Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Lead 'em with soul

I have uncovered yet more evidence that the New Wage culture has infiltrated corporate America....

Soul & Spirit In The Workplace:
The time-tested way to make your employees
(and, ultimately, your customers)
think you care about them

by Virginia Hamm

Boston (API) In most workplaces today, those high-maintenance, carbon-based work units known as "employees" are still a necessary evil. The day is coming, of course, when automation and even more advanced technology will alter this inconvenient and expensive workplace reality, but until then, the business owner must deal with the demands of an employee-based corporate structure.

There’s no denying that the business world is undergoing a major transition period that brings a unique set of challenges. As more firms jump on the rightsizing bandwagon and proceed to surplus and off-line great numbers of work units, many of the remaining units are having to assume, in addition to their regular jobs, the job responsibilities of their off-lined fellows. Unavoidably, the salaries of numerous on-liners are being downward-adjusted. In many cases, offshore outsourcing has cut labor costs dramatically, but many US companies are still forced to maintain a small number of domestic work units. Unfortunately most work units are unable to big-picture these situations; they view such changes as problems rather than opportunities, and, notwithstanding the tight job market, have a tendency to manifest attitudinal negativism.

It may be hard for the average executive to understand this ingratitude, particularly in a corporate culture that displays clear evidence of concern for work-unit well-being — benefits such as mandatory body-fat measurement programs to promote worker fitness, random compulsory bodily-fluid evaluations for signs of chemical challenges, monitoring of employee phone calls in order to enhance workers’ interpersonal skills, surveillance of workers’ computer keystrokes and Internet usage to help improve productivity, and the like. Despite perks such as these, the signs of worker malcontent are pervasive; there has been a dramatic increase in intraoffice acts of violence against persons and, even worse, against expensive, hard-to-replace non-organic office equipment. Most disturbing of all, some firms have even reported derogatory graffiti in the executive lounges. The bottom line is that the American workplace is experiencing various forms of morale-deficiency syndrome. It’s an insidious problem, one that can’t be entirely solved by comprehensive benefits packages, weekend-warrior retreats, employee wellness regimens or even Empowerment Programs.

But relief is in sight. Over the past decade or so, many business leaders have discovered an innovative method that is as ancient as humanity itself, and as new as the latest best-selling business book. The method involves mixing business with an abstract concept known as "soul" or "spirit." This may seem at first like an odd juxtaposition, but business leaders who have infused their corporate culture with soul/spirit conceptualizations have reported many benefits, including an upsurge in the work-unit loyalty level, positive press coverage for the firm and its leaders, and, most importantly, an increase in profits.

Just how does this soul/spirit strategy work? It’s really quite simple. Survey after survey has shown that work units respond positively when they perceive that their employer cares about them. Indeed, if there is one thing more important to workers than pension plans, employee fitness centers or even an adequate salary, it is this: they want to feel really loved. So say Art Deal and Lee Blowman, business professors at Blunderbuss University and the authors of a best-selling business book that’s become the bible of this burgeoning movement, Lead ’Em With Soul and They’ll Follow You Anywhere. Hundreds of executives are already using the principles in this book, and they swear by it.

The authors are quick to reassure the wary. "First of all, don’t worry that you’re going to have to move out of your emotional comfort zone and work up a level of genuine caring-ness," says Dr. Deal, who holds a Ph.D. in Professional Self-Promotion. "It doesn’t matter whether or not you actually care about the workers; if you strategize properly with soul/spirit technology, they’ll think you care. And that’s what makes all the difference."

Dr. Deal and Professor Blowman have been touring the country for years delivering seminars on Soul/Spirit in the Workplace. Their clients include Fortune 500 firms as well as numerous smaller businesses. For a minimum of $10,000.00 per attendant, savvy business leaders learn, in one power-packed weekend, how to transform the corporate culture into a place where executives and real workers alike can freely use terms such as "morality," "ethics," "heart," "values," "personal truth," and "authenticity" — and, more importantly, where they learn to associate these terms inextricably with the Company.

