In the Thick of it – Instead of at the Top – Jour fixe for Business People and Leaders
GERMANY, fma. A start up business with a promising and innovative concept and product, and great customer loyalty, ended up insolvent in a very short space of time. The charismatic founder of the company had rapidly managed to forge a highly motivated team from a colourful and motley group of mainly youthful professionals, newcomers and graduates, and to find a huge response in the people at large, the press and professional circles. His success was so great and his vision so attractive that the competition, after at first trying to use arrogant mockery, ended up seeing their position of power endangered. So they decided to go on the attack and together with a proven clique of established parties and associations they managed to convince those in power that this new enterprise was dubious and presented a danger ...
Their plan worked out. Although the hostile takeover was initially prevented, the contest cost the closest colleagues, but especially the founder of the firm, too much strength. With a final effort he again did everything he could to save the firm, and met with unexpected success, but then, apparently stricken and in confusing circumstances, he left his own company, which he entrusted to one of his least reliable colleagues, of all people, without providing a clear stratagem for the future. The shock went deep, the value of the company's shares almost disappeared. Head hunters contacted the most able staff members with attractive offers. Some wanted to set up an independent business, others returned to their old jobs. Fear of the future spread, no one took the initiative, their dreams of one day having a company car or promotion to the board of directors of a global player fizzled out, and attempts at crisis management only led to greater helplessness.
Then the secretary of the company founder turned up. She made the tea and coffee as usual and began to talk about him, of his plans, his vision and of what they had all experienced with him. She talked with one, then with another, then with the two together, and finally with them all. She listened and explained his intentions. They sat together around the table where they had experienced such inspirational hours and drawn up so many plans. They talked about him as though he was still there. Suddenly they remembered other things he had said and done. And they began to talk with enthusiasm. ... And then it was there again, that enterprising spirit of expansion, of welcoming the new and unusual, that had brought them to drop everything and join the new company. So they took heart and began to do what they had wanted to do with him, who was suddenly in their midst ... and began to spread his business to the ends of the earth.
Pentecost, Mary and a personal focal point
Some had begun to smile knowingly at the first sentences, others reflected until the end how they could get this secretary to join their business. The lecturer, Maria Fischer, a theologian and journalist, managed to get the participants at the fourth Jour fixe for business people and leaders from Switzerland, Austria and Germany to reflect on her somewhat unusual account of the classic model of a personal focal point - Mary in the Cenacle. Connecting this with the findings of a recent Gallup Poll on the concept of "Servant Leadership" (Jim Collins), and many examples from the practical everyday life in companies, she pointed out how important it is for businesses to have a person as their focal point, and how it is possible as a leader to use Fr Joseph Kentenich's pedagogy to be "in the thick of it and not just at the top".
A lonely head – a thing of the past
If as a business head and leader you stand in lonely glory above everyone else, you renounce making use of the potentials of communicating with qualified colleagues who can mediate strength, motivation and life. If as a business head and leader you are in the thick of life in the business, or if you have someone who can exercise their role, it brings both calm and dynamic life into the many and varied network of personal relationships.
Is it possible to be the personal centre of a few hundred colleagues? Or do you need a network of personal centres?
Are there people who, no matter where they are, become the person at the centre? Is it possible to learn this ability, or is it simply a natural talent or charism? You can. According to Fr Kentenich the key factor is to take a personal interest in the individual colleague, while clearly rejecting any form of exploitation or "using" the colleague. In Milwaukee Fr Kentenich said that if you are a leader, you have to love others, you have to be interested in everything that affects them, taking a personal interest in them and even the tiny details of their lives. Fr Kentenich's pedagogy is practicable and applicable to personnel management, even during an afternoon when experiences are exchanged. If it is lives, it will create a climate of joy, freedom and growth.
"I came with questions and left with answers," remarked a participant after an intensive session of sharing which continued afterwards during the buffet supper.
The next Jour fixe will take place on 23 June from 2.30-5.30 p.m. Once again it will be at Schoenstatt auf'm Berg, Memholz. The Jour fixe is an initiative of the international Kentenich Academy for Leaders.
Translation: Mary Cole, Manchester, England