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Role Models Is Not A Newsletter
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It is Stories Written By Companies That Wish to Share

Whole Person Organizational Cultures©

Gerald R. Wagner, PhD.
September 2016

Table of Contents

Eileen Fisher ROLE MODEL: Working with Purpose


The people of Eileen Fisher are on a mission: to design clothes consciously, work with purpose, and build business for good. This fashion company is committed to a set of values that benefit both its employees, and the world at large.


Eileen Fisher Speaking at the Learning Lab

The company’s goals are lofty, and it pays close attention to a triple bottom line – People, Planet and Profit. Eileen Fisher is about caring for the wellbeing of employees, customers, and everyone in their supply chain, as well as all the communities and environments they touch.

The company invests in making its supply chain a sustainable one, from the growing of raw materials and turning them into fabric; to creating healthy and happy work environments for employees; to the shipping of clothes and their afterlife (the company has a recycled clothing program and also donates recycled clothes to artists who upcycle them into items like rugs, table runners or baby clothes).

The team is committed to understanding its footprint on the planet and working to make the changes needed to lighten its impact, no easy task. But they all believe it can be done and hope to inspire others in the fashion industry to move toward a more sustainable model.

Eileen and Employees at a Purpose Workshop

Eileen and Employees at a Purpose Workshop

Eileen Fisher actively gives back to its communities, in part by supporting women-owned business and organizations that are raising community consciousness. The Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute offers programs that help teens discover their leadership potential and gain a deeper sense of who they are and what they have to give to their world. And there’s the recently launched Eileen Fisher Learning Lab where, as the company says, “Everything we offer is an opportunity to get curious, access wisdom, and create something more meaningful for ourselves and the world.”

The company even has a position titled Wellness Leader, a person who helps to offer employees opportunities to deepen their sense of wellbeing and become healthier in body, mind and spirit.

Leslie Ritter, Wellness Leader, giving chair massage for an employee

Leslie Ritter, Wellness Leader, giving chair massage for an employee

A key part of Eileen Fisher’s Wellness Program is a Wellness and Education Benefit; each employee has up to $1,000 available to them each year for their personal wellness and $1,000 for their education. They also support people to take care of themselves at work by bringing therapies like massage, acupuncture, reflexology, or personal training to the office, Employees can then use their wellness dollars to pay for these individual sessions. Onsite sessions in nutritional counseling, life path coaching or personal transformation work can also be paid for with education money.

Personal growth and development is valued and supported by the company in many ways including ongoing workshops and trainings. There’s even a team that is using the Gross National Happiness model to look at overall wellbeing in the company and develop metrics.

Regular yoga, pilates and fitness classes are also offered to employees free of charge. And massage therapists regularly come to the offices to give people 10 minute neck and shoulder massages, paid for by the company.

Employees also use mindfulness practices in daily work, for instance, every meeting room has a chime and each meeting begins with a few moments of silence to help participants leave behind previous work and get present for the current meeting.

Foam Rolling Class at the Office

Foam Rolling Class at the Office

Two online mindfulness programs have also recently launched to encourage employees to begin a regular meditation practice or to deepen the practice they have.

The company is dedicated to keeping its culture alive as it grows; Eileen started with $350 and an idea that women’s clothing could be beautiful yet comfortable, made from natural fabrics that feel great, and that getting dressed could be made easy. That was 32 years ago and Eileen Fisher is now a half billion dollar company.

Leadership believes that there is a leader in every chair, that every voice should be heard, and that caring about fellow team members, treating each other with kindness, and a willingness to listen with attention is deeply important. It’s a company built on a dream, and that dream includes a vision of wellbeing for all those it touches.

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Vibrant Credit Union ROLE MODEL: A Strengths Based Vibrant Culture

image6-2Vibrant Credit Union is well known for its culture of fun and surprisingly unique approach to banking, as highlighted in the May edition of Role Models.

