Managing by Values
by Ken Blanchard and Michael O'Connor, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1997, 152 pages, $20. Available from the Greenleaf Center for $20 plus shipping and handling.
Managing with the Wisdom of Love: Uncovering Virtue in People and Organizations
by Dorothy Marcic, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1997, 140 pages, $26. Available from the Greenleaf Center for $26 plus shipping and handling.
Reviewed by Jeff McCollum
Spirituality in the workplace has escaped from quiet, guarded conversations using cautious terms like empowerment and accountability into the cacophonous marketplace of mainstream management books and management consultants. Fearing that "spirituality" in the hands of those selling "magic promises" to impatient managers will become today's fad and the source of tomorrow's cynicism in our organizations, I approached these books tentatively. Each, in its own way, got past my skepticism.
Although each advocates for values-based management, neither promises magic. Both books point out that, should a leader choose to move toward managing by values, she must recognize that the process will take at least three years. There are "no tricks, no secrets, no formulas," writes Marcic. Blanchard and O'Connor make their case through a fictional story of a leader, whose organization suffers from low morale and poor performance. This leader, eager for quick results, is cautioned by each of his "teachers" that the process takes time and commitment.
Marcic, as her title implies, is not bashful in her call for spiritual values at work. She advocates "new management virtues" based on love, justice and trust. She supports her argument with quotes drawn from many faith traditions including Christianity, Islam, and her own Bahai practice. Although Blanchard and O'Connor have eschewed the word spiritual, the examples in their story are of organizations which select integrity, service, compassion and ethics as part of their values platforms.
Both works recognize the shift away from financial capital toward human capital as a source of organizational success. Each volume works to tie values to organizational performance. "A healthy organization," Marcic notes, "would have a balance of material and physical development, intellectual growth, and a deep concern for human issues." Five dimensions (the material, intellectual, emotional, volitional and spiritual) must be held in balance. She uses the metaphor of a tree to connect them. Spiritual values represent the roots, the volitional represents the soil in which the tree grows, the emotional dimension is the trunk, the intellectual the limbs, and the material is the leaves. The obvious elements of an organization, intellect and success with customers and clients, depend on the roots and the soil. If any one becomes disproportionately emphasized, the organization becomes unhealthy.
"Perhaps more than at any time, an organization must know what it stands for and on what principles it will operate," Blanchard and O'Connnor write. The moral of their story is that when a leader pays attention to values--makes values the "boss" in the organization--the organization and its people can flourish. Companies which succeed in managing by values join an elite list, "The Fortunate 500."
They open their case by specifying the "three acts of life" which comprise a developmental model. It starts with a focus on achievement or "being by doing." The next step, which evokes Robert Greenleaf's ideas about listening and serving, is connecting or "being by being with". The final stage, reminiscent of Greenleaf's essay from Seeker and Servant, "The Search and the Seeker," is the integration or process of "being by becoming." In a similar vein, Marcic argues that spirituality is an unending process, not a product.
For both, the path toward spirituality and managing by values requires a rethinking of how we use power, the core idea in servant-leadership. Marcic quotes Fausto Barbosa, "in order for companies to develop in love and spirituality, they must address power issues because most unethical behaviors in the workplace result from power abuse." The main character in Blanchard and O'Connor's story, Tom Yeomans, must learn the distinction between power over and power with.
For all their similarities, the books are very different. Managing by Values is typical of Blanchard's earlier works: it's short, it's an easy read (especially in the story format), it's co-authored. It includes clear descriptions of what managers interested in building a values-based organization can do and anticipate in implementing a values platform by clarifying values, then communicating them and working diligently to align organizational actions and practices with them.
Managing with the Wisdom of Love really resonated with me. With its examples drawn from many faith traditions, from current businesses (TDIndustries, Hewlett-Packard, Semco, Texas Instruments), from other writers such as Viktor Frankl and Greenleaf, and from Marcic's own experiences, it is a thought-provoking and rich reading experience. She also includes some practical aids for the practicing manager. One that I find useful is her diagnostic checklist, which can be used as a template for testing whether existing or proposed actions have a spiritual base. This checklist includes ten challenging questions, including: Is it done in a spirit of service? Does it maintain dignity? And, does it demonstrate and develop competence?
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