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Earlier this month, Thea Polancic stopped by Impact Engine to work with our newest cohort of accelerator companies on positioning their social enterprises for growth. Thea is a leader in cutting-edge ideas to help Chicago companies increase their profits while not losing site of purpose. She is the Managing Partner of ClearSpace, LLC; a Chicago-based consulting firm that helps leaders, teams and organizations grow and thrive and also the Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. Conscious Capitalism is a movement dedicated to elevating humanity through business. We connected with Thea after her seminar to learn about her purpose, how you can drive change inside and outside of organizations, and what entrepreneurs should consider the “north star” of their business.

You are a self-described “passionate advocate for the power of business to transform the world.”  What sparked that passion?

TP: In 2008 after years of running my own business I felt I needed a be playing a bigger game than just trying to be successful. It felt repetitive to set goals and pursue them year after year. This set me on a path to discover my own purpose. Around that time I read an article by Elizabeth Debold entitled “Will Business Save the World?” In the article, she spoke of the incredible leverage that companies have to make a difference in the world – perhaps the most powerful potential force for good that we have. It was a radical concept then – certainly not what people thought about business at that time. This deeply resonated with me, and I realized that helping business be a force for good in the world was my purpose.

Tell us about your work at Conscious Capitalism and why it fits with your passion. 

TP: In 2009, I began to convene a group of leaders who all felt the same as I did. We created an organization called the Chicago Transformational Leadership Exchange and gathered together 4-5 times a year to foster dialogue and spread these ideas. In 2010, we realized that we needed thought leadership and a larger platform to really make an impact. Synchronistically, I found out about the Conscious Capitalism movement not long after. Conscious Capitalism was founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and it’s foundational philosophy almost exactly expressed what we had created with the CTLX: that businesses should have a higher purpose as well as being unapologetically capitalistic, be values-driven, seek to create value for all stakeholders and be a forum to develop conscious, servant leaders. We reached out to them and in 2011 began to operate as the Chicago Chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

So my role at as the Chair of CC Chicago is a natural expression of my passion. We now are a registered non-profit with great leadership team who produce many events every year from informal social gatherings to CEO breakfasts and large-scale learning forums.

Having started as an “intrapreneur” at Caterpillar and then became and entrepreneur when you founded ClearSpace.  What have you learned about driving change inside and outside of existing organizations?

TP: Advocating for a new idea, product, or service requires patience and persistence. If you’re truly innovating, you’re going to encounter resistance – it’s a sign that you’re really out there! So shifting the status quo is about change. And no matter what size the organization, change takes time and patience because it ultimately, it’s about helping human beings shift what they think and how they do things. It’s probably less about driving change than about guiding, supporting and facilitating change. These are more complex skills that most of us haven’t’ well developed.

You believe in being fully present in your interactions – how does that make you a better businessperson and leader? 

TP: More and more, the world we face is complex, ambiguous and uncertain. It’s less about what we know, and more about how we respond to what appears or is happening from moment to moment. To be able to do that we have to be aware – of what we are doing, how we’re feeling, how we’re reacting, and how others feel, react and what they need from us in terms of leadership. That’s a lot happening in the present moment! To be really responsive we have to develop the ability to be here, in this moment, where it’s all happening – and not off in our minds, worrying about the future or obsessing about the past.

What is your advice to impact entrepreneurs to make their business “great from the start”? 

TP: Get clear about your purpose and your value system from the start. This becomes your north star and your guidance system, helping you make decisions, choose what to pursue – and more importantly – what not to pursue; and retain a sense of self in pursuit of your passion.

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Noelle Juengling
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Noelle Juengling

Program Coordinator

Noelle Juengling is inspired by the challenge to fundamentally shift the way companies think about their role in driving societal and environmental change. She is responsible for marketing strategy, mentor and curriculum planning, and processes oversight at Impact Engine.

Republished with permission from the original post at Impact Engine: http://theimpactengine.com/thea-polancic-on-purpose-and-profit/

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