Tag Archives: leaders

Setting the Example

October 20, 2018 by
Photography by provided

Stacy Martin knows she stepped into big shoes this past spring when she took over the leadership of Lutheran Family Services.

After all, the previous president and CEO, Ruth Heinrichs, spent most of her career—41 years from start to finish—holding the reins of the organization that positively impacts the lives of people throughout Nebraska and Council Bluffs with behavioral health, and child and community services. 

Still, Martin, who was born in Omaha and returned in April after several years as the executive vice president of programs at Lutheran Services Florida in Tampa, acknowledges she is not, and cannot be, Heinrichs. 

She has her own strengths and methods of leading that she is confident will continue to move LFS, which celebrated 125 years in 2017, into new areas of growth and impact. 

“I don’t pretend to fit into Ruth’s shoes; the path she forged was best for LFS and great for the history of the organization,” Martin says of Heinrichs, who announced her retirement in the summer of 2017. “It’s my goal to maintain the caliber of professionalism and continue to provide services of great quality. I don’t waste my energy on what I can’t change.”

Martin, who has dedicated her professional life to helping others, grew up in Kansas and graduated summa cum laude from Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and secondary education. She earned an MBA from Eastern University in Pennsylvania and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she was a presidential fellow.

In her role as executive vice president of programs at LSF, she oversaw a team of 600 and a budget of $50 million delivering programs that include child welfare, guardianship, immigration and refugee services, housing, youth shelters, sexual abuse treatment, and behavioral health services. With more than 1,500 employees and an annual budget of $220 million, LSF is one of the largest social service organizations in Florida.

Prior to this position, she served as the organization’s chief communications and development officer, and before that, was a vice president at Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service and the director of Policy and Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Washington, D.C.

She returned regularly to Omaha through her husband’s work as a health economist. When they started looking for opportunities in the Midwest last year, they chose Omaha so Martin could be closer to her mother and other family members still in Kansas.

And while she admits she didn’t necessarily foresee a future in nonprofit leadership when she first started, she credits “amazing mentors” over the course of her career who encouraged her and helped her ascend the steps up the leadership ladder along the way. 

“All I can be is my best, most authentic self, and I believe we all can lead from any chair,” Martin says. “I know we can improve as an organization by being our best every day. I know I’m not the smartest person in the room, but it’s my goal to help encourage others to shine.”

And in her first few months at Lutheran Family Services, Martin says she sees ample opportunity for growth across the organization. 

“Lutheran Family Services has a firm foundation with dedicated staff that is willing to change and grow with the organization,” Martin says. “We all share a common faith-based goal to strengthen our skills to have an impact toward the common good. I see opportunity around every corner.”


Visit lfsneb.org for more information.

This article was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Success from Great Heights

August 9, 2018 by
Photography by contributed

Jamie Walker can actually say he takes corporate success to greater heights.

The 44-year-old, who serves as president and CEO of Omaha-based Jet Linx Aviation, often finds himself flying to far-off places. That’s not surprising, because he served as a vital component in growing the Midwest company to a national success. The company has 14 locations in the U.S. that provide private jet services.

Jamie says the company was founded by his father, Denny, in 1999 as a means to slice into the market of private airline services for people who don’t want to deal with the hustle and bustle of more public transportation. 

Jamie joined the company in 2002 with one major goal—bring the company to a national scale. Previously, Walker had worked in sales and marketing, and residential development in New York City.

In 2004, he launched Jet Linx Aviation’s Jet Card and Aircraft Management programs. Then in 2009, he established the company’s base partner program, a major win for fulfilling national expansion efforts.

Walker says the program was, and continues to be, a successful effort to establish Jet Linx Aviation hubs in large metro areas. The requirement includes a base partner, who serves as a local buy-in and owns a small portion of the business. Jet Linx Aviation remains the majority stakeholder and primary decision-maker.

Walker was successful in growing the company this way while mitigating financial risks to the company during the Great Recession. Then in 2014, he created the company’s first member-benefits program, Elevated Lifestyle.

“It’s really a challenge,” Walker says of the private flight market. “The company’s goal is to scale and retain a local effort [in Omaha].”

Since taking over leadership, Walker has grown the company from four aircrafts to a fleet of over 100. The company grew from 12 clients to over 1,300. At its start, Jet Linx Aviation had 20 employees. Now it boasts about 475 hard workers across the country.

