Business with heart and soul

With a lot of “re” words, authors reimagine reconnection

click to enlarge Business with heart and soul
Re Generation - Sowing Seeds for a Future of Reimagination, Reconnection, and Regeneration, by Jack Uldrich and Camille Kolles. Fast Company Press, 2022. 179 pages, $14.95.

How often, since the pandemic, do we hear of individuals who are reexamining their jobs, determining that they want more out of life or that the work they have been doing is not giving them satisfaction? Workers leave; employers must find new employees. Jack Uldrich and Camille Kolles, Re Generation - Sowing Seeds for a Future of Reimagination, Reconnection, and Regeneration, provide guidance. They present ways businesses can be successful and satisfy workers' needs to connect "the inner world of heart and spirit with the outer world of work and service."

Uldrich is a global futurist, speaker and poet; Kolles is a nonprofit executive, transformation consultant and classical pianist. The two met at a conference. Kolles handed Uldrich her business card which identified her work using three words that start with "re." Uldrich commented that the previous evening he had made a list of all the "re" words he could think of. Later, he called Kolles to tell her that her three words hadn't been on his list. Thus began a year-long collaboration for their book.

They start with the premise that "a dominant worldview in business today – the idea that something only matters if it can be measured – has fostered a disconnection between human flourishing and economic models." The authors argue that "business can profitably sustain itself and, at the same time, meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of its employees." Renewing one's thoughts, finding new approaches, "connecting one's heart to one's mind," and finding ways to honor the workers – not just with money – are key.

The book is divided into chapters titled Reunite, Reimagine, Reexamine, Reframe, Redesign and Reconsider. Filled with anecdotes, diagrams, success stories from business leaders and entrepreneurs, quotes from ancient philosopher Lao Tzu to modern day teenager Greta Thunberg and many others, ReGeneration offers new ideas and approaches that many business leaders should consider.

"We were trying to show that business and spirit – what matters in life – can be bridged," Kolles says. "We were talking about the worker as an essential person and then, during the pandemic, the discussion of the essential worker was actually happening. Workers want to feel a connection to their work. They are looking for ways to connect their work with their beliefs and values."

Business leaders need to examine ways to integrate decision-making with matters that are essential to the human spirit. Dev Tandon, a CEO and entrepreneur, believes the true mission of business is "to awaken its employees." He has focused on helping employees find their life's purpose. By doing so, employees are happier in their work, and that translates into better results for themselves and the business.

The authors reject the notions that business is one thing and matters of the heart are separate, that only those things that can be measured are worthwhile, that work is separate from one's life journey, and that you can't make a profit at the same time you ground business decisions in care for human well-being and the health of the planet.

An example of combining business and the heart, caring for others, and satisfying all involved is All Square Restaurant in Minneapolis, started by Emily Hunt Turner. Turner, a federal attorney, became frustrated when formerly incarcerated people she was helping find housing were often denied access. She wanted to feel better about her role and help others so she started a restaurant "as a civil rights social enterprise," hiring only formerly incarcerated individuals. She offers a one-year, paid, reentry program that includes classes in basic work skills as well as law, entrepreneurship and budgeting. The restaurant serves square grilled cheese sandwiches to point up that the formerly incarcerated people are "square in the eyes of society" and have paid their debt.

Reading poetry, the authors claim, "can sharpen your perceptiveness and foster empathy. It can speak the language of the heart, touching centers of feeling."

Another piece of advice is to draft your own eulogy to focus on what you hope to be remembered for in your life. Kolles, a classical pianist, has played for memorial services and has heard hundreds of eulogies. She says, "Never have I heard someone talked about as a CEO who made profits," she says. "Rather, eulogies are always about values, ways people have been moved by the person." Thinking about one's own eulogy helps rethink how one makes decisions and the kinds of values one has.

Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, in 2020 reexamined the business and announced that the assumption that boards of directors were to solely focus on fiduciary responsibility needed to be changed. "A company cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose and considering a broad range of stakeholders," including the environment, he said.

ReGeneration is rich in ideas. Reunite your heart and mind, reimagine how you use money, reexamine the purpose of business and the role of people, reframe the questions asked, redesign with people and the future in mind. Uldrich and Kolles go beyond the philosophical to the practical application as a way to reinvent business as a place that is successful and satisfying.

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