#94 Kevin Wilhelm, CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting

Kevin Wilhelm is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, instructor at the University of Washington and Harvard, and author of several bestselling books in sustainability including his latest book, How to Talk to the Other Side: Finding Common Ground in the Time of Coronavirus, Recession and Climate Change. He is one of the world’s pre-eminent business consultants and teachers in the field of sustainability. He is renowned as a catalyst for impact in sustainability, bringing together divergent perspectives in business, environmental, and social justice communities to move positive change forward.

He is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, a consulting firm focused on demonstrating the bottom-line business benefits of sustainability and has led over 160 organizations, including Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, REI, and Expedia through successful implementation. He has built a reputation as being the “trusted advisor” and “business guy” on the environment and social issues for the past 20 years. Most recently, he helped MLS Cup Champions the Seattle Sounders go carbon neutral.

He has since contributed to sustainability efforts in more than 40 industries ranging from Fortune 500 companies down to local government organizations, social justice organizations and clean energy start-ups to offset over 10,000 times the carbon emissions of his own firm.

Bigger Than Us Episode 94

This transcription has been lightly edited for readability.

Host Raj Daniels 02:11

So Kevin, if you were asked to share something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

Kevin Wilhelm 02:20

If I was going to tell someone about myself, I see myself as kind of a bridge builder, finding practical solutions to big problems, both individually and with my business, try and find ways to bring common sense solutions to solve big intractable problems. And that’s kind of a little bit about why I do the work I do and why I wrote the book I did.

Host Raj Daniels 02:45

I like the idea of bridge building and you mentioned your business. Can you give a brief overview of your current organization and then share some words about your new book?

Kevin Wilhelm 02:57

Sure. So my company is called Sustainable Business Consulting. We’re a niche consultancy that really tries to help organizations derive business value through better social justice and environmental practices. A lot of our work is helping organizations find ways that can take proactive actions on issues like climate change, diversity, equity inclusion, but in a way that’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, but in a way that’s going to help them save money, make money, enhance your brand value, reduce the risk, and engage their employees. 

A lot of the work we’re doing is very much a work that everyone knows they need to do. But what we do is we empower them with the business case and the the know how, how to do it in a way that’s going to actually provide bottom line business benefit to what your company is trying to do. 

The book that we wrote, How to Talk to the Other Side, this was really a passion project for my myself and my co author Natalie Hoffman, where we really felt there’s just been this deterioration in society in terms of how we talk to one another. And politics has become something that become a de facto way of standing in for one person’s values and how we’re stereotyping each other. And I really felt like if we were going to solve not only business bolutions, but societal issues, we’re going to tackle the coronavirus. We’re going to tackle how we get out of this economic recession. We’re going to tackle big problems on racial social justice, immigration, guns, abortion, whatever it is, that we needed to learn how to talk to one another again, and in a way that could find win-win solutions for both parties. So that’s why we wrote the book. And, obviously, we felt when we started doing the research that it was going to be very practical and helpful, but we felt this intense need to get it out once the Coronavirus hit. So that’s why that the tagline is How to Find Common Ground in the time of Coronavirus, Economic Recession and Climate Change.

Host Raj Daniels 05:12

So you have previous books on sustainability, and now you have this book How to Talk to the Other Side? How do these come together? And if, if there’s someone listening in right now and wants to learn and wants to try to talk, quote unquote, to the other side, whatever side that might be, what are some of the tips or tactics you’d give that person?

05:30

Yeah, that’s a great question, Raj. Because the first two books were really about how do you do sustainability and kind of the why, like, what are the technical things you do? What how are you going to save money? How are you going to enhance your brand? But what I’ve noticed what’s really missing is that people now just immediately just shut into their own tribes or into their own silos so quickly and what to make any type of real lasting change, we had to develop a toolkit that could enable all of us to talk with people that disagree with us, I think all of us have gotten to a standpoint where we, if we’re not villainizing the other side, we’re not feeling comfortable talking to them, because there’s just so much emotion and so much raw tension that’s there. 

