Economy of Communion

Joy, Celebration, and Challenge

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dr-john-gallagher
Initial reflections on the audience that the Economy of Communion members had with Pope Francis on Feb 4th, 2017

By John Gallagher

The full text of Pope Francis’ address is now widely available. It has been disseminated on numerous websites, including here on ours, and posted to various social media. Here is the Vatican’s official translation into English. This is a good and wonderful thing for all of us; to have his message shared for all peoples and for all time. This is a joy! This makes it possible for everyone to study his words, ponder his meaning, and share insights and questions with each other.

32366979150_d5eed9cbdb_zLet us also recognize then that his address was indeed a joyous occasion, and not only for those who were there but as a joyous occasion of unity with all of the Economy of Communion. Pope Francis clearly knows of our work, and our efforts, and our values, and recognizes them as the gospel in action. And while our time with him was brief, we can carry his message in our hearts and minds everywhere we go and for all time. For those of us who were there, we have a special responsibility. For to us was given the opportunity to not just read his printed words on a page, but to receive this message as the spoken word, which as we know, can be a special means of grace. To be there together and to hear not just the words, but the tone of his voice, his inflections, his pauses, and to see his facial expressions and his gestures of emphasis, all provide a richness that is not apparent in the printed words. Our responsibility is to share the richness of this experience as widely, broadly, and deeply as we can; to enrich his simple, straightforward, yet powerful printed words with the richness of our experience on that day.

32366980120_d5d07bfa65_zI believe that Pope Francis was happy to be there with us and to be in unity with us. And us with him. Much of his address to us was a celebration of our work and the work of the EOC over these past 25 years. He specifically speaks of us introducing communion into the economy and beginning a profound change in the way of seeing and living business in today’s world. He celebrates with us that our work can make the economy beautiful. He also celebrates our ethical and spiritual choice to pool profits because it is a statement to the world that we first serve God and not money. Francis characterizes the sharing of profits as the “best and most practical way” to avoid the idolatry of money. Here (as he does throughout the address) Francis echoes the long-standing teaching of the church about the universal destination of goods and the social mortgage that accompanies all forms of property, even the profits from our businesses. Thus does Francis celebrate our work to be “merchants that Jesus does not expel” but rather merchants who walk with the poor, the marginalized, or as Francis says, the “discarded”.

170204_udienza_papa_20_ridBut it is at this point that Francis also challenges us – in a significant and very serious way. For the profits that we generate are the result of participation in an economic system that seems by necessity to produce “discarded people” that the system then looks to hide or remove from our communion by caring for them in distant and non-personal ways rather than walking with them. Francis certainly admonishes us not to do this; to go beyond being just Good Samaritans who care for the victims of our society but to work for systemic social change such that tomorrow’s victims will never come into being. And in this work, to not just give our time and our money, but to give all of ourselves. Until we give everything of ourselves we will never give “enough”. This too echoes the teaching of the Church reminding us that Christ asks us for total surrender.

There is much in this challenge for us to ponder and discern; for the way forward – the numerous ways in which we might think about this challenge and how to respond to it, and embrace it are not obvious. But here Francis provides some guidance by encouraging us to perhaps remain small; to remain the “seed, salt, and leaven” that is the real secret to change. He suggests we might become the leaven of a new economy, the “economy of the Kingdom”.


About the author

Dr. John Gallagher, Professor of Management, Maryville College

For the past decade, Gallagher has been involved in researching the business practices of companies that participate in the Economy of Communion, which promotes using private enterprise to address social problems. In 2014, he and Dr. Jeanne Buckeye of the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., published their first book: “Structures of Grace: Business Practices of the Economy of Communion” (New City Press).

Gallagher teaches strategic management and international business courses at Maryville College, as well as executive MBA courses at the University of Tennessee. Prior to his academic career, he spent over 20 years as a corporate executive and consultant in both manufacturing and service industries.

Gallagher completed his undergraduate education at Boston College, and earned his MBA and Ph.D. from The University of Tennessee.


