will do it for us?
  • What are the pros and cons of putting a stake in the ground?
  • Do we want to activate our customers around non-transactional issues (for example calling your congress person)? What about our employees?
  • If we leverage our employees as internal ambassadors, what guardrails need to be in place?
  • How do we decide on what issues to become involved in – have a point of view on? Do we? Or do we want to whitewash pretty much everything to avoid controversy? Consequences of either?

What are your thoughts? What will the future look like?


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