Built on Faith – What Pope Francis Can Teach Us About Doing Business
“In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.” Pope Francis
Let me start by saying that I am not Catholic; however, my fascination with Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States has been nothing short of celebrity obsession.
This pope eschews the traditional lavish trappings that come with being the leader of the Catholic people.
For example, instead of living in the opulent papal apartments at The Vatican, Pope Francis chooses to live in a humble, small domicile and eat with…gulp…the workers. That would be like choosing the Motel 6 over the Four Seasons.
On the day he was announced as Pope, Francis elected to not ride in the Popemobile; instead, he chose to ride in bus with several bishops, a moment captured in a photo that brought to mind school bus road trips from grade school.
Pope Francis is not just modest, he has been called the ‘anti-Trump’ in the press. Pope Francis’ messaging is about unity, putting down our differences, reaching out to help the poor, and calling for nations to stop living in the past; the emphasis, rather, is on how they can work together in the future, as opposed to building walls, creating secularism, and focusing solely on capitalism. Sound a bit ‘kumbayah?’ What, then, can The Pope’s message teach us about business other than to ‘remember the little people?’ The answer is – a lot actually!
There are three key things The Pope’s message can steer us toward in doing business:
1. See People and Not Titles
How often do we meet someone and immediately start sizing them up based on how they look, or our perception of their ability to contribute to us in some way? The Pope simply chooses to see everyone as people. This was the Pope who washed the feet of Muslim prisoners. This was the Pope who allowed a child to play on his chair while he gave an address. In business, one of the biggest mistakes we can ever make is to see people as opportunities instead of remembering that the person we are connecting with is someone’s child, sister, brother, partner and friend. The truth is that some of the biggest raving fans we have in our company do not wear suits, do not drive Bentleys, and frankly, come from humble beginnings. By taking the time to truly connect with people, from a place of authenticity, we often create the deepest relationships.
A friend of mine went to speak at an event to promote his new book. No one appeared interested, and feeling dejected, he headed back to his car after a long day. His car was about a ten-minute walk from the auditorium and the event was held over two days. As he neared his car a very young man, dressed casually, approached him and said, “Mister, can I purchase your book?” My friend sized up the youth and said, “Sure, I will be here tomorrow.” The young man said, “I won’t be here tomorrow.”
My friend was about to just tell this young person that he didn’t have any books with him, but instead, my friend humbled himself and said, “Okay – let me go get you one.” He walked the ten minutes back to the auditorium and came back with the book. In his mind he was telling himself he was crazy. What was this kid going to do with his book?
That young man happened to work for a pastor of a mega church. He shared the book, and not long after that, my friend received a call to come speak at that church, where he sold thousands of books.
The bottom line is that, like the Pope, we must never discount people. Instead of looking at every person as an opportunity, it is imperative that we see people as people. In business, we never know who is going to help us get our message and our products to the world, so instead of pre-deciding in false omnipotence who we think is going to help us, we want to treat everyone with humble service. From experience I can tell you that in my own companies, this has always been the foundation for the greatest victories.
Pope Francis said, “Indifference is dangerous, whether innocent or not.”
2. Pay Attention to Everything and Take Corrective Action
How often when doing business do we lose sight of the little things? We stop paying attention to what our company is putting out on social media, mailing to clients, or how the message is landing with the people we want to serve. I have written often of the Blockbuster debacle – a company that refused to pay attention to what was happening in the marketplace and notoriously proclaimed that people would never want to stream movies. Where is Blockbuster now?
This Pope has chosen to see the Catholic Church as what it is today – something that is associated with many positives and, additionally, an institution that must evolve. He does not seem content to rest on the former glory of The Church and does not refuse to discuss ‘taboo’ topics, such as homosexuality, the right of priests to marry, and the transgressions of men in power who took advantage of young children. This Pope teaches us that we must always see the landscape of what is going on, not cling to past dogma and make corrections where necessary. Furthermore he creates an example of someone who is willing to open dialogue about what matters to people – something we can all benefit from doing with our own clients.
In business, it is essential that we be humble enough to make the corrections relevant in our own market, and be willing to have the conversations with people that are not necessarily comfortable, but are highly productive.
Pope Francis said, “See everything, turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.”
3. Constantly Improve When Doing Business
What happens when we become complacent? The answer is simple – even big companies can take a nose dive. Blackberry is a prime example of that. The company became complacent, thinking that its claim to fame – high security and a keyboard — were enough to rest its laurels upon. Guess what? Apple was focusing on constant improvement and simplification. Where is Blackberry today?
Pope Francis had never been to America prior to this visit. In an effort to improve himself and also to represent The Church, he took measures to prepare. The Pope brushed up on immigration issues, American politics and history. In an excerpt from his address to Congress, the Pope said,
“I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that ‘this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom.’ Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”
Representatives of The Church were asked what The Pope would say, and their response, in many forms was, ‘I don’t know.’ There is a deep trust that this leader of The Catholic Church takes time to research his audience and illustrate, without bravado, that he truly does understand the people whom he is addressing.
In business, we must understand that improvement, both for ourselves and our companies, is a constant, never-ending process. We cannot stop; we can only rest for a moment. We must always seek to get better, to take the time to learn, to adapt and to evolve.
Pope Francis said, “Life is a journey. When we stop, things don’t go right.”
Susan Sly is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.