We’re continuing the series on The Seven Responsibilities of the 21st Century CEO with #2: Create a Culture of Consent. 

Consent is all about choice. Choosing to be somewhere, choosing to participate, choosing to go above and beyond… And that’s exactly what we want from our teams: a deliberate, willing choice to contribute. Not forced, not obligated, but enthusiastically and consciously making a decision to be an active team member. 

To provide such a choice, however, it’s up to the leader to create an environment where such decisions aren’t just possible, but encouraged. This all starts with listening and truly valuing the unique complexity of each individual. They all have something to share and unique perspectives to offer, but a leader has the power to encourage or squash this incredible potential. 

Don’t dictate, invite! 

How do you see employees? As family? Helping hands? Enemies? Friends? Coworkers? Partners? Talents you admire?  

Building an atmosphere of consent starts with you, the CEO, seeing your key role as a convening function in the organization. You’re there to get people thinking for the organization, to take responsibility for creating what matters to them. The biggest risk of doing this is refusal. 

You’re not making people agree with you… Rather, you’re inviting them on a great quest. 

You’re a hope dealer who, much like a Sherpa on a mountain climb, is a guide. You don’t carry luggage for employees… You open doors, and they go through them because you’re creating a non-violating workplace where people become more of themselves. 

You are the coach (encourager), challenger (engineer and economist), and creator (artist). Seeing others in terms of what you admire is a process of seeing what is best in others and drawing it out. Therefore, the x-factor of all great leadership is humility. You build the business as a community of citizens who make four fundamental leadership choices:  

  1. To be the predominant creative force in their lives and business/career
  2. To be 100% responsible for their own security (there are no cures for uncertainty; security is an illusion)
  3. To choose to create value for others before expecting opportunity (with a “no entitlement” attitude)

  4. To choose to live their lives with their personal gifts and talents out front (from their authentic, essential Self)  

CEOs who thrive in an atmosphere of consent pay tribute to the power of thought, reflection, and learning as survival. Creating is synonymous with learning because building shared vision and creating an alternative future requires saying “yes” first, then learning how. The pursuit of a shared vision is greater than what the vision actually IS. Rather, it’s what the vision DOES that counts.  

Set up your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly meeting framework to bring data and rhythm together. Keep a good pulse on a single daily metric that is the king of them all in terms of creating the future.  

Get everyone in the organization tuned into the #1 daily metric. Ritz Carlton hotels looks at Trip Advisor daily, and everyone in their daily huddle (all 82 employees) knows the feedback from most recent guests.  

Get your management team measuring the five critical success factors that determine if the #1 metric is trending positive, and on-track toward the realization of the business vision.  

Set up monthly strategic sessions as a group (along with biweekly one-on-ones with your core management team) to think together, learn through dialog and discussion, and keep small problems from becoming bigger ones.  

Use quarterly off-site gatherings to set the direction every 90 days, with a key focus on playing 12 quarters over a 3-year timeline to set and reach long term business objectives. Make these interactive, fun, and activity-driven for team building and team learning. Quarterly planning can be organized around strategic planning half the time, and team development the other half. 

Have your managers involve everyone on all levels to systematize, document, and memorialize their activities. Make everyone’s top priority to replace themselves by delegating their way to the next opportunity. Go big with upward mobility planning and promotion to build career tracks for staying the course.  

Think about a work environment driven by “OST” – that is: open, safe, and transparent. People should be able to provide critical or contrary opinions without feeling like their job is at risk. They should feel safe bringing their concerns to leadership, offering alternative ways of doing things, or simply speaking up if they have questions. All of this builds toward a company culture of consent that allows everyone on the team to communicate clearly and embrace being themselves. 

How do you think about your team? Do you see them as “weak” people who need a strong leader? Or do you see them as collaborative partners who are perfectly capable on their own – and you’re just inviting them along on this journey?

The latter allows for a focus on wellbeing beyond just profit. It allows you to look for the best in people and concentrate on drawing it out for the overall good of the team. Part of your purpose as a leader is to break down the barriers that are preventing people from truly shining. 

In the audio linked below, we’ll look closer at how to build your business with a culture of consent, autonomy, and personal sense of purpose. The guiding principles here are all about the choices you make as a leader to let your team make choices for themselves. 

As people flourish in roles that fit their personalities and highlight their strengths, as they make an enthusiastic, repeated decision to be a key member of the team, their potential for transformative success will only continue to grow. 

Listen to the audio below for the full picture: