Conscious businesses perform 10x better: And integrative law experts say Conscious Contracts is giving them the edge
Conscious businesses are outperforming their peers, by a lot. As Tony Schwartz notes in Harvard Busines Review, companies that practise “conscious capitalism” posted over the long term 10 times better financial results. And it all comes down to focusing on people and building better relationships.
Now, one of the most exciting ideas to come out of that whole movement is something you can start implementing with your employee and stakeholder agreements today: Conscious Contracts ®.
WATCH: INTRODUCING CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS
“One of the most baffling things about traditional employment contracts, for us, was always that it’s this big, unintelligible document that’s kind of a grudge-agreement between you and the company that you sign, put away and never look at again unless someone threatens to go to court,” says LifeXchange Soluton’s strengths champion Tammy Oosthuizen.
“We were looking for a better way when we came across Conscious Contracts. And everything changed.”
We spoke to the co-creator of Conscious Contracts®, US lawyer and legal-change advocate J. Kim Wright, and integrative lawyer and specialist at Milkwood Law, Rhiannon Thomas who is certified to offer Conscious Contracts® in South Africa. And here are 7 things every manager, HR and business owner should know about it:
7 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS
1. IT STARTS THINGS OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
A prominent feature of traditional contracts is that they’re drawn up by lawyers specifically to give employers and businesses the upper hand if the matter should ever go to court. That means that from the outset the legal department writes the contract from the viewpoint that the other party – the employee, supplier or stakeholder – is the (potential) enemy.
It turns every negotiation into a battleground, with the contract as armour and weapon. No wonder then you have to fight to maintain good relationships.
Conscious Contracts turns this on its head. By reinventing the contracting process to focus on managing the relationship by getting both parties to collaborate on writing the contract, you get a real, “living and breathing” document that’s focused on driving values for everyone involved. And the proof is in the pudding – remember those companies who did 10x better than their competitors.
2. CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS FOCUS ON THE TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE
While traditional business models focus largely on driving profit (a practice that showed the kinks in its armour during the COVID-19 outbreak), conscious businesses seek to invest in people, profits and the environment – known as the triple bottom line. And all the high-performing companies we mentioned above do this.
Conscious Contracts are value-driven contracts that focus on providing clarity about what the agreement actually means, which gives everyone involved more security and ultimately leads to better relationships – which comes in super handy when you’re faced with a crisis, again, like COVID-19.
Also see how vital it is for business performance to have real work clarity.
3. IT’S DYNAMIC, POWERFUL AND HARNESSES CREATIVITY IN CONTRACTING
Two things about traditional contracts: they can’t help you 1) determine whether you’re entering into a contract with the “right” kind of person for what you’re trying to do and 2) they’re inflexible.
Conscious Contracts flips this by creating a built-in mechanism for checking the relationship fit while you’re drafting the agreement, and it includes ways to change the agreement to adapt as needed.
What’s more, Conscious Contracts brings the parties together to collaborate, meaning they utilise everyone’s creativity to make a unique agreement. And that means that the contract is no longer a “dead” piece of paper you file away, but actually becomes a “handbook” for your day to day activities.
4. CONSCIOUS CONTACTS ARE EXTREMELY CLEAR AND EASILY UNDERSTOOD – PROVEN TO BOOST ENGAGEMENT AND PERFORMANCE
The value-driven contracts concept ties in incredibly well with creating clear documents that are easily understood by both parties. A good example is the company Comic Book Contracts that used the same principles as Conscious Contracts to make illustrated agreements for vulnerable and often illiterate farmworkers. WATCH:
By focusing on the needs of the employee, it creates better relationships. Note as one employee comments that with this type of contract “they showed us that we are valued as human beings … and that makes me happy.”
And, at the same time, the process boosted performance – so much so that the German government invested heavily in the initiative. As the HR Manager involved in the project, Natasha Murray, notes: “We can clearly distinguish the difference because one of our other farms doesn’t use these contracts” and they have problems there while things run more smoothly where they have the value-driven contracts.
See an example contract here.
5. IT CUTS OUT THE FLUFF
Conscious Contracts co-founder J. Kim Wright notes in her feature on Law Practice Today that, even though she’s been practising law and specialising in contracts for over 30 years, there are many long contracts that don’t even make sense to her, let alone the layman.
“A lawyer once told me that it was his job to make sure that his contracts were hard to understand,” she writes, saying that “that way, I can argue for whatever my client wants when the deal falls apart”.
And if you understand how your brain works or if you’ve been to one of Dr Cobus Oosthuizen’s neuromanagement workshops, you’ll know he emphasises that the neuroscience behind business performance says you need to focus on saying what you DO want and not what you don’t want. Conscious Contracts is a very practical way of employing that concept in your business right from the start.
6. IT REQUIRES A NEW KIND OF LEGAL EXPERTISE
Where normal contracts just focus on protecting the business legally, value-based contracts draw from a wider range of expertise. It includes lessons from economics and psychology along with legal practice, in a new field known as integrative law.
“I was helping couples draw up their antenuptial contracts and found the traditional process very dry and mechanical, despite the topic of conversation – money – being a very emotive one,” says integrative lawyer Rhiannon Thomas.
“I wanted to integrate the legal aspects with the personal and emotive parts of the process, and that’s how I discovered integrative law and Conscious Contracts.”
7. CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS IS NOW AVAILABLE IN SOUTH AFRICA (AND THE WORLD)
From US co-founders J. Kim Wright and Linda Alvarez, author of Discovering Agreement: Contracts that Turn Conflict into Creativity, to South African representative Rhiannon Thomas, who was trained and mentored by Kim. Conscious Contracts is available everywhere. And, though Rhiannon travels regularly between Cape Town and Oxford in the UK, you’re welcome to contact her and arrange a meeting or demonstration here in South Africa.
For international queries, contact Kim directly.
BONUS: IT WORKS FOR ANY KIND OF BUSINESS
“I used to have some narrow ideas of what kinds of businesses would want to use the model. But I’ve been impressed by the creativity and courage in the many circumstances where it’s worked,” says Kim.
And Rhiannon agrees: “Most businesses today want to be more user-focused as a way of building trust with their clients and staff. They are looking for innovative ways to do this. And any business that values its relationships with customers, staff and stakeholders can make use of Conscious Contracts. The process can be applied to leases, employment contracts, premarital agreements, co-housing associations, vendors, construction, web terms of service, general Ts and Cs, coaching service agreements – virtually any contract you can imagine.”
ABOUT CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Rhiannon Thomas of Milkwood Law is certified to offer Conscious Contracts in South Africa. “My vision is for Conscious Contracting to become the ‘new normal’ way of doing business,” she says.
ABOUT CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS WORLDWIDE
J. Kim Wright passed her first bar exam in 1989 and has been a member of the North Carolina (US) bar since 1994. She’s written books on the subjects of law and contracting and has been developing some of the core concepts in Conscious Contracts over the last 15 years.
PLUS: LOOK OUT FOR A WORKSHOP ON THIS
We initially planned to host a special public hr workshop specifically on Conscious Contracts in May 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a little unclear whether we’ll be able to host the event safely by that time. So please look out for notifications about this later the in the year.
If you’re interested and want us to keep you in the loop, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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