This book was really about realizing that to get to the win-win solutions and the other activities that we talked about in our business, on the two books, we first had to find ways to establish common ground with people and you know, it’s it’s no different than when you’re trying to talk to anybody about anything. You can’t come in and try and impose your values on someone. First, you have to get to know them, you got to find out where you have common ground where you have shared aspiration and shared values, and then how can you listen to what the other person is saying and find that kind of solution that can help both of you. And that’s really how the books all marry together is that this is really in our hyper politicalized time. How do you reach out and talk to someone who may completely disagree with you on an issue, but yet, find a way to actually help them solve their issue and help you solve your issue to move the ball forward.

Host Raj Daniels 07:24

So what are one or two tactics that we can use to do that?

Kevin Wilhelm 07:28

Well, I think that the first one, believe it or not, is so simple, but none of us are doing it right now. You know, because especially as we get closer to the election, people are really feeling politicized. And, you know, there’s this feeling of, well, you know, the other side just needs to understand, and the reality is that nobody likes to be told what to do. Whether you’re on the left, whether you’re on the right whether you’re for an issue or against an issue. What people are craving is to be listened to people don’t feel like they’re being listened to anymore. Whether it’s you know, that’s one of the reasons the Trump phenomenon was there is you had this whole section of the country that had been feeling like they’re not being listened to. And you have the Black Lives Matter movement, where you’ve got a whole society of the country that’s felt like they’ve been ignored, and not listened to. 

So it really goes back to, instead of trying to convince somebody, so I’ll use the example, on climate change. People on the left for years have been trying to convince the right that climate change is real, and they hit it with science and stats and data and facts. But people aren’t persuaded by that. People make decisions based on emotion. So instead of trying to come and convince somebody, what you need to do is listen, you ask them, What is at the core of their anxiety? What is really driving that fear? Where what are their shared aspirations? And listen to them and as you peel back the onion, you find that there’s way more in common and that they’re not really against the science are against taking action, but they’re really worried about how it’s going to impact their quality of life or their family, or their business or somebody they know. 

If you can get to that level and truly understand where the fear point is, then you can start having the conversation about, okay, now that I understand exactly what what you’re most afraid of, let me help you. Let’s address that with the solution we’re trying to bring forward. And if you can address that, it’ll lower their temperature. They will kind of relax and they’re gonna be more willing to hear other types of solutions that you can provide to kind of work on the topic that you’re really trying to address.

Host Raj Daniels 09:42

Now, you mentioned impact their businesses. And you know, you have quite a deep background in consulting with business. I think you have over 20 years experience and working with over 165 different businesses. You gave a TEDx talk some time ago where you mentioned some specific steps that businesses could take, and it sounded like almost to make them more resilient or work better towards a better future from a climate change perspective. Can you walk us through those tips?

Kevin Wilhelm 10:10

Yeah. And and I really appreciate you bringing that up, Raj, because one of the things that I was trying to mention in that TEDx spot is when you’re trying to address climate change or any issue, I mean, I think the pandemic is, obviously something that if you would ask people 12 months ago, are you worried about a pandemic shutting down the entire country, and your kids being out of school. You know, people would say, no way, that’s such an extreme example, that would never happen. But one of the things that we outline in my book Making Sustainability Stick in the TEDx was, how to be preparing for the future that is uncertain. And it really comes down to doing kind of that baseline analysis of where your risks and opportunities are your organization and looking at them through a way of future proofing your brand or your business by running through different scenarios…and we can do it right now. 

So, let’s look at a scenario where business returns to normal, where a business is only at 50%, kind of what you’re doing. Or let’s go through a scenario where the pandemic plays out for another three years. How would you go through your business? And it’s it’s no different than we talked to people about whether it’s an environmental issue or a social justice issue. You know, if, let’s say, a Democrat, were going to come into office and massively put in new regulations, new laws, new permits that would be required to operate, how would that impact your business? And we can look at it from a standpoint of, you know, that could be one extreme, or if, let’s say, our current administration were to stay in power, and then we’re going to continue to relax these issues in what ways would you take action? Or there could be a middle ground where, you know, come back and there’s not drastic change on either way, but maybe there’s a different consumer or investor sentiment that would force you to act one way or another, what would you do? 

