GCN Launches the First My IPO Conference

My IPO 1.jpg

Over Labor Day weekend, Global Commerce Network launched its first My IPO event with 13 young men who are beginning their professional careers. My IPO (my initial public offering) is a program designed to support, equip and encourage young professionals as they transition from college into their professions.

Most young people finish their educations well-prepared within the context of their specific areas of study. However, schools and colleges often don't help them develop in other areas that are foundational for long-term personal growth and professional success. My IPO is set up to fill that gap.

GCN offers its extensive theological research on the meaning of work, workplace relationships, and economics to the My IPO participants. By broadening horizons about the profound spiritual meaning of work, these theological perspectives are vital in our materialist modern era, which offers us a lot to live with but very little to live for. During the most recent event, prominent writers and business leaders discussed the theological roots of innovation, entrepreneurship, calling and vocation, and the importance of strong character.

In addition to theology, this My IPO event included a site visit to a local business start-up. During the visit, the company owner shared his powerful story of what it takes to develop a business from an idea into a reality. The participants also saw first-hand how a business can bring well-being, or shalom, to an entire community. We also heard from a renowned artist, who spoke on creativity, risk, perseverance, and relationships in the workplace.

The My IPO group also learned about time management skills from a Fortune 500 executive coach and author. We toured lower downtown Denver, an area that had been dilapidated but is now a thriving center of cultural life—thanks to entrepreneurs. Rounding out our program was business leader Dan Woodridge who spoke on “How to Thrive in the New Economy.”

My IPO is designed to be small—not more than 15 participants. This enables each person's specific questions to be addressed. Friendships develop and strengthen. Perhaps some will go on to work with each other, including in their own business start-ups. GCN leaders will provide ongoing support, mentoring and networking for those who attend.

For more information on this program, you can visit the My IPO page on this website.

CWW-cover-Final JPEG.jpeg

Global Commerce Network is excited to publish the second edition of Church Without Walls by Jim Petersen.

Since Church Without Walls was first published in 1992, we’ve seen the Internet revolutionize social relations, dramatically reshaping the ways that this generation experiences the world. Notions of “community” and “friendship” have moved from the front porch to virtual connections. Postmodernism has expanded. Americans are experiencing what some call an “epidemic of loneliness.”

As Jim shows in Church Without Walls, the Scriptures give us the freedom to be the church (not just go to church), including in our professional lives, so that we can better influence our needy world. We just need to broaden our understanding—biblically—of “church” and to regain our focus on why we are in the world.

Walking us through some of the key moments in Western church history, Petersen shows us that many of our customs and traditions are extra-scriptural. This does not mean that they are all wrong; however, many of these traditions make it unnecessarily harder to influence our increasingly postmodern society. 

For business leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals, Petersen presents a scriptural case that daily work is integrated with what it means to be the church and to participate in God's meaningful purposes in the world. Young professionals who are just launching their careers will find freedom in the Scriptures to better bring hope and love to this generation. 

Jim Petersen is also the author of influential books, such as The Insider, Living Proof, and More Than Me.

Church Without Walls can be purchased in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book distribution platforms. 

GCN Publishes New Book on Entrepreneurship

McGilchrist Web Photo.jpg

Global Commerce Network is pleased to announce the release of its new book titled The Entrepreneurial God, written by Donald McGilchrist. 

The book can be purchased at this link

McGilchrist shows, through a study of the Scriptures, God as the grand innovator who, motivated by love, initiated the first "start-up"--our world. 

Despite this reality, the philosophical wedge driven between what our culture deems "sacred" and "secular" makes it difficult for business leaders to think about entrepreneurship and innovation through a theological lens. As a result, we miss out on the grandeur of how our enterprises fit within God's overarching purposes for the world. Our perspectives leave us with a narrow view of what it means to be entrepreneurs. 

The Entrepreneurial God helps us expand our vision and learn from the model of the grand innovator. We see that our enterprises can and should contribute to the shalom, or well-being, of our communities, our economies, and our workers. 

Donald McGilchirst, a founder of GCN, was born in London, England. He holds an MA from the University of Oxford. He worked for ten years in business in the UK before serving as an international vice president of The Navigators in the US. In this capacity, he focused on cross-cultural studies, communications, and international strategy.

In addition to The Entrepreneurial God, he has authored several studies on the cultural and biblical significance of commerce and enterprise, with a focus on our daily work in the world, including The Meaning of Work (2015) and other books in GCN's six-book series titled Scriptural Roots of Commerce.

GCN Contracts with PMMI to Expand Health Care Access to Ghana

We at Global Commerce Network believe that entrepreneurs can and should innovate products and services that serve people. Primary Mobile Med International is on the front lines of doing just that. Based in Topeka, Kansas, this business is equipped to expand low-cost, high quality health-care access to millions of underserved people in Ghana.

GCN, an NGO with 501(c)3 non-profit status since 1994, has had a long relationship with PMMI. We have contracted with PMMI to implement GCN’s Ghana Health Care Initiative. As GCN’s vendor, PMMI will be using its mobile medical clinics (MMCs) in Ghana to provide standardized health screenings in coordination with the Ghana Health Service. PMMI has established a contract with Ghana's Ministry of Health to place up to 3000 MMCs in Ghana, in urban and rural areas.

