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Reclaiming Higher Ground

Author: Lance H.K. Secretan
Copyright: ©1997
Publishers: Macmillian Canada, Toronto, Ont.
Book Review by: Cathy Bernatt

Reclaiming Higher Ground

The goal of Reclaiming Higher Ground is to show us a way to create organizations that inspire the soul. Anita Roddick, co-founder of The Body Shop communicates the essence of what once existed that seems to have disappeared when she says, "I am still looking for the modern-day equivalent of those Quakers who ran successful businesses, made money because they offered honest products and treated their people decently, worked hard, spent honestly, saved honestly, gave honest value for money, put back more than they took out and told no lies. Their business creed, sadly, seems long forgotten." (Secretan, p. 60). What happened to this creed? Lance Secretan believes that organizations have sacrificed the soul for the personality. His goal is to help us reawaken and bring soul back into organizations to create what he calls Sanctuaries.

A personality-driven philosophy is based on ego and greed and views customers as opportunities for exploitation. A sanctuary, on the other hand, treats customers as partners and views employees as people first. In a sanctuary, it is understood that people come to work, "...to be inspired, to create friendships, to learn, to have fun." (Secretan, p. 42) How can we create sanctuaries in our organizations today?

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Secretan believes we can create both personal and work sanctuaries, which are intrinsically integrated, by adopting and becoming more awake to all facets of the Value Cycle. The purpose of the Value Cycle is to realign the qualitative thrust of individuals and their organizations and the metaphor he uses to describe it is a bicycle. The back wheel of the bicycle provides the power or primary values, while the front wheel provides direction.

The three primary values on the back wheel are Mastery, Chemistry and Delivery and each of them has an accelerator to boot it into action and keep it running. Mastery is undertaking whatever you do to the highest standards you are capable of with the accelerator being life-long learning. Chemistry is relating so well to others that they actively seek to associate themselves with you through the accelerator of empathy. By listening (accelerator), we learn to identify and meet the needs of others. This is, Delivery, the final primary value on the back wheel. Mastery, Chemistry and Delivery are the core foundation of every sanctuary. Once the sanctuary picks up speed using the bicycle analogy, how do we switch gears while maintaining a clear direction?

Here, Secretan introduces the five gears of the front wheel that keep the bicycle moving forward in the right direction. The first gear is putting you before me which means serving others before oneself. Having trust allows us to put people before things. In trusting people, we need to give them the information, training, encouragement and authority that allow them to make the right decisions for customers. In doing this, we make space for creativity to emerge. Being creative often results in innovation and breakthroughs. There is a second aspect of creativity called Kaizen which means finding a better way. To accomplish kaizen, we need to encourage and support one another's ideas. Typically in business, Secretan says, that every new idea is met with nine criticisms. All criticism does is to "...suck the self-esteem from the souls of individuals and therefore organizations." (Secretan, p. 50) So the next gear on the front wheel is focusing on strengths before weaknesses. In the machine bureaucracy, the goal was to win by defeating one's opponent. But Secretan believes that "Life is not a battleground -- it's a playground." (Secretan, p. 51) The final spoke on the front wheel is love which should come before competition, hostility and fear. To build the foundation for our personal and work sanctuary, Secretan says we should create a clear personal mission.

A personal mission has two parts, a higher mission and a life mission. Our higher mission is to serve others through Mastery, Chemistry and Delivery. It means: "to live every moment ...to make our planet a better place for all its inhabitants; to bring more kindness, compassion, honesty, truth and love into the world; to not only do something but also be something." (Secretan, p. 109) Our life mission answers the question, "To what are you willing to commit your life in service to this planet and all its creatures?" (Secretan, p. 110)

Today, my husband said, that what I espouse and what I want to create does not even fall within a minority view in the corporate world. I think he is basically correct. So, my life's mission then, is to increase the numbers of people inside corporations that can create organizations with soul. For as Secretan says, "Building greatness (or a Sanctuary) is achieved one human being at a time... the difference between whether an organization is mediocre or superb is determined by whether all its individual members are mediocre or superb." (Secretan, p. 52) I know that the "...process of creating a safe sanctuary is arduous and long." (Secretan, p. 40) but there is no other work I'd rather do! I am clear that this is my mission-the work I am meant to do to make a difference on this planet! My goal is to strive to be real and superb and by doing so, help others to have the courage to become the same.

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