you caught up in this whole Enron thing? Probably to most of us it
is a distant happening. It wasn't our employer. We didn't have our
money in Enron's 401k. None of those zillionare executives invited
us to a party at their mansions. Like most front-page news items
- it happened 'over there'. Or did it?
The whole story is immensely sad. Sad because
thousands of people have been betrayed. Sad because Enron's former
vice-chairman J. Clifford
Baxter shot himself because he "could not take the pain," leaving
a wife and two children to make sense of it all. He was only 43.
He had a brand new 2002 Mercedes the papers were careful to point
out, as though the kind of car you take your own life in is important.
May God grant his family unusual courage and peace.
I can't follow the unfolding Enron story without
thinking of St. Matthew's writings. He wrote "What does it profit someone if
they sell all their shares based on insider knowledge, accumulating
extra-ordinary wealth at the expense of others, and lose their soul
in doing so?" (Well it goes something like that.) St. Matthew went on to ask: "And what can a person pay to
get their soul back?" I understand that to be a rhetorical question
with the implied answer being "Nothing." No amount of money
would do it. In other words you can sell your soul, but you can't
buy it back.
Obviously, I am no Enron expert - apparently
no one is. But it seems to me that this company went to a great
deal of trouble to
sell its soul. According to online.ie news, they set up 900 different
ventures to conceal billions in debt. Cliff Baxter "complained
mightily to (former CEO) Skilling
about the inappropriateness
of our transactions." Some think his suicide was really a reflection
of his despair over participating in selling the soul of Enron -
that he deeply regretted not being able to stop it. Like I said,
once you sell your soul, you can't buy it back.
I absolutely believe that every organization, every business, has
a soul - that is if it hasn't sold it already. It is that mysterious
spirit that you feel but perhaps cannot measure. It is the light
in the eyes of those who work there. It's the fire in the belly.
It is the pervasive sense of calling that gives reason for every
activity no matter how mundane. It is knowing that together you are
fulfilling a higher calling, helping creation come to fulfillment.
Perhaps making the world a better place. It is what distinguishes
you from all others.
We shop at a Safeway store near our home. This Safeway has a soul.
I don't know if they all do. It hits you like a healing breeze when
you walk in. Does your grocery store have a soul - or does it just
have groceries? How about your bank - does it have a soul? My observation is that
most people just roll their eyes and smirk at that question like
the answer is obvious. Our small local bank used to have a soul.
Then it merged with a big bank and lost its soul. Now it just has
checking accounts, makes loans and does various other financial transactions.
Let me be clear - it is also possible for big banks to have a soul,
it's just harder for them.
Ever gone to a very expensive restaurant that
has no soul? You feel it instantly. It can have chocolate lava
cake and still have
no soul. When you do find a restaurant with a soul you become a faithful
and frequent patron. The cynical reader will instantly protest, "You
go to a restaurant for decent food, not for a spiritual experience!" I
disagree. I believe most people do want a spiritual experience -
oh, and of course good food too. A restaurant that has soul will
do everything it can to ensure your meal is the best it can possibly
I believe your customers want a spiritual experience from you
too! Been in touch with a law firm lately? Does it have a soul? How
about your accounting firm? I think accounting firm Arthur Anderson
is fighting for its soul right now don't you? You are going to hear
about a lot of companies fighting for their soul over the next few
months. If you've been in a hospital lately, what is your opinion
of its soul-full-ness? Does the United States Senate have a soul?
Where do you buy your office supplies and does that supplier have
a soul? How about where you get your hair done? We take our lab puppy
Destiny to Dr. Debra Scharrer. Her animal hospital has a soul.
Most of you reading this have something to do with your company's
Human Resource function. Have you ever hired someone with the world's
best credentials but no soul? Would you do it again if you had the
option?I've got a feeling that you haven't been able to stop yourself from
answering this flurry of questions. No. Yes. No. No. Yes. Etc. We
can't help but answer because we are always in tune with the evidence
of soul, and with its absence. We can't help it and neither can your
employees. Or your customers.
So do your customers think your company has a soul? I would like
to convince you that that is precisely what keeps customers loyal.
Do your employees think the company has a soul? I would like to convince
you that that is precisely what will keep them committed to supernatural
service and performance.We are spiritual beings and we grow and perform best in spiritual
contexts. If your company has lost its soul you might as well forget
about performance improvement! It ain't going to happen. Asking spiritual
beings to perform in a situation with no soul is like trying to grow
a maple tree out here in the Arizona desert. Or a cactus in northern
Canada. Can't be done because the object and the circumstance aren't
meant to go together.
If you can't 'buy back' your corporate soul through higher pay,
increased employee benefits, incentive travel and so forth - just
how does a company get its soul back? Maybe an even more basic question
is how does a company find its soul in the first place? And that
will be the subject of next month's column!In the meanwhile, if your company has a soul (and yes, you do know
what I mean by that) please contact me and tell me the story. Maybe
you have something to teach us all.
The following quotation must be printed
at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international speaker and
consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com