And so it really comes into kind of baseline and understanding where you are, you know, reaching out to various stakeholders and understanding what they care about whether it’s your customers, your investors, your employees, anybody through your supply chain, realizing kind of what’s your vision for your business in those different scenarios, and as you play it out, you’re able to realize that the, the actions you might take in one scenario are the same actions you might take in a different scenario, but it just kind of rises to the occasion of, “hey, we really need to get going on some of these issues.”

Host Raj Daniels 12:53

So I see that you’ve also been teaching on sustainability for quite a while now. How have your students changed over the years. What are the biggest differences from when you started teaching till today?

Kevin Wilhelm 13:06

Yeah, I mean, when I started teaching, sustainability was very much on kind of the fringe. People that did that were maybe trying to go and lead their dream team or maybe there was an occasional person who led a department at their organization, but, you know, didn’t really have any budget didn’t really have any say, to where we are now the students that I have at, say the University of Washington or Harvard. They are people that are vice presidents or director level individuals within an organization. These are people with real power. And they understand that their consumers, their investors, their employees, their suppliers are demanding change. And so they’re wanting to know, what exactly should I be doing? And how can I derive business value from this. 

Whereas when we first got started, it’s kind of, you know, let’s show you how you can help, you know, save some money a little bit and maybe get some buy-in and everything. Nowadays, you’ve seen the gauntlet thrown down by large companies like Microsoft and Amazon who are committed to being carbon neutral by 2040 or 2050. They’re forcing their supply chains. 

We’re seeing some of our clients that are ports that are now trying to be carbon negative by, say, 2050. 

We’re seeing hospitals that we work with, they’re trying to be carbon neutral by 2025. 

And all of this is really ratcheted up not only the expertise that is needed, but the understanding of how you integrate sustainability, climate, addressing Coronavirus? How you dress all that into the core of your business function? And what ways can you do it that work seamlessly to help you accomplish all your goals?

Host Raj Daniels 14:59

Now, you mentioned the students you’re seeing now. How are you able to tie in finance and the bottom line with sustainability?

Kevin Wilhelm 15:11

Multiple different ways. I would say that 80 to 90% of the solutions that our firm is offering or that we’re teaching about lead to cost savings, whether it’s energy efficiency, whether it’s water savings, whether it’s efficiency within a process within there’s shipping and supply chain or working with manufacturing facilities. 80 to 90% of them are cost saving measures. 

Now, of course, not everything is a cost saving measure. You have people that want to go out and put solar panels on roofs and things like that, and those right now, still in a lot of states don’t cancel out. But what we look at is from the kind of the finance perspective that that top line revenue growth perspective, you’re seeing that investors. This is where we really engage the finance people. Investors are asking clients about their social environmental governance performance on the sustainability related issues. And so whereas it used to be a nice to do and, you know, look at us, we’re so great, 10 years ago. Now you are absolutely having report that and even if you don’t have an existing customer who’s asking you, if you’re a publicly traded, Bloomberg, State Street, ISS, they’re all rating you they’re all putting in performance are all putting that into their decision criteria as to what stock which company is taking these issues seriously. And they’re incorporated around COVID-19. 

So it’s one of these things where we’ll go to the finance person, and instead of now, do these things, you could save money. Let’s say do this thing, or you may lose a $50 million dollar contract with, company x or company y, and that really seems to get their attention. Or this this large investor may divest, and is going to cash out and oh my gosh, you better have cash on hand. So this is real world, it’s real money. And, and that’s, that’s how we’re trying to engage them now, as opposed to, it’s the right thing to do or, we need to take action because it’s a moral cause no, we can really truly aggressively engage people through their finance department.

