The Good Earth Restaurants – A Conscious Leadership Story

In my New Agreements books, we have identified four New Agreements that act as a roadmap to Conscious Leadership. In looking for examples of leaders who had made these new agreements a part of their leadership values, I had to look no further than my good friend and mentor, Bill Galt. We will introduce these New Agreements for Conscious Leaders that set Bill and his company apart from his competitors. But first, I will introduce you to a remarkable business leader, Bill Galt.

Bill Galt is the founder of the Good Earth Restaurant chain and, before his retirement, one of the finest executives and business leaders I have had the privilege to call my friend and mentor. In founding the Good Earth Restaurants, Bill implemented his idea and belief that a significant number of people would be drawn to a restaurant that provided excellent, healthy food and an environment where people loved their work. Of course the Good Earth would provide wonderful service, but Bill’s focus was not on serving the customers as much as it was on serving his employees. Bill believed that if he took good care of his people, his people would take good care of the customers. The final piece of the vision was the creation of superior systems that would allow his people to be successful in their jobs. What happened in being guided by these values was beyond even Bill’s high expectations.

Bill hired only people who love people and were team players. He trained them extensively in the right ways to do their jobs and serve the customers. It was a “requirement” that employees have fun as they served each other and the customers. Lines of communication throughout the organization were created and maintained with an almost non-existent hierarchy. However, there was one requirement of all employees. Everything at the Good Earth would be done with love. Love? In a highly competitive business? Yes. The guiding principle of the organization would be that everything must be done, to the best of everyone’s ability, from a place of love.

The cars would be parked with love. The people would be seated with love. The food would be cooked with love. The wine would be poured with love. The food would be served with love. To the best of everyone’s ability, all would do their jobs with love.

Something magical happened at the Good Earth. People flocked to the restaurant and soon Bill was building Good Earths all over the country. However, he was careful that at each new Good Earth his principle of creating a love-based culture continued. Something magical was happening for the customers, too. Celebrities came often and sometimes stayed late with the employees reciting poetry, playing music or telling stories. There was virtually no turnover of employees and a long waiting list of people who wanted to work at the Good Earth. Profits soared and the opportunities for further expansion exploded.

A Fortune 100 company that owned a number of restaurant chains saw what was happening and made an offer to Bill to buy the Good Earth that he couldn’t refuse. The large company was wise enough to know not to radically change the Good Earth and even used it as a potential model for some of its other chains. However, as with all acquisitions, they did feel the need to put in some controls.

With the controls in place, something mysterious started happening at the Good Earth. Customer satisfaction dropped. Sales plateaued and then began to drop. Costs began to rise as morale fell and turnover increased. The company couldn’t figure out what the problems were. In desperation, the board of directors asked Bill what he thought. What Bill told them shocked and baffled the board. Bill told them that the controls/fear that the company had put on Good Earth employees had replaced the love that had made the company great.

Bill was hired to go back into the Good Earth restaurants and restore the love. He was successful for a while in some locations, but in the end, fear won out. Good Earth began a slow contraction and never recovered its former glory (or performance).

The root cause of Good Earth’s problems can be traced to the change in leadership. When Good Earth lost Bill’s leadership, it lost a Conscious Leader. Without Conscious Leadership, it slowly lost the guiding values that had made the company great. As Bill says, “Everything good or bad in business starts with leadership.”  Let’s look at the values or agreements that set Bill apart and created the remarkable Good Earth story.

The New Agreements for Conscious Leaders

Find Your Purpose – Every human being is here for a purpose. When the Conscious Leader is clear in his higher purpose for work, his mind will begin to “pull” the purpose and vision to him. Conscious Leadership many times starts with clarity on one’s higher purpose for work.

Love, Grow and Serve Your People – The Conscious Leader knows that the workplace is a living being. The life force that makes an organization a living being comes from the life energy of its people. In essence, people are the organization; they are the business. When we love our people, we love our work. When we grow our people, we grow the organization. When we serve our people, we serve the organization. In serving others, we serve ourselves, too. This focus on loving, growing and serving our people puts our people in the best position to love, grow and serve our customers. People, including customers will be drawn to organizations operating in this way.

Be a System Thinker It’s very important for a Conscious Leader to be aware of the critical role systems thinking plays in setting employees up for success. 90% of the results produced in the workplace are a result of the formal and informal systems in which people operate, not the efforts of the people. In addition, we can expect that 20% of the systems account for 80% of the results produced, both good and not so good. Conscious Leaders must focus efforts on the critical 20% of the systems that will give the organization 80% of the return/measurable success.

Practice a Little Every Day – Like any new skill set, Conscious Leaders must practice on a regular basis to master the new and make it into something she does naturally at work. Practice is Art. We become what we practice. Organizations become what they practice. Conscious Leaders will have a daily practice to quiet the mind.

The New Agreements are a roadmap for transformation of traditional unconscious leadership at work. Any leader or manager can learn these simple, practical guidelines and apply them in the workplace and at home. The New Agreements work! All that is needed to insure success is the will and intention of the individual or organization to grow into the extraordinary possibility of Conscious Leadership.

Leave a Reply