 

Being an EoC Entrepreneur: when Economy and Communion Unite

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By Nick Sanna

Members of the Economy of Communion initiative gathered from all over the world in Rome and met with Pope Francis on February 4th, 2017

170204_udienza_papa_12_rid_mod“Economy and communion. These are two words that dominant culture keeps separate and often considers as opposites. You have united these words, by welcoming the invitation that Chiara Lubich extended to you in Brazil 25 years ago. Faced with the scandal of inequality in the city of Sao Paolo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion.” These are the words that Pope Francis used to greet the 1,100 entrepreneurs, students, and scholars of the Economy of Communion (EoC) on February 4th.

“I have been genuinely interested in your project for some time.” Among those listening to Pope Francis’ words were people that consider the EoC not just as a work project, but as their lifestyle. More than 50 countries from all the continents were represented. 25 of us representing the EoC in the US and Canada participated in this event, that marked the 25th anniversary of the EoC. The meeting started on February 1st with two days of concrete workshops to learn how to coach new entrepreneurs to develop businesses imbued by the spirit of the EoC, followed by 3 days of reflections and workgroups where we assessed the status of the EoC today, reflected on the possible next steps both on a regional and on a global basis, and deepened our understanding of the EoC.

170201_castelgandolfo_congresso_edc_22_ridThe encounter with Pope Francis was certainly the highlight of the meeting. He managed to encourage, challenge and inspire us. He commended the EoC entrepreneurs for being actors of communion and for sharing their profits for the benefit of people in need, indicating that this was the antidote to the possible idolatry of money when the accumulation (versus the circulation) of money and goods by themselves becomes the aim of our actions.

Pope Francis went on to note that although there are many public and private initiatives to fight poverty, “capitalism continues to produce discarded people whom it would then like to care for.” That’s when he challenged the EoC to do more. If the EoC wants to be faithful to its original charism, it must not only take care of the victims of capitalism but also build a system where the victims are fewer and fewer, until there are no longer any and universal fraternity is fulfilled. “Therefore, we must work towards changing the rules of the socio-economic system,” the Pope continued. “Imitating the Good Samaritan is not enough.”

“Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion,” the Pope said. “It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those ‘crumbs.’ Instead, even just five loaves and two fishes can feed the multitude if they are sharing of all our life. In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.” He concluded: “May the ‘no’ to an economy that kills become a ‘yes’ to an economy that lets live, because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion.”

You can read the full text of his address here and view more pictures of the event at this link.

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EoC Workgroup – North America & Oceania

This was a strong experience for all of us who traveled from North America, that compels us to elevate our ‘game’. Here are just a few of the words shared at the end of the meeting:

  • “I am challenged to examine my life in terms of the Gospel and words of Pope Francis.”
  • “I was inspired by the many EoC actors who shared their stories and am prompted to reconsider what I can do better towards living out the EoC principles in my life and in my business.”
  • “This was a holy fine in many ways, and I feel we are being guided by the Spirit particularly now. Pope Francis has challenged us – how will we respond.”

31956814014_9bd95e3108_zProf. Luigino Bruni, who heads up the International commission of the EoC, concluded the meeting by highlighting a strong parallel between the pontificate of Pope Francis and the charism of Chiara Lubich. He observed that both have used strong words against an economy that excludes, that discards, that pollutes, that kills. They both invite entrepreneurs to re-think the meaning of profits, asking them to put them freely in common to create more distributed and inclusive wealth. Both show the direction to an economy that says ‘Yes to life’. “The EoC entrepreneurs demonstrate with their companies that you can sanctify yourself not despite business, but thanks to business and that you can experience a life of fulfillment and excellence by being an entrepreneur.”