This is a game-changer, not only for millions of people who will now have access to health care, but also for Ghanaian and international health-care researchers.

PMMI has developed a proprietary electronic medical records system (EMR) that is simple to use, even in places like Africa. The EMR is installed in each medical container, which opens the doors to multiple possibilities for patient care and health-care research.

Patients will be registered into the system and receive an ID card with their unique patient identifier. Once registered into the system, they will be screened for hypertension, diabetes, general vision wellness, hepatitis B & C, neurological identifiers, TB, and environmental risks. Medical professionals will be able to communicate electronically with patients—to send appropriate reminders and manage follow-up care.

To strengthen GCN’s Ghana Health Care Initiative, PMMI is also coordinating efforts with distinguished professors, two universities, physicians, and other health-care organizations.
With the implementation of the screening program in Ghana, PMMI will help deliver the necessary preventative care, resulting in measurable outcomes that in turn can be shared with medical research facilities, global health reporting agencies, and government health officials.

PMMI's CEO, Tom Petersen, says that GCN played a vital role in shaping PMMI's business culture and ultimate goals. GCN and our scriptural foundations for business inspired him to develop products and services that benefit communities and underserved populations. 

Laurie Garrett, a Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, has worked with Petersen to turn the initial MMC idea into a cost-effective, practical solution for offering basic health care services without the high cost and time required to build brick-and-mortar clinics.

Working with Dr. Edith Clarke, a leading physician in Ghana, as well as other African doctors at Mayo Clinic and in Africa, Petersen last year set up multiple MMCs in the heart of Ghana’s bustling capital, Accra. Immediately, the five mobile clinics positioned strategically together gave health-care access to thousands of men and women, right in the industrial complex where they work.

For more information about how to help fund this initiative, write to: 

glenn@globalcommercenetwork.com


 

Kicking the Can (of National Debt) to the Kids

If you were in your early 20s, just starting your career, would you want your parents to toss you a debt bomb? Would you want to pay the tab of your parents’ spending spree?

And yet, on the level of macro-economics, that is what my generation is doing to millennials. 

As the graphs below demonstrate, my generation's addiction to debt is severe and non-partisan. The top graph shows the total gross debt trend (dark line) since 1940 to today. Starting in the early 1980s, Americans have almost constantly increased the national debt. Prior to 1980, debt levels declined slightly or stayed flat.

The second graph shows the U.S. debt in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is how much we over-spend in relation to how much we earn. We see that the debt-to-GDP ratio is getting close to what it was during the height of World War II. Importantly, the high debt-to-GDP ratio in the mid-1940s was caused by a major global war. You can understand why the debt went up so much during that era. But is there a moral purpose to explain the debt addiction of 1980 to today?

Soure: U.S. Congressional Budget Office

Soure: U.S. Congressional Budget Office

Also notice that the debt-to-GDP ratio fell almost without fail—regardless of which political party was in power—from the post-war period to the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency in 1980 (the year I graduated from high school). This indicates that the generation of my parents and grandparents had significant self-restraint. They sought to provide a better fiscal future for their children and grandchildren.

And what has my generation done with this sacrificial gift? Notice that from 1980 to the present day—regardless of which political party was and is currently in power—the debt-to-GDP ratio has skyrocketed, with the exception of a brief reduction in the late 1990s.

The numbers tell a moral story. As a nation, my generation (boomer and Gen-X) has given little consideration to the future well-being of our children and grandchildren. We’re spending now and forcing them to pay the bill.

It’s no use blaming “the other party” for this. The problem runs through every political party.

Love your neighbor as yourself. In national economics, as at home, that moral standard will unavoidably require sacrifice—a spirit of selflessness. Unless we restore in economics a selfless ethos, our children and grandchildren will bear the consequences of our moral failures.

When Distrust Goes Viral

In 1919, the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds played a nine-game World Series that illustrates what happens when business and political leaders lack integrity.

The 1919 Chicago White Sox

The 1919 Chicago White Sox

Numerous players on Chicago’s team agreed to accept large bribes from gamblers to throw the series and lose. Indeed, the Reds won and the gamblers took home a fortune. The full story can be reviewed in the Ken Burns documentary on the history of baseball.

As a result of the corruption in the sport, which was already a national pastime in America, distrust went viral. No one could trust the game. No one knew when a game was fair or foul. Across the two major leagues, attendance at stadiums plummeted. Teams lost huge sums of money, even when they were completely honest.

Worse yet was what the corruption did to young boys who looked up to baseball stars as role models. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a federal judge who in 1920 was hired as the first baseball commissioner to attempt to restore trust in the game, eloquently conveyed the impact on kids in this statement: 

“Baseball is something more than a game to an American boy,” Landis said. “It is his training field for life work. Destroy his faith in its squareness and honesty and you have destroyed something more—you have planted suspicion of all things in his heart.”

