Creating Conscious Cultures at Work with Diana Chapman

On the first episode of Wisq's podcast, "Happy Here," The Conscious Leadership Group co-founder Diana Chapman shares how to promote relaxed, open mindsets in the workplace
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Diana Chapman

Increasing employee engagement is no small feat, which is why Diana Chapman felt inspired to become a founding partner of the Conscious Leadership Group (CLG). “There have been Gallup polls coming out for years talking about how disengaged people are at work. And I thought, wait a minute. This is where everybody spends the majority of their lives, and they're disengaged,” says Diana. That trend hasn’t changed; a recent Gallup poll revealed that only 32% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and that employee engagement has, in fact, been dropping.

Diana realized that the solution was to use entirely different leadership tactics. Through her work with the CLG, she consults organizations on how to take a radical, new approach to engagement and inclusion. She’s even co-authored a best-selling book on the subject, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success.

Diana shared her methods with Wisq CEO Jim Barnett in Wisq’s podcast, Happy Here, where thought leaders talk about how to help people be happy at work. Below you’ll find highlights from their conversation and learn how to increase engagement at your company.

Get every employee on your team to take responsibility for culture

Diana believes that one of the first things leaders should do is get their employees to agree to be responsible for their role in creating the company culture. “I think of it like playing a game. When everyone learns the rules of the games, they just get along so much better. They think more creatively, they have more energy, and work starts to become a really engaging place.

For Diana, that means getting the team to agree to follow through on certain behaviors – or, as she puts it, to become co-committed. “Co-commitment means we all are going to commit to certain ways of life. For example, we are all going to commit to show up on time to meetings, so no one has to waste any creative energy wondering where someone is,” she says. “I focus on co-commitment first, with clear agreements around how we collectively all take responsibility for creating this environment in which we're also engaged.”

"[Organizations with conscious cultures] look like people who all recognize that we're just human. There's a lot of empathy for ourselves and each other. There's also a lot of real awareness about our impact on each other and how we can be supportive and nurturing versus antagonistic." - Diana Chapman

Intimacy and connection help teams work better

Diana has observed that employees work better together when they understand what their colleagues are dealing with outside of the office. She encourages teams to make a co-commitment to revealing instead of concealing

“When I work with teams, I ask them to finish the sentence, ‘If you really knew me, you would know ___.’ And I’m always touched by how vulnerable people get... All of a sudden, there’s this empathy that comes out. And now in the next meeting, they’re somebody their colleagues want to listen to a little more and they’re somebody their colleagues want to support a little more.”

“The more we can talk about our humanity, the more I find that people open up their hearts and minds to one another. The more you think of someone as kin, the more you want to treat them like you’d want somebody to treat your mother or brother if they were in that role. And that really brings out the best in each of us when that happens,” she says. “Some people argue that it takes time to get to know each other. But it’s worth it to slow down. The more in tune teams are to each other, the faster I see people go.”

Listen to emotions instead of suppressing them

Diana believes that when employees can’t express their emotions at work, it leads to fatigue. Instead, teams should co-commit to feel their feelings and let others do the same. “First of all, I think people need to understand that if you choose not to feel your feelings, you have to suppress yourself. You have to hold your breath a little bit, especially when big feelings want to come out, and that is exhausting. And I don't think people understand that when they’re tired at the end of the day, it often has to do with how much has been suppressed emotionally and how much they're trying to control the emotions of their colleagues.”

“Secondly, emotions are intelligent. Anger says, ‘Hey, something here is not serving me or my people. We need a change.’ Sadness recognizes, ‘Hey, we had a vision. We thought we'd have more users by now and we don't. Can we grieve the loss of what we hoped for and let it go?’ And fear says, ‘Hey, something needs to be learned.’ It's great to be scared. It lets you know you're in a situation where you have to pay attention to what you don't know to really be effective. So if people could get more comfortable with fear, sadness, and anger in themselves and others, we would be able to access that intelligence and know where and when to make change.”

Conscious leadership leads to a culture of learning

For Diana, the ultimate goal is for organizations to practice conscious leadership. She shares what those organizations look like: “They look like people who all recognize that we're just human. There's a lot of empathy for ourselves and each other. There's also a lot of real awareness about our impact on each other and how we can be supportive and nurturing versus antagonistic,” she says. “From there, a lot of learning happens. Learning gets way more interesting than wanting to be right.”


Want to hear more great insights on how to help your employees find happiness at work? Check out the Happy Here podcast today.

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