Aligning Your Business With Your Values with Bessi Graham

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

In this episode with Bessi Graham, we discuss how many business leaders are trapped in a mindset that sees doing good and making money as an either/or choice that forces them to choose one.

Takeaways We Learned from Bessi…

Leadership starts with self-knowledge.

Great leaders understand that they must first lead themselves before leading others. Self-awareness lays the foundation for effective leadership, allowing you to bring out the best in yourself and others.

Cultivate a mindset of “both and.”

It’s not a choice between doing good and making money. Embrace the idea that you can create a business that aligns with your values and makes a positive impact while still being profitable.

Empower others by recognizing their brilliance.

As a leader, when you acknowledge and embrace your own strengths, it becomes easier to create a platform for others to shine. Encourage and support your team members in showcasing their brilliance as well.

Watch out for the “either or” mindset.

Be mindful of statements that separate doing good and making money as mutually exclusive. Instead, seek opportunities to integrate purpose-driven initiatives within your business model.

Define your own version of success.

Avoid falling into the trap of living someone else’s dream. Take a moment to reflect on what success means to you personally and professionally, independent of external expectations.

Pause and reflect before charging ahead.

When setting goals and pursuing achievements, take the time to pause and reflect on whether they truly align with your values and vision. Rushing without self-awareness can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Ground yourself in values and a clear vision.

Develop a deep understanding of your values, how you behave, and what truly matters to you. Additionally, define a clear vision of what you want to achieve or move towards. Being grounded and having a sense of purpose will lead to a more fulfilling journey.

Embrace individuality and uniqueness.

Recognize that alignment and integrity are subjective concepts that can vary for each person and business. Embrace the diversity of perspectives and find your own path to success based on your values and passions.

Legacy and contribution.

Define success based on your ability to make a positive impact in the world and leave a meaningful legacy. Connect your brilliance and passion with a cause that aligns with your values and makes a difference.

Making money with integrity.

Shift the focus from “either-or” thinking to a win-win approach in business. Consider how you make money, the decisions you make in your business, and the impact they have on the world.

A synergistic business model.

Look for creative ways to align your business objectives with positive impact. An example could be a business that empowers and supports artisans while providing high-quality products that meet market demand.

Start where you are.

Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to do good. Begin by focusing on areas where you have decision-making power and influence, such as team culture, customer impact, or supply chain sustainability.

Take small, meaningful steps.

The journey towards making a positive impact may start with one area of focus, but it can grow organically over time. Take small steps in alignment with your values, and the impact will naturally expand.

Share your journey.

Share your actions and initiatives to do good in the world with others. Encourage and inspire others to take steps in their businesses and lives, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

About Bessi Graham

Bessi Graham is an award-winning entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience working with business owners, governments, and large funding bodies to bring doing good and making money back together.

Bessi works with established business leaders who want to build on their success and align their company with their values but are concerned about the impact of these changes on their bottom line. Showing them that they can do good and make money. In fact, doing good is the competitive advantage their business has been missing.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast, I am your host and executive business coach Allison Dunn. Our topic today is aligning your business with your values. And our guest is Bessi Graham. She is an award winning entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience working with business owners, governments and large funding agencies and bodies to bring good and making money back together. That’s he thinks that so many business leaders are trapped in a mindset that sees doing good and making money as an either or choice that forces them to choose one. She believes you don’t have to choose. But you do have to cultivate a mindset of both. I love that. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Bessi: My absolute pleasure.

Allison: I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners today?

Bessi: For me, I think leadership always starts with self-knowledge.

So great leadership has that foundation of self-awareness and the understanding that we can’t lead others until we lead ourselves.

So that is always the entry point for me for any conversation around leadership.

Allison: I think that’s the first time I’ve heard that tip. And it’s like, the essence of everything is that being self-aware of who we need to be brings betterness and goodness and greatness to everyone else that we touch? And so it’s always us? The answer is always us.

Bessi: Yeah. And I think when you do that, well, and it really sinks in the importance of that self-knowledge of showing up in the fullness of who you are, and being conscious of your brilliance, what it leads to, is you then start to realize, oh, I should create this platform for other people’s brilliance, how do they show up? And so I think it all flows from there.