Jon Sexton, Vibrant Credit Union’s Chief Culture Officer

Jon Sexton, Vibrant Credit Union’s Chief Culture Officer

But in the fall of 2015, Vibrant’s Leadership Team wondered how they could combine that playful culture with a dedication to fostering the growth and development of employees. The answer to that dilemma was Jon Sexton, Vibrant’s new Chief Culture Officer. As part of his role, Jon now serves as the organization’s internal Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Prior to beginning his role at Vibrant, Jon spent the bulk of his career focusing on student and professional development in higher education. When asked how Vibrant convinced him to change industries, Jon said: “It was quickly clear to me that the organization wanted to build an intentional approach to developing people…and helping folks grow and realize untapped potential is something I’m very passionate about.”

Vibrant Management Strengths Training

Vibrant Management Strengths Training

Vibrant now uses the strengths-based perspective to help folks understand how they can use their natural talents to excel at work.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the strengths-based approach, imagine an organization that assesses and showcases the naturally dominant strengths of staff members and works to find complementary roles that ensure employees have the opportunity to engage in whatever they do best. It’s a win for employees and employers alike.)
When people first hear about this approach, they may argue that while focusing on strengths sounds great, it’s impossible to avoid addressing weaknesses.  That’s absolutely correct, but here’s the thing — supervisors at Vibrant don’t ignore weakness.  At Vibrant, employees are trained to focus on developing all of the competencies necessary to do well in their jobs. But, they take it a step further by seeking opportunities for employees to utilize their natural skill sets.

Using an employee’s top five strengths whenever possible creates the opportunity for people to do their 100%, A+, absolute best work.
When Vibrant elected to move forward with this new initiative, they knew they wanted to implement it at more than just a surface level.  So,since the fall of 2015, there has been a targeted approach to engraining the philosophy into Vibrant’s organizational culture at the deepest level.

Caption Managers engaged in a Strengths Scavenger Hunt

Caption Managers engaged in a Strengths Scavenger Hunt

To begin the initiative, all staff members in formal supervisory roles attended half-day workshops to explore the idea of building a strengths-based culture.  At the same time, they received team maps highlighting the strengths of their respective teams, and were encouraged to assign projects and workplace tasks consistent with each team member’s natural strengths.

In addition to these in-depth workshops, an increasing number of supervisors at Vibrant were given the opportunity to participate in individual coaching sessions. During these coaching sessions Jon takes the time to ensure leaders have the guidance, tools, and support necessary to implement an intentional strengths-based approach with their team.

Each staff member receives a Vibrant themed "Top 5" name tag to display at their workstation

Each staff member receives a Vibrant themed “Top 5” name tag to display at their workstation

For employees, the emphasis on strengths begins on day one.  Every new team member is required to complete the Strengthsfinder assessment.  In addition, they complete a 30 minute introduction explaining how the approach is used throughout the organization. Each team member receives their own copy of the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 which includes a detailed description of each of the 34 talent themes that appear in the assessment.  This ensures that every staff member has an accessible tool to learn more about the strengths of others.

To build awareness of each staff members’ natural talents, Vibrant’s Marketing Team designed Vibrant themed “Top 5” name tags for employees to display at their workstations.  Everyone at Vibrant can see each other’s strengths and subsequently seek them out for assistance when needed.

Strengths training begins on day 1...where each new employee receives a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0

Strengths training begins on day 1…where each new employee receives a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0

The strengths initiative is still relatively new at Vibrant but there’s already been amazing growth in engagement.  When asked about the effect it’s had on his team, Aaron Ohlensehlen, Vibrant’s Insurance Agency President, said, “recognizing and defining my staff’s and my own top strengths has given me a high level of clarity regarding the intricate dynamics of our team. By reading about and reflecting on each of my direct reports natural talents, I have a better sense of how they like to be recognized and what the most helpful approach is to helping them learn new skills.  I also have a much stronger sense of what motivates them”.  Aaron’s experience is common throughout the organization.

Vibrant continues to see positive gains in engagement and employee motivation as they continue moving forward with the initiative.  An increasing number of employees are on fire for the opportunity to turn natural talents into finely tuned strengths…and how they can leverage the things they naturally excel at to progress toward goals in both their personal and professional lives.

