Jul 30, 2011

Faith at Work, Part 5: Drawing Enrichment from Deep Wells

 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Dale Jones is a vice chairman and partner at Heidrick & Struggles, one of the nation’s top executive search firms. He advises boards and CEOs on human capital issues such as leadership, recruiting and succession planning, but a few years ago, Jones sensed a calling to do something about the problem of global water. Together with the founders of America Online, Steve and Jean Case, he pursued an innovative plan to bring clean drinking water to rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa. The plan involved installing merry-go-rounds that pumped water from the ground as children played on them.  

“Villages get water for the first time, and to see the rejoicing of families and children is pretty incredible,” said Jones in an interview with Laity Leadership Senior Fellow David W. Miller this spring.

“It was really a time in my life when I needed to do something that would feed the soul, but it was also a chance for my family to be on a journey that we were part of something that had a greater sense of mission and serving people’s needs,” said Jones.

Called to Connect 

Eventually the PlayPumps project was folded into a larger water project and Jones returned to his work at Heidrick & Struggles. As enriching as the experience was, Jones sensed that his real calling was to the search business. He realized he is most effective connecting people with particular skills and character to organizations that have matching needs and he speaks of  leveraging people with resources to take action. One third of his work at Heidrick & Struggles is devoted to the firm’s social enterprise practice.

Figuring out how to integrate his faith and his passion for humanitarian projects into his daily corporate work is “the crux” of who he is, Jones said.

“I wake up everyday thinking about it,” he said.

Enrichment with an Outward Focus

While Jones certainly has a strong aspect of the Experience (EX) category of The Integration Box (where work is understood as a calling), he also exemplifies the Enrichment (EN) type.  The Integration Box is the tool that Miller developed to describe faith/work integration. ENs manifest their spirituality at work through “interior disciplines, practices, and habits (e.g. prayer, meditation,  contemplation) that provide  comfort, healing, and strengthen the soul to handle the rigors of the workplace,” Miller wrote in a paper he presented at an international management, spirituality & religion conference in Vienna, Austria last year.

ENs may also go through experiences that cause them to question the meaning of personal existence and attempt to place themselves within a broader context, Miller said.

For Jones, his defining moment was when his mother died of cancer. He was 14 years old.

“It really caused me to question faith, but also to embrace faith because of my mother’s faith, but I also had deep questions about the journey we were on,” said Jones.  

Doing Well; Doing Good

Jones’ father was a shoe repairman and a janitor. He never remarried and devoted himself to raising his three sons until he too became ill and then permanently disabled.

“He taught us the dignity of work,” said Jones.

“There is this notion that if we give of ourselves sacrificially and die to self as I saw my dad do in raising us, there is a harvest to be reaped,” he said.

In addition to his other humanitarian work, Jones serves on the National Advisory Board for the Salvation Army and is a Trustee at Morehouse College, his alma mater.

“Morehouse was a pivotal part of my journey,” said Jones, noting that Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent African American leaders had graduated from the school.

“There is this overarching sense of purpose and mission, imbued with a spiritual sense of destiny … that Morehouse tends to teach even today,” he said.

It was at Morehouse that Jones began gathering with other Christians to think through his values and it was there that he developed the conviction that he was called not only to do well, but to do good.

When he finished college, he spent time with other business people who were trying to reconcile faith, business, community and service. Seeing them integrate their faith with their work gave him the freedom to do the same. Jones is now active in several CEO fellowship groups, gathering with peers to reflect on integrating faith and work in the rough and tumble world of business.

“I think if I didn’t have them, I’d probably go wandering, as we’re wont to do,” said Jones.

Finding and Sharing Solace

Enrichment types with public orientations often seek out others with similar inclinations, finding comfort and accountability in group settings, Miller wrote in a paper he presented last year at the Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb University in Nashville.

“They find solace and value as part of regular worship communities and being in smaller Bible study, prayer groups, or accountability groups. They find their work life is enriched by maintaining a consistent prayer life and devotional practices, grounded in communal settings,” he said. 

ENs with more private orientations tend to be more inward and contemplative in nature and prefer informal and individual expressions of spirituality, he said.  These people often are committed to regular mediation, prayer or scripture study.  

In God at Work, Miller said these practices are generally healthy, but some who focus exclusively on their own personal spirituality risk becoming narcissistic and ignoring the needs of others.

Dale Jones hasn’t succumbed to this temptation.

“I think we can be lulled to sleep to great sort of piety experiences and not be engaged in day to day meaningful work of changing lives or improving the lives of people if we’re not careful,” said Jones.

Instead, his inward focus is directed outward.

“I have found in my life that if I can be a presence that … sits with people regardless of where they are on their journey, somehow God in his sovereignty will redeem that experience,” he said, exemplifying the gifts Enrichment types have to offer. 

Image by Celine Nadeau. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Christine A. Scheller.

Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow David W. Miller is founding Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative and an Associate Research Scholar at the university's Center for the Study of Religion. Dr. Miller spent 16 years in senior executive positions in international business and finance before entering academia and receiving his M.Div.and Ph.D. in Social Ethics. He is the author of God at Work: The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement and writes for The Avodah Institute's Faith & Work Blog.

 

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