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    438. How to Succeed by Being Authentic (Hint: Carefully)

    en-usNovember 05, 2020

    Podcast Summary

    • The Contradictory Life of Whole Foods CEO John MackeyAuthenticity takes practice and involves being conscious and careful. Mackey believes in the importance of heroes, despite potential attacks and lessons learned from scars.

      John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, embodies contradiction as a vegan libertarian who praises free-market icons like Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, and speaks out against factory farming while also calling climate change 'perfectly natural.' Despite this, Mackey emphasizes authenticity above all else, recognizing it as a skill that requires practice. He believes that being authentic doesn't necessarily mean disclosing everything, but rather being conscious and careful. In his latest book, Conscious Leadership, Mackey argues that America desperately needs heroes, but those who show up are often attacked. Mackey has been on the receiving end of several attacks and believes that every scar teaches a lesson.

    • The Rise, Challenges, and Resilience of Whole FoodsWhole Foods became a successful health-food store despite its humble beginnings and faced challenges with competition and the pandemic. Its partnership with Amazon helped it weather the storm and the shift to online ordering boosted sales.

      Whole Foods, a once small health-food store, became a publicly owned corporation with 500 stores in North America and the U.K. facing competition from mainstream grocers and similar stores offering lower prices. An activist hedge fund encouraged the company to generate more profit and soon after, the largest acquisition to date for Amazon.com occurred, with Whole Foods being purchased for $13 billion. The pandemic has hit Whole Foods hard in terms of sales, with its prepared foods sales dropping by 75%. However, the company was protected by being geared for online ordering and delivery due to its partnership with Amazon. Whole Foods had to balance productivity and safety, with some friction with their workforce, during the pandemic. Restaurants mostly being closed down led to an increase in perishable food sales.

    • Communication and Respect in Company Acquisitions: The Whole Foods CaseClear communication, respect, and alignment of values are essential for a smooth and successful acquisition. CEO's should strive to be servant leaders and prioritize maintaining the identity and purpose of the acquired company.

      Supply chain problems arose for Whole Foods due to restaurant-supply chain items being unusable by consumers. Mackey suggests that when a company is acquired, it's important for the acquiring company to ensure that the acquired company feels respected and valued. Sensitivity should be exercised by both parties to ensure a comfortable transition. Mackey points out that the CEO role is not that of a god but rather a servant leader. Alignment between core values, mission, and purpose was necessary before the merger between Whole Foods and Amazon to avoid loss of identity by Whole Foods.

    • Whole Foods’ Data-Driven Approach to Evolve with AmazonWhole Foods lowered prices by tracking shrink and systematically comparing stores. However, some changes, such as the restrictive dress code, have not been well-received. The co-founder recognizes the organization mirrors his strengths and weaknesses.

      Whole Foods has embraced change and evolved in a respectful manner with the help of Amazon, who brought in a data-driven approach to reduce costs and improve operations. One key lesson Whole Foods learned from Amazon was to track shrink systematically and compare stores to reduce unexpected losses, which has resulted in lower prices for customers. However, not all changes have been well-received, such as the new dress code that restricts employee self-expression. John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods, recognizes that the organization mirrors his strengths and weaknesses, as he acknowledges his tendency to focus on creativity and innovation rather than data-driven solutions.

    • The Importance of Holistic Diversity in Building a Successful TeamSelf-awareness and building a diverse team with varied skill sets, diverse thinking, emotional quotient, spiritual insights, and creativity is crucial for an organization's success. Balancing diversity and continuity prevents groupthink and promotes growth.

      Self-awareness is essential to recognize one's strengths and weaknesses. Building a team with a diverse skill set compensates for the leader's weaknesses. Only hiring people who are similar to oneself results in a lack of diversity. Diversity includes not only observable characteristics but also thinking diversity, emotional intelligence, spiritual insights, and creativity. Diversity needs to be balanced with continuity and similarities, or else it leads to groupthink. Many institutions tend to hire people like themselves, which is a sign of insecurity and lack of confidence. Pursuing holistic diversity is critical for the success of organizations.

    • The Power of Wage Transparency in Establishing Fair PayWage transparency gives employees insight into pay structure, corrects payment discrepancies, and offers something to strive for. Fear and hyper-competition hold many organizations back from embracing this win-win philosophy and promoting smarter individuals.

      Wage transparency can be a powerful tool in establishing a fair pay structure within an organization, as it gives employees insight into the values and rewards of the company. By revealing pay structure transparently, organizations can use it as an opportunity to correct any unjust payment discrepancies and offer employees something to strive for. However, many firms do not practice wage transparency due to fear of stoking envy or having something to hide. Additionally, many businesses operate under a hyper-competitive model, which prevents them from embracing the win-win-win philosophy that can transform the world. Leaders who fear promoting people smarter than them may sub-optimize and be pushed out of their role eventually.

    • Overcoming the Win-Lose Mentality in America and BusinessExpanding our compassionate tribe beyond our families can help overcome polarization in America. In businesses, a win-win-win perspective is necessary, with constructive feedback given sensitively and positively. Criticism should only be given when necessary and with caution.

      The win-lose mentality prevalent in America can be attributed to our evolution as tribal animals. However, expanding our tribe beyond our families and being compassionate towards outsiders can help overcome polarization. In businesses, a win-win-win perspective is necessary, but criticism should be approached sensitively. Trust is key to delivering constructive feedback without breaking the spirit of the team members. People do far better with positive feedback and appreciation, and criticism should only be given when necessary and with caution. Criticism can be powerful and should be given with trust and care. Parents should also be cautious in how they correct their children as criticism can make children less secure and afraid to interact with their parents.

