m_eileenEileen Fisher is an American fashion designer and founder of the women’s clothing retailer Eileen Fisher Inc. The company celebrated its 30-year anniversary and has over 1,000 coworkers.

For these last thirty years, Eileen Fisher has looked at clothing through the lens of confidence and empowerment. Eileen has always been passionate about using her company as a voice for change in the world, focusing on sustainability, human rights, empowerment of women and girls and wellness for her employees. For instance: 70% of the cotton used in the company’s clothing comes from Organic Cotton. This allows the soil to be reused and keeps workers from being exposed to the harsh chemicals in pesticides. In order to also reduce the amount of fabric and fiber that is wasted yearly, the company started a recycling program called Green Eileen, which allows customers to donate their gently used Eileen Fisher Clothing in return for a $5 gift certificate for each piece. The clothing is then dry cleaned and resold and 100% of the money earned through the Green Eileen Program is put towards Business Grants for women, and Supporting leadership in young women.

This company can be a positive role model for others, and that’s why it was interesting to watch Eileen Fisher, the “chief creative officer” of a $300 million company, give a speech permeated with positive leadership in practice. Her presence was authentic, kind and even humble. What a contrast with so many other CEO’s giving keynote speeches at conferences and seminars!

Determine the deeper Why?

m_hand“What’s the deeper purpose of our work?”, Eileen wondered during the Global Presencing Forum in Boston, organized by the Presencing Institute. (The Presencing Institute creates awareness-based social technologies that help individuals, groups, organizations, and communities to respond to the disruptive challenges of our time, both individually and collectively.)

“How can we do less bad? The fashion business is a nightmare for the environment. I hope that one day we can send out the water cleaner, that all fibers are organic and that we can regenerate the earth through our work. Speaking of which, would it be possible to regenerate people through the workplace? How could we have people feel refreshed after six or eight hours of work?

What would it be like if they were excited to come to work and they would feel enlightened when going home?”

What would it be like if they were excited to come to work and feel enlightened when going home? Click To Tweet

Making a meaningful mark

m_courage“I have always wanted people to feel free and comfortable in their clothes. I’ve wanted them to be comfortable at work, too. So we take listening seriously, we have collaborative circles, and people care for their teams. Yet, we have the everyday busyness of deadlines, decisions, dollars. How do we go deeper? Deeper to make a difference in the world? How can we work so hard and still be happy?
How can we hold the tension of all those things we want to do? It is so much. Though I am very blessed to do meaningful work every day….”

Our bodies help us to connect to our hearts. Click To Tweet

“The less I work, the more laser-like I’m able to contribute. I value that for all of our coworkers. We give full employee benefits when someone works 20 hours per week or more. It’s worthwhile to work part-time and balance life and work. We have a discipline of no emails in the weekend and no phone calls in the car; no multi-tasking. No meetings on Friday afternoon or on Monday morning – so people can work less and enjoy the weekend.”

Let's free ourselves and work from passion. Click To Tweet

Act from Passion

“I have spent time working on myself: I did therapy, yoga, meditation and somatic experiencing when you drop into your body. Our bodies help us to connect to our hearts. We need to figure out how to get free. For me, freeing myself is facing my fear: speaking here, for instance. For others it’s getting rid of guilt: I know someone who feels guilty meditating. Those things get in the way of what we want to do. We can only have a positive impact if we connect to ourselves and to others. Then we can find ways to work together. We need a more networked kind of structure in the world – lots of people are not connected yet. And there’s so much untapped potential from people and their passions. We will become a force if we do this all. Let’s free ourselves and work from passion.”

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