When Walker is traveling, he’s usually speaking with clients interested in private jet services. In Omaha, he’s helping develop programs that benefit his everyday employees. Part of this includes the management and retention of a positive work culture. Whenever Walker is in Omaha, he makes sure to communicate with his staff to ensure they arrive to a positive atmostphere every day.

“One of the most important things we need to do is keep that culture in place,” Walker says.

In Omaha, Walker is involved with the Knights of Aksarben and YPO, and remains active on the advisory boards for JetSmarter and Stellar Labs. He previously served on the board for Jet Aviation and the local YPO Chapter.

“Jamie was chapter chair [in 2012],” says Lund Co. President Jason Lund of the YPO board. “He recruited me to be on the board. It was at a pivotal time in the local chapter, and I think he’s a very innovative, forward-thinking leader.”

Walker says the single most important thing he’s learned about nonstop travel is that family is more important than anything else.

“It definitely makes me appreciate Omaha much more when I do travel,” Walker says. “The best thing about traveling is coming home.”

Walker spends the majority of his free time with his wife and children. And that’s something he holds close to him, because then he never loses sight of what home really means.

“I love having Omaha as a home base,” Walker says. “To be in Omaha—to call it home—makes it much easier on the life-work balance.”


Visit jetlinx.com for more information.

This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

Finding National Limelight For Local Work

May 15, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you’ve attended a performance or event at the Holland Center or Orpheum Theater during the past 16 years, you’ve witnessed the work of Omaha Performing Arts. If you’ve purchased tickets using Ticket Omaha, you’ve used services provided by Omaha Performing Arts. If your family or children have participated in an education program like the Nebraska High School Theater Awards or attended a community engagement program like Jazz on the Green, you’ve benefited from programming offered by Omaha Performing Arts.

Over the past 16 years, the organization has grown to reach nearly 500,000 people annually, support a budget of about $20 million, and generate an economic impact of about $40 million, making it difficult to find anyone in the Omaha area who hasn’t at some point been touched by the organization.

And the woman who has been at the helm of OPA since it was founded is president Joan Squires.

“Joan is an extraordinarily valuable asset,” says OPA Chairman John Gottschalk. “The fact that she came here when we were at the threshold of enormous growth in performing arts is fantastic. She started almost from scratch when we were getting ready to open the Orpheum [for more performances] through the Holland. It’s changed not only the volume, but the quality, of the performing arts available in this city.”

Squires has received accolades for her pioneering leadership since OPA was founded in 2002. But lately, even more national organizations and publications are noticing her continued excellence.

In spring 2017, Squires was given the Samuel J. L’Hommedieu Award for Outstanding Achievement in Presenter Management from the Broadway League in recognition of her contributions and service to the Broadway industry, and in December, she was elected to a two-year term on the national Broadway League’s board of governors. Also in December, Musical America magazine named Squires one of 30 U.S. “Movers and Shapers” for 2017. And OPA will receive the 2018 Governor’s Arts Award for Organizational Achievement at the prestigious biennial event organized by the Nebraska Arts Council.

Squires is grateful for these recognitions; however, she attributes her success and OPA’s continued success to many factors.

The two venues the organization operates—the Holland Center and the Orpheum Theater—offer the community “some of the best venues anywhere,” she says, making them a popular destination. The high quality of performances, presentations, and artists OPA brings to Omaha—Broadway, dance, jazz, popular music, family presentations, world music, and speakers—continue to draw robust audiences.

Gottschalk attributes the OPA’s quality to Squires’ management abilities.

“To start a business up from scratch is no mean feat,” Gottschalk says. “You have to manage the product, manage the costs, and you have to market the place. Joan has never failed to meet the targets that are set in our budgets.”

“When we started, there was no one in this community to present these great artists,” Squires says. “Not only do we have an organization that can support them, but when [the artists] come to Omaha they’re always amazed by the quality of venues and response of the audiences.”

Finally, the community’s support through philanthropy, ticket sales, volunteer hours, and board leadership have helped OPA establish and sustain its presence. And Squires says OPA isn’t finished growing.

Looking ahead, Squires says OPA’s biggest area of growth is in education and engagement. OPA currently partners with national organizations including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Disney Theatrical Group, and the Broadway League.

“We’re really developing those programs and continuing to seek out national partnerships to bring new things to young people…and also look for opportunities to further deepen and strengthen our relationships throughout the community.”


Visit omahaperformingarts.org for more information.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Bold and Bonded

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Don’t call them a power couple, but Ethan and Susan Bondelid definitely fit the mold.

