Calling All CEO’s – How are you spending your 90,000 hours?

90,000 hours. That is the amount of time CEO and author Jessica Pryce-Jones estimates people spend working during their lifetime. If that many hours really are spent working, shouldn’t the goal be to make that time as high quality and meaningful as possible for our employees?

One of the best ways to ensure engaged employees and a positive work culture is to make them feel like they count, that they have a real stake in their organization. One way to accomplish this would be with an employee stock option plan (ESOP). Currently, there are about 7,000 ESOPs in place in the United States, covering nearly 11 million employees, and that number is poised to grow due to the federal government’s passage of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act of 2018 last month.

The MSEOA, which will go into effect next year, will provide support for ESOPs as well as update the SBA’s lending practices to make it easier for employee groups to get assistance and financing to purchase ownership in their companies.

Employee ownership plans don’t only benefit the employees but companies as a whole and the bottom line. Adopting an ESOP has been shown to strengthen companies within the first year of the move with increased sales and productivity. Studies also show that employee-owned companies are less likely to go bankrupt and tend to stay in business longer than companies without the plans in place. Plus, employees in these companies see tangible differences, which can lead to higher job satisfaction and better productivity. Those working in employee-owned companies usually make more money, have larger amounts in retirement savings, and experience greater job stability with fewer layoffs. Employee ownership also creates more local jobs. This is an important consideration in America’s current economy, which appears strong on the surface but is still failing to create well-paying and meaningful jobs for millions of people. So, rather than waiting around for the Federal Reserve to figure it out, we can continue creating jobs at the local level.

Not the only way

But what if an ESOP isn’t the route your organization wants to take right now or in the foreseeable future? Fortunately, there are other ways organizations can do better jobs of engaging their employees and making all of those hours they spend at work worthwhile.

A lot of organizations talk about transparency and opening up their behind-the-scenes to staff at all levels. But this is often easier talked about than actually done, and organizations rarely have the discipline, staff, or time to do it and do it consistently.  

Platform for the people

Enter OpaConnect®, our progressive performance management platform, which gives our clients transparency at all levels and access to a shared vision for all employees at their organizations. The platform provides for ongoing conversations between employees and managers, which allows everyone to feel engaged and connected to the organization’s strategic vision and offers the same transparency found in ESOP companies.

As Stacy Litteral, the executive director of Kids’ Country, told us a few months back after rolling out OpaConnect®: “Staff are more engaged, happier and fulfilled. They now clearly understand their impact and their worth.” (Read more about this OpaConnect® success story here.)

No matter what field of work they are in, everyone wants to feel like their work is meaningful and important. So, whether it’s through an ESOP or OpaConnect®, let’s work together to make those 90,000 hours count.

To get started on transforming your culture and engage employees, contact us at


Calling all CEO’s: Building Trust and Courage Inside Your Organization

Trust and courage intertwine, Gabriela Buich tells me. In her business coaching she builds on personal truth and human interaction, getting to the root causes of defensive behavior and making small changes that improve performance. People are what accelerate business, after all – and just as you’d optimize machinery or a workflow process, you can optimize how people think, behave and interact.

Gabriela is a colleague and a friend, a business coach. Most of all, she is an inspiration. I see the work that she’s doing and I find hope for the future of business.

Trust and Courage

“Trust is what causes the shift,” Gabriela says. She & I were talking about Leaders Who Coach, and Gabriela explained that when there’s open dialogue from the top, and people have transparency about their concerns, it creates a trusting culture where people can make direct requests and give direct feedback without fear.

Good open communication means people feel safe expressing needs and concerns. This engenders courage for people to not only speak their truths, but to take chances and push past limitations. Innovation requires courage – you can only challenge conventions if you’re willing to take risk and break the mold.

Gabriela also encourages clients to practice “first truth first,” confronting fear and worry head-on. “First truth first” means emotion is primary, so lead with that: “hey I’m anxious about this deadline” or “I’m worried about saying this but …” This simple technique acknowledges humanity and opens up free communication.

Workplace interactions are really no different from the rest of life’s social contact. The better you understand human nature, the better you can build great work relationships.

There are three layers of perception, flowing from the inside out, says Gabriela:

  • Self-concept: how I see myself
  • How I feel and believe that OTHERS see me
  • How I behave in the world

In her work, Gabriela coaches leaders and work teams in how to approach these three distinctions vis-à-vis workplace interactions. To function effectively, leaders benefit from learning to be aware of their own emotions, and to recognize them in others. In business, feelings can be perceived as weak. Gabriela challenges that, inviting people to open up, to give themselves permission to talk openly about how they feel. “I’m worried about this deadline” starts a conversation, and that leads to open dialogue and problem solving.

Accountability and Leading by Example

For business leaders who wish to build an open culture like this, based on trust and courage, Gabriela says it starts with how those leaders behave. She puts it this way: “If I show up differently, you’ll show up differently; if I deliver differently, you will too; if I’m transparent, so will you be. If I trust you – if I demonstrate that I trust what you have to deliver, you’ll trust me.”

For management, being accountable means more than simply owning your own integrity – it means being accountable for the results of your work teams and your company. Gabriela says this about supporting work teams: “If I as a leader don’t know what to deliver to you, then I don’t know you well enough to get the results I’m looking for.”

Business is more than just gears and numbers – it’s about people. As Gabriela puts it, “we’ve got to get two people’s legs in one gunny sack and win this race together.”

Kirsti Tcherkoyan

CEO, Options4Growth & OpaConnect


Calling All CEO’s

Prominent CEOs are standing up against racism, and the country is taking notice. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. This support has reinforced a powerful idea: that a company’s values can influence communities and the nation.

I’d like to address my fellow CEOs, and issue a Call to Action: examine your core values and engage your workforce. This is important stuff. Your company values matter in a new and exciting way: they’ve become a key component of your company’s capital. It’s an opportunity to expand awareness of what your organization stands for. Especially now, core values are essential to who you are and what you do. Your identity in the marketplace takes on new meaning.

Ask Questions and Listen

There’s power in what you stand for. CEOs, I urge you to do some soul-searching. Open up the conversation. Get people talking up and down your organization. Ask questions that can lead to growing your core values – and LISTEN to the feedback from your employees. Let your people know that you really want to hear from them. This simple exercise taps into the intellectual wealth of your workforce, and can provide you with guidance on your company’s identity.

Here are some basic questions to get the conversation started:

  • What are the core ethics that you want your employees and coworkers to embrace?
  • What do we want our company culture to look like? What would it feel like in the office, what would you see people doing and what would you hear them saying?
  • How do we want to be perceived by our communities? What roles might we play in community leadership?
  • What are some examples of outreach and service that we can provide?
  • What other questions should we be asking that might be relevant to our business, and to our place in the community?

The goal is to have these conversations throughout your organization. Small teams, large teams, departments and divisions, company-wide meetings: it’s all fair game.

Be Proactive. Every company is different, and the process of discovery will lead you in your own unique direction. Take the lead in finding out what that direction is. Start the conversations and keep them going.

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