The same outcome happens when business leaders and politicians, for selfish gain and power, lie and cheat. Distrust goes viral. And when “suspicion of all things” is in our hearts, little parts of society die. Soon widespread distrust causes the breakdown of commerce, the erosion of community, and the atomization of individuals.

What happens on the baseball field doesn’t stay on the baseball field.

The Loneliness Epidemic and Work

Two recent studies once again demonstrate the desperate need for improving workplace relationships.

The first was published in the September 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review by the former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Titled “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic,” the essay reports that over 40 percent of all Americans and over half of CEOs feel lonely. He adds that the high rates of loneliness in America are causing serious health problems.

“We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s,” Murthy writes. “In the workplace, new models of working — such as telecommuting and some on-demand 'gig economy' contracting arrangements — have created flexibility but often reduce the opportunities for in-person interaction and relationships. And even working at an office doesn’t guarantee meaningful connections: People sit in an office full of coworkers, even in open-plan workspaces, but everyone is staring at a computer or attending task-oriented meetings where opportunities to connect on a human level are scarce.”

Murthy argues that business leaders can and should play a vital role in changing workplace cultures as a means of combatting loneliness. This, he says, is because we spend most of our waking hours at work.

The second study reveals that 71 percent of American workers are so dissatisfied with their work that they are looking for new jobs. This survey of 17,000 people from 19 industries, conducted by the nonprofit group Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation, found that several factors are causing this problem. Chief among them was poor workplace relationships.

“. . . 44 percent believe that they are “always or often” overlooked. Sixty-four percent say their supervisors don’t give them enough support and a majority of the participants are resentful of their co-workers. So much for teamwork,” writes Washington Post journalist Gene Marks about the survey.

These studies are published at a time when our news is filled with reports of rampant sexual abuse in the workplace, making the lives of professional women a nightmare. Clearly, there is a lot of work to do to renew workplace cultures.

Global Commerce Network has published numerous articles and books about healthy relationships. These books will help you take a fresh look at the scriptural foundations for healthy relationships, and to integrate this theology with business culture.

Two GCN resources published for this purpose are titled Working Together and Why People Matter, both of which can be purchased on Amazon. 

The Human Toll of Corruption

Statistical portraits of commerce and economics are important, but big numbers gloss over the impact of economic trends and policies on individual lives and families.

The same occurs when talking about corruption, perhaps because it is so widespread. We talk about the global problem in abstract terms—about the amount of money siphoned away from economies—rather than in human terms.

Unemployed in Recife, Brazil. Photo by Tom McMahan

Unemployed in Recife, Brazil. Photo by Tom McMahan

So, here’s a human story. During a recent trip to Brazil, where corruption is creating social chaos and taking down high-level business and political leaders, I stopped in the northeastern coastal city of Recife. There I spoke with an executive of a private bus company that provides public transportation in this city of about four million people.

He told me that four years ago his company had close to 400 buses circulating through the city. Today, he said, the company is down to 80 buses. This number shocked me, because Brazilians are so dependent on public transportation. I asked him what accounted for the reduction.

“Corruption,” he said. “The federal corruption scandals have caused tens of thousands of people in this region to lose their jobs. With those job losses, there was a domino effect in other industries and even in small businesses. Fewer people are riding buses because they don’t have anywhere to work.”

No newspapers are paying attention to what’s happening in one bus company. But 300 idle buses sitting in a hot parking lot are tangible symbols of corruption's impact: people without jobs, families with no income, children who can’t get to school, a rise in emotional depression, and increased crime.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, we read that Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, has been formally charged with corruption. He could end up being the second Brazilian president forced out of office in 18 months. It’s estimated that 60 percent of Brazil’s lawmakers are either under suspicion of, being investigated for, or formally charged for corruption. The money lost from the economy is in the billions of dollars.

But it is in the homes of Brazilian families, in the lives of children, and in the stress of unemployed men and women that we see the full brunt of corruption.

At the core, corruption is a lack of love for fellow human beings. Without love in commerce, people suffer. Corruption dehumanizes economics and imposes suffering on people. 

For more on this topic, we encourage you to work through a book by Tom Petersen called The Economy of God, which can be purchased on Amazon in print or digital formats. 

Robots and Dark Factories

A story in the May/June 2016 issue of MIT Technology Review sums up the profound questions that we should be asking about new AI technology. The call-out for the article says: “Can China reboot its manufacturing industry—and the global economy—by replacing millions of workers with machines?”

Stop for a minute and think carefully about that question. Embedded in it are difficult questions about our beliefs and values, our worldview. Is our ultimate goal material wealth? China can reboot it's economy by using more machines, but should this be done? Is it moral to embark on a path of “. . . replacing millions of workers with machines”?

Thankfully, many thought leaders today are addressing the human and ethical questions that surround these technological trends. But such discussions tend to be drowned out by more pragmatic concerns. The pressure for businesses to use AI and robots, or else die, is intense.