Host Raj Daniels 17:27

Now, when I first learned about you is when you presented about a month ago to the EarthX organization. I know during that presentation you were addressing on an individual basis what people can do. So I’m going to ask you specifically, three things that perhaps a business can start looking at. And then what are three things that individuals can start looking at to move them to be more sustainable?

Kevin Wilhelm 17:50

I think from a business perspective, it’s pretty simple. You know, it’s almost like you know, when you when you’ve come out of the holidays, And you’ve eaten way too much. And you’re hesitant to step on the scale, because you don’t want to see what that number is. It’s the same way with businesses that are, that are a little worried about what they’re going to see. And we just tell them, the first thing you need to do is you need to do kind of a sustainability assessment. A lot of utilities offer free energy audits, they offer free waste audits, they offer ways to reduce water consumption. And so we tell them if you haven’t done that, take advantage of the free audits that are out there, because more often than not, they’ll show you where you’ve got low hanging fruit and provide you with the incentives to to start taking action as you build your program. 

…that’s the most important thing that an individual can do is look at where they’re spending money and how they’re spending money and then say, is this the intention we want if we want?

For an individual. I think that, you know, the biggest thing to look at is you kind of want to ask yourself, okay, this is how I’m currently living and, you know, if I were really living my values, what would I be doing? How would I consume? We ask people, you know, in what ways, what ways do you consume and obviously, in the pandemic, everyone has been clicking on Amazon and buying stuff online because it’s easy and convenient, you know, it’s safe. But we asked them, what ways can you do that, but you can be intentional with your dollars? If you want to support your local businesses who want to support your local stores and bookstores and restaurants, in what ways can you do that and still have that same convenience, but so that the money stays in your community? And in a lot of ways, that’s the most important thing that an individual can do is look at where they’re spending money and how they’re spending money and then say, is this the intention we want if we want? If COVID-19 is threatening 50% of all small businesses, how can we make sure that our money is going to them as opposed to a giant multinational?

Host Raj Daniels 19:53

The crux of our conversation is the why behind what you do. So you’ve been involved in this stainability movement for over 20 years, speaking all around the world. What’s your Why? What drives you? What motivated you to get involved? And what keeps you involved?

Kevin Wilhelm 20:10

You know, Raj, that’s a great question because I think when I originally got involved, it was kind of at a point of, you know, seeing what was happening in the world and wanting to kind of make a difference. You know, I had driven across the country several times when I was leaving one career before I started this one and I, I kept thinking to myself, how can use business to save the environment? Because I don’t have an environmental degree and I’m not a politician. What do I understand? I understand business, and how can I use that for good? And then when I opened up Sustainable Business Consulting, a month before I had done it, I had read the Intergovernmental Panel Report on Climate Change. I just saw how this idea that to so amorphous that was going to happen in 2050, or 2100, what are the changes are actually going to start hitting us in 2020 and 2013. I felt like someone’s got to do something, and someone needs to go around and educate businesses. 

So I went around to 45 different consulting agencies in the Seattle area. And I kept asking, who’s going to do something on climate change? Who’s going to do something on social justice? And every single one said yeah, you’re right, somebody needs to do that. And so, after that, after the 45th one, I was like, I guess I gotta start my own firm and do it. And, you know, so the why is, I truly believe that when businesses see a profit motive, they do the right thing. 

There’s always a tension between doing the right thing, whether it’s acting on COVID-19 whether it’s acting on the Black Lives Matter movement, whether it’s acting on an issue, like climate change, they know and they want to do the right thing, but they’ve got this tension about the balance sheet and their financial statements. And if you can, instead of having tension, if you can find how doing the right thing actually improves an organization’s bottom line, then they go, and they go hard and they go fast. And so the why is really, you know, I want to…everyone says I want a future for my kids, everyone wants the same aspiration. But that’s really what I’ve come down to is the how, and I feel like with the business, if you can show them the profit motive, it’s there. 

When I wrote the book, How to Talk to the Other Side, it’s it’s going beyond business, it’s talking to any number of type of individuals and understanding what what where their tensions lie and what is really core to what their most basic needs are. And if you can help them solve that by, you know, acting in a more socially just environmentally friendly way, then they go because they it’s more exciting to do that than the traditional way.

