Buddhism and Business… intersections and intentions

February 19th, 2010

As an executive coach, serving a diverse array of organizations, I have the opportunity to witness the world of business (both for and not-for profit types of businesses) from a very interesting perspective; kind of inside/outside.

Often it’s not a pretty sight.

High drama masquerading as management. Disregard for family life, work/life balance. Positions of power wielded as weapons. Lack of acknowledgement for work well done. A general disregard of individual contributions, and/or team efforts. Lack of accountability. Failure to speak the truth. The list goes on, but I’m sure you know it all too well.

The funny (and I’m not talking ha-ha funny here) thing is that in almost ALL cases this is not a matter of malicious intent. In fact, in almost every case these are good people with good intentions. I suppose the phrase ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ has more than a subtle connection to the world of business.

The prolific list of management books is another snapshot into these ills. HR departments offer workshops. Leadership centers tote the well-intentioned method of the month.

And yet, our workplace cultures seem to be stuck in neutral. In some cases, reverse!

What’s a business person to do?

Buddhists have three principles which I believe point us in the right direction.

These three consist of:
1. Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:

•  The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.
•  The principle of reciprocity: This is the “Golden Rule” in Christianity — to do onto others as you would wish them      to  do onto you. It is found in all major religions.

2. Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one’s mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.

3. Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.

I do have an issue with the “Golden Rule” — as Stephen Covey so wisely pointed out, it’s better to do onto others as THEY would like to be done onto, since other folks don’t necessarily want what we want. But otherwise I have to say Buddhism offers some important core values Business would be wise to adopt. Whatever your religion, these are values that go way beyond family values, and worthy of our attention, and intention.