And it’s not that it’s, everything’s about me, as the leader, but it is, unless we start from that place, I don’t think we get to the beauty of realizing what everybody else can also bring.

Allison: Yeah, yeah. Well said, Thank you for that. We, I just kind of teed up the idea that you recognize that leaders sometimes feel like they need to make a choice like is this worth this? And I love the idea of a both and mindsets. What is one thing that someone might recognize if that’s a mindset they need to work on? What are they saying? What are they thinking? What are they not allowing to happen to be able to have both?

Bessi: So the biggest sort of alarm bell or light, for me would be with the business leaders that I work with, because I’m always trying to help them to think about how do you do good and make money in the same business model? The piece that shows if you’ve got that either or mindset happening for you, is that people make comments like, well, Bessie, I did set up a business like I’m running a business here.

So that’s lovely, but it’s not a charity. So they’ll make comments about Yeah, well, we actually we make donations at the end of the year, or were supporting this charity. And so what they’re doing in those types of statements, is showing this unconscious idea that the world of business has one purpose, which is to make money or profit maximization. And the world of charities and donations is where you contribute and do good in the world. So that is always a giveaway when someone makes those types of comments. Okay.

Allison: And I think that that’s a really good that’s those are good words to think about, about how we’re talking about our business, for sure. You have a statement about how to avoid making, you know, living someone else’s life. So defining our own success for what we need for our business. And I would love for you to just kind of share some concepts of am I living someone else’s dream? Am I living someone else’s life? And how would you even know, because I have lived someone else’s dream before?

Bessi: Well, I think most of us who are achievers and driven and goal setting type people have fallen into that trap at some point. It’s very common, and it’s totally natural that we do that. And part of it is because if we go back to that aspect of self knowledge, our strengths are our weaknesses. There’s a flip side to everything. And so the very thing that allows us to be brave enough to go after goals that other people would be too scared to and that jumps in there and makes things happen that seem Impossible.

That same part of us has a tendency to see a goal or hear someone talk about something, and jump, and we just jump straight to action. And there isn’t that reflection and pause to say, oh, okay, so I’m hearing everyone talking about getting to eight figures in their business.

And I’m at multiple, seven, and I thought that was great. But obviously, the next goal is I need to hit eight.

And then you go, and you charge after that, and you do what it takes to achieve that goal, only to then get to a point where you feel exhausted and not motivated, and you’re no longer loving what you do. And you think that how can that be, I’m doing all the right things, you know, I’m ticking the boxes, I am achieving what people said was the next goal. And so I think the common theme that comes up, when we realize we’ve come to that place of living someone else’s idea of success is we’re in a difficult place to admit to other people that when not actually content, because it almost feels selfish, because you think, wow, how could I possibly be unhappy or not think this is enough.

If anybody looked at my life, they would say, tick, tick, tick, you’ve got it all going. So there’s a discomfort to admit that we’re not happy. And there is also real confusion there. Because it doesn’t make sense that when you’ve done the right things, and when you’ve worked really hard, and you’ve achieved what the world has told you successes, why are those things not gelling. And for me it all at the heart of it is in that pause, and it’s in that aspect of have you actually identified what success means for you, rather than taking on board, whatever the next goal is that society or your family or those you work with have set for you.

Allison: I appreciate the pause in like the right way to work someone through that path. What are some of the questions that you would have someone reflect on to identify whether they are on their own path to success and defining what it means for them?

Bessi: Well, it’s interesting because again, if we go back to what are some common language, often people use really lovely words like alignment or integrity. So there’s these types of words.

The challenge I always give to people in the questions I asked them around those things is, if you haven’t really clearly named what success looks like, if you haven’t clearly got a grounding foundation in an understanding of what are your values?

How do you behave? What’s important to you? And it’s pretty hard to even know if you’re aligned, or if you’re behaving with integrity, because aligned to what, right, that has not been named? And so that’s the question, I think, is to come back to saying, there’s always this beautiful depths between the aspects that are uniquely you in terms of that self-knowledge piece, and understanding your brilliance and your preferences and your values. And then the pieces that are just deeply human.

