How Smart Leaders Apply Winning Earth Hour Practices to Workplace Culture

Earth Hour LogoThis Saturday, March 25th 2017 many people around the world will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Earth Hour. What started in Sydney by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has moved into 178 countries across 6 continents. By dimming lights for 60 minutes we are encouraged to shine a light on climate change.

The power of this movement is causing shifts in the environmental arena. According to the Earth Hour 2016 Report, these transformations include “legislative changes, promoting individual actions to protect forests, oceans and wildlife, encouraging sustainable behaviour and lifestyles, and helping spark global awareness and momentum on climate.” In just 10 years this small grassroots initiative has exploded onto the global stage, including space.  Watch this short 3 min clip Earth Hour 2017: 10 Years of Impact to learn more.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our workplaces could produce the same type of passion towards our products and services? What are the lessons we can learn from their success that we can apply to our own challenges?

Lesson #1

The Director General of WWF, Marco Lambertini advocates that “our actions today will define our tomorrow.” This is true of organizational culture, as well. As recently as last week, Fortune magazine published research proving yet again that organizations who actively manage their culture are producing better results.

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CEO’s would do well to pick up Lambertini’s mantra and apply it to their own workplace behaviours. When you consider how you’re managing your culture, how will your actions of today define tomorrow’s success?

Lesson #2

People love to be part of a cause. Earth Hour has gained significant momentum because people can relate to the cause. Nothing saps the energy out of a person more than participating in dull, repetitive, and meaningless work. While vision and mission have been buzz words in the business world, purpose is much more powerful. Best-selling author Simon Sinek gave one of the most viewed TED talks demonstrating how successful leaders inspire action by starting with the why. Why does your organization exist?

A great exercise is the 4-Why process. Perhaps Starbucks went through this exercise as they developed their mission. Maybe it looked like this:

Why #1 – Why do we exist? We exist to serve coffee

Why #2- Why do we exist? We exist to pick up people’s spirits

Why #3 – Why do we exist? To create a sense of neighborhood within our communities

Why #4 – Why do we exist? To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time

What’s the cause your organization serves through your products and services?

Lesson #3

Prior to 2016, the talk around climate change was all about data, science and policy. In 2016 Earth Hour decided to shift the conversation based on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s observation that climate change is a people problem. It was difficult for people to connect, to feel the impact and be driven to make a difference based on a stack of impersonal climate change information.

Could the same be true for your employees? Do you describe your organization based on data when you talk to employees?  How inspiring is it for them to read the latest revenue numbers, or gaze upon charts of orders filled, or scan the reductions in customer complaints?

Earth Hour has moved to storytelling.  Two short videos in particular stood out in 2016. The first is a widely-acclaimed co-production between the WWF and Iris Worldwide titled “The Future Starts Today.” The second, “Imagine Yourself in the Future”, was an impromptu production based on conversations with very young students from an American school in Singapore. In both cases, the message paints a positive picture of what the future could hold.  The message is personal, relatable, and inspiring.

What story does your business tell? How can you tie the data back into your why? What are the images you can use to make your message personal, relatable, and inspiring?

The folks at Earth Hour hope that they will “inspire and empower millions around the world to make the switch from passive bystanders to active participants in global efforts to fight climate change.” Whether you believe in their cause or not, imagine if you could apply their hope to your workplace. Imagine a workplace that inspires and empowers each employee across the organization to make the switch from passive bystander to active participant in the organization’s effort to deliver their purpose. That’s exactly what a strong vibrant culture can do.

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