Host Raj Daniels 23:00

What moved you to read that report 20 years ago?

Kevin Wilhelm 23:04

I think it was just because I had someone that was asking me about it. And I felt like I didn’t know enough to answer their questions in the level of depth that they were asking. So I felt like, gosh, I really should read this and know this front and back and really, truly understand what’s going on. But then, as I read it, the emotional connection to you know, my heart and my head and my hands kind of all came together of like, okay, this is really bad. You know, I think everyone’s you know, people have been talking about this since the late 80s. But it was like, oh my gosh, this is something we have to take action on now. 

It’s one of the areas where I have tension when I sit on panels with scientists who talked about two degrees centigrade increase in temperature or sea levels rising by 2100. For most people that just too far off in the future. What I try and do and talk about this book is how do you take an issue like climate change, but you break it down to an extreme weather event, like what you mentioned, Raj, how hot it is in Dallas, and how unbearable it is. Phoenix just hit an all time record for days above 110 degrees. We’re seeing bomb cyclones increasing in super storms and hurricanes. And now in the West, they call it fire season as opposed to just summer and fall, that’s now called fire season and then fire season is now six months long. And so you’re seeing everybody’s being impacted by these extreme weather events. 

Again, you talk about the amorphous center of climate change and what’s going to happen by 2030, or 2050, or 2100, most people are more worried about how you get through my day to day, so if you can bring it back to their day to day. And you say how has Coronavirus impacted your day to day? Everyone can tell you what it’s done to their work life to their family life to their social life. 

And you can say, okay, so how can we make sure that we prepare for that next one? How can we come out of this better, stronger, more resilient? And people engage, because that’s something that everyone can hit and think about. If they’re talking about the next pandemic, or something’s gonna happen 5, 10 years from now, that’s not where people’s minds and their hearts are they, they’re right now in present day, and so we have to really focus on that.

Host Raj Daniels 25:34

So it’s obvious that you’re a learner. So what are some of the valuable lessons that you’ve learned on your journey?

Kevin Wilhelm 25:41

If you want to be understood, you first have to understand.

I would say the most valuable lesson I’ve learned, really goes back to when you’re like, age seven, you know, it’s, listen first. If you want to be understood, you first have to understand. And I think you know, treating people as you would like to be treated. I think we’ve just gotten away from it. When we were writing this book, how to talk to the other side, it just kept coming back to me. These are all things that I learned by third grade. 

What has happened in our society? We’ve lost the ability to have civil conversations, we’ve lost ability to even have conversation, because you mentioned a word and you know, I give the example of one thing I learned was, I was giving a talk to a very conservative business audience. And I put on a Trump hat. And you could see certain people in the audience kind of laugh, because they were like, okay, he’s one of us. And then I swap my hat for Biden, and you can see other people relax, but you can see the people that had relaxed when I put the Trump hat on, all sudden were curious, they were like less distrustful of what I was saying. And I just kept switching the hat as I was going through the conversation and I realized that people’s entire belief systems and how they’re willing to listen to facts, or information is coming to them is morphed by this mass siloization that we’ve done with our social media, with our news stories with our political parties. And by breaking that barrier, and getting away from it and getting back to the basics of how do you find common ground with people? 

How do you talk about sports, you talk about, your family, where you’re from, you know, your hobbies, how you’re surviving the pandemic. And by doing that, then you can open up the bigger conversation and that’s probably been the biggest learning throughout this whole process.

Host Raj Daniels 27:40

I love that experiment. I’m thinking in my head if I should try it or not, but I’m not sure yet.