And I would say that the aspects that are deeply human are that we need to feel a sense of being grounded in something. And I think the best thing to be grounded in is an understanding of your values, who you are, how you behave. But if we’re just in that place, that’s not very satisfying, because we need as humans to feel that sense of, okay, I’m making progress, I’m moving towards something. And so the second piece we have to have clarity on is that vision. Now you can call that what you’d like it might be your ideas of success, it might be some goals or particular purpose that you have in life, that we need to have a clear understanding of what we’re moving towards. And when you have both of those places of being grounded in something and moving towards something, I think you can answer those questions in a much more meaningful way.

Allison: I often have conversations with clients or prospects. And you know, I do I use the word alignment all of the time. And yet, it’s very difficult to define what it means for anyone because it’s so unique and individualistic. And also the word that you use integrity, like how do you define that?

Bessi: Yeah. How do you find that? Well, again, I think the aspects that if we come down to starting to accept that everyone is different, and that actually every person, every business, all of these things aren’t going to look the same. It won’t just be an off the shelf answer to these questions. That’s actually both freeing and exciting, I think so I’ve been in the impact investment space in all of the area’s for over 20 years now that have been looking at how do we start to have the components of having an impact positive impact in the world that’s measurable. But doing that in a way that also has financial returns. And when you look at those pieces, what’s interesting is starting to, really, again, come back to these aspects of saying, I don’t want every business to only be passionate about plastics in the ocean, because there’s lots of other issues what so that’s great.

Some people need to be passionate about that. Some people need to be passionate about education. Some people need to be passionate about aged care, and how we look after our elders, these types of pieces if we can relax into not being so purist about either what is good? Or what does a business look like? Or what is integrity and having one answer, when we open that up and say, All of us are buying a whole range of products and services every morning, when you wake up, there’s 1000s of things in your home that you’ve made a decision about, that you’ve spent money on, that has taken up resources, I want each of those businesses, whether it is physical products or services, I’m buying to be conscious of what each of these questions mean for them, and then to live that out in a way that has integrity that is aligned for them, because that is where we start to get the broader impacts happening. Not with everyone having to focus on one issue or one definition.

Allison: Am I appreciate that? Do you have a personal way? You’ve just defined success for yourself, Bessie?

Bessi: Yeah, so for me, it does connect back into the aspects that are important to me in terms of my values. But one of those has always been about legacy as an adult. And as an individual, it’s around legacy. When I was growing up in my family, the version of that would have been around framed as social justice. So it was the contribution piece, I was brought up very much with the category of to whom much is given much as expected, how are you going to make a difference? And so for me, the success piece is always around the combining, where does my contribution and brilliance match up with something that actually makes a difference in the world? And that has always been in my career around business itself? Because I think it can play such a powerful role. So the How can I contribute to changing the way businesses are run so that they can make a positive difference? Is that sweet spot for me of am I making a difference and contributing in that area? Yeah, that

Allison: Yeah, that must have been one of the things that had us connect today, because that is also a similar value to why I do what I do as well. So legacy is important. And it means a lot of different things. So thinking, Can we just kind of shift a little bit and talk about how making money is just as important as what we do with it? Once we have?

Bessi: Again, I think this comes back to the how we think and thinking bigger, because when we fall into that trap of the either or mindset, so thinking we have to pick one. That’s when business can fall into a trap of being okay, I won’t actually think too much about the decisions inside the business of how I’m spending money, what my supply chain looks like, what my packaging is, or how I know what the environmental damages to the when I’m posting things or any of those kinds of practical questions. We ignore that because we have put the business in the category of its job is to make money. And when I have money, I then will think about what I do with that, that is aligned and connected to what I want to be part of in the world.

The reason I always say to people, how you make money is just as important as what you do with it is that so much more of the aspects we have influence and control over and so much more of the broader impacts we’re having in the world, come down to those direct everyday decisions that we’re making.

And if it’s only going to be a percentage of profit that you’re giving away, or some kind of donation that allows you to do good in the world.

That’s such a limited way to look at what your role is. Every single one of us is already having an impact.

