The Conscious Effect: 50 lessons for better organizational wellbeing
14th November 2019
Her basic, sound premise is that a 'conscious' leader is both self-aware and aware of the needs of their colleagues and of the work environment they are creating for them. If all leaders did this well, Wallace argues, "you [wouldn't] even need a wellbeing strategy".
She uses the analogy of a mixed diet of vitamin pills and chocolate. It's an excellent metaphor for organisations that provide rewarding work and pay staff well but may also require long hours and have untrained management, conflicting goals and lack of opportunity.
Wallace refers to 'workplace sugar', and says leaders need to be aware how much of it they're dishing out, and how their own strengths and weaknesses affect themselves and others. Positive staff relations are utterly central to this -- other key factors being the importance of being positive generally, the need for a team focus, and having meaning, purpose and opportunities for control, autonomy and growth.
Peter Warr's 'vitamin model' -- which Wallace does not reference -- articulated this well decades ago; and strangely, though Wallace's book is all about emotional intelligence, the work of Daniel Goleman is overlooked, too. A lack of context is perhaps the main weakness in The Conscious Effect.
The author doesn't literally mean 'no strategy required' but she means it a bit, and I'd argue that her references to culture underplay the vital importance of senior commitment and visionary and strategic leadership at a macro level. Recent fascinating studies suggest, for example, that a company's founding values have a significant impact on the day-to-day culture many years after the founders themselves have moved on or sold up.
The five sections, broken into 50 lessons, have an abundance of excellent information, much of it focusing on vital soft skills, weaving together practical knowledge and behavioural science. Even so, I feel the book underplays the vital importance of culture at a broader level. (And somewhere in Sheffield and in New Jersey, two greatly revered professors will be raising their eyebrows.)