With Shawn Vij, Business Leader with over 25 years of industry and consulting experience, Author of Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness
Steve’s guest, Shawn Vij, is an accomplished business leader and the author of Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness. After years of working in the corporate world, Shawn says he had an “awakening” when he met the Dalai Lama. That meeting gave him a renewed perspective on many things and the realization that it’s not what we attain in life, but how we attain it and what we do with it that really matters. Shawn calls this relegation of self-interest “conscious capitalism” and strongly believes it can make the world a better place.
Meeting The Dalai Lama One-to-One
Shawn says he was going through a tough time in his personal life, was very angry, and blamed everything around him for his woes. But, in a one-to-one meeting, the Dalai Lama got right to the point and asked Shawn if our greatest enemy is inside ourselves. This opened an inner door for Shawn Vij that led to introspection and self-awareness and inspired Shawn’s book, Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness.
Five Core Values That Great Leaders Share
In his book, Shawn talks about five core values that great leaders and great companies share.
Empathy: The first one is empathy, and it’s about really listening to, understanding, and caring for our colleagues, customers, and communities. And this empathy, such as really listening to what customers want, is key to many elements that drive business success.
Compassion: The second core value is compassion. And Steve’s relieved to hear it’s about more than hugs in the workplace. By compassion, Shawn refers to tough love in the context of raising a child, where you can love them by spoiling them or instead teach them how to become accountable, responsible, and productive participants.
Honesty: The third value that Shawn Vij highlights in his book, Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness, is honesty. While that sounds pretty straightforward, Shawn says great leaders have a high degree of authenticity about everything they say and do, and that is key to building trusted personal, professional, and business relationships. But building trust is not easy, says Shawn, because it requires that leaders show vulnerability, authenticity, and integrity, and take personal responsibility for errors of judgment or behavior.
Steve likens this to a highly reputable company that recently did some pretty bad things and ruined its reputation but then admitted to that bad behavior, apologized, was very transparent, and worked on fixing what they had done wrong. Shawn believes that’s a good approach and emphasizes the importance of being timely, calm, transparent, and direct, and says customers tend to be very forgiving if you are honest.
Loyalty: The fourth core value shared by great leaders is loyalty, which Steve believes is a bit of a rarity these days. Shawn agrees and emphasizes the added value of loyalty in times when it’s rare. He cites the example of Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, who really listens to his employees, wants them to succeed, and sees his loyalty reciprocated with lower employee attrition rates at Starbucks.
With Steve prompting him for other examples of corporate loyalty, Shawn cites John Mackey, the founder and CEO of Whole Foods, whose very purpose of existence is to serve the community, well beyond mere philanthropic giving.
Shawn says that when companies and their senior management deeply share these five core values, they tend to have stronger growth and higher profits over the long run and that stems from customers giving the love right back.
In closing, and on a bright note, Shawn tips his hat to the current generation of entrepreneurs and employees because he thinks they are committed to solid core values and on making a real difference in their communities.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: Some of us, if we’re lucky enough, get a second chance to reinvent our lives. My next guest is one of them and his journey took him to a most unexpected place, in my opinion. He is Shawn Vij. He’s an accomplished businessman whose resume includes leadership positions with Ford, Ernst & Young, Visa, Deloitte Consulting, and others. And he is going to talk to us about his book and his new journey. And he joins me now. Welcome to the show, Shawn.
Shawn Vij: Hey, Steve, thanks, appreciate it.
Steve Pomeranz: So you had a reawakening, so to speak, as I said. Describe your experience which led you to write this book.
Shawn Vij: Yeah, it was definitely an awakening. I mean I’ve been working in industries, I mentioned, about 25 years. Various roles, various capacities, all the way from working on the plant floor at Ford, all the way to managing multi-million dollar relationships with large corporations such as Microsoft and Intel. And I think what’s changed was I had an encounter what some people may call universal crossing or what have you, but what’s really changed is I had the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama.
Steve Pomeranz: Hm.
Shawn Vij: And that opened my mind to a lot of different things in different perspectives. In short, I realized that it’s not what we attain, but how we attain and what we do with it that matters. So, it was more of an awakening and an opportunity to kind of really figure out. I mean we go every day, right? All of us. Every day we go to work and we’re faced with compromising situations and our self-interest take over others at times. But there are opportunities to drive. And so I found, I guess, a new vision and I’ve gravitated to leaders. They really focus on what I would call conscious capitalism, and I’m a strong believer in and so that’s what’s happened.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, well you got to meet the Dalai Lama and he wrote the foreword to your book which is a very big deal. What did he say to you that was so profound?
Shawn Vij: [LAUGH] Yeah, so at the end, when we were talking at the end. I mean the first time I met him, it was for 20 minutes. It was just one-on-one. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him year after year and just recently this past spring. But the first time that really triggered to me, the thing that he said to me the most, that triggered was this. I was going through a really tough personal time and I think I was very angry and I was blaming everything around me. And I think what struck me was our greatest enemy is ourselves. And he got right to the point of getting right at the individual level of our emotions of anger, greed and ignorance and how to balance those. And so that started opening an inner door for me and required a lot of introspection in self-awareness on my part.
Steve Pomeranz: My guest is Shawn Vij. The book is Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness. And you’ve identified, Shawn, five core values that all great leaders have. Let’s go through them.
The first one is empathy. Explain that to me.
