By J. Kim Wright for Enlivening Edge Magazine
“If you’re not going to take the time to translate values from ideals to behaviors—if you’re not going to teach people the skills they need to show up in a way that’s aligned with those values and then create a culture in which you hold one another accountable for staying aligned with the values—it’s better not to profess any values at all. They become a joke. A cat poster. Total BS.” — Brené Brown in Dare to Lead.
Many of you have read my articles on Conscious Contracts® but you might not understand why they are an important part of a Teal organizational culture and of the mindset shift that is required to be a true Teal organization.
You’ve all seen the old model of contracts. They’re 87 pages long, full of fine print, and often there is a trap buried somewhere. They are confusing and dangerous and we generally don’t actually read them. (A recent survey showed that even the majority of consumer law professors don’t read contracts before they sign!)
After we blindly sign them, we toss them in a drawer, and when things go wrong, we look for something in the contract to use as a weapon or to help us escape. Those contracts rarely represent anything about the heart of the organization, the secret sauce that makes it a purposeful, evolutionary organization.
These old contracts are as old as the market, with contract law being traced back to the Romans and thousands of years of tradition and precedent. This history shapes organizations and keeps the status quo in place. (Sadly, few of my kindred lawyers have made the shift. The legal is often more destructive than constructive. The traditional legal documents are anchored in old ways of doing things.)
To shift the consciousness of organizations requires that we shift the legal structures that shape the expectations, accountability systems, and language of the old model and establish a new model that is aligned with our new ideas and consciousness.
Where do we start?
As a coach for more than 20 years, I’ve helped a lot of people and companies create statements about purpose and values. Companies proudly frame them or paint them on the lobby walls. Individuals write them down with the hope of creating some sort of display.
It doesn’t take long for the energy and integrity voiced in the statements to get lost. The beautiful words on the wall become invisible over time. The hoped-for display becomes a piece of paper in a pile on the corner of the desk which is eventually moved to a shelf, then a box, then uncovered years later, only to be moved to a new pile on the desk.
A lot of the traditional lawyers will tell you that putting purpose, values, and principles into a contract is a risky proposition. People will expect you to live up to the standards and you might fail. You might leave yourself open to having to be accountable for what you promised.
Perhaps the idea causes you to catch your breath, to tense up, and feel a little sick. You like your wiggle room; you like being able to justify whatever decisions are made. Is it okay to do business with someone who is antithetical to everything you stand for? What if an investor doesn’t agree with your purpose and values? If you haven’t committed to them, you can bend to get the funding, the cheapest price, the easiest path.
Those thoughts are the thoughts of the old paradigm, creeping into your consciousness, hoping to distract you from your evolutionary purpose and true values. If we aren’t living by them, are they really our purpose and values?
Face it. Sometimes issues arise where it is easier to take the path of least resistance than it is to take a stand about what is really important. If you have wishy-washy purpose and values, you can fudge a little. Then a little becomes a lot and pretty soon, you’ve found yourself in a place, doing things that don’t have anything to do with why you made the shift in the first place.
It takes courage to have, hold, and honor an evolutionary purpose.
A structure for staying true to purpose and values
The Conscious Contract® (also known as an Integrative Contract, Values or Purpose-based Contract, or Collaborative Contract) offers a new model for contracts that creates the structure for staying in the evolutionary purpose and aligned with highest values.
Some of the values of the approach align well with Teal values. They include:
Transparency is an important Teal value. Conscious Contracts® are built on a foundation of transparency, with all stakeholders being willing to share motivations and even being willing to show some vulnerability. There are no hidden agendas, no concealed clauses, and the language is meant for the users, not for some judge to interpret.
Clarity: Creating an organizational purpose and values is not about creating obligations but rather getting really clear about how you will measure your success. With clarity, choices become easier. There is a yardstick, a guidance system that helps clarify decision-making. Fulfilling your purpose and aligning with your values are the guideposts to the integrity of your organization.
Integrity: Integrity, as I use it, is about wholeness: all your pieces are aligned and fit together. Attorney Stella Rabaut and her husband, Don Williamson, led a workshop on law and healing many years ago. Don gave a talk about Integrity that I will never forget.
He compared it to the spine and chiropractic. Being in integrity is like having a perfectly straight spine, with all vertebrae in their proper places. We can walk upright, our heads high, when our spines are perfectly aligned. If we’re out of alignment, we have pain. The longer we ignore the pain, the worse it gets. If we spend many years of our lives out of integrity, our spines even degenerate. It takes some work to repair the damage.
Conscious Contracts® encourage wholeness and provide the structure that calls forth the highest purpose of the organization and those who represent it.
The evolutionary purpose and values are a code of behavior. Deviating from your code is stressful and disruptive to inner peace.
Sensing and responding: We live in a complex, changing world. Old contracts were fixed and rigid. Conscious Contracts® are flexible and responsive. They include a customized system for addressing change and engaging with what is happening in the world and in the business.
Professional freedom with responsibility: An important aspect of self-management is professional freedom with responsibility. Conscious Contracts® epitomize both. There is foundational legal precedent that we have the freedom to create contracts and hold ourselves accountable for promises that are not required by law. That can be as simple as we can enter a contract to buy a product or service or it can be that we can create a contract that binds us to our own integrity.
Can you be a Teal organization and still engage with the old paradigm legal system?
After 30 years as a licensed lawyer, I’m not sure that it is possible. The old system shapes your foundational documents, your governance, your contracts, and your relationships.
It limits what is possible in fulfilling on your evolutionary purpose and values.
In fact, the law will tell you that those are irrelevant unless you exercise your freedom to create contracts.
My purpose is to midwife the birth of a new legal system, to fulfill on a vision that recognizes lawyers as peacemakers, problem-solvers, and healers of conflicts, being agents of transformation for their clients.
I have an international network of lawyers who are working in the new paradigm and I’d be happy to connect you.
J. Kim Wright is the author of two American Bar Association best sellers: Lawyers as Peacemakers, Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law and Lawyers as Changemakers, The Global Integrative Law Movement. A lawyer since 1989, she is a systems change architect for the legal profession. She is an American nomad. http://www.jkimwright.com