Through their development company, Maven Social, the Bondelids have built an impressive brand by starting up some truly creative businesses that run the gamut from hair salons to speak-easies. Their most recent startup is Monarch Prime & Bar, an upscale restaurant located inside
Hotel Deco.

“I’ve been opening businesses as long as I can remember,” Ethan says. “I’ve only been in the bar and restaurant business for seven years now.”

Despite being a newbie, Ethan and company (along with Susan, he’s had several partners) have made a big noise in Omaha’s fast-moving and thriving hospitality industry.

House of Loom was one early success, followed by The Berry & Rye. Maven Social then began the salon Victor Victoria, before opening speak-easy Wicked Rabbit, pizza parlor Via Farina, Laka Lono Rum Club, and now Monarch.

“Ethan has been an entrepreneur since the day I met him when we were only 20 years old,” Susan says. “His ambition and proactive nature have been inspirations for me since day one.”

A fierce attention to detail has been another key to success. Maven properties are uniquely designed and incredibly decorated down to finest minutiae, such as the rabbit coat hooks at Wicked Rabbit.

“We are about creating unique experiences,” Susan says. “Life is hard. We want places for people to go to take a breather and relax, maybe get inspired, and then take on their next day with new energy.”

Vital to creating those experiences is finding the right employees to help pull it off. “I think the No. 1 challenge facing new business today is talent. And taxes,” Susan says.

Why is Omaha such a good investment for new business?

“For us, Omaha has always been incredibly supportive of people trying to do something, both in the arts and in business,” Ethan says. “Omaha also makes it easier to get started. Resources needed can be more accessible, and the level to entry is lower than in some markets.”

It doesn’t hurt, Susan adds, that Omaha’s her hometown. “We love the people and the spirit,” she says. “We’re in the midst of a major growth and it’s super exciting. We’re right at the beginning of our potential, and everyone here has the opportunity to shape the city.”

Operating a thriving business and being a couple does have advantages, but it takes commitment. “You have to know when—and always remind each other—to turn it off and switch gears for family time,” Ethan says. The Bondelids have two children, Cai and Ava. “We need to also be conscious of how it can be difficult for other team members to navigate a husband-and-wife management.”

Susan says it helps that they share a basic foundation of support. “And we have each other’s backs,” she says.

What advice would the Bondelids give to first-time business owners?

“It depends on the business type of course, but ultimately it will always come down to the teams you surround yourself with,” Ethan says.

Susan urges new business owners to seek out other business owners and ask questions. “There’s a great support network in Omaha to utilize, and we’re all hoping for the best for each other,” she says. “The more unique, successful businesses, the more we look attractive to the nation as a whole and the more we’ll grow. Also, get your important people in place, such as lawyers, accountants, insurance agents. They’ll help your business in more ways than one.”

Ethan refuses to pick his favorite startup. “That would be like picking a favorite band,” he says. “They all have their share of victories and heartaches.”

“House of Loom is and will always be my favorite,” Susan says. “It was my first business baby and we all poured our hearts into it, from the Victorian furniture to the menu to the unique music/cultural programming. Ethan and I learned the service industry firsthand from paperwork to barbacking to bartending. We learned the difference of using fresh ingredients in cocktails and really strived to make all peoples heard and known. We had an amazing family there. Also, it was a…ton of fun.”

Visit mavensocialgroup.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Neighborhoods, USA

February 20, 2017 by
Photography by Provided

Chris Foster quickly developed a deep appreciation for his Gifford Park neighborhood after arriving in 1986. He joined its neighborhood association when it was launched a couple of years later and served as its president for a two-year stint that ended in 2001.

But it took a trip to Pittsburgh that year to trigger an epiphany. He realized what his midtown neighborhood could become.

On the trip, members of Omaha’s Planning Department and folks from various Omaha neighborhood associations traveled to the Steel City to attend that year’s “Neighborhoods, USA” national conference.

At the NUSA conference, hundreds of attendees passionate about improving neighborhoods and building stronger communities gather to swap ideas, participate in educational workshops, tour neighborhoods, and honor the innovative and life-changing work of neighborhood betterment projects.

And 2017 will see an exciting culmination of the efforts of city planners and Omaha neighborhood advocates like Foster—the 42nd annual NUSA conference is coming to Nebraska for the first time. The conference will be held at the Omaha Hilton Hotel and CenturyLink Center from May 24-27.

