The following blog was published on LinkedIn in February 2022.
As in our personal life, all businesses require trusted relationships in order to operate successfully. Traditional stakeholder engagement is a process that passes information to a business, so they can help fulfil their needs, purpose, and build trust. But building trust requires more than sharing information. We need to share values, emotions, and beliefs; we need heart!
At JustOne, we developed the HEART Approach which aims to build long-lasting trusted connections in life and business. We believe both individuals and businesses have a huge opportunity to change our communities for the better through all our interaction. Eventually, we can solve some of the world’s biggest challenges such as the lack of social justice, the climate crisis, economic instability, and the polarisation of views to name a few.
We need each other
We are social beings that require others, not only to feel comfortable and safe, but also to ensure we have the necessities of life. In times of collective crisis, we always see more people helping each other, because we can empathise with the situations of others.
“Cooperation lies at the heart of human lives and society — from day-to-day interactions to some of our greatest endeavours.”*
We need each other, especially in our globalised economy, therefore it is safe to say that trust should be at the heart of a truly healthy, happy, and functioning world. Choosing to be selfish (and yes, this is a choice) may seem like the most logical and rewarding in a competitive world, but when we share knowledge, resources, and skills, we accomplish a lot more… and humanity evolves.
So why is there so much rivalry, bigotry, and conflict in the world? Much of it, particularly in business, comes down to trusting each other. If you choose to give and build trust (yes, this again is a choice), and are determined to overcome any obstacles that stand in your way, we know relationships become much stronger.
Studies have shown that people who feel the positive effects of trust are the ones who value compassion over power and achievement.* Whether it be personal or business relationships, trusting each other will lead to true cooperation, sharing, increased prosperity, and in some beautiful cases… love.
We at JustOne spent last year developing systems in our business that utilised the HEART Approach to build trusted relationships. This is what happened:
All our team were educated and engaged with the HEART Approach, and we asked them to employ it with our clients. At first, there was a feeling in the team that “we do this anyway”, but in consciously following this process, we found ourselves planning an overarching ‘way of being’ in every meeting or workshop. Here are some examples:
- We deliberately employ ‘humility’ for onboarding new clients by asking questions, listening attentively, and understanding challenges. We talk a lot less in these meetings and become a sponge for client stories, giving us more nuanced information to advise clients even better.
- As facilitators in client workshops where there would be debates, we were clear that we had to encourage ‘respectfulness’ so that everyone was heard, differing viewpoints were encouraged, and we found mutually beneficial decisions could be made. We noticed a considerable increase in optimism, passion, and enthusiasm at the end of each session. We also found that clients were much more likely to give us unsolicited feedback on ways we could improve, or on how good the sessions were.
- We encourage open and honest conversations with our clients regarding fees; that starts with the understanding of their situation. As our services transform businesses for the future, we have developed an equitable tiered fee model based on value to the client. This enables us to charge what clients can afford – higher fees for larger companies, and low or no-profit fees for small companies or charities. We place clients into a tier based on their accounts (i.e. annual turnover, profitability, number of employees, etc.), and ensure we adopt a humble attitude because we don’t know the ins and outs of a client’s challenges. After giving our fees to a client, we ask them to let us know if the fees do not match their budget – we say:
The overall result was much closer relationships with our clients….
“JustOne is one of the most inspiring companies and teams I have had the privilege to work with… I can say it’s 100% the best decision you could make. Matt Sal and the team at JustOne are great listeners and phenomenally good at what they do. For anyone interested in a sustainability career, you could not choose a better company.”
– Dominic Offer, Director of Client Engagement & Sustainability Committee at Bristol Global Mobility
Our client relationships are much longer lasting too. Because we trust each other, we are given further mandates to help clients achieve their goals, we are referred to work with their suppliers, and clients feel free to ask us questions at any time; whether we are getting paid or not. Overall, we gained ten more clients, our revenue doubled over one year, we hired three more team members, and our impact on society, environment and economy increased due to our reach.
There wasn’t one client that couldn’t work with us on the HEART approach, but when it came to potential clients, we were much more aware of companies that would be hard to work with, who didn’t align to our values, or were more interested in ticking boxes than creating a sustainable impact. In those instances, we chose not to peruse the work. Because of these learnings, we will use 2022 to develop a system to choose our clients and sectors better. Nice and Serious, one of our partners, have starting thinking on a Moral Compass tool that we will explore.
Collaboration over competition
JustOne was founded on the principle that we can collectively solve the world’s biggest problems if we collaborate. We believe sustainability professionals, more than anyone else, should demonstrate and encourage collaboration, because we are bound by a common purpose to make the world a better place. If we focus on this purpose, we should not try to out-do each other, but collaborate by bringing our knowledge, services, and innovations together.