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Seton Healthcare ROLE MODEL: 400 Years of Legacy



Seton Infirmary, Austin, Texas, circa 1902, ‘Courtesy Seton Healthcare Family Archives Division’

Seton Infirmary, Austin, Texas, circa 1902, ‘Courtesy Seton Healthcare Family Archives Division’


The Seton Healthcare Family, a ministry of Ascension, is dedicated to transforming the health care experience for Central Texas citizens by using innovation to improve the experience of patients and providers while lowering the overall cost of care.

Above all, Seton believes in Humancare — healthcare that thinks with its heart.

Seton is designing new ways of providing care, centered around customers’ needs and wants; expanding insurance offerings; aligning processes to create seamless consumer and provider experiences; and partnering with Dell Medical School and Central Health (local health district) to put evidence-based care into practice.


Seton was founded by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic organization that dates back to 17th century France. The Daughters dedicate themselves to expressing God’s love through services to the sick, the poor and the destitute.

The Daughters came to America largely through the efforts of Elizabeth Ann Seton, a widow who established a religious community in Maryland and adopted the philosophy of St. Vincent de Paul. She was made the first American-born Catholic saint, and Seton is named for her.

After a group of citizens asked the Daughters to build a hospital to care for the sick, Seton originated in Austin in 1902, this 40-bed hospital, originally the Seton Infirmary, would eventually lead to the building of Seton Medical Center in 1975.

In the last century, Seton Healthcare Family has grown from one hospital to a network of 11 hospitals and healthcare facilities across Central Texas, with more than 13,000 employees.

A Legacy of Unconditional Love

In Seton’s daily work, associates strive to carry on the heritage and legacy from over 400 hundred years ago. They consider themselves to be a sign of God’s unconditional love and believe that all persons are endowed with dignity by their creator.

Seton continues the Catholic tradition of service, and its work is rooted in two key principles of Catholic Healthcare Ministry:

  • Human Dignity-Each person possesses intrinsic worth simply by virtue of his/ her existence as a human being

The Common Good-People are created to work towards common goals and values that benefit all.

Humancare at Work

Seton believes in showing everyone dignity and respect while providing the best care possible, hence the guiding principles of Humancare.

The goal is to transform healthcare one interaction at a time, and it’s rooted in a set of behavioral expectations for employees called the Humancare Promise, created by a multi -disciplinary team.

All associates sign the Promise and are held accountable for their performance through feedback sessions with their leaders twice a year. Stories of Humancare culture in action are regularly gathered and shared broadly through the company’s Humancare Awards process.

Humancare takes a team

Humancare takes a team

Humancare for our littlest humans

Humancare for our littlest humans

Humancare –healthcare with a heart

Humancare –healthcare with a heart

Humancare is connection

Humancare is connection

Humancare is innovation and technology

Humancare is innovation and technology

Leaders are expected to practice servant leadership and create an environment for associates that is empowering and invites them to flourish and grow as person and professional. Seton holds a quarterly retreat for its 700+ managers, directors and vice presidents to provide resources and experiences to support a positive environment.

Measuring Performance

To be true to the company’s 400-year-old legacy, Seton leadership is always asking the question: do organizational culture and practices support and promote Humancare and its mission? What indicators should be used to measure feedback and effectiveness?

The company tracks performance with a Mission Strategic Imperatives Scorecard.

The Scorecard is divided into four sections

1-Mission Ministry-Catholic Tradition of Service

This focuses on key measures around Mission Integrity. For example, Seton uses the Catholic Identity Matrix ( CIM ) process. CIM is designed to help a Catholic healthcare institution evaluate the degree to which current policies and operating processes are consistent with the aspirations of Catholic moral tradition. By using detailed behavior benchmarks, areas of strength and opportunities for improvement can be identified and specific action plans can be developed.

2-Mission Developed-Unconditional Love

Key measures include formation and leadership development and celebration. As examples, in 2016, a goal was to establish and facilitate a series of Senior Leadership Team Renewal Days, focused on personal formation; another area of focus was to establish the practice of mindfulness in the physician community by conducting a series of workshops.