“NUSA coming to Omaha is a great training, educational resource, and networking opportunity for Omaha neighborhood leaders to learn about what’s going on in neighborhoods all around the country,” says Julie Smith, a conference organizer and neighborhood alliance specialist with ONE Omaha. “We will learn about programs other cities have and know that they face a lot of similar challenges, as well.”

A Fourth of July parade attracts residents in the Maple Village neighborhood.

Years in the Making

Discussions to bring NUSA to Omaha started six years ago, according to Norita Matt, a city planner who attended that 2001 conference with Foster. Years of planning led to Omaha’s presentation to NUSA leaders at the 2015 conference in Houston that landed the bid to host this year’s event.

“There is a lot that goes along with it; you have to have the mayor’s support and plenty of city support,” Matt says.

The Omaha conference will include local keynote speakers; dozens of local, national, and global workshops; awards for exceptional neighborhood betterment programs; local and national exhibitors; and a mayor’s reception.

The highlight of each conference, Matt says, are the Neighborhood Pride Tours during which attendees learn how neighborhoods use innovation and elbow grease to better their communities. More than 20 tours, including two in Council Bluffs, will focus on the rich history, unique designs, and revitalization of neighborhoods, she says. Tours are capped with receptions, local entertainment, and demonstrations of different cultures through music and dance.

“Going into the neighborhoods gives us a chance to hear about challenges and what people are doing to bring back the neighborhoods,” she says.

Gifford Park is one of many neighborhoods to participate in the city’s annual Spring Clean Up.

Two Omaha keynote speakers will highlight a key crucial neighborhood betterment effort. Jose Garcia and Terri Sanders will present their groups’ efforts to revitalize the 24th Street corridor, Omaha’s original “Street of Dreams,” connecting North and South Omaha, including the Fair Deal Village MarketPlace near 24th and Burdette streets.

Fostering a Better Community Life

For Foster of the Gifford Park association, NUSA coming to Omaha holds special significance because of his profound experience in Pittsburgh more than 15 years ago.  >

“I described it as a life-changing experience because I saw a presentation on inclusiveness involving community gardens,” Foster recalls, describing how he was “blown away” by a Seattle speaker who described the city’s network of community gardens.

Foster and others spent hours with the speaker at a local coffeehouse, and he then found himself doodling ideas about a vacant piece of land behind the Gifford Park home he shares with his wife, Sally.

Soon after, they were cleaning up the double-wide lot and purchasing the parcel for $4,000. Others joined in to transform the lot at 3416 Cass St. into the Gifford Park Community Garden. A youth gardening program soon followed.

A mural on North 30th Street emphasizes the history of the Florence neighborhood. Photo by Mele Mason.

A couple of years later, the garden expanded and an “adventure playground,” complete with a double-decker treehouse, was built as a way to build community ties among Gifford Park families and children.

Since then, a host of neighborhood activities and services have been developed, including a community bike shop and a free youth tennis program held each August at 33rd and Cass streets.

The conceptual seeds that revitalized Gifford Park’s community were planted at that NUSA conference years ago.

“NUSA provides me with some leadership development,” Foster says. “It gets people excited, invigorated, and motivated to want to take on projects in neighborhoods or work with the city and take on leadership roles. As volunteers, we have more effect on our neighborhoods than almost anything else. We’re the owners and stakeholders who can actually get it done.”

Visit nusa.org for more information.

The 42nd annual NUSA conference is coming to Nebraska for the first time. The conference will be held at the Omaha Hilton Hotel and CenturyLink Center from May 24-27.

A mural in Prospect Village celebrates the North Omaha neighborhood.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Joan Squires

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Joan Squires was living a cozy life in Arizona where she was president and CEO of the Phoenix Symphony. But when Omaha Performing Arts leaders called 10 years ago, she couldn‘t resist the challenge.

OPA wanted her help in operating two theaters in Omaha—the venerable Orpheum and the yet-to-be-built Holland Performing Arts Center. Who could pass up the chance to operate a theater built in 1927 that was undergoing a $10 million renovation? And who wouldn’t want to participate in the building of a $102 million performing arts center in Downtown Omaha?

Squires saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “There was a committed board and key leadership. Also at that time, no one in Omaha was bringing in shows.”

