It is possible to do well and do good at the same time in corporate America.
Soul care and the bottom line are not the ‘Odd Couple’ in Corporate America. Business thrives because of the ethical principles of goodness and compassion. Joseph Jacobs in The Compassionate Conservative writes: In the business world, morality has a pragmatic basisit pays.
The lie perpetrated by screenwriters that big business is bad business simply does not pan out in the corporate world. Sure, there are some bad apples at the office. But there are less than ethical people in politics and religion as well. We don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water. Charles Keating and Ivan Boesky are not the norm for the corporate world. Congressman Dick Armey was right when he wrote, The market punishes immorality. If one is indifferent to the needs of his fellow citizens in a capitalist economy, he will find himself in poverty.
Ulcers, like unethical behavior, are not a badge of success. Burning out for the boss is bad business practice. It’s a sheer waste of human resources. It is the sign of a life out of balance. As a result of such awareness, programs for self-care have begun to develop in the last decade. Flex time, stress management classes, physical fitness programs at the job site, child-care centers, and careful placement of employees in the right positions are all signs of a kinder, gentler, and profitable business environment. Above all there is a growing awareness of the need for spiritual values in the corporate environment. They may not be billed as an expression of a Judeo-Christian faith but with words such as integrity, values, and a purpose in living.
One bottom line, profit for the shareholders, can now be satisfied with a healthy workforce. But what about the care of the soul? Does that mean a chaplain in every office? Not necessarily. Care of the soul is not just the domain of religion. It has more to do with an attitude of mind that values soul care. What then is this soul and what does it have to do with our occupation?
Soul is almost entirely neglected by psychology (psyche=soul), medicine, and business. It is relegated to clergy, new age gurus, and those who practice ‘alternative medicine.’ James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code gives a profound exposition of the soul, the very essence of our human nature. Words like destiny, genius, depth of character, creativity, heart, and fate all are soulish expressions. Traditionally soul has been part of the intellectual and philosophical domain of theological studies. It is used to describe the human need for relatedness with the God of the universe. However, for the sake of the present discussion soul is viewed as our God-given calling or destiny expressed with joyful creativity. Descriptions of soul include:
A Divine Calling
Business is a calling. Most people are in business because it’s a calling and not just for the buck. They want to make a difference in the world. They want a reason to be alive. Other words for calling include vision and purpose and can be articulated in either sacred or secular terms. David Packard of Hewlett-Packard writes of our real reason for being in the following way.
We have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being... a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separatelythey make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental.
Intuitively most people recognize the hand of divine providence when they say Touch wood, God willing, and There but for the grace of God go I.
The word vocation comes from the Latin ‘vocare’ which literally means ‘to be addressed by a voice.’ We are fortunate when we can say My job is a divine calling. As the acorn is to the oak tree so the soul is to our destiny. Why can’t this be true for all? It is such a pity that so many people dislike their work as reflected in bumper stickers that say, I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.
We all have a divinely appointed destiny. Ella Fitzgerald was destined to be a singer. General Patton a military leader. Og Mandino the author of inspirational novels. Does that mean that our abilities are inbred and not made? An oversimplification of the invisible world of calling misses life’s complexities. After all there is our part, (the hero taking charge and shaping the future). Then there is the unseen divine hand guiding the soul to the fulfillment of a destiny. Genius is perspiration and inspiration. It reminds me of the general who told the troops as they were crossing the river Trust God, but keep your powder dry.
A sense of a call gives our lives meaning. If the President called and asked me to be an ambassador for the United States I would be thrilled at the honor. Imagine what it would do for our self-image if we could see ourselves as divine representatives in our work. It is not crazy or pompous for all of us to affirm that we are on a divine mission at the office.
An Expression of our Best
The human potential movement without a soul becomes an empty shell. We can only pull ourselves up so high by our bootstraps. A wise man once said that there is no profit in gaining the whole world and losing a soul. Now that is a pretty bankrupt bottom line. In contrast, we reach our very best when our soul is lived with a consciousness and connection to the One who called it into being. All great people have walked the path of faith as expressed in ethical behavior.
The soul cannot be quantified or measured. However, it’s impact on the corporate world is obvious. The qualities of character, kindness, loving relationships, faith, and ethics show themselves in the bottom line. We speak of good or gentle or generous or even bad souls. And those are not just inward looking, monastic qualities. The soul is at its best when it is involved in the betterment of the community.
