The spiritual element is an increasingly important function of the workplace sensibility. Kenny Moore shows us that everything he knows about business he learned from his fifteen years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest and uses this knowledge to discuss in broad secular terms just how to harnass the power of the sacred for a more contented and productive employee pool.
by Kenny Moore
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kenny Moore is co-author of The CEO and the Monk: One Company’s Journey to Profit and Purpose (John Wiley and Sons, 2004). He is Corporate Ombudsman and Human Resources Director at a New York City Fortune 500 energy company. He is Founding Director of Art for the Anawim, a not-for-profit charity which works with the art community in supporting the needs of terminally ill children and the inner city poor. He can be reached at email@example.com , on (973) 956-8210, or visit http://www.kennythemonk.com/ .
When I lived in the monastery, 20 percent of my superiors thought they were divinely inspired. Now that I work in corporate America this number is up to 80 percent! In my company I’m one of the few who have a core competency for dealing with executives who believe they are infallible. My CEO has recognised this skill and I report directly to him to assist in changing the company’s culture. While it may seem strange, my years in the Church gave me some relevant skills for succeeding in the business world and the jobs do have similarities although the corporate salary is a lot better! Much of my work therefore, continues to remain priestly and relates to:
Offering hope; and
Trying to heal an inherently flawed human system.
Morale remains dismal in most companies and employee surveys reveal three disturbing trends:
Workers don’t believe senior management;
Employees are too stressed out to care; and
There are problems with trust, belief and caring.
When I lived behind cloistered walls we referred to these dynamics as a crisis of Faith, Hope and Charity. Napoleon once said that leaders are dealers in hope. Hope sounds like a sacred quality to me. Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that the work of today’s executive is as much spiritual as it is managerial and that corporate America faces a spiritual problem as much as a fiscal one.
Commitment vs. compliance Even though prayer cards now outnumber Dilbert cartoons in employees’ cubicles, talking about what is holy in the workplace leaves most corporate managers in a quandary. How do engineers and accountants become astute business leaders as well as proficient spiritual guides? Addressing this predicament is a little more difficult than streamlining business processes or outsourcing operations overseas. Engaging the heart and soul of employees to gain business success is no easy task. Throwing money and corporate perks at workers may encourage their compliance but it does little to guarantee their commitment. Commitment can only be invited — it cannot be coerced or conscribed. It comes as much from the heart as from the head and employees won’t bestow it if they mistrust their leaders and, as we are beginning to discover, if you don’t get commitment from employees then the business falters. While monks seem to understand what is required for soliciting people’s commitment, many business leaders do not. This is probably because much of their education was spent in measuring, managing and marketing. Courses in business school seldom explore the sacred component of leadership’s responsibility. Perhaps that is partly responsible for the high turnover in the executive suite. Today’s corporate leaders may have lost their godly compass and consequently the loyalty of their workers. Some form of devine retribution may be underway for those residing in the corner offices. The good news is that there are a host of employees out there yearning to throw their commitment behind a leader who is making progress in mastering the art of invitation. The ancient Greeks used to say that in the land of the blind, the Cyclops rule. Merely making the effort to abandon coercion in favor of invitation appears sufficient. Employees seem to be instinctively drawn to officers who are trying to embrace this approach. To separate the authentic leaders from those using this method as another management tactic, discriminating workers are applying the same criteria as Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart used in identifying pornography i.e. I know it when I see it. Like plants drawn to light, workers are inherently attracted to leaders who are sincerely implementing this refreshing skill. These executives represent a type of heliotropic leadership in the rugged jungle of business life. They radiate a hallowed luminescence that employees gravitate towards and are nurtured by. With this type of leadership corporate toxicity is kept to a minimum and a form of workplace photosynthesis takes place.