One representative example is worth looking at. Cambridge Industries Group (CIG), which operates factories in China, hopes to replace two-thirds of its 3,000 workers with machines by mid-2017. A primary reason for this change, says CEO Gerald Wong, is because manufacturing in Germany, Japan, and the United States is already becoming cheaper than in China because of robotics, artificial intelligence, and automation. This means that, regardless of who is in the Oval Office, jobs are not likely to come back to the US; that's because these jobs will vanish. 

“It’s very clear in China: people will either go into automation or they will go out of the manufacturing business,” Wong says. “We’re going to use standard robots at first. But then we’re going to use more advanced ones. More and more, we need to get into more advanced robotics. That can help make a dark factory.”

A dark factory, in case you’re wondering, is the widely used term for a factory without people.

The thought leaders in this arena are, thankfully, taking questions about the human and social impact of these technological changes seriously. Among those people is David Rotman, editor of MIT Technology Review. In the most recent issue of the magazine (March/April 2017), Rotman concludes an excellent article by saying, “if AI is going to achieve its full economic potential, we’ll need to pay as much attention to the social and employment challenges as we do to the technical ones.”

Rotman’s essay addresses questions about what happens to human beings when they can no longer work. He cites Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University, who acknowledges that the removal of work from people would be personally and socially devastating. “There is no question that in the modern capitalist system your occupation is your identity,” Mokyr says. He knows there will be “pain and humiliation” when robots take jobs from people.

Rotman also addresses the tendency for AI and robotics to erode the middle class, increasing the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Government can help ease this pain, but downward pressure on the middle class will continue regardless of who is in the Oval Office.

Missing from this vital discussion about technology, work and economics is a serious theological perspective. Underlying all the science, innovation, and compassion for workers, are deeper questions about human nature and God’s designs for economies. A theological compass, if given an opportunity, could help guide technological development to meaningful destinations.

How we develop technology and use it is a choice; it doesn’t just happen accidentally. AI and robotics are expressions of a worldview and a set of deeply held values. A materialistic worldview will produce a materialistic world with technology serving materialistic ends. Is that what we really want?

Author Andrew Schmookler is asking that question: “Our economy, with its focus on the material and the mechanical, embodies an approach to human life with the spirit drained out of it.”

A World of Corruption

During an election cycle in which cynicism about politics is increasing among most Americans, it is quite disturbing to see several recent academic books claim that the entire global economic system is based on corruption. These books are based on serious research and journalism.

Since the Panama Papers (11.5 million global financial documents) were leaked, more than 400 journalists have been working in a consortium on the documents to unveil what is happening in the global financial system. Here’s the conclusion of one correspondent for The Guardian:

“Previously, we thought that the offshore world was a shadowy, but minor, part of our economic system. What we learned from the Panama Papers is that it is the economic system (The New York Review of Books, October 27, 2016, p. 33).

Hopefully that is an overstatement, but for anyone interested in learning more, we encourage you to read these independent-minded books: The Panama Papers, by Basitan Obermayer and Fredrick Obermaier; The Offshore World, by Ronen Palan, Cornell University Press; The Hidden Wealth of Nations, by Teresa Lavender Fagan, University of Chicago Press.

The books show how the increase of globalized corruption continues to wreak havoc on ordinary people. Here's just one example: According to a report by Global Financial Integrity in 2010, “total illicit outflows from the African continent were anywhere between $854 billion and $1.8 trillion.” The consequences for national economies, jobs, education and healthcare are devastating. In Liberia, where Ebola devastated the nation, the Council on Foreign Relations says that there is only one doctor for every 75,000 people.

Commerce, like all of life, is essentially relational. And trust is the foundation for all relationships. Political and economic corruption erodes the trust that is necessary for commerce to function, including on a global scale. Austan Goolsbee, writing in Foreign Affairs (January/February 2013, p. 170), put it succinctly: “Capital markets can function only when people trust the system.”

Immediatism Stifles Significant Innovation

Our view of work and success today is measured in immediate returns. We watch the stock market daily. Companies must produce quarterly profits or investors bolt. We assess the success of politicians by how they did in a four-year term, not by the long-term impact of their decisions. A new report published in the MIT Technology Review (January/February 2016) makes it clear that the demand for immediate profits is suppressing important advances that could provide large-scale benefits to society. The report questions whether "the mechanisms for funding innovation today can nourish a broad range of technologies: not just car-sharing services like Uber, but valuable technologies for making energy cleaner, reducing poverty, and improving health care."

Writer Nanette Byrnes states that $21.5 billion (42 percent of all venture capital investment money in 2014) went toward new software development. Only $6 billion went to biotechnology and only $2.4 billion was used for industrial and energy companies.

The reason for the disparity is that the latter two categories often require long-term commitment before investors see a return. Software is far easier to develop and deploy than a promising new medication, or than products that require large factories and infrastructure. Given the choice, investors usually want the easy route to quick profits.

The problem, however, is that software innovation often addresses smaller societal needs. Sometimes is seeks to satisfy frivolous desires. It's one thing to design a cellphone so that another row of apps will fit on the screen and another to cure Alzheimer's, purify water, or improve the electrical grid.

