How to Get Employees to
Before working for a Fortune 500 company, I spent 15 years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest. One of my first assignments as a priest was to hear Confessions at a local boys' high school. Being newly ordained, I was a bit nervous. The first young man who entered the confessional spoke in a soft whisper: "Bless me Father for I have sinned … I had impure thoughts." Seeing this as a teachable moment, I reminded him that having sexual thoughts was a normal part of adolescence, but that these desires should not be actively pursued. "Did you entertain them?" I asked with priestly sensitivity. "No Father," he said with an air of matter-of-factness, "they entertained me."
I gave the boy Absolution, knowing that we both still had a lot to learn.
Over the years I've come to see that youth regularly have lessons to teach us, as I was once again recently reminded.
Last spring, my son Matt informed me that he knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. "I want to make people laugh," was the way he phrased it. "How do you do that?"
I reminded him that unfortunately, much to his mother's consternation, he was already pretty good at it. But the businessman inside me interpreted his request to mean that as an adult he could be gainfully employed as a comic … or at least as an Executive Compensation consultant. I'm not sure there's much of a difference there.
Either way, I figured there was a possible vocational choice at hand, so we signed him up for some acting lessons during the summer.
As school started in September, he was less interested in math and more focused on being in the school's annual play. When it came time for auditions, he brought home a script to memorize. My wife and I had him practice it a few times, reminded him to speak his lines slowly and loudly - and then hoped for the best.
The day for tryouts came and that evening at dinner we asked Matt how he fared. He said things went fine. "Did you remember all your lines?" my wife asked. "Yep," he said, "They even made me sing."
Sing? He never took a voice lesson in his life: he doesn't know how to sing. But somehow we'd forgotten to remind him of that. So when they asked him to get up and belt out a few bars from the soundtrack, he went on stage and sang.
He wound up getting the part.
It seems that kids don't yet know they can't do a lot of things - so they just move forward and improvise. Something we in business lost sight of a long time ago.
Let the show begin
As every parent knows, having your child in a school play is a mixed blessing. Not only do you need to show up at each performance but you have a dutiful obligation to overlook mistakes and applaud generously.
An additional bonus for attending all performances is you get to see, up-front and close, these struggling youths rise to the occasion, overcome stage fright, and manage the foibles of missed lines and falling scenery. It's not only amusing. It's inspiring.
In the face of mistakes, they choose to smile. When carefully orchestrated routines fall apart, they accommodate. If someone stumbles and falls, they pick him up - all without a hint of recrimination or embarrassment.
Children who didn't know they could act, do so. Those with mediocre musical prowess sing out boldly. Young thespians lacking any comedic training have us rolling in the aisle. Oftentimes, unintentionally.
Having nightly sat through my son's show, I walked away with some insights about running a business and living a life.
Six Shining Lessons
Shakespeare knew what he was talking about
If all the world's a stage, then we have a sacred responsibility to perform. Yes, mistakes will happen. We'll forget our lines. We'll fumble with props and embarrass ourselves to no end. And like generations before us, we'll be terrified with stage fright.
But as the immortal Bard so aptly put it: "Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once."
So act courageously and be fearless. Practice your lines, pray to the gods and stop being so serious. And most importantly, get out there on life's stage and play.
Fear is merely excitement without the breath. Practice your breathing, get connected to the excitement of new opportunities and prepare to give birth to a new world of possibilities.
P.S. If you're thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation. I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Kenny Moore is co-author of "The CEO and the Monk: One Company's Journey to Profit and Purpose" (John Wiley and Sons, 2004), rated as one of the Top Ten best selling business books on Amazon.com. He is Corporate Ombudsman and Human Resources Director at a New York City Fortune 500 energy company. Reporting to the C.E.O., he is primarily responsible for awakening joy, meaning and commitment in the workplace. While these efforts have largely been met with skepticism, he remains eternally optimistic of their future viability.
Kenny has over 20 years experience with change management, leadership development and healing the corporate community. He's been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning News, and interviewed by Tom Peters, The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company magazine regarding his unique leadership style. His business practices are based on Louie Armstrong who said: "I am here in the service of Happiness." Louis died a rich and beloved man; his voice still rings in the ears (and hearts) of millions. Kenny is the recipient of Notre Dame University's 2006 "Hesburg Award" for his significant contribution to the field of business ethics.
Prior to his work in corporate America, Kenny spent 15 years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest. Several years ago, he had the good fortune of being diagnosed with "incurable" cancer, at its most advanced stages. He underwent a year of experimental treatment at the National Cancer Institute and survived. Kenny came away from that experience recalling the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes: "Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us." Kenny's lifetime goal is to spend more of his time playing his music. Having dealt with both God and death, Kenny now finds himself eminently qualified to work with senior management on corporate change efforts.
Kenny is a watercolor artist, poet and photographer. He is Founding Director of "Art for the Anawim," a not-for-profit charity which works with the art community in supporting the needs of terminally ill children and the inner city poor. His poems have been published in several anthologies; one was selected as a semi-finalist in the North American Open Poetry Contest. Kenny lives in Totowa, NJ and is married to the "fair and beautiful" Cynthia. Together, they are fighting a losing battle of maintaining their mental stability while raising 2 growing boys.
Kenny can be reached at email@example.com or (973) 956-8210
(Kenny is also a regular contributor to The CEO Refresher. He has the distinction of having the longest bio we have published as it is, in and of itself, a truly wonderful and inspirational story of a man on a most mindful mission. Thanks Kenny. ed.)
Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher