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Finding a Soul Purpose in Business

From Reuters

How many of us in the business world have ever paused at work in mid-career to ask ourselves: “What ever happened to my dream?”

For those who have forgotten their dreams, management author Allan Cox, chairman of Berryman Communications Co. in Chicago, says we are not alone, that “everybody has the potential of getting lost, no matter who they are or where they are.”

“I think that virtually every executive as he or she moves through their career loses touch with what we care about, the things where our heart was when we were 14 or 15,” Cox asserted.

“With the mortgage payments, the child-rearing, the career climb, by the time you get into your 30s or 40s, [our dreams] have gotten buried. At some point we need to reclaim them, to reexamine who we are.”

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So when his publisher asked him to write another book about teamwork, Cox replied, “I’d rather do a book on human purpose, that you can’t be good at what you do if you don’t care, and that you can’t care if you’re not authentic.”

In “Redefining Corporate Soul: Linking Purpose & People” (Irwin, $24.95), Cox says that, everywhere he goes, he finds “people trying to reconnect with authenticity. . . . There’s a desire on their part to rediscover what they care about, so that caring can be turned toward doing a job that they’d love to do.”

Those who don’t, Cox said, “don’t serve their company and themselves well” and slip into boredom, depression and alcoholism “because they don’t have any joy in life.”

“Instead of saying, ‘I don’t like what I’m doing,’ ” Cox writes, “employees need to ask themselves: ‘What does my company want to have done? Am I the person to do it? Is this the time it should be done?’ and ‘With whom do I team up to get it done?’ ”

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Much of what constitutes authentic vision, Cox said, comes to us intuitively, in what longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer called “flashes.”

“If we do not know how to capture the flashes, we are without growth and exhilaration,” Hoffer said.

Cox advises people to heed, and act upon, these insights. “Let’s face it,” he writes, “I’m more alive, spontaneous, and relaxed when I’m on the beam, when I’m locked into something bigger than I am. And it requires less effort to be yourself than to be something you’re not.”

Just like people, Cox reflects, corporations, too, must wrestle with authenticity.

“When a company gets caught up in what it thinks it ought to be, ‘me-tooism,’ or imitation or responding to what their competition is doing, it can lose contact with its purpose.”

“You might make gourmet bread, widgets, diesel engines or fax machines. You might offer phone service, hotel rooms or overnight package delivery,” Cox writes. “The issues are the same.”

* Do you and your employees have fun at work?

* Do you get a lift from doing a great job, from figuring out a client’s problem?

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* Do you remember what got you excited in the first place?

* Is yours a company that cares for its people and their futures?

* Are your people, and you, rededicated every day to a positive business purpose or are you all just picking up a paycheck?

Businesses such as Procter & Gamble, 3M, Motorola, and Wal-Mart--whose stocks outperform their competitors'--have leaders with “here-and-now contact with their own authenticity, their corporate soul,” Cox contended.

The successful company, Cox concludes, must foster “resonance,” by merging its mission “with the individual missions of its people.” This is done by redefining corporate soul: “the contact that makes you come face to face with your real purpose.”


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