Takeaways from HigherPurpose17: Creating Authentic Connection with Stakeholders

Takeaways from HigherPurpose17: Creating Authentic Connection with Stakeholders

Takeaways from HigherPurpose17: Creating Authentic Connection with Stakeholders

Author Dalya Massachi,  of Writing to Make a Difference, attended HigherPurpose17 and shares the takeaways that she’s applying to her business.

I’ve  been involved with CCBA for several years now, and I wasn’t sure if I would benefit from HigherPurpose17.  The CCBA events I have attended in the past have given me a solid grounding in the principles and practices of Conscious Capitalism, socially responsible business, the triple bottom line (people, planet, profits) and even B Corporations. I wondered: Would there be any new information at HigherPurpose17 for me to learn?

It turns out, I’m so glad I attended the conference!

In addition to great networking opportunities (true of all CCBA events), there were two complementary sessions that really stood out for me. The first was a presentation by Christine Comaford, founder of the neuroscience-based Smart Tribes Institute. The second was a practicum session on one of the Four Tenets of Conscious Capitalism, Stakeholder Orientation, led by Cathy Goerz, Co-Chair of the CCBA Marketing & Communications Committee, and Ryan Baum, Principal of Jump Associates.

What I learned from Christine Comaford: Every person wants, needs and buys only 3 three things.

Christine shared that all humans crave social connection. We all want to cultivate a sense of being able to recognize each other as essentially the same at our core. We are all searching for three basic experiences:

  • Safety – feeling physically and emotionally safe so we can take risks and grow
  • Belonging – a sense of being an equal member of the tribe
  • Mattering – everyone contributes and is appreciated and acknowledged

These three needs vary in prominence at any given moment for each person. Sometimes we seek more of one feeling than another.

When we seek safety, belonging and mattering we are able to enter our “Smart State” – a state of being where we become connected and emotionally engaged and can perform well at work, at home and in life. This allows us to do our best work and create success in our jobs, families and relationships.

Christine Comaford, founder of the neuroscience-based Smart Tribes Institute


How can we satisfy these three basic human needs for the people we work with?

You probably have a client, colleague, co-worker or vendor who hungers for safety, belonging or mattering. As a leader, you can behave in ways and create environments that make them feel that they are safe, that they belong and that they matter.

In any given interaction, Christine suggests you ask yourself these questions:

  • What does this person desire most right now – safety, belonging or mattering?
  • What can I say and do to help them experience what they crave and then feel safe enough to shift into their “Smart State?”
  • How will they know when they have what they crave?

The answers to these questions can help both you and the other person move forward together, performing well and feeling connected.

The other standout session for me was the practicum on Stakeholder Orientation.

Here we’re simply talking about a way of doing business where everyone in the business ecosystem – employees, customers, partners, suppliers and the community –  wins. Businesses with a Stakeholder Orientation understand that fully engaged stakeholders lead to healthy, sustainable and resilient organizations.

I noticed how each stakeholder group has needs that are actually related to the safety, belonging and mattering experiences we all are seeking:

Customers want solutions, valuable experiences, convenience and alignment with a company’s purpose.

Team Members desire harmonious workplace relationships, professional development and values alignment.

Suppliers want reliability, consistency and partnership.

Investors are looking for a return on investment, company integrity and strength.

Communities seek positive relationships, investment by the company and pride.

The Environment requires stewardship and  sustainability.

How do you really understand where your stakeholders are coming from and what they need?

Cathy and Ryan had some suggestions:

  1. Be like Delta Airlines and make sure your executives know first-hand what it’s like to interact with your company’s stakeholders. (Think of the TV show “Undercover Boss.”) Only after a Delta senior executive posed as an employee did the company start to turn the corner and improve its standing in the industry.

Another airline, Southwest, empowers all of its employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to personally empathize with their customers. Both parties value that the company strives to embody its purpose: “To connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

Well-connected Southwest customer. Photo © Rusty Blazenhoff.


2. Ask your stakeholders directly – and listen beyond the words – by conducting stakeholder surveys and interviews. You will learn a lot about the people themselves, their needs and values and how they interact with your business.  

3. Participate in community gatherings and efforts. Provide opportunities for your organization to volunteer or offer financial support to community initiatives. Not only are you interacting with the people and businesses in your greater community but you are also in a better position to network and empathize with the wider environment you do business in.

4. Try this exercise: Ask yourself if you can guess what kind of gift a particular stakeholder would like to receive. How well do you know this person and can you really empathize with their personal needs and wants? If you can’t think of a gift they would like it’s time to start asking them more questions and listening more deeply.

As I reflect on my experience at HigherPurpose17, I am already thinking about how my small business will benefit from a strong focus on satisfying the safety, belonging, and mattering needs of all its stakeholders. How about your business? What are you doing to inspire connection and trust?


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