Shawn Vij: Yeah, empathy, you’ll hear like Satya Nadella who’s reached out, and he’s talking about empathy. You’ll hear a lot of leaders talk about it. And it’s really about understanding and really listening. Listening to our customers, caring about colleagues, customers, and communities. It’s really important. It’s very important. It’s a key element, empathizing because I think what we have is we have a tendency to do is not really listening. So it’s really listening. And I think it’s core to a lot of, I would say, product innovation actually. It’s also core to a lot of other elements in business. So empathy, I think is a key element.
Steve Pomeranz: So, it’s more like listening and kind of understanding where the person’s coming from. The second one is compassion. Well, I mean that sounds pretty straightforward, what do you have to tell us about that?
Shawn Vij: Well, compassion again. It sounds this straightforward, but I’m not talking about the hugs in the workplace.
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH]
Shawn Vij: What I’m talking about-
Steve Pomeranz: Thank heavens.
Shawn Vij: Yeah, what I’m talking about, I mean there are companies that do that, right? I’m not saying, but what I’m talking about is what I call tough love, right? Like you raise a child. You can love them by spoiling them or really teaching them how to learn and take accountability. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about compassion.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, the third core value is honesty. It sounds pretty straightforward, what does that mean to you?
Shawn Vij: Well, it means at the end of the day, we’ve all heard things about authentic leadership. It’s really about being authentic, and that’s where the introspect. I mean, honesty is being given and that’s a core bridge of building trust, right, over time. And it’s in our interaction with our colleagues every day, and I think it’s a key requirement, a core element in business is trust. Achieving trust requires leaders to show vulnerability, authenticity, and integrity. It just means being honest, transparent, admitting to our fragility, and forgiving ourselves, but at the same time taking accountability.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, well I was thinking about a company recently that had a very high reputation, and in a sense, ruined it, because they were doing some bad things that people in this field should not do. And then basically they came out and they were very transparent. They said, hey, we goofed, and we were bad and we’re doing everything we can to fix it. Is that good enough, do you think, to kind of fulfill that function of honesty?
Shawn Vij: I think it’s part of it. I mean, we heard a couple years ago, Volkswagen, right, on the emissions.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Shawn Vij: And you hear about that, but they came right out, right? I think the key there is being timely, being calm, being transparent, and being direct. Not only to your colleagues and your employees but the customers.
And is that enough? I guess I think what you’ll find is customers tend to be very forgiving if you are honest.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Shawn Vij: Yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. Well we’re all human, so it’s really the question of if you end up doing something dishonest or not criminal, but just morally wrong, you own up to it and take responsibility for it. The book is Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness.
I’m speaking with Shawn Vij, who is the author. The fourth core value, Shawn, is loyalty. Now that’s something that seems to have gone away a lot in business these days. Businesses aren’t that loyal to their employees, and therefore, also, employees are not as loyal. Explain that in your view.
Shawn Vij: Yeah, no, that’s an interesting one. I grew up in a time where having worked at Ford and, for example, my father is enjoying a 20-year pension, right? I mean it’s a different time now, and now you’re seeing millennials coming and they’re crushing that, the loyalty.
I think companies today, a lot of them, are hiding behind this at-will employment, and so I think it’s important. But at the same time, I think, I’m starting to see a change of loyalty. An example would be just recently with Howard Schultz.
Steve Pomeranz: Mm-hm.
Shawn Vij: Really listening to his employees and just taking a stand with those employees and showcasing that loyalty with his employees.
And in turn, that reciprocation happens and employees tend to stay longer. The attrition is stronger in certain companies because of that. So, you’ll see I’m starting to see more of that, yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: So, you highlighted Starbucks as an example. What other companies are a good example of using these five core values to run their businesses?
Shawn Vij: I mean, having been, I’ll just tell you, in the Seattle area, where I’m from. I mean, I grew up in the Detroit area, but I look at companies for today. And obviously, they change and evolve. I mean, I look at companies such as Starbucks. I look at Nordstrom’s. The company that I really look up to and a person I look up to is John Mackey at Whole Foods.
Steve Pomeranz: Mm-hm.
Shawn Vij: And so I see those types of companies where it’s not just about philanthropy. It’s not just about giving things away. It’s about being a conscious business. It’s about serving your community, serving the people around you. The community is not just another stakeholder in the business, but I believe it’s the very fact the very purpose of its existence. And those types of companies are going to have, I would say stronger growth, stronger prosperity. And you’re seeing that. And I look at a perfect one Microsoft. It’s reinvented itself. And the culture, I mean having lived in both cultures, I see the change and the evolution. And so taking these values such as empathy and loyalty and respect. These core values, people could argue the short term, but for the long run, in the long game, I think these are the things that good companies you start to see. And shareholders see that.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. I think the current generation that’s coming up and starting to run these businesses, I feel very positive about because I think they’re using these core values more and more to make a change in their communities.
My guest, Shawn Vij, author of Moral Fiber: Awakening Corporate Consciousness. The book can be found at moralfiber.world. And to hear this interview again and listen to the full show, or get a summary of the vital lessons learned here today, go to our website, which is stevepomeranz.com.
And while you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for our weekly update, where we’ll send you important lessons from the show, interesting takes on and summaries of what we’re saying and what we’re talking about. And will go straight to your inbox weekly. Shawn, thank you so much for joining us.
Shawn Vij: Thank you, Steve, appreciate it.