Sunday, April 10, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Contentment and Challenge

A lot of our life's time, if not all, has to do with money. Our time is spent (no pun intended) earning money, trying to figure out how to get more money, worrying about losing it, thinking about how to spend it, arguing about how it's spent, spending it, paying bills, making budgets, saving it, investing it, figuring out if there's going to be enough later...Maybe, we even have it rolling through our dreams, or it wakes us up in the middle of the night. Fear of losing money may drive quite a bit of our actions.

No matter what class we're in--lower, middle, upper--our discontentment is evident. Studies have shown that people believe they'll be happier if they just have 40% more income. That's true for those who make $10,000 and for those who make $10 million. Perhaps the richest man in modern history, John D Rockefeller answered the question "how much money is enough" with "Just a little bit more."

When is enough enough? Can we be content? As business leaders, is there a point when there's enough profits? One business advisor has postulated that "Making Money is Killing Your Business."

I'm not arguing that we shouldn't try to make our businesses grow or get better. I would say if we take steps to improve profits by hurting people, that's wrong. If we see our profits slip from 12% net to 10% net, we don't need to cut people's wages to try to recover that 2%. People need the money more than the corporation. Sure, the stock value will decrease for the short-term. The shareholders won't be adversely affected in the long run. Your employees will be hurt in the short-run with a wage reduction. (For an alternative to layoffs, furloughs or work-week reductions, one innovative practice is to reduce hours but pay people if they volunteer at a non-profit agency or school.)

Today, if you want, calculate how much profit would keep the investors satisfied. Think about putting the difference between that number and current profits (assuming there's an excess) back into wages...starting with the lower levels of the organization.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, getting back to James, consider how your stock investments might be robbing people of wages because the corporations think they need to maximize shareholders' value. Do our active or passive investments presume that greater and greater earnings have to be made at the expense, or on the backs, of the employees? I don't think scripture is Marxist or anti-capitalism. I read it as being anti-excess--hoarding, storing up wealth--when the excess could be put to use. The servant who buried the talents so he wouldn't lose them was condemned because he didn't take risks, being active in putting the money to good use, and possibly bearing "fruit". He was like the fig tree, all green and inviting, but barren. If we store up wealth for ourselves, we're barren. How much is enough? Do you really need that extra third of income or savings?

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