From day one, we have been developing partnerships with our peers to do just this; and we are proud to have 10 purpose-led companies on board that align with our values. Building trust between peers and competitors isn’t always easy, but using the HEART Approach, it’s really worked well. The result is that our clients love that we can solve most of their challenges with a one-stop-shop for sustainability know-how. All our partners benefit from gaining new customers, and the world benefits from more companies taking sustainable action. About 60% of new business comes from our partners, which provides us with extra financial security. Thank you partners:
Meeting individual employee needs
When we applied our HEART Approach to our team, ‘humility’ made us flip the standard employee management business model on its head. Instead of asking “how can employees fit the business need?” we asked, “how can the business fit individual employee needs?”. We are all very different and require bespoke solutions to maximise our happiness, health, and wellbeing.
We have taken time and effort to listen to each other and adopt changes into our policies and procedures. For example, our bereavement policy only included immediate family; it did not include specific groups of people that were held close and dear by our colleagues. We thought, who are we to decide if someone feels bereaved? Because we 100% trust our people, we changed our policy to give 100% discretion to the employee; their manager just needs to be informed. We hire and develop people based on their attitude and values, so we are confident they will not abuse the system because they care about the business, their clients, and colleagues. As we grow, we will continually hold conversations on all our policies.
The happiness and wellbeing of everyone we work with is crucial; particularly our employees and freelancers. By understanding their needs and wants, we create personal development plans to achieve both career and life goals. For example, I’ve always wanted a dog but my job meant I would not have the time to care for it. Now, one of the goals on my plan is “get a dog by the end of 2022”, so we are changing how my time is used in the business to accommodate this life goal. Embracing diversity means we understand everyone has different ambitions. Whether it be getting a dog, having a child, or even achieving a new fitness goal, our business will do what we can to help people be happy; and that builds trust.
EMPOWER 2025: Our Business Strategy
Business as usual is no more. To really spark positive change and remain true to our purpose, we need evolve consistently, and we want other companies to do the same. That is why we will be a testing ground for ideas and innovations that will challenge the status quo, and create truly sustainable businesses. We will take on all the risks so your business doesn’t have to.
Late last year we launched our Empower 2025 strategy framework with a vision; by 2025, we will be an exemplar business by continually pushing the boundaries of sustainability; empowering others to learn, transform, and thrive. We will test any feasible idea if it will take us closer to this vision and, whether they work or not, we will communicate our progress so others can build on what we have done.
The HEART approach has inspired the framework of Empower 2025, and will shape the long term goals we are currently creating and will launch later this year. These goals will turn our sustainability ambitions into tangible actions, and together we will strive to achieve them by 2025. We know we aren’t perfect, and we will face challenges along the way. But from challenges arise new opportunities and our commitment to you is to remain humble and real by sharing both our victories and learnings with everyone.
Now it’s your turn
The HEART approach isn’t only for JustOne. It’s for everyone. We are passionate about sharing the possibilities this approach could have for your business. We will be developing a thought leadership paper and running complimentary HEART workshops with some of our clients. If you are interested as well, please send us a message.
We would also love your feedback on this approach – feel free to challenge us too! If you have something you’d like to share, please do so in the comments below, or send me a direct message.
Lots of love 😉
A note from Dave:
With everything happening in the world right now, I felt it important to get this blog out. There are so many good, caring people in our world. It’s easy to forget this when we watch the news, full of conflict and rivalry. I’ve always believed that business has the ability to solve world problems. If we can teach people processes and technical skills to make or sell things, we can also teach people values and emotional skills to be kind, caring, and trustworthy. Maybe then, as we live our lives, we will create a world of cooperation over conflict. Businesses can do more to foster happiness and peace than we realise. We need each other to survive and thrive. At JustOne UK, we developed the HEART Approach which aims to build long-lasting trusted connections in life and business. We spent last year applying the approach with all our stakeholders. This blog showcases the results. The HEART approach:
And here is how I applied it to my life:
Early last year, I uprooted myself after 17 years in London and moved to Brighton. I saw this as a way to really focus on my health and wellbeing. I don’t have family in the UK so my friends have always been my extended family, so the need to develop strong relationships is really important to me. I thought my move to a new city was a great opportunity to consciously work through the HEART Approach:
Using humility, I asked questions and listened to new people I met rather than talking too much like I normally do in new situations. I found I assumed less about people based on immediate impressions, what they looked like, or my own preconceptions. I really got to know them, and they about me. I also quickly gained a lot of knowledge about Brighton life that made my integration much easier.
I found that empathy for others followed naturally. I was identifying with their challenges and celebrating their successes.
Because I was able to learn and identify with them, I could see things from their point of view and was able to accept them for who they are; rather than casting judgement quickly.
I met many people that held opinions different to my own; particularly around politics. Instead of dismissing those opinions and pulling each other into rude tussles (which we especially see on social media), a mutual respect formed. I can easily see these wouldn’t have formed if we didn’t accept each other’s stories and worldviews beforehand.
After almost a year of living in my new city, I can happily say that I have a lot of new friends. I also have a handful of trusted relationships that I can rely on – people that I can count on when I need help or if I feel down; and they can count on me too.