#26 What Should Faith Matter in Business?

“What does it matter what religion you are?”, he asked as he rifled through our second wells-fargobasket of tortilla chips.  “I mean, with all due respect, so what?”  That’s what a friend of mine once asked, as we were discussing the publishing of my first book, Catholics Mean Business: 30 Days to Managing Your Work Week, God’s Way.  He wasn’t a Catholic, but that didn’t matter. His question was valid. He was a marketing professional, and very good at his job.  He had spent a career focused on people’s perceptions and behavior, and I was sure he represented what many wanted to ask. What did religion have to do with your place in corporate America? Why did he need to know about anyone’s faith?

The short answer is that the book was intended to be simply a source of encouragement to Catholic professionals.  However, I have always wanted to elaborate a little more on that.   I’ll begin by asking a qualifying question. If you knew a person’s world-view, aspirations and motivation, wouldn’t that help you understand their intentions and better complete an evaluation of that person?

Now you might respond by saying you don’t need to be religious to be a good person. There are lots of “good guys and gals” out there that don’t broadcast their beliefs. On the surface your statement is absolutely true.  However, let’s indulge and dive a little deeper.

What do you define as good?   Would those other “good” people doing business with you all agree?  If not, how do you determine who’s right?  More importantly, what criteria should all those people use, going forward, to determine “good” behavior in your company’s name? Or on your Company’s dime?  Wouldn’t you appreciate the use of an objective standard?

You might say that employees would be expected to perform to the standards of conduct communicated to them by management.  Fair enough, but what if management has lost its way, and orders unethical or illegal behavior?  Don’t be quick to think that couldn’t happen “on your watch”.

Do a little internet research on a topic like “corporate cheating” and you will be amazed at how many hours you could spend reading about organizations with obscured ethics and shameful practices.  You will also find all of the transgressions due to either pride, or pressures to meet financial goals.

I’m sure Wells Fargo thought the 5300 employees fired recently for fraud were doing what they were supposed to do, while at work. A scandal that widespread represents a systemic failure, over a significant timeframe, within an organization considered successful by the world’s standards.

So back to Catholics Mean Business.  Even though I wrote the book for Catholic professionals, I made a conscious decision not to keep it a secret.  Let’s be honest with ourselves about goodness being objective, not subjective to personal whim or circumstance.   The Commandments and the Gospel are as relevant today as when they were first revealed.  And so is, it seems, the need for their guidance.

On paper, our organizations and corporations are soulless entities. They inherit the spirit of those who inhabit them. What kind of spirit inhabits your work today? Is it what it should be? If not, how can you improve it?

The souls within an organization cultivate the corporate garden and produce not just the fruit of the organization, but the culture found within its walls. So you have to be authentically you every day, and as a Christian you need to bring your Christian Discipleship with you wherever you go. As a Catholic, I have to practice my Catholicism wherever I go, and not just when it’s easy, or when I am at my best.

The Christian faith empowers people to become better versions of themselves.  Throughout the centuries, Christians have fed more people, clothed more people, healed more people, educated more people and served more people than any other demographic or group in the world.

Encouraging more people in the corporate world to embrace that practice, adopt an eternal perspective and aspire to become a better version of themselves is a grand endeavor of mine.  And since success and profit are byproducts of good work, I see that endeavor benefiting not just individual careers, but corporations and communities too!

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