"Capital intensive industries are particularly ill-suited to today's methods of funding," writes Byrnes. ". . . certain innovations are still struggling: potential breakthroughs in energy production and medicine, among others, that take too much money and time to develop."

Underlying the demand for immediate financial returns is a deficiency in our worldview and culture. And that can take a long time to fix.

MIT Report on Innovation

In an age when many believe businesses are corrupt and capital is detrimental to society, a new report by the MIT Sloan School of Management shows how well-operated, innovative companies can bring incredible benefits to people.

As of 2014, MIT alumni have "launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues." MIT alumni, if they were a nation, would be the ninth largest economy in the world. Employing 4.6 million people means incalculable benefits to families and communities.

Moreover, the report indicates that MIT innovators have been able to start businesses that endure long-term. The report states that "80 percent of alumni-founded companies have survived five or more years, while 70 percent have survived 10 years. (Across the U.S., roughly 50 percent of all new companies last five years, while only 35 percent last 10 years.)"

What this means is that MIT entrepreneurs are innovating products and services that meet real human needs and they are competently running their companies.

MIT has developed a meaningful ethos, as captured in a statement by the university's president, L. Rafael Reif. “Our community’s passion for doing, making, designing and building is alive and growing. As we do our part by continuing to foster our students’ natural creativity and energy, it is inspiring to see the potential our alumni hold to extend MIT’s power to do good for the world.”

This is what we at GCN call "human flourishing." It is an expression of the scriptural mandate to love our neighbor through our work and businesses.

You can read the full MIT report here.

Leadership and Pro Soccer, Part 3: The Power of Unity

In the months leading up to the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament, which was held in the United States, the Brazilian national soccer team played a friendship game in Paris. After the game, all the players went to the hotel. At about 11 p.m., hotel staff served a late snack to the Brazilian players in a hotel hallway. (Watch highlights of the 1994 World Cup Final here. At :36 seconds into the video, you'll see Moraci Sant'Anna seated third from the left.)

As the players stood talking and eating, the team’s physical trainer, Moraci Sant’Anna, participated in a conversation with about five of the players who had played in the 1990 World Cup. Brazil’s performance in that tournament was lackluster. They were eliminated in the second round by arch rival Argentina and thus took a beating in the press. Sant’Anna told me that he would never forget that hallway conversation.

“You could sense the strong commitment of those players,” Sant’Anna told me in a 2009 interview. “They were talking in the corridor, saying ‘We’re not going to let what happened in the last World Cup happen this time. We’re not going to let the marketing guys into our team meetings. We’re not going to allow friends in. No journalists. We are going there to win the Cup.’ It was there that I began to see the inner strength of that team, the strong sense of purpose, the commitment to arrive in the U.S. and win."

About two months later, as training sessions started, Sant’Anna saw that same determined attitude spreading among the other team members. On their own accord, the team decided to seal off all practices and team meetings from the public. No one was allowed in, accept one or two photographers who did no interviewing. The team agreed that players could no longer negotiate marketing contracts with companies like Nike and Adidas. They even decided to limit the free-time allotted to them during the month-long tournament, even though that provision had been written into their contracts.

“Nothing was going to distract that team,” Sant’Anna said. “Nothing.”

And nothing did. Brazil went on to win the final game (by penalty shots) against Italy in the Rose Bowl. It was Brazil’s third World Cup title and the first in 24 years. That 1994 Brazilian team, he said, had something unique.

That “something” had more to do with leadership, character, and attitude than with soccer skills. Playing skill was important, of course. But Brazil has always put players with incredible athletic talent on the field. It was the leadership qualities and relational unity that made the 1994 victory possible, he said.

Sant’Anna cited several players who, because of their personality, character and experience, naturally became the team’s motivational force. No one appointed them as the leaders. One was Dunga, the team captain who later became coach of the Brazilian national team. Another was Taffarel, the team’s brilliant goalkeeper who played in 101 games and three World Cup tournaments before he retired in 2003. There was also Jorginho, who is was Dunga’s assistant coach for Brazil’s national team, and Leonardo, who after three World Cup appearances became the head coach of the Italian team A.C. Milan.

I asked Sant’Anna to describe the specific leadership qualities that these players brought to the 1994 team. One factor, he said, was that these players had already played in at least one World Cup tournament; they were highly experienced and excellent professionals. But there was still something more.

“They all had a strong personality,” said Sant’Anna. “But they used this quality to benefit the group as a whole. They were committed to win the Cup and they were able to lead the entire team toward that goal. The team was extremely united. It didn’t matter to them who would be among the starting 11 players and who would be among the reserves. Everyone had the same thing in mind, to help make an important victory happen.”

Humility was one of the primary character traits that Sant’Anna saw among that core group of leaders. They had the ability to lead without being arrogant. They were humble, but not weak. They showed inner strength and perseverance, focusing on the needs of the team more than their own desires. The most experienced players were able to instruct other players without humiliating them. In this way they earned respect rather than contempt.