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We’re Invited by Pope Francis to Share about the EoC

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Pope FrancisDear members and supporters of the Economy of Communion (EoC),

It is with great joy that we have received the news that Pope Francis wants to meet with us and invites us to the Vatican. In a letter addressed to Luigino Bruni (the global coordinator for the EoC), the Prefect Georg Gänswein confirms that Pope Francis is looking forward to meeting members of the EoC in a private audience that will take place on February 4th, 2017 at 12 noon in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

A maximum of 400 members representing the EoC from all over the world will be able to participate in the audience. A certain number of EoC members from North America will be allowed to participate as well and represent the various faces of the EoC, including entrepreneurs, students and aspiring entrepreneurs, academics, business consultants, “poor and rich”, etc.

Given the presence of so many EoC members from all over the world, a series of meetings are being organized around the audience with the Pope, including:

  • February 1st: Train-the-trainer workshop to learn how to set up an’Entrepreneurship Bootcamp of Communion’ for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • February 2nd: Meeting of the EoC International Incubating Network (IIN) for entrepreneurs and professionals who donate their talent and experience to facilitate the growth of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
  • February 3rd-5th: EoC Meeting, for all members of the EoC. Includes the audience with the Holy Father on Feb 4th.

Please let us know at your earliest convenience if you are interested in attending by signing up at the following page. We will keep you informed on more details regarding the trip including accommodations in Castelgandolfo, near Rome, at the Mariapolis Center and transportation to/from the airport. Each traveler will have to make his/her own travel arrangements to Rome.

We invite each of you and every local chapter of the EoC to put in communion what we can: both financial resources to balance the travel costs, as well as any other necessities (which are possibly first shared and resolved within your local communities).

Please note that the allocations of slots for the North American delegation might not allow all interested parties to participate, but our chances can increase if we provide a clear indication of numbers within the next 10 days. Again, you can confirm your concrete interest here.

What Do Leaders Leave in their Wake?

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by Jim Funk

body mind spirit balance hand drawing on blackboard

We learn a lot about leadership from reporting to different bosses. Some inspire us and our teams while building trust, commitment and engagement. Under their leadership, people thrive. Other bosses drive people into the ground to get results, punish mistakes, and create fear. Under their leadership, talented people leave. So if we really look at the wake that leaders leave behind, we can decide what kind of leader we want to be and then aspire to become that.

I like to challenge leaders to evaluate their own leadership by pausing to reflect on what it is like to work for certain types of leaders. In one of my workshops I divide the team in two and ask one group to imagine working in an organization led by fear and a philosophy that only results count—not people. In this scenario, employees are simply resources to be used to get to the desired outcomes. The other group is asked to imagine working in a place where leaders put people at the center, and where creativity and teamwork is encouraged. In this scenario, people are truly valued.

After some discussion, each group then shares what it is like to work in their respective organizations. The fear-driven group typically describes the working environment this way:

  • Distrust and anger
  • Dysfunction, rumors, blame
  • Punishment for taking risks that don’t work out
  • A feeling of powerlessness, helplessness
  • A negative atmosphere, tension, disorganization
  • Less engagement and commitment

And the person-centered group? Their working environment is quite different:

  • Energy, creativity
  • Personal, timely and open communication
  • Freedom to take risks and learn from failures
  • Empowerment to help others succeed
  • A family atmosphere
  • A desire to make a personal contribution to the vision

These are nearly exact opposites. And I also found it very interesting to watch the passion that the two groups display when sharing their reports, probably because they are speaking from real-life experiences. To some degree, they relive their experiences just by talking about them. The fear-driven group has sullen faces, a tone of voice that exudes anger and frustration, and they even seem to be anxious. Conversely, the person-centered group speaks with enthusiasm, excitement, and they can hardly stop talking about how engaging and satisfying the work environment is.

What is the difference? In my leadership development work I describe person-centered leaders as “holistic” because they bring their whole selves to their leadership role—body, mind and spirit.  In doing so, they treat others as whole people too, rather than just resources.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how this plays out in the real world. What is it really like to work for a person-centered leader?

