Does a discussion of Spirit belong in the business world?
After all, business is about making money. Right?
Business is about making meaning. Read what Guy Kawasaki says in The Art of the Start about the story of Arthur Rock, builder and investor ofworld class companies like Intel, Fairchild Semiconductor and Apple.
"If you want to get an investment, show that you will build a business. Make meaning. Make a difference. Don't do it for the money. Do it because you want to make the world a better place. This applies to the geekiest of technology startups as well as to low-tech, no-tech, and not-for-profit organizations."
Guy also tells us that "Meaning is not about power, money or prestige."
This past summer I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Ms. Rand has powerful ideas about the culture of money and the way our business world should work (her philosophy of objectivism). She writes about "motive power", of men and women "moving in a straight line" with un-deterred vision. She talks about the beauty of capitalism. In its purest form, it encourages the greatest measureable value as efficiently as possible.
While Ayn Rand stands as a free-market icon for many of our world's business people, her message has a dark side that flies in the face of spirit. One of the heros in Atlas Shrugged tells us that we should never give something to someone that they didn't earn, not even a smile!
Not even a smile?!
Many of us have been in work environments where smiles are as rare as flying pigs. These environments often make us feel like faceless automatons cranking away like a cog in some giant mechanism. That mechanism seems like it was designed to crank out dollars into the pockets of an elite few whom we rarely see and never communicate with.
How many risks will workers take in such environments to create a better workplace? How often do you see courage? How many of these workers eye's shine with passion and meaning?
Zero. Never. None.
On the flip side, I've had the heart-warming pleasure to work in an environment that was spiritually charged or as one former colleague called it, "the most humane place I've ever worked". That company was called "Destiny" and it made meaning for the people who worked there.
Destiny flourished for nine years before its marketplace in eCommerce evaporated after the dot com crash.
Consider the following:
- Most hard client decisions were resolved with the mantra, "Do the right thing."
- The first software Destiny built was mostly created by the genius of a fresh college graduate who was given an opportunity - and that software powered one of the world's first online banking systems for Bank of America
- A woman who brashly told the founder (me) that he needed a CEO was invited to become that CEO - and she quickly grew to be one of the best in the region
- The hardest working, most productive employees were also the most outspoken critics in the public, weekly company meetings
- On the sad day when layoffs came, a laid-off manager pulled the founder aside and thanked him for the most worthwhile work experience of his career
- When the company decided to finally close its doors in late 2002, all of the former employees and contractors were invited to join in a celebration of the Destiny experience and over 100 people came to celebrate what had gone before
In my posting on retaining IT Talent, I reveal some of the secrets that I believe helped make Destiny a success of business and Spirit.
The short story is that people want to be connected. They need to see the vision, understand the mission, know and trust their colleagues and connect to their work as a meaningful part of something bigger than themselves.
There is nothing better to motivate a person than giving them a "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" (BHAG's are discussed by author Jim Collins in "Good to Great") along with plenty of latitude to make it a reality. Nothing unleashes the human spirit more than when they believe that they are making a change for the better.
However, working for a great cause is not sufficient. People need to feel that they have the ability to connect to that cause. They need to understand how their work impacts the outcome. They need to be listened to. Once those needs are met, then the BHAGs can move mountains.
So next time you feel like holing up in your office, get out and connect to your neighbors... learn a bit more about your companies mission -and ask some good questions.
Connecting isn't just good for you, its a spiritual practice that will improve your workplace.