Kevin Wilhelm 27:45

You know, Raj it is a great social experiment. I used to do this where I would show up in different outfits to some of my sustainability classes. I’d show up the first day in a full suit, and I’d say this is a sustainable business class but this has got business in it, and people would be in their Birkenstocks and a shorts and a tank tops and, and they would be like, whoa, what the hell is coming on with this guy? I thought we were like, solving how to save the planet. And then the next day I would show up in a polo shirt, khakis, and they’d kind of ease. And then I’d show up in jeans and a t-shirt. And you can see that oh, okay, the classes about that and be like. Yeah, but what you really were worried about was that first day where I showed up in a suit, you don’t know how to talk to me in that. And that scared you. So we have to get you to that point where you embrace that, you want that. 

In the same way that I talked to conservative audiences and business and finance leaders who all are talking about ROI and making sure we maximize shareholder value. I will lead to a point where I get them riled up and excited about that. And then when I show them that the investment funds like The Dow Jones Sustainability Index actually outperforms the Dow. And the S&P Social Environmental Index outperformed the S&P 500. And this is post 2008 all the way up until 2016. It’s been during this massive market uptick prior to the pandemic, it’s been during the pandemic. You show them how the sustainability fund actually outperform the traditional funds. They just can’t believe it, but by instead of talking about anything about morality, environmental social justice, all I’m talking to them about is return on investment, and maximizing shareholder value, and then they kind of they get it. But I think you should definitely try that social experiment and you’ll be shocked at how quickly you will lose more than half of your audience.

Host Raj Daniels 29:46

It’s interesting how much identity we assigned to clothing and hats and t-shirts, etc. It just makes you kind of walk through your in your mind, you know, when you do go out in public, what are you wearing and how people respond to you. So I really appreciate that. That really has me thinking here.

Kevin Wilhelm 30:04

Yeah, if you’re wearing a red hat in a liberal stronghold, you could have a St. Louis Cardinals baseball hat on, or one of the old Texas Rangers hats where they had red as one of their private primary colors. And people will just assume it’s a Make America Great hat. You could be walking out in a conservative area with a hat might look like Biden, but it might be the Buffalo Bisons triple A baseball team, and people will just, you know, really pull back. And so you’re absolutely right. 

But we can’t let clothing, can’t let a person’s political affiliation be the de facto representation of everything they’re there for.

And that’s one of the things that we really tried to do with this book, How to Talk to the Other Side was, we have to stop stereotyping one another. We have to stop you know, I mean…I don’t know how we’ve allowed us as a society, but we’ve allowed people to kind of just make blank generalizations about us based on who we might be voting for. Someone you know, I know my values are very different than pretty much everyone else in town. We might have some similar core values. But we can’t let clothing, can’t let a person’s political affiliation be the de facto representation of everything they’re there for. I mean, you just look in the, to the Democratic Party, and then the divide between all the different candidates between the Bernie supporters, the Biden supporters, Andrew Yang supporters, and where you go with all those issues? It’s no different we just need to be more intentional in how we’re engaging people.

Host Raj Daniels 31:35

Kevin, I really appreciate you sharing that. So let’s move to the future. Let’s assume that everyone read your book 2025. What does the future look like for you?

Kevin Wilhelm 31:44

I think the future looks a lot more hopeful. You know, I’m really optimistic. I’ve had a lot of feedback from readers who have bought my book, that it’s opened up their mind I think one of the things that I’m hopeful about is people on the left have said, it needed to be more to the left, and people on the right have said, it needs to be more to the right. Which means that we kind of hit it right down the middle of where we needed to be. And I’m hopeful because I feel like if we can start listening to one another, again, if everyone’s read this book, their their temperature will come down. They’ll figure out how to have conversations. But more importantly, instead of looking at somebody on the other side, it’s how am I going to convince them? If they say, with empathy, how can I help them address their problems and their anxiety? And I’m going to work to solve that first. And then I’m going to worry about what I was going to tell them. By outlining the win-win solutions we have throughout the book, I think there’s there’s a real opportunity to do that. 

