Not necessarily EO companies. I did a bit of online training with Babson College, about 18 months ago, and there was a course called 'Conscious Leadership'. One of the speakers on the course was Bob Chapman, who’s Chairman and CEO of a company in America called Barry-Wehmiller. They’re not employee-owned, but he’s very much about creating a family atmosphere for every company under his umbrella with a focus on conscious capitalism. “Business could be the most powerful force for good in the world, if leaders embrace the responsibility of leadership. Caring for people and giving them meaning, purpose and fulfilment through their work is not in disharmony with creating value”. When you read what he has achieved, and what the company has done in terms of creating that good atmosphere, where everyone has an opinion, everybody’s voice counts, empowering people to make decisions, a lot of that ticks the boxes for how we would like to operate as an EO company.
Another one that I do find quite inspiring, is a chap named L. David Marquet – he wrote the book “Turn the Ship Around” – who was a commander of a US nuclear submarine. The Navy has a very top-down approach, where the captain on the boat tells you what to do. They turned it around to say no, actually what we are going to do is empower everybody on the submarine to make decisions. His argument being, it’s best to have 200 brains thinking about the right thing to do rather than one, just the captain, and it is!
I’ve also had a few chats with John (Housego) about his time at W.L. Gore, and I’ve seen the Gore building as well, and they did a presentation at a leadership course that I was on with EO Scotland. On the one hand, they have a very different business to Aquascot, not just because of the field that they operate in, but because they were set up as EO since day one, whereas we were not that way, we’ve moved to EO over time.
But I really like what W.L. Gore are about in terms of you don’t apply to be a leader, the leaders are selected by the team, and then you naturally follow that individual. And if that individual loses the followership, then they can’t be a leader. Which is not how businesses in the UK typically operate, a leader is appointed and imposed upon the team.
We are not yet there with Aquascot, but we can get there. Right now, our people are coming to terms with being accountable and having the power to make decisions. We are moving away from reporting problems up the line and instead are focused on identifying solutions to the problems.