It’s often the case, Sant’Anna said, that reserve players often become a problem for the team because they’re upset about not playing as much as they’d like. But that never happened with the 1994 team. The reserve players sat on the bench encouraging the starting team. Then, when they were called to action, the reserve players gave 100 percent on the field. It’s almost as if the team had no individual ego problems, he said.

This unity, commitment and dedication made the work of the coaching staff much easier, said Sant’Anna. Coaches and physical trainers typically worry about team relationships during high-level international tournaments. Individualism and ego can easily destroy unity. But these problems were almost non-existent in the 1994 tournament, he said.

“When Brazilian players pull together like this—considering the athletic quality of the Brazilian national team—I won’t say that they’ll always win, but it’s a huge step toward winning,” Sant’Anna said.

Positive attitude, humility, dedication, commitment, inner strength—these factors are often neglected in discussions about business and professional success. When was the last time you saw a job listing looking for those qualities in a professional? It’s easy to focus on the technical capacity of people and the mechanics of running a business. But if business is anything like soccer, Sant’Anna’s observations about the 1994 Brazilian World Cup team should be taken to heart.

Leadership and Pro Soccer, Part 2: You Need an Ally

If you watch replays of professional soccer matches in the 60s and 70s, when Pelé was playing at his peak, and then compare those with today’s games, you’ll notice that the players of yesteryear often had more time and space to figure out what to do with the ball. Everything moved at a somewhat slower and less intense pace. By contrast, today’s offensive players, upon receiving the ball, immediately have two or three defenders attacking them. There is little time to think.

“If you look at the games in the 1970 World Cup, the one Brazil won in Mexico, you’ll see there are various circumstances in which a player stops, looks around, and thinks about what he’s going to do,” said Moraci Sant’Anna, the physical trainer for four Brazilian World Cup teams. “You’ll see that the nearest opposing player is about three or five meters away. Then after he thinks for a while, he makes his play with the ball. Today there is no time for that. Today the game is a lot more dynamic. The space of play has been reduced greatly. This is the result of the physical conditioning of the players today.”

If you think it was the soccer coaches who first decided to increase the speed of the game and then sought faster players to do the job, you would be wrong. It was the physical trainers who initiated this revolution in soccer. By implementing advances in technology and sports medicine, they were able to take the relatively thin-legged players of the past (some were chain smokers!) and turn them into powerhouse athletes. As the physical condition of the players improved, the coaches realized they could make strategic changes on the field.

By all accounts, Sant’Anna is responsible for some of the most innovative changes to physical conditioning within the international soccer world. In the early 1990s, when Sant’Anna was the trainer for the Brazilian team São Paulo Futebol Clube, he and a physiologist set up a conditioning laboratory. They brought in new technology and used it to run systematic evaluations of each player’s physical capacity and progress. With detailed information about each player, they could adapt the training program to fit individual needs. This individualized approach became a model for other teams around the world.

Sant’Anna brought other innovations to the world soccer stage. Due to the simultaneous scheduling of multiple tournaments and championships, players often had to play a game every 48 hours. So, Sant’Anna developed methods to help the players recover faster after each game. He started using hydro-gymnastics (not to be confused with hydrotherapy), a post-game exercise session in a warm pool with upbeat music, and cryotherapy, which involves a less pleasant experience of sitting in a tub of ice water for about 15 minutes. Both recovery techniques are now used by soccer teams worldwide.

Sant’Anna’s individualized approach enables him to not only help the player increase his strength, speed and resilience, he can also help the player rest and recover. He can arrive at a perfect balance between work and recuperation that enables the player to perform at optimal levels over a long period of time. That’s economically beneficial for both the player, who can extend his career, and for team owners, who want to get the most out of the millions of dollars they invest in today’s top players.

“The players treat us with great respect,” Sant’Anna told me about his work with players like Ronaldo, Kaká, Dunga and many other great names in the sport. “Those players who are considered to be the best in the world are the easiest to train. It’s not by chance that they have reached this level. The relationship has a personal side, but there is also a lot of mutual professional respect. There are no conflicts. They try to stick with our training decisions because they know that we are always thinking about what is best for them.”

The connections between what’s happened to the game of soccer (faster, more intense, more competitive) and the business world (ditto) are easy to see. But are today’s professionals better prepared emotionally and spiritually to handle the speed of the game?

As I listened to Sant’Anna talk about how he personally trains world-class soccer players, I wondered how many business professionals in this fast-paced economy receive some kind of personal care. Not many, I guess.

We at the Global Commerce Network believe in the scriptural principles of balancing work and rest, and going through life with a small group of close friends and allies. Perhaps more than ever, professionals in every field need someone to come alongside them, study their needs, build them up, help them run the race, help them rest and recover, encourage them daily, give them opportunities to grow. This is what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Why not become to your colleagues what Sant’Anna has been to his athletes? We all need a behind-the-scenes ally.

Leadership and Pro Soccer, Part 1: Thriving in Uncertainty

In this three-part GCN series, Glenn McMahan writes about the connections between international professional soccer and business. He interviewed Moraci Sant’Anna, the legendary physical trainer for four of Brazil’s World Cup soccer teams, including the winning team of 1994. These articles were first published in 2009. Today Sant'Anna is training a professional team in India with the famed Brazilian coach Zico.