Let me just give a couple different examples where we’ve had instances out here in the western United States Between ranchers and farmers and environmentalists who want the reintroduction of wolves or grizzly bears into some habitat. For years, the ranchers and farmers fought it because they were like, it’s our property that’s being trampled. It’s our livestock being killed. And so they try to have a big government solution coming in and saying, Okay, well, if you take a photo of your livestock has been killed or crops have been trampled and fill up this long process, then we’ll reimburse you. But it all takes a long time. When we use some of the techniques in this book, where we went and listene. And what the American prairie reserve did was they they flipped the issue on its head and listened to the farmers and ranchers were like, no, we get it. We want these animals here, we understand the importance of ecosystem. I just want fairness. I don’t wanna have to fill out this damn bureaucratic forums every time one of my cows is killed. I should be able to take a photo of it, upload it and get a payment. 

The American prairie reserve is nonprofit. What they did is input wildlife motion sensor cameras on their property so that every time one of these endangered species came across their property, it automatically took a photo and they got money every single time that a photo was clipped. So all of a sudden, this wildlife that had been seen as a nuisance all of a sudden it started to be seen as a financial assets. And these ranchers and farmers start saying, hey, here are these other wildlife corridors that I know where I’m seeing stuff get trampled, can we put another camera up here? And I’ll preserve that area if I can make money. 

All of a sudden, it just flipped the whole discussion from people who were literally in a row to talk about how much they hated one another, to now, that we’re all in this together and we can both accomplish exactly what we want. And I think if we can take those type of lessons, we have them scattered throughout our book and apply them. I’m really hopeful of what we can do moving forward.

Host Raj Daniels 34:53

I think so to Kevin. My last question is, if you could share some advice or words of wisdom with the audience, what would it be?

Kevin Wilhelm 35:07

I think it really comes down to hope. And I think that the one bit of wisdom that I would give to people is that if you if you put yourself back to a situation where say you’re in high school or college or some type of social situation where you’re showing up at a party, you know, we didn’t we didn’t go and introduce ourselves and talk about our political values and you didn’t go and tell someone everything about you. You went and you listened. You kind of sat on the fringe, you listened to find out what they cared about, their hobbies, their passions, what sports teams they did. You found common ground, start having those conversations. And then as you get to know each other, then you could peel back the onion and have more deeper conversations. 

We’ve lost as a society, our ability to even reach out and find common ground with someone on the other side. And you know, that the tip I would say is that, think about how we’re all feeling during the pandemic. You’re starting to see people who, you know, on Zoom and other ways, you’re starting to with their lives really like, and what their hobbies, and they’re having the same struggles. And the the bit of wisdom, I would say is that if you start with the shared aspiration, that we all want to be healthy, we don’t want to get sick. We want a good job, we want our businesses to be open, we want our schools to be open, we want them to be safe. And we want the ability to retire at some point. When you start with your shared aspiration, that’s the what…all the difference and the disagreement and the lack of harmony is the how. And if we can instead of talking about how something should get done, and focus on the what, which in this situation right now, if we can talk about how do we reopen school safely? How do we reopen business safely? And how do we make sure we don’t get sick. 

…start with shared aspirations, find common ground with people. And once you get there, the solutions present themselves.

When you start with that, then solutions coming together. When it’s, well, we got to open the schools or we got to stay home. Or we have to open the economy or we got to worry about public health. Should wear masks or not? Instead of, in what ways could people show up at a restaurant and not spread the virus and spend money and keep the business afloat? That is a different conversation than the divisive ones that are out there. And so I think if I’m going to leave the listeners with anything, it’s start with shared aspirations, find common ground with people. And once you get there, the solutions present themselves.

Host Raj Daniels 37:38

Kevin, I love the idea of shared aspirations. Thank you so much for your time today. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we go?

Kevin Wilhelm 37:46

Yeah, if any, any of your listeners have other questions or want to follow up with me, go to our website www.sustainablebizconsulting.com. You can reach me there. You can buy the book on Amazon. It’s called How to Talk to the Other Side: Finding Common Ground in the Time of Coronavirus, Recession and Climate Change. And, definitely continue to follow Raj’s podcast because they’re amazing. And Raj, I really appreciate you having me.

Sustainable Business Consulting: sustainablebizconsulting.com

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Raj Daniels