Soulful Works

Soulful Works

Brian Draper, an Associate of LICC, suggests thanking or praising someone can reap rewards. Recently, an email from an analyst at a well-known investment bank in New York was leaked to the press. It was addressed to students who were about to begin a summer internship:

‘We expect you to be the last ones to leave every night, no matter what… I recommend bringing a pillow to the office… the internship really is a nine-week commitment at the desk… An intern asked for a weekend off for a family reunion – he was told he could go. He was also asked to hand in his BlackBerry and pack up his desk… Play time is over and it’s time to buckle up.’

This is the kind of dehumanising and depressingly familiar attitude the researcher Frederic Laloux seeks to challenge in his compelling book Reinventing Organizations. As he asks: ‘Can we create organizations free of the pathologies that show up in the workplace? Free of… stress and burnout… resignation, resentment and apathy… free of the posturing at the top and the drudgery at the bottom?’

Happily, his answer is yes: for he has discovered many examples (including schools, hospitals, businesses and not-for-profits) which are, as he describes, both successful and ‘soulful’ – and are positively helping to reimagine business-as-usual.

Take the school in Germany called ESBZ. It holds a weekly ‘praise meeting’ on a Friday afternoon, when the whole school gathers so that students and teachers can thank and praise each other during a 50-minute open session. According to Laloux, both students and teachers credit this session as ‘the defining practice for the school’s extraordinary spirit of learning, collaboration and maturity’.

As Christians, we possess a treasure trove of the kind of ‘soulful’ wisdom and practice which Laloux believes can set a different standard altogether – from sharing stories, listening deeply and entering stillness, to redefining ideas such as success and purpose. We may not always realise the transformative power of our spirituality – sometimes we ‘stand knee deep in a river, searching for water’, as the saying goes! – but whenever we dare to act soulfully, according to Laloux at least, it works. We make a difference.

Perhaps we can start just by thanking or praising someone, today. It’s Friday, after all, and that’s what the students at ESBZ will be doing. Meantime, let’s not forget those interns, either, for whom the weekend won’t arrive. This is their future, too.

Brian Draper Brian, an Associate of LICC, is a writer, speaker and facilitator. For more information: