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monk teach ceo

What can a monk teach a CEO about improving staff engagement? Quite a lot actually.

One of the sagest, most beautifully simple yet impactful lessons in boosting employee engagement that I’ve ever heard comes from an Austrian Benedictine monk. Now Brother David Steindl-Rast isn’t your average Catholic Priest. For quite some time, he’s been in demand as a non-sectarian speaker on holistically human issues such as happiness and emotional wellbeing, at conferences like Wisdom 2.0.  But one day, he was engaged in a conversation with fellow philosopher, the English poet David Whyte. Whyte had been engaged in a frenetic period of work and was feeling tired and disillusioned. He asked Brother David to talk about exhaustion. And Brother David replied with these words:

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest; it is wholeheartedness.”

The penny dropped for Whyte as it does for me every time I hear these wise words. Now transfer context to your business. It’s the end of the year. Everybody in your team is tired. The pressure to complete orders and meet targets in the already frenetic build-up to Christmas escalates expectations and loads up the pressure. How do your employees feel, from managers to lower levels?  How many more days must we drag ourselves to work? How can I find the energy to look after my team, to take an interest in every individual, and keep us all focused on the task in hand? It’s no wonder that the atmosphere goes flat. Co-operation slows. Mistakes happen.   But this becomes a markedly different scenario if every single person working in your business knows that their skills and energy is part of a united team that is aligned towards something meaningful. A purpose beyond meeting monthly targets and a good annual report. Yes, of course these are vital. But my point is that in themselves, they’re not enough to bring every employee to work wholeheartedly committed to doing the very best they can, day after day, month after month.  But a greater purpose that sums up the authentic, meaningful difference that the business makes to customers’ lives has the power to inspire wholeheartedness in your workforce. They come to work because they enjoy the satisfaction of being part of a team striving to make that difference. They encourage each other. Teams unite because they know they’re making that difference together, and for each other. From the CEO down, your entire employee tribe is engaged in a wholehearted, co-ordinated effort each day you assemble for work. It’s a deceptively simple yet surprisingly powerful way to transform your business from the inside.

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