3-Mission Experienced-Care for Patients

Key measures in this component include specific goals for community perception, patient experience and associate experience. There are formal organizational structures in place to measure and assess, and results are used to develop specific measurable goals to focus on needed actions.

4-Mission Lived-Concern for Poor and Vulnerable

Key measures include impact on lives most at risk and care of the poor and community benefit. An example of this in 2016 was a financial contribution to the target population as measured by cost of services and the implementation of Medical Missions at Home.

Results from the scorecard are communicated to appropriate leaders within the Seton Healthcare Family and they form the basis for specific fiscal year goals.

Through its collaborative, focused and disciplined approach to measuring culture and impact, Seton is transforming and healing healthcare—one human at a time.

Ascension ( is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable.

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Rework CEO Summit: Irvine, California



The Rework CEO Summit is an event that we think ROLE MODEL subscribers will like to know about. The summit is for company leaders who are running their organizations in a self-managed / “Participation Age” way. It will be held on November 7-9 as an exclusive and private event in Irvine, CA. Here is what to expect:

CREATE COLLISIONS — CEOs will find and meet other CEOs who are already leading Participation Age companies in the emerging work world.

CREATE SAFE, TRANSPARENT CONNECTIONS — Participation Age CEOs will connect in a meaningful way by sharing stories, ideas, methodologies and processes, along with diving into dialogue that will push you and your company forward.

CREATE COMMUNITY — CEOs will find ongoing community with other like-minded CEOs to connect with on a regular basis through the year.

To learn more go to

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Seton Cove Spirituality Center: Featuring Cindy Wigglesworth Creator of Spiritual Intelligence


15th Annual McPhee Lecture and Workshop
Featuring Cindy Wigglesworth creator of Spiritual Intelligence

Click to view this short video with Cindy

Click to view this short video with Cindy

You’ve heard of IQ (intelligence quotient), and maybe even EQ (emotional intelligence). Now discover SQ (Spiritual Intelligence): the new frontier of personal growth and organizational leadership. Courageous. Wise. Authentic. Compassionate. Peaceful. Whether we are religious believers, atheists, or anything in between, it turns out we can agree quite easily on what it means to be a spiritually evolved human being. The more difficult question is, how do we get there? And how can we measure our progress? In SQ21, Cindy Wigglesworth translates spirituality into Spiritual Intelligence: a skill-set like EQ (emotional intelligence) that can be developed and measured. In her empowering and practical teachings, Cindy shares skills that can help you live a life of wisdom, compassion, and authentic leadership.

Click here for complete details and registration.

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Awake Business Conference: Austin, Texas

Gravity Payments: Love is a Contagious and Rational Force


ROLE MODELS featured the Love Summit in the March-April issue.  One of the Summit’s keynoters was Dan Price the CEO of Gravity Payments.  You will probably remember Dan from the press surrounding his announcement that the minimum salary for Gravity employees would be $70,000.  I (Jerry Wagner) asked Dan if he would write an article for ROLE MODELS that further elaborates upon “why?” Here what he wrote.


If you had to guess, what do you think one of the most brutal killers in history, Che Guevara, said when asked, “What do you look for in a guerilla fighter?” The answer may surprise you. He didn’t seek brutality, strength, or training. Instead, he sought a more powerful force: love.

Love causes us to do things that go against logic, but it’s the one thing that has propelled our company, Gravity Payments, to a higher success. There have been many moments when our team should have played by the rules, but when we chose to make decisions with our hearts, the results were extraordinary.

Love spreads quickly from person to person. Its power and influence give it a contagious property, unmatched in its ability to generate positive energy. For much of my life, I believed love was a completely irrational force. I made decisions based on love, convinced these choices would have a negative impact on my business. But over time, I started to realize that maybe there was more logic and reason to love than I initially thought. Let me take you through my journey. 

The first act of love happened after my high school band split up. I was chatting with a coffee shop owner, Heather, who was having trouble with her credit card processing and point-of-sale system. She was not the most business savvy person, but she had a tremendous amount of love and passion for her clients. I recognized she needed help, so I rolled up my sleeves and did whatever I could.