Merle Tebbe works for John Mundell, president of Mundell & Associates, an environmental consulting firm and Economy of Communion business. He tells a story about Mundell’s leadership that demonstrates how he puts into practice the person-centered principle of Economy of Communion businesses. Some time ago a former co-worker from another company was out of work and recuperating from a significant medical issue. He wanted to start his own business and get back on track as soon as he could, but he didn’t have a place to work. Mundell offered him free office space in the building so he could successfully start the business, and he allowed him to use it for several months. Later on, the company landed a project that actually required the skillset of the former employee, so he was offered his first paid work in quite a long time. The result of Mundell’s person-centered leadership? Tebbe points out that this was truly a win-win, which resulted solely from the generosity of Mundell in giving the former employee the break that he needed without expecting anything in return.

In another example, Lori Shannon reports directly to Blake Dye, president of St.Vincent Heart Center. While the Heart Center is not an Economy of Communion business, they are part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic health system in the country. Ascension also has a principle of being person-centered, and in particular providing for those who are poor and vulnerable. Shannon says she quotes her boss frequently because she admires his style. One of her favorite quotes is a statement he made to her when she first started in her role as an executive. He said, “You know what you are doing, Lori. I am getting out of your way so you can do it. Let me know if you need anything from me.” His trust in her skills and abilities was a real compliment. She also points out that he expects his entire team to manage their work-life balance, and he sets the example himself. The result of this person-centered leadership? An engaged executive team—both individually and collectively—that successfully leads facilities that provide the best heart care in Indiana, and explore innovative technologies that are helping to establish new standards of care.

We can see in these examples that person-centered leaders like John Mundell and Blake Dye inspire and motivate others, not only because of their leadership capability, but because of who they are as people—and how they treat others. I refer to this as holistic leadership.

Do you work for a holistic leader, or have you in the past? What was it like? What difference did it make to you, to your team, and to your organization? I invite you to write about your experience in reply to this blog, or e-mail me at jim@jlfunk.com with your story. I would like to hear from you!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Changing the Economy is Possible: Hope in Action

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Maddie MalteseBy Maddie Maltese

At the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, MN, entrepreneurs, economists, business people and students from North America and Cameroon design new models of leadership and business inspired by the principles of the Economy of Communion (EoC).

 

13413177_10208511199130057_8946536738711211526_nThere are some conventions that you attend out of duty and some with brilliant speakers that enchant an audience. And then there are gatherings that might not draw large numbers or are not widely advertised, but change your way of thinking and acting because the agenda is founded in real life stories and reflections, full of conversation about how social justice and business go hand in hand. I attended one such gathering June 9-12 at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN, and experienced that change is possible, desired, and shared by many; by a billionaire as much as by a business professor, by a priest heading an entrepreneurial university and by students that have left their country for an internship in businesses animated by economic principles founded in communion.

160609-12_EoC_Meeting_2016_16_ridAmong the participants at the 2016 North American Economy of Communion gathering were a group of academics from the Catholic University Institute di Buea (CUIB) in Cameroon. This university, which was founded in 2010 to foster entrepreneurship inspired by the principles of the EoC, already counts 2000 students. You’d expect classrooms, offices, laboratories and big screens. Instead, the university is made up of seven round ‘villages’; cement platforms where the pillars support a tin roof that hosts students across the schools of engineering, organic agriculture, economics and computer science. Father George, the president of the University explains that the “poor in developing countries are not objects in need of aid but subjects of change. We have wasted time accusing industrialized countries or in judging ourselves. Instead, our energies should be channeled into a true development of our communities, where the environment, business, spirituality and culture coexist side by side and develop businesses, schools, and community services. No student of the CUIB graduates without spending weekends over the course of a year volunteering and launching an entrepreneurial endeavor in their home community. The secret of CUIB’s success lies in the 30 minutes a day dedicated to Mass for Christians, in the prayer for Muslims, and in a time of spiritual reflection for the others. Without values you cannot provide direction to change.”