The bell curve cannot always be used to analyze soulish success. If we fall in the middle by some measure like size, earnings, or numbers does that make us mediocre? If I am not above the ninetieth percentile of money earners does that mean that I am not a success? What is the measure of the person? We dare not compare ourselves with the small percentage of superstars. I cannot be Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Not every speaker will be able to give the keynote at the Political Party Convention. Can the small corner pharmacist or storekeeper not be successful in his/her own right? The business may never become the national chain but still be satisfying to the owner and help people in the neighborhood. Bigger is not always better. The divine calling is that we become our best selves, or in the words from the film Rob Roy, Honor is the gift you give yourself.
Strength of soul is manifest in character, integrity, creativity, service, and goodness. Our job is to carefully identify, develop, and express our souls and let the chips of success fall where they may. Some expressions of soul could be:
- Doing a good job in a world where mediocre is the norm.
- Asking How do we enhance human dignity in the workplace?
- Asking How do company profits weigh against social considerations?
- Finding a job that fits my soul.
- Measuring wealth by rich relationships and compassionate action.
- A carefully chosen gift or a thoughtfully written letter.
- A nurturing moment with one’s child.
- The inspiration to solve a tough problem with creativity.
- A playful and humorous approach to life.
- A capacity to balance tenderness with toughness.
Secure in the Hands of God
We are told that job security is now a myth. Has not the world of downsizing and corporate mergers taught us this fact? In the midst of the three certainties of life, death, taxes, and change how can our vocation be secure? Well, if it is a divine calling then who is our boss? It’s at this point that some cannot make the leap of faith. It’s here that ulcers happen. Why pray when you can worry? It’s easy to be a fair weather believer.
Og Mandino tells a wonderful story in his book Mission: Success! An American bombardier finds himself stationed in England during the second world war. For rest and relaxation he visits a retreat/hotel in London. The wise and loving host treats these war weary fliers with love and homespun wisdom. A painting in her living room that sustains these young fliers, who constantly live with death, is one of the divine hand. The inscription underneath, from the Bible is See, I have you engraved on the palms of my hands. Many of the young men signed their names on the hands in the painting to signify their need for divine protection. It is in the place where we have no control over our external circumstances that we can see ourselves sustained by the good hands people.
Security does not mean a dependency manifest in passivity. God is not an irresponsible foundation that keeps on giving to people who are not good stewards of his resources. Providence is not a welfare system that exchanges responsibility for cash handouts. We have to keep our skills current, we must retool or retire, we are always in school, and we have to risk failure by venturing into new territory. After all, we cannot sail the seven seas if our ship never leaves the harbor.
A Matter of Contribution
I had a professor once who used to put the following slogan on his exams I don’t have ulcers, I just give them. Business environments that make a contribution to the welfare of employees, community, nation, and world tend to prevent ulcers. A corporate mission statement that includes words like quality and excellence and profit must also include service. That’s just good business practice. Customer satisfaction is just the beginning of contribution. A Realtor said to me, My customers are better off personally and financially after they have worked with me. Can the community say that about our business? Is the world a better place because of our business philosophy and practice?
The sense of satisfaction of a job well done comes from character not exploitation and a life that reflects the nature of the creator that called it into being.
Michael Novak in his book Business as a Calling reflects on the moral responsibilities of corporations. They are.
- To establish within the culture of the firm a sense of community and respect for the dignity of persons.
- To protect the political soil of liberty.
- To exemplify respect for the law.
- To win the allegiance of the majority.
- To overcome the principle of envy.
- To communicate often and fully with their investors, shareholders, pensioners, customers, and employees.
- To contribute to making the surrounding society, its own habitat, a better place.
Neglect the soul of business and we will get ulcers, bankruptcies, the work environment will become spiritually and emotionally toxic, and human relations as laborious as us trying to run through quicksand. Feed a soul and grow a productive individual, business, family, community, and nation.
Dr. Cedric Johnson is a professor at the University of Phoenix, author of four books on spirituality and emotional health, and has been a psychologist in private and hospital practice for two decades. Leader of the popular Doing What You Love and Success Without Ulcers Seminar series, he has served as a success coach for corporate executives and leaders in the entertainment industry, and has been a radio talk-show host for 12 years. For information call Dr. Johnson at 707-642-8043 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org