Deal and Blowman strongly recommend that all corporate leaders take their seminar; meanwhile, a few key principles can be put to use right away. The authors recommend the following six simple but powerful tactics, which they call their "Soul Of Business (S.O.B.) SuccesSteps ®":

  1. Procure substantial quantities of their book immediately, if not sooner. Buy a copy not only for the owner or CEO, but for all upper- and middle-level executives. Have plenty of extra copies on hand to allow for normal turnover rates.
  2. Issue a memo to the Company’s decision-makers mandating that all decisions henceforth will be morality-based as well as bottom-line-based. Note that the decisions don’t actually have to be morality-based (keep in mind that "morality" is a relative term), but it is crucial that the memo be widely circulated. Copies should be sent to the press too.
  3. Require all Company managers, supervisors and employees to utilize the words "soul," "spirit," "integrity" and "heart" at least once and preferably more in each and every one of their intra-office and extra-office communications — written, spoken, e-mail, etc.
  4. Don’t merely encourage — REQUIRE all underlings to share their innermost feelings (their "personal truths") with you. Tell them it’s because you really care about them. Of course you must reciprocate, but in a guarded manner. Deal and Blowman’s book contains a list of acceptable Executive Personal Truths, from which you can pick and choose to create a credible facade of sharingness with individual work units or entire teams.
  5. Remember, You Are The World. Says Blowman, "You may have already done the sweat-lodge thing with your top male executives, or sent your key people on Vision Quests in some godforsaken State Natural Area — but you need to flaunt your multi-cultural spiritual awareness every day, in a way that will impress everybody." Accordingly, the book is filled with Christian and Sufi parables, fine Jewish whines and Zen koans (you don’t even have to know what the latter are; just use them). Also included are incomprehensible but impressive-sounding Taoist allegories, Native American coyote tales, Druid mating grunts, Santaria blood chants and more. "Use these tools liberally (if you’ll pardon the expression) in all of your communications; this will create a mystique of global spiritual literacy and cultural diversity," says Deal. And forget that lite-rock station; you’ll want to play world music, global drumming CDs, Gregorian chants, Tibetan monk chants and meditation CDs over the Company’s P.A. system.
  6. And the most important S.O.B. SuccesStep of all: Sign up all Company managers and supervisors for Deal and Blowman’s seminar, "Creating a Perception of Workplace Soul & Spirit." Make sure you send them to periodic refresher courses thereafter.

As a business leader, you know that perception is everything. As long as you must have employees, you might as well have employees who love you, and if you are perceived as a leader who is people-oriented as well as results-oriented, there’s no limit to what you can get away with.

"And remember that this spirit thing is contagious," Deal declares. "It’s a trickle-down dynamic. Your work units will convey the Company attitude to your consumption units — also known as ‘customers.’ Now, customers are necessary for a positive cash flow — so far, there’s no way around that — but like employees, they can really be an antagonistic force when they’re unhappy. But as your workers spread that soul/spirit stuff around, you’ll have customers believing you care about them too. Put a little bit of soul into your corporate culture, and you may end up being named Entrepreneur of the Year."

Adds Blowman, "As business leaders, we know that the chief purpose of the average firm is twofold: to keep the shareholders smiling, and to keep the CEO and other key personnel safe in their gated communities. Providing goods and services and jobs...these are all just means to those ends. But your work units and consumption units don’t need to know this. Why stir up negativity? To me, the true beauty of workplace soul/spirit is that it fosters positivity. In a word, it helps keep everybody happy."


Copyright © 1995, 2006 by Connie L. Schmidt &
Misguided Angel Press

Okay, once again I’ve taken the easy way and recycled a piece from Cosmic Relief. But you probably already guessed that the piece above was a parody (the byline may have been the first thing that gave it away). Of course, I had plenty of inspiration in the "real" world, and, although this piece was written in 1995, I get the feeling that it could have been written yesterday. People are still making a living hawking the fusion of business and spirituality, whether it's based on New-Wage or Christian concepts. Some folks, such as David Whyte, have even tried to bring poetry into the workplace. Whyte's book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, was touted as "necessary reading for any professional who secretly harbors a poet's soul." And then, of course, there's Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work: 101 Stories of Courage, Compassion and Creativity in the Workplace.

I'm not saying that bringing spiritual or at least humanizing concepts into the workplace is a bad thing. Some folks have been trying to do this since the 1980s, or even earlier. But if you've done any time at all in corporate America, you know how corporate leaders have a tendency to bastardize even the noblest of concepts. I have come to the conclusion that they just can't help it. They are the first to embrace every new and trendy concept that comes along, forcing their hapless employees to attend workshops and seminars touting the new ideas, and even incorporating the concepts into the company's mission statements. But nothing ever really changes in everyday practice. It's the same old sh--, with the bottom line being the top consideration, and employees being little more than interchangeable — and disposable — work units.

I think it also worthy of note that despite the rise of the workplace soul/spirit/ethics industry in the early to mid-1990s, the new century brought us Enron, WorldCom, etc.

Anyhow, I'm thinking that this "article" by "Virginia Hamm" could be more good urban-legend fodder (without this disclaimer section, of course). So you have my permission to spread it around. But remember you read it here first. Or, if you're one of the seven or eight people who read Cosmic Relief, you read it there first.

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