160609-12_EoC_Meeting_2016_04_ridPoverty, Inc., a documentary that was presented at the EoC meeting by its director Michael Matheson Miller, challenged the work of humanitarian organizations that operate with paternalistic assistance in poor countries and that do not produce desired development outcomes. Examples include indiscriminate shipments of food in parts of Asia and Africa that cripple local agricultural production and alter the diet of entire villages as well as donations of clothing that can lead to crisis in local textile industries. “There have been two possible ways to act in humanitarian interventions: give people fish or teach people how to fish. Today, the developmental model must be one of ‘fishing together’. In other words, ‘fish with the other’ and listen to the real needs of the people, without out-of-context interventions that can cause unintended damage”, commented Miller. He encouraged the adoption of the EoC paradigm for development projects.

160609-12_EoC_Meeting_2016_09_ridThe EoC demands a new form of leadership, one that is capable of combining market expertise, innovation and care for others. A workshop led by Jim Funk, a management consultant, included role plays on how to solve complex conflicts within business organizations by applying the ethics of communion in which both management and employees are fully appreciated for their talents, intuitions, and ideas that can help the business and the person grow in a logic of shared social justice.

The experiences of various entrepreneurs and managers, who opened up and shared both successes and failures at the meeting, were key to demonstrating that change is a door through which one can see that even mistakes can lead to progress. In the entrepreneurial logic of the EoC, successes and failures can become opportunities to innovate and change.
13434824_10208511199210059_978511461531895014_nThis was demonstrated by the experiences of Anne Godbout, founder of a travel agency that specializes in pilgrimages and spiritual journeys; of Emery Koenig, who led hundreds of managers at a large global firm; of John Mundell, owner and CEO of an environmental services company who has succeeded in combining business, well-being and care of the environment. This very theme, addressed by the recent papal encyclical Laudato sì, was at the center of another presentation. The candid discussion that ensued reflected how little attention is paid to concrete action we can take individually and collectively to address environmental concerns and safeguard creation.

The story of Robert Ouimet, a successful Canadian entrepreneur in charge of a global food company, was particularly moving. When Ouimet met Mother Theresa in 1983, he offered to give awa160609-12_EoC_Meeting_2016_06_ridy all of his goods for a social cause. The saint of Calcutta answered that he didn’t possess anything, rather that everything was lent to him and that his life needed to be at the service of his family, of his employees and of the environment, following the life style proposed by the Gospel. His human and financial capital were gifts received by God to be shared and put to good use. The choice to follow her words has not been without pain as his children and his financial backers did not always understand his decisions. Ouimet’s journey gave birth to a set of nine core business principles that guide his entrepreneurial actions. For example, one principle is to “Meet with terminated employees twice within six months following the termination”. Putting it into practice requires courage and readiness for emotional interactions. Ouimet stated, “I had to do it, because I wanted the persons to feel that, despite the reasons that led to the termination, I continued to value them, and that I would have helped them to find a path or occupation more suited to their talents. In all these years, only two persons refused to meet with me.”

13346293_10209401261770547_4179767570539872884_oProf. Michael Naughton, director of the Center of Catholic Studies at the University of Saint Thomas, and Prof. John Gallagher, who teaches management at Maryville College, analyzed the cultural underpinnings of economic actions driven by communion. Naughton underlined that the principle of subsidiarity embodies the logic of gift; that every member of a business brings their gifts to the productive process and thereby produce not only products but also build community and hope. Gallagher confirmed the need for a new anthropology and of prophetic voices in the economic arena that can take risks in the name of hope and a sense of responsibility for future generations.

The economy of communion and its 25 years if history show that Chiara Lubich’s vision on the role business could play in connecting with people in need, encouraging a life of communion, now has solid roots in North America. Profit at all cost is not the sole motivator for all business activity. Many entrepreneurs, such as those involved with the EoC, are chasing a bigger vision made up of the gifts each person has to offer, putting hope for a better tomorrow into action.

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Business Results Can Soar When People Are Treated As People

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02b22c8  By Jim Funk

Why do you do business with particular companies, stores or individuals? They certainly must have the product, quality and service you want; but what else beyond that? Being treated as a whole person is what makes the difference. It’s good for people—and good for business. Let’s look at two real-life examples.