Part 1: Thriving in Uncertain Times

If you are one of many who struggles with that terrible, lingering angst about becoming unemployed in today’s tumultuous times, you might find consolation from a man who in his career as a self-employed physical trainer for the world’s best soccer players has had zero job security in 40 years.

Over the course of his long career, Moraci Sant’Anna has been the physical trainer for many of the most renowned and highest-paid soccer players in the world. Sant’Anna is probably most highly regarded for his work as the physical trainer for four of Brazil’s World Cup soccer teams and for two World Cup teams in the Middle East. In 1994, he helped Brazil win the World Cup in California and received one of FIFA’s highest honors as the “Best Physical Trainer.”

But despite his stellar resume, he has never had job security. In fact, over the course of his 40-year career, Sant’Anna has had more than 22 different jobs (including his six World Cup contracts). These temporary, uncertain gigs have required him (and his family) to move all over the world on short notice. When a contract nears the end, he rarely knows what door—if any—will open next.

“Soccer has always been an unstable profession,” Sant’Anna said. “You depend a lot on your victories. And so each game, each competition, you are being tested. Independently of your capacity, of your experience, you have to 'kill a lion' every game. . . . If you’re winning, you’re considered to be the best, but if you begin to lose—and it doesn’t take many losses—you’re the worst and worth nothing. Unfortunately, this is our culture. We live on the basis of short-term results.”

I asked Sant’Anna how he has managed to cope with such intense uncertainty and change. What has helped him maintain such high international status over so many years?

I found his answers to be simple and refreshing. Sant’Anna says that the key is to build relational trust. The only way to win that trust in such a competitive environment is not by developing a slick Internet profile, but by the old-fashioned principles of hard work, perseverance, strong character, and professional dedication. There is no short-cut, he says.

“You really need to win the trust of people in order to stay in the profession," he said. "I have to study all the time, to really delve into everything that is happening in order to always be well-informed.”

Sant’Anna also says that “not being afraid to innovate” has been crucial to his successful career. It’s fair to say that his innovations over the past 40 years have helped revolutionize the game of soccer around the world. These innovations have given him a unique credibility among his peers and have revolutionized international soccer.

In the next article, I’ll look at how Sant’Anna and other physical trainers—even though they are less visible in the media than coaches and players—have dramatically changed the game of soccer. They are the ones who dedicate their lives to helping players become the best they can be. Ever wish you had a boss like that?

Rowing Teams as a Model for Business Culture

An eight-man crew: power, synergy, unity.
An eight-man crew: power, synergy, unity.

Business is built on relationships. The word "corporate" comes from the idea of a body, diverse and interconnected parts working in unison. The word "company" is rooted in the notion of eating together. For businesses to grow and flourish, they must have strong internal relationships among those who work together, and they must foster strong external relationships, to build trust with clients and suppliers. The whole deal is relational.

However, if you talk to people about their biggest problems at work, most will complain about the bad workplace relationships. There are many statistics that report high rates of workplace bullying and tension between bosses and employees. Few like to admit it, but this friction is caused by the dark stuff of human nature--envy, selfishness, pride.

What does this have to do with rowing? If you don't know much about this beautiful sport, it is one of the most physically demanding and grueling sports on the planet. It requires tremendous synergy between all members of the crew. The most amazing crew to watch involves eight men or women in a 60-foot-long boat (costing upwards of $50,000 each). There is also a coxswain whose role is to steer an coordinate tempo.

It is remarkable to watch eight men or women rowing in perfect sync. Here's a description of what it takes from the New York Times best seller, The Boys in The Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

No other sport demands and rewards the complete abandonment of the self the way that rowing does. Great crews may have men or women of exceptional talent or strength . . . but they have no stars. The team effort--the perfectly synchronized flow of muscle, oars, boat, and water; the single whole, unified, and beautiful symphony that a crew in motion becomes--is all that matters. Not the individual, not the self. . . . Each must be prepared to compromise something in the way of optimizing his stroke for the overall benefit of the boat. (p. 178-179)

Apply that to your business. And while you're at it, take a look at 1 Corinthians 12. It all connects.

Leaders and Authentic Respect

In the film "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987), Robin Williams plays the role of military radio DJ, Adrian Cronauer, who is summoned to Saigon at the beginning of the Vietnam War to use his brilliant humor to cheer up American troops. Williams' humor is so fast and fluid that by the time you start laughing at one joke he's already moved on to the next. As the story unfolds, Cronauer immediately becomes popular among the American soldiers, but his unconventional and controversial style upsets the stoic military system within which he works. Upset by his "irreverence," two of his superiors do everything they can to remove Cronauer from the airwaves.

One of the sub-plots is about respect. An Army officer opposed to Cronauer in the film, Lt. Steven Hauk, has a higher rank than his other colleagues at the radio station. But he has zero respect. As a result, his verbally forceful orders are received with wisecracks and put-downs. People make fun of him behind his back. No one salutes him. Even though Lt. Hauk tries to use his rank to control people, he ends up looking like a fool.