    • Building Trust: The Key to Effective CriticismGain trust with positive reinforcement before giving negative feedback. Don't let envy get in the way of effective leadership. Remember that successful individuals often make the biggest contributions. Public opinion is complex and often contradictory.

      In order to deliver effective criticism, it's important to first gain trust by catching people doing something right and using positive reinforcement. Only once this trust is established can negative feedback be given. The tall-poppy syndrome, which is essentially envy of successful individuals, can make it difficult for leaders to navigate criticisms and continue to lead effectively. However, it's important to remember that those who achieve the most often help humanity the most. Despite our culture's obsession with celebrity, we also love to see those celebrities fall from grace, illustrating the dualistic nature of public opinion.

    • Dealing with Envy: Honesty and Accountability for SuccessEnvy can be avoided with celebrity or anonymity, but transparency and authenticity are crucial for success. Being honest and accountable for your actions is key to avoiding a disingenuous facade.

      Learning to deal with envy is important to success, as even the tall poppy can get chopped down. With a little bit of celebrity and anonymity, you can avoid dealing with the negative effects of envy. However, some people may not always see eye-to-eye with your actions, and it's important to maintain transparency and authenticity in your personal and professional life. In one example, John Mackey engaged in online sock-puppetry to defend Whole Foods, but this was criticized for being disingenuous. It's crucial to remember that being successful also means being honest and accountable for your actions, and not hiding behind a facade.

    • Lessons on Leadership and Public Perception from Whole Foods CEOBe mindful of what you say, especially if you are a leader of a company. Controversial comments can overshadow great work, and everything you say and do could become public. Learn from mistakes and strive to not repeat them.

      John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, believes that debating is a form of play. Even though his comments on labor unions and Obamacare caused controversy, he has learned to not be as outspoken. Mackey believes that you can't escape who you are, even when pretending to be someone else, and everything you say and do could become public. He has learned valuable lessons from his mistakes and tries not to repeat them again. Mackey understands that controversial comments can overshadow the great work he has done and advises others to be mindful of what they say, especially if they are leaders of a company.

    • The Power of Bad News: How Society Amplifies Mistakes and Stifles SuccessCelebrate heroes and give more compliments than critiques to combat the influence of bad news on society. Understand intentions behind mistakes and acknowledge genuine regret.

      In today's society, mistakes are amplified and often stick harder than successes. The power of bad news is incredibly influential compared to good news. This makes it difficult for people to build and prosper, especially if they are seen as a 'tall poppy'. Wealthy people often hide away to avoid criticism. However, America desperately needs heroes to show the way but those who show up are often attacked. To combat this, we should focus on admiring our heroes and giving multiple compliments for each critique. We should also make an effort to understand intentions behind mistakes and acknowledge when someone genuinely regrets their actions.

    • The Need for Conscious Leadership and a Win-Win-Win Healthcare Solution in AmericaAmerica needs leaders who prioritize love, integrity, and raising the bar. Achieving a balanced healthcare solution requires maintaining market efficiency while providing coverage, requiring moral courage in a politically divided climate.

      Conscious leadership is needed to help America move past the challenging historical times we're in, and the country needs leaders who lead with love, integrity, and a desire to find higher ground. However, with the current political climate, it takes a lot of moral courage to step up. Additionally, the United States' health-care coverage system is unique in tying coverage to employment, which poses underlying issues. While some argue for less government control and more individual empowerment, a win-win-win solution in health care must maintain the efficiencies of the marketplace.

    • Prioritizing Preventative Care and Decentralization: Learning from Successful Healthcare Models.The healthcare industry in the US needs to focus on preventive care and decentralization. Leaders should drive change and work towards bipartisanship for progress. However, the best solution lies in changing lifestyle and diet patterns to prevent health issues.

      The US healthcare industry is heavily regulated, and while universal coverage is necessary, it is difficult to achieve with a win-lose mentality. To find effective solutions, we should look to successful models like Singapore and Switzerland, which prioritize preventative care and decentralization. Achieving bipartisanship is difficult but necessary for progress, and conscious leaders can drive change. However, the best solution to the healthcare problem lies in changing people's lifestyles and diets to prevent health issues from arising in the first place.

    • Health Monitoring and Personal Growth through Innovation and Reflection.Innovative technologies like the Apple Watch app can have a positive impact on our health by tracking important metrics like sleep patterns and alcohol intake. Additionally, personal growth can come from reflecting on our beliefs and realizing that the truth is complex and ever-changing.

      Innovations can help monitor and improve our health, as shown by the example of using an Apple Watch app to monitor sleep patterns and the effects of alcohol. While John Mackey regrets not having children, he values his partnership with his wife above all. He also admits that his political and religious beliefs have evolved over time, as he has realized that life is complicated and there is no absolute truth.

    • The Wisdom of Appreciating Every Stage of LifeEach stage of life has its own wisdom, and we should honor and appreciate them all. Youth is full of play and adventure, while age brings experience and perspective. Avoid judging others and take a more accepting stance.

      John Mackey's wisdom, gained through changing his beliefs and being more accepting, is that every stage in life has a certain wisdom to it. Youth has a wisdom to it that old forgets, which includes play, adventure, and a fresh openness towards life's offerings. As we get older, we tend to forget this, judging others who don't see what we see. Therefore, we should honor every cycle in life, every stage along the way, and not take a puritanical stance on things. Mackey's advice is passed on through his books, Conscious Capitalism and Conscious Leadership, both co-written with others.

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