  1. Treating Customers Right…is good for business

John Mundell knows a thing or two about taking care of customers. As President of Mundell & Associates, an Economy of Communion (EoC) business in the field of environmental consulting, he takes pride in exceeding clients’ expectations and bringing a sensitivity to all stakeholders in every project. In fact, the company website describes their innovative solutions as a combination of “scientific knowledge and a person-centered approach,” and highlights one of the Economy of Communion’s top values: Considering the Human Person in business.

I spoke with Mundell about their philosophy and he explained how it’s actually helped them build and retain a loyal client base. One example that he felt was particularly impactful was a time when they were able to solve a client’s engineering problem quickly and inexpensively, considering the situation, but their $3,000 fee was still more than the client wanted to pay. Even though Mundell thought it was a fair price, rather than insist on the full payment he said the client could pay what they thought the service was worth. They paid $1,000. But it wasn’t a loss for Mundell & Associates. The client wanted to continue the relationship and over the next three years brought them over $1 million worth of new business. The client let Mundell know he earned their loyalty when they felt they were treated fairly in that very first decision regarding the invoice and the client’s concern was put ahead of the company’s.

Mundell is convinced that when businesses consciously put people and relationships ahead of profits, value team interests over self-interests and intentionally serve the other person, clients want to work with that kind of company. For Mundell & Associates, besides being the right thing to do, they believe treating customers right has translated into millions of dollars in revenue that the company would not have otherwise received.

  1. Put Employees First…and they will in turn put customers first

People Arrow - JLFunk Blog4.jpgCameron Mitchell Restaurants is a privately held company that is not affiliated with the
Economy of Communion, but they have adopted many of the same principles and business practices as the EoC. Mitchell began with one small restaurant in Columbus, Ohio in 1993, which has now grown to 25 units and 12 different restaurant concepts with locations in 11 states. Their website explains that they use the term “associates” instead of employees in order to recognize and respect their importance. Putting people first is core to Cameron Mitchell’s way of doing business, which he believes is their differentiating strategy. Mitchell says they don’t just hire great people; they make sure to treat them great once they’re on board. That, in turn, inspires a genuine hospitality that guests, vendors and even members of the community sense and appreciate. Mitchell is convinced that the spark for their growth and success is the “people first” culture they have deeply embedded in their restaurants.

I asked Chuck Davis, the Vice President of Human Resources for Cameron Mitchell, what they do to create and sustain their “people first” culture and what difference it makes. He told me how they treat associates well from the time they are recruited, through their orientation and throughout their employment. Specifically, they have practices like closing their restaurants for seven major holidays, plus Super Bowl Sunday—unheard of in the restaurant business—so associates can enjoy those events with their families. They emphasize reward and recognition that associates appreciate. One small example is they hand out delicious milkshakes to reward associates regularly. To Mitchell’s associates, a milkshake is much better than a handshake! And as a “topping” they pay competitive wages and benefits that attract and retain their valuable associates. They also emphasize their development and give associates opportunities to learn, grow and build skills. They promote from within more than 75% of the time.

The result?

  • Mitchell’s employee engagement survey had 99.57% participation.
  • Employee satisfaction registers in the mid to high 90th percentiles.
  • Associates receive better tips than the industry average.
  • Turnover is lower than it usually is in the restaurant business.
  • And when it comes to business results, they have financial outcomes that exceed industry standards.

These results support the company’s belief that treating associates as whole persons translates to customer satisfaction, which in turn improves the bottom line.

Why is a Person-Centered Philosophy Good for Business?

From these examples we can see that customers want to do business with companies that treat them well, and employees want to work for an employer that respects and appreciates them. Further, this effect isn’t limited to only customers and employees. It’s true for the board room, company leadership, suppliers, partners, communities where they are located, and for anyone who interacts in some way with a company. Not only is it the right thing to do, but good reputations spread—which leads to customer and employee loyalty. It becomes a cycle that translates into higher volumes, increased revenues, lower costs and higher margins.

Person Centered Practices

How does an organization become person-centered? Like for Mundell and Mitchell, focusing on people must become embedded in the culture: leadership, policies and practices, and how everything plays out day-to-day in real situations. Here are some of the suggestions I make to my clients who want to build a person-centered culture.