The film does a brilliant job of showing the difference between authentic respect and positional respect. According to the rules and regulations of the military, Lt. Hauk was in a position of respect. But he didn't have the character he needed to win the authentic respect of his peers.

True leadership in the workplace is difficult without authentic respect. So how does a leader develop authentic respect? This type of respect is entirely dependent on one's character.

In our book More Than Me we describe four foundational character traits that build respect between people, and therefore pave the way for greater unity.

  1. Integrity: to have a strong commitment to moral truth, honesty, and justice.
  2. Love: to actively serve others and seek to benefit others even when it requires personal sacrifice.
  3. Humility: to  place others in a higher position than ourselves.
  4. Forgiveness: to set an offender free from the demand to repay what's been unfairly taken from us, a deliberate choice to set another person free from judgment.

If a person has these character traits and lives accordingly, one of the natural results will be the authentic respect of others. Quality of leadership depends entirely on who we are at the core of our character. There are no short cuts.

So Many Discouraged Workers!

The most recent study of the American workplace has been released by the Gallup organization. The news isn't good. On average, only about 30 percent of all American workers say they feel engaged at work. More than half of the 150,000 workers polled said they basically sleepwalk through the day. And only 30 percent of those surveyed said they really like their jobs. Why so much discontent? There are many reasons, of course. But based on the survey questions, I would say that a primary reason (which is often overlooked) is that the workplace is so impersonal and non-relational. Workers don't feel appreciated or valued.

Here's the questions that Gallup asked in the survey. Those questions in bold letters are related to the relational, personal qualities of the workplace.

1. I know what is expected of me at work.

2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

7. At work, my opinions seem to count.

8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

10. I have a best friend at work.

11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

You can see that half of the questions aimed to find out how workers feel about the quality of relationships at work. Given the dismal responses, we can assume that today's workplace would be greatly improved if it could simply be more personal. This is a basic human need that is not being met for most American workers.

One of the core values of the Global Commerce Network is to renew the workplace, to make work more personal. It's up to use to make the changes necessary so that the experience of work fits with how we are wired.

What can you do to make a difference?

Good Work: A Woman Who Saved Millions of Lives

Among the dead in the devastating Haiti earthquake was a Brazilian pediatrician who since 1983 has saved millions of lives through a program she established to reduce infant mortality. Dr. Zilda Arns died on January 12, 2010 in Haiti while working to build her child healthcare program in that impoverished country. Most people outside Brazil don't know about this woman. In my opinion, she deserves a Nobel Prize.

A devout catholic, Dr. Arns decided that it was wrong to sit around and depend only on the government. She believed that a community effort could be very effective.

Her older brother, who was at the time the archbishop of São Paulo, had encouraged her to start a program to reduce infant mortality and had promised church support. With a small budget, and working out of her own home, she set off to the small town of Florestópolis in the northern part of Paraná state. At the time, Florestópolis had a very high rate of infant mortality and poverty. There she rounded up 76 volunteers, most of them public school teachers, and taught them the basics of infant nutrition and infant care.

Dr. Arns knew that most infant deaths could be avoided if mothers could learn simple infant nutrition, sanitation and health methods. The vast majority of children died because of dehydration from diarrhea. So she taught them how to make an inexpensive solution made with salt and sugar that replaced a sick child’s essential minerals and electrolytes. She also saw that mothers were putting their children to sleep facedown, which often led to asphyxiation, so she taught them to put the kids on their backs. She invented a simple scale that could be used to weigh the babies at home, and taught poor mothers how to buy and prepare the most nutritional foods with their limited incomes. She and the volunteers also helped pregnant women take care of themselves during the gestation period, thus increasing the health of babies at birth.

The program, which is now called Pastoral da Criança, was so successful in Florestópolis that it started spreading to other towns all over Brazil. The key to the program’s success was in Dr. Arns’ ability to multiply and train volunteers. Most of her work spread through Catholic community networks. The techniques were so simple and cheap, yet so effective, that Dr. Arns’ volunteers could not only teach the mothers (house to house) but also train more volunteers to do more of the same. There are now more than 262,000 volunteers who oversee the health of 1.9 million children and pregnant women in almost 4,100 Brazilian cities.

Without a doubt, Dr. Arns radically transformed many incorrect notions of infant nutrition and healthcare in the nation. The result: The infant mortality rate in these towns has dropped from 127 to 11 deaths per 1000 live births, a decrease of 91 percent. These results are so positive that over the years the Brazilian federal government has made the program part and parcel of its overall health programs.

Pastoral da Criança is now operating in 17 nations. In 2004, Dr. Arns also established the Pastoral do Idoso, a program designed to care for the elderly poor using the same volunteer and community networking principals as her program for children.

The entrepreneurial vision of Zilda Arns is a great inspiration and model for everyone in the workplace. We might not be called to slow infant mortality among the poor, but if we can bring this kind of passion, love and willingness to serve to our workplace and communities, we could make a great difference.