Heather was not alone. There were many other independent businesses being taken advantage of by huge, faceless credit card processors. These were the very same businesses who supported and opened their doors to my high school band when we first started out. I couldn’t let this happen to them. Soon, I found myself improving the situations of many businesses in my community.

Thirty one Gravity team members participated in a Red Cross blood drive

Thirty one Gravity team members participated in a Red Cross blood drive.

When I ultimately started my own company, most of the business owners I worked with joined Gravity. I was baffled they trusted a 19-year-old with every dollar that went through their business. It took a lot of love for them to believe in me.

A few years later, I began repaying that debt by lobbying Congress to implement a huge decrease in credit card processing fees. After the Durbin Amendment was passed, a competitor pointed out that I had every legal right to keep the money saved by the legislation and beef up our bottom line. But our clients entrusted us to protect them. Withholding money that rightfully belonged to our clients went against everything Gravity stood for. We decided to give that money back.

I am certainly not the only one at Gravity making decisions motivated by love. When Gravity initially started, all I could afford to pay one of our first hires, David, was $24,000 with no benefits. David could have taken a job somewhere else that paid him much, much more, but he loved and believed in what we stood for.

I knew the sacrifice he and other members of our team were making. It took a huge leap of faith to work here, so I made it my mission to try and provide the best learning and development opportunities.

When the recession hit in 2008, I was advised to lay off the team and raise our clients’ prices – typical business procedures during times of economic duress. Love made me do the opposite. I took a pay cut, kept every person on our team, and doubled down on our efforts. Our illogical move worked. We emerged from the recession without making a single layoff. We also acquired a level of financial discipline that sustained us in tough times. Before I knew it, Gravity was doing well again, the economy improved, and profits rose, but I initially failed to pass that success on to the team. Logic would suggest not messing with a good thing. When I finally realized I was taking advantage of the people at Gravity, I knew I had to forsake logic in favor of love.

In 2012, I decided there would be 15 percent raises across the board. This raise was supposed to eat up the “rainy day fund” we had built up after the recession, but I didn’t care. It was the right thing to do. We met our goal of raising everyone’s pay, but then something unexpected happened – our profit didn’t go down. Instead, it went up. Once again, irrationality had prevailed. I was ready to throw away everything I had learned about business. I kept investing more in the team, and business continued to improve.

This love-influenced strategy eventually led to one of the most illogical moves I have ever made – implementing a $70,000 minimum wage. The move has been called crazy, naive, and irresponsible (all terms used to describe love). I agreed with all of these assessments, but I just couldn’t shy away from this moral imperative.

Although it’s too soon to tell if the $70K minimum wage policy will be a success, we’ve seen some early indicators. Profits have doubled, employee and client turnover is at an all-time low, we’ve received over 30,000 resumes, added 50 new team members, and had the opportunity to share our story with over 500 million people.

Shortly after the $70K announcement, a VP at Yahoo named Tammi reached out asking to meet for coffee. So inspired by our irrational act of love, Tammi made what some might call an irrational act of her own. She committed to taking an 85 percent pay cut to work at Gravity. I didn’t feel comfortable letting her do that, but she reiterated time and time again that she just wanted to be part of what we were doing. Tammi desired to be part of something more meaningful.

I thought this was an outlier, but then I received messages from other business leaders who offered to leave money on the table. They, too, wanted to throw customary thinking to the wind, to follow their hearts and better the lives of those they were leading.

There was Josh Ledbetter of LEDbetter who took an 82 percent pay cut so he could bring a part-time team member on full-time while also raising the salaries of his other two employees. Stephan Aarstol of Tower Paddle Boards implemented a five-hour workday to increase productivity and encourage his team to go out and be active. Tony Tran of Third & Loom raised all his employees’ wages both in the US and Vietnam to $70,000.

What was the common thread that tied all their decisions together? It was love.

As this contagion of love was spreading like wildfire, a new thought dawned on me. Love isn’t so irrational after all. Look at what happens when one person, one company, one team decides to lead with love instead of following the rules. Imagine what could happen if we all chose love instead of profit. The results could be extraordinary.

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