When you’re in the business of transformative change, there’s no doubt that you’ll have keen insights into how to rewire a culture to embrace wellbeing and drive innovation. That’s why I recently spoke to Udaiyan Jatar (who goes by U.J.), the CEO and founder of Blue Earth Network, for this Face of Wellbeing Leadership blog.
Over the past 20 years, U.J. has created, launched, and promoted new brands across six continents, working for companies like Coca-Cola, P&G, and Grey Advertising. He has brand biggies such as Pantene, Vicks, Sprite, Powerade, Nestea, and Honda under his innovation belt. Now in its sixth year, his company, Blue Earth Network, helps organizations discover and scale breakthrough innovations of their own.
Through his management experience, U.J. has developed a compelling definition of leading wellbeing: “Wellbeing is something that happens when people are in sync. It’s when their abilities, their passions, their development, and their work are so in sync that they don’t feel like they are fighting their nature, their beliefs, or their values. They aren’t doing things that they don’t believe in. To truly lead wellbeing, then, is to create the conditions where that is possible, where people can thrive.”
How does U.J. create those conditions at Blue Earth Network? With these four strategies:
1. Have a clear purpose and values to form your core, yet seek to continually improve
Leading wellbeing means being explicitly clear on what Blue Earth Network exists to do and the principles and values that the firm applies to achieve its purpose, says U.J. “We make sure that everyone who comes in understands why we are here and how we will succeed.” But he also believes there are opportunities to improve how and what the company does. “That is why YOU are here,” he says to each member of his team. Team members are asked to enhance, criticize constructively, and add to the company’s approach. The result, he says, is “everybody knows what everybody else is working on and why they are working on it, and they can contribute to it, they can observe it, and they can criticize it. It creates a culture where everybody can say ‘I know why I’m here, I know what I’m supposed to do, I have the power, and I’m free to do what I’m supposed to do and can do.’”
2. Be transparent (more than you can imagine)
In his years working for other companies, U.J. found that people lose any sense of optimism and faith when leadership hides what they are thinking. “The secrets—’I won’t tell you if there are going to be layoffs. I won’t tell you what the layoffs are going to be’—there were no principles, there was no system, and there was absolutely no transparency. This caused significant frustration,” he says.
So when it came time to create the Blue Earth team U.J. erred on the side of transparency. And he found dual benefits. “One, the people who were themselves trustworthy became incredible employees, incredible friends, and incredible co-creators. Second, those who could not trust me in spite of me being truthful, they didn’t last—I realized, there’s a certain culture that you want to create and in that culture some people do well and some people don’t.”
3. Match your actions with your words (and say “I’m sorry” when you don’t)
Leading wellbeing means being clear about what really matters and making sure your values match with your words and your actions, U.J. says: “I’ve found that when people say something and do something else, it simply destroys their credibility and their effectiveness as a leader.” And when you don’t measure up? You have to have the courage to apologize, he says. Saying you’re sorry and rectifying the situation demonstrates your integrity even more.
4. Create a culture of passionate volunteers
A driving interest of U.J. is to create an environment where people can bring their talents, their passion, and their values, and the best of their potential and abilities to work. In fact, at Blue Earth Network, team members aren’t told what to work on; they are asked to volunteer for projects. “You might think, How can an organization be efficient if everyone only works on projects that they want to work on? Who is going to do the stuff that nobody wants to do? But I have found that by giving people the option and trusting them, they will do what’s necessary,” he says. “It has been my most gratifying learning as a leader.”
Sometimes U.J. doesn’t get any volunteers for a certain piece of work so he does it himself. “You have to lead the way sometimes,” he says “Sooner or later somebody says, ‘You know what U.J., I’m going to help you with that because I recognize that it’s necessary work. And it’s part of a bigger picture, which I’m completely passionate about.’” Linking the work with people’s larger passions is key.
• 4 Things Great Leaders Do (That The Rest Of Us Often Don’t) to Thrive
• Do You Know the 5 Cs of Acknowledgment? They Can Help You Build a Culture of Wellbeing
• How Nike’s Jorge Casimiro Finds His ‘Inner Pre’ (And Why You Should Too)