Each of our businesses is already having an impact. And so I like to get people to do that piece of bringing good back

Inside the business and saying, Okay, if I end up making a donation and contributing, whether that’s financially or with my time, as a result of the business doing well, that’s great. But let’s think of that as the icing on the cake. It’s not the actual cake itself, that’s not the entirety of the good I can do. And so when we make that shift into taking account for how we make our money in the first place, that’s when we start to look at those decisions. I mentioned before where am I spending the most money? How am I treating my team? What does the supply chain look like in terms of the conditions of workers? What’s the impacts of our products being developed? Should we start to ask some different questions and use our minds to innovate and create something that has a win win? Rather than that win lose? Where? Yes, we’ve made a lot of money. But my goodness, there was a lot of negative consequences as a result of that.

Allison: Yeah. You’re broadening the topic in the sense of like creating a model that is a win win in the business that you’re doing every day. And I just I love that as the foundation of what we then build upon. What’s the most creative when you’ve seen a company take like, what it is that they do to make money and then how they spend it, can you give us an example of just like a really fun, synergistic representation of that?

Bessi: What I think one of the most beautiful examples of that is actually an organization in Bangladesh, where they had a bunch of their mission or passion in the world was around, making sure that the women who were artisans making these beautiful clothes were actually paid properly and treated with the respect they deserved often in supply chains in manufacturing and clothing. These women are working in factories where the conditions are terrible, pays terrible. And the idea is for that labor to be as cheap as possible. What this organization did, though, that took us out of that category of being purist and trying to be all things to all people and have a cheap product, but pay people well and then wonder why it’s not sustainable, was they realized, if we’re going to have a business model, where in the backend of our business, it’s actually quite expensive, because we want to make sure these women are paid properly treated as the artisans they are, we want their families to have access to health care and their children to have access to education. That means we need to actually have quite an expensive product. And so they looked around the market. And this is what you have to do, you have to actually look and see where those opportunities lie and be creative.

And they realized that in Bangladesh, people would pay significant money, wealthy people for clothes to wear to weddings. And so they set up this whole supply chain, they do everything from the silk worms growing the silk, and I’ve been over there and seen their whole process through to retail stores selling these stunning clothes, but in their marketing in the way that they present things. It’s not this feel good story of Look, you’ve helped these women, it’s all about the respecting and honoring the craftsmanship of the workers making this this product, and then how extraordinary and beautiful the clothes are. And they’re expensive. And it’s this piece where the business model actually works.

It’s doing incredible things in the lives of the families that are in the back end of the business. But it hasn’t tried to turn itself into something that’s having to sell someone’s story to actually do good in the world. Because I think that can be quite dehumanizing. We think we’re helping but we actually dehumanize people in the process.

Allison: Great example. Thank you for that. I guess my final question is, is if someone feels like they’re waiting, waiting for an opportunity to do good some day? What words of wisdom would you give them to start where they are and start now?

Bessi: So I would just simply say that piece of you can do good now. So if we come back to instead of being overwhelmed by the hugeness of the big problems that are out there in the world, start with looking at in your business, where do you spend the most money? If that is on your team? And you know, the people that that you’re hiring, start there. Think about the culture you’re creating, think about their wellbeing, what are their stress levels, like what are the conditions that that you are creating within your organization? So look at the places where you have decision making rights where you’re spending the most money where you have some influence. And rather than be overwhelmed with the hugeness of everything else that’s happening in the world, start with how you’re showing up, and the flow on effects from that it can grow out from there and start to become, you know that you’re gradually informed by more areas. But whatever that looks like for you, there will tend to be a natural entry point. For most people, it will either be a customer focus, so it will be around, what are the impacts you’re creating as a result of your product or service in transforming someone’s life on the customer side. So that might be your entry point. Or it could be that team focus that I mentioned of actually the culture you’re creating in house with your team members. Or if you’re creating a physical product, then production and that looking at your supply chain, looking at the conditions of workers looking at the environmental impact, those are usually there’ll be one of those that will seem like a natural entry point. So start where you are with the decisions you already have control over so you don’t get demoralized.

Allison: Yeah, fantastic Bessi. Thank you so much for that. I just want to encourage our listeners who are here with us today, that stuck waiting for one day you can do good now and if you would share in the comments on this channel of what it is that you decide to do. That would be very inspiring for other listeners, Betsy, I’m going to have your contact information in our show notes. And I just thank you so much for your time today.

Bessi: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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