OPA’s new president arrived in 2002 to find a staff of one and a lone computer housed in the offices of Heritage Services; the philanthropic foundation was OPA’s fundraiser. The Holland Performing Arts Center was only a sketch on an architect‘s drawing board. The Orpheum Theater was still owned by the City of Omaha. And few people knew much about OPA. “One of our greatest challenges was branding the institution,” Squires says. “We had to go from not in existence to fully operational in three years.”

Her first action was to help set goals: 1) Assume management of the Orpheum from the city, 2) Prepare a strategic plan for the development of the organizational and administrative structure for OPA, and 3) Participate in construction of the Holland.

“In 2004, we opened Ticket Omaha [a local ticketing service for the arts]. Tickets were on sale six months before the Holland’s first performance in 2005,” Squires says.20130102_bs_8722 copy

A Decade Later

Today, the OPA president has a staff of 90 full- and part-time employees and 500 volunteers. She oversees the 175,000-square-foot Holland Performing Arts Center and the renovated 2,600-seat Orpheum Theater that reopened in 2002. And Omaha Performing Arts now is the largest nonprofit arts organization in Nebraska.

Seventy-five percent of funding is now from earned revenue and 25 percent is from contributions.

Rankings in two industry publications in 2011 gave Omaha bragging rights. The Orpheum was ranked No.1 in Midwest ticket sales by Venues Today and No. 16 worldwide by Pollstar. The Holland was ranked in the top 10 nationally by Venues Today, an impressive ranking for a performing arts center that didn’t exist six years earlier.

“There were those that said Omaha could not support the facility,” remembers John Gottschalk, OPA chairman since its formation in 2000. Squires has oversight of a $18 million operation. “And in six years she has never missed her budget. Never.”

Squires’ success in luring top talent has brought a financial benefit to the area, attracting visitors, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue. A 2011 survey by University of Nebraska economists concluded that the two theaters had a cumulative economic impact on Douglas County of $128.49 million over five years and a $98.31 million impact on Nebraska.

The widely praised acoustics of the Holland bring out the best of the Omaha Symphony. Broadway shows now seek out the Orpheum. Performances have included Wicked, Jersey Boys and Disney’s® Lion King, which returns in March.

Check Squires’ iPhone and you’ll find an eclectic collection of music. But Broadway tunes rule. “From childhood on, I’ve loved Broadway musicals,” she says.

OPA’s mission includes presenting educational programs for all ages, from student matinees to master classes to workshops taught by professionals.

“An addition at the Holland designed for teaching dance classes was added about three years ago,” says OPA Vice Chairman Richard Holland. The performing arts center was named for him and his late wife, Mary.

10 January 2013- Joan Squires office is photographed for B2B Magazine.

Photo in Squires’ office of her with Debbie Reynolds (left) and Warren Buffett.

Squires has her finger on the pulse on Broadway theatre life and currently serves as a voting member for Broadway’s Tony Awards®. Active in Broadway League committees, she is a member of the Performing Arts Center Consortium and of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. She is an advisor for the Broadway Dreams Foundation.

The Life of Joan Squires

Joan was born and raised in Shippensburg, Pa., where her father ran a family business. Her twin brother, John, is the fourth generation in the business. Joan received her undergraduate degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., and became a music teacher for three years. She loved her students, but teaching wasn’t her life’s mission.

She moved into arts management, earning a master’s degree in both business and music arts administration from the University of Michigan. She served as an intern for the National Endowment for the Arts and participated in a yearlong fellowship under the sponsorship of the League of American Orchestras.

Squires has worked in arts management for more than 25 years. Previous positions were with the Milwaukee, Utah, and Houston symphonies. She has received many honors including the Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor and the YWCA’s Woman of Vision. In 2012, she received a Governor’s Arts Award from the Nebraska Arts Council.

Squires has a short commute to work. She lives in a downtown condo about halfway between the two theaters that she oversees. Her husband, Tom Fay, was a vice president of the Arizona State University Foundation before they moved to Omaha. A native New Yorker, he played the oboe for 17 years with the Pittsburgh Symphony and held a second career in arts management and academic fundraising.

Fay and Squires have been married 22 years. She has three stepchildren and three grandchildren. Her husband has been supportive of her demanding career, says Squires. “He said he had his career, and it was now my turn.”

Squires said despite all the long hours she logs at work, it’s all worth it. “At the end of the day, standing in the back of the theater and watching the audience react, I think I have the best job in town.”