  1. Empower employees (or better yet, “associates”) at all levels to be able to address customer concerns.
  2. Take quick “pulse” surveys (not long and arduous opinion surveys) to check in quickly and regularly with people about how they’re doing, what they need to be at their best, and how to get those needs met.
  3. Describe the desired culture, and then hire for fit to that culture, especially in leadership positions where being person-centered is modeled and held up as “how we do things.”
  4. Give employees opportunities to reward and recognize each other, ask what makes them feel appreciated, and encourage it at all levels.
  5. Check out important decisions with some key stakeholders before you proceed, and ask questions about how will they be impacted, what pitfalls have you not thought of, and how the decision could best be communicated.

In my next blog we will look at what makes a workplace human. You might be surprised at my ideas, especially coming from a person who has spent most of his career in Human Resources!


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

5 Things Employees Need to be at Their Best

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02b22c8

By Jim Funk

Group of business people.

People love hearing the words, “You did a great job on that project!” Most people want to do a good job, and are willing to work hard to do their best. But in the world of work, the reality is that it doesn’t always happen. Why? Certain circumstances play a role in how engaged employees are in their jobs, and these factors impact performance.

I believe that enabling employees to do their best boils down to the ability to meet 5 important needs:

  1. To be treated as a whole person – body, mind and spirit. People want to be recognized for who they are, and not simply a set of skills or productivity numbers. They bring their whole selves to work, and need some degree of nurturing and expression in each of the dimensions of the human person: physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, and leisure.
  2. To be treated fairly. Policies and practices provide clarity regarding expectations, and they help ensure that people will be treated fairly. But as everyone knows, a policy manual doesn’t provide answers to every situation. Leaders must be able to make decisions that are just. Don’t get me wrong, everyone won’t always agree with every decision a leader makes, but all decisions should be supported by a rational explanation.
  3. To have safety, security and trust. The workplace must be one that feels safe and secure, with ready access to assistance if a safety or security issue arises. But more than physical safety and security, employees in this day and age seek job security. People need to feel the organization’s leaders can be trusted to keep their word, and communicate with honesty and transparency, especially as it relates to job security. When layoffs are expected or people are let go, they should be told the truth and assisted in making the transition.
  4. To have a thriving community at work. By definition we could say that any work group is a community of people. But a thriving community is one in which people are individually and collectively at their best because the work culture recognizes the importance of relationships and teamwork. Competition between teams can also be healthy, and fun!
  5. To have meaning in their work. While work is certainly a means to making a living, people need to feel that their work makes a difference in the world. Further, there is an inherent dignity in work because it allows the person to become more fully who he or she is. People need to feel that their talents and skills are being used, and want to be given the opportunity to grow and develop so that they can reach their full potential. 

When these 5 needs are met, people feel more fulfilled and more committed to doing their best work for the organization. It might seem obvious, but what does it really take to meet these needs? First of all, organizations whose values include statements like, “a great place to work,” or “people are our most valuable asset,” must be able to live up to those and not just give lip service. Leaders who understand these needs and intentionally work to meet them are what make the difference. I would call this “holistic leadership,” because the holistic leader treats people as people and not just a skillset or a “human resource.”

What Can Leaders Do?

When I consult with organizations, I recommended that leaders ask each of their employees to write down answers to three questions:

  1. What do you need in order to do your job well and be at your best?
  2. What will it take for you to ask for and get what you need?
  3. What types of rewards motivate you and make you feel appreciated?

I suggest that they keep this sheet of paper in all of their employees’ folders, so when they meet with them or want to reward them they can be more personal and specific in addressing their needs. It works!

Please share any comments, reactions or questions you have about these ideas. If you believe you are working or have worked in an organization with leaders like those I am describing, I invite you to write about it in a reply to this blog or contact me directly. I would like to talk with you. In my next blog post we will look at the business case for holistic leadership, and what difference it can make in terms of actual outcomes.


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.