“Shifting Gears” is Theme of April CREW Event

November 25, 2012 by

Real estate professionals from all over the region will soon converge for “shop talk” at Omaha’s 24th Annual Commercial Real Estate Workshop (CREW), to be held at the CenturyLink Center Omaha on April 19, 2013. This year’s theme is “Shifting Gears – Are You Gaining Momentum?”

“The CREW Planning Committee decided at our September 2012 meeting that the commercial real estate market had made a definite turn to the positive,” says Jerry Slusky, a partner with Smith Gardner Slusky Law and member of the CREW committee. “Noting that, CREW 2013 is using a bicycle theme to indicate that it’s time to shift your own gears and be in a position to take advantage of the momentum being created in the market. Each of the subjects of this year’s CREW is ‘geared’ to address that question,” Slusky explains.

CREW’s keynote roundtable theme, “Crisis of Confidence: How We Fix a Flat Tire,” will include conversation with Nebraska’s top business leaders and how they view the current economy, their expectations for the short and long term, and how their views relate to job creation and real estate.

As the Omaha mayoral election in May will have an economic impact on our economy, the CREW committee has invited the mayoral primary candidates to speak to attendees about their thoughts, plans, and goals for Omaha for 2013 and beyond. “All five mayoral candidates have accepted CREW’s invitation to speak at CREW 2013,” says Slusky. “The CREW Committee is preparing four or five questions that will be answered by the two mayoral finalists (decided in the April primary). It should be a very interesting.”

Jason Fisher, president of The Lund Company and regular participant in CREW, commends the CREW committee’s efforts in presenting a great event. “The committee and Jerry do a great job of blending relevant national or global market trends with the primary focus on local and regional issues,” Fisher says. “Secondly, the panelists, presenters, and topics are usually representative of the real estate market in its entirety—developers, brokers, attorneys, engineers, lenders, etc…All are represented. In addition, the relationship and networking opportunity [of CREW] is unlike any other. You basically have 300+ industry-focused professionals in the same room for a full day. If you can’t have meaningful conversations about your trade at CREW, then you are probably in the wrong business.”

Politics and Moral Distractions at Work

The elections were over in November, but the political conversations continue in the workplace.

“How did this happen? I can’t believe he’s President!”

“When is Congress going to get over the bipartisanship and get to work?”

“Those Super PACs completely changed the game. All they did was lie, and no one held them accountable!”

“I am so angry about the political climate in Washington that I could burst!”

It’s not just employee conversations over the cubicle walls. Employers are talking politics, too. For example, David Siegel is the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned time-share company in the world. He sent a memo to his 7,000 employees before the election stating that they need to worry about their jobs if Barack Obama gets re-elected. Obamacare and higher taxes, Siegel argued, are running his firm into the ground (Bloomberg Businessweek, October 10, 2012).

When should employees and employers feel comfortable expressing political views at work?

The Business Ethics Alliance held its fall dialogue last October about politics, business, and ethics. One reocurring theme was that political conversations at work are morally acceptable, as long as they do not take away from the real purpose of business. In keeping with this idea, the point was made that business leaders can, and should, educate employees about how to unify their voices on political positions that can greatly affect the stability of the firm or its industry.

So the bottom line is—stick to business. Don’t get distracted from business while at work. Focus, focus, focus.

But there is something unsaid here, some unspoken truth that is left out of this bottom line picture. This unspoken truth was beautifully expressed after the Business Ethics Alliance Dialogue by Stuart Chittenden on his SquishTalks blog:

“If businesses’ inflexibly require employees to engage only in subjects or topics that are…purely related to work, then the outcome inevitably is minimal breakthrough success for that business, a bland organizational culture, and impossible personal growth and fulfillment for the employee.”

Stuart helps us recognize the unspoken truth of the bottom line paradigm. When we focus only on business at work, we deny the human yearnings that deeply engage us. In one sense, being whole people at work is actually advantageous for business. Success in business can be measured by the numbers, but also by enlivening cultures and human flourishing. In other words, politics and moral distractions can positively feed business success.

Yet…is there more to the unspoken truth? I cannot help but press our reflection one step further…because thus far we are making the “business case” for why we should break through to our deeply held political and moral values at work. But what if, just what if, human dignity and flourishing is not merely an instrument for business success but is, rather, its raison d’etre?

And these human yearnings are the real source of the ethics that drive us to do and be better.
Respect
Freedom
Human dignity
Deeper
Being human
Breaking through to the real

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance and Chair of Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University’s College of Business.