Jean-Claude Pierre on Heart in Business

One day, a Chinese sage was having a conversation with a king known for his barbarian behaviours. This king justified his behaviour saying that it was the way he was and it was actually why he was the king, someone who needs to show his authority by being tough. Then the sage asked him: if you see a young child bending over a well, what will you do? The king, without hesitation, answered he would run towards the kid to protect him from falling into the well. At that point, the sage asked him: so who are you? The man killing people or the man saving lives? The king stayed speechless.

This story illustrates for me that we all are ‘well-hearted’, but that the conditions we live in, the functions we hold often make us believe that we need to operate outside our true self.

What ‘heartful business’ means to me is about creating the conditions so that people within the organization act from their true self, which by definition is good, and that starts by the more managerial roles that need to role model such a culture. It is about taking any decision as close as possible to the action and not according to policies, but to one’s own beliefs and values. Creating this space is certainly a challenge in a company like Scott Bader operating in more than 15 countries. One needs to believe that culture is just the tip of the iceberg and that below we are all human beings wired in a very similar way. Having worked and lived across the globe, I became convinced of that.

In my view, a few more elements are required to help people be confident they can act from their true self. A common purpose and a transparent strategic intent help people make choices in line with the organization intentions. A set of shared values define certain “how to” when it comes to favoured behaviors. Obviously, some purpose, strategic intent, and value sets may well force people to act rather than being themselves, so these elements need to reflect this intention of putting the human being at the centre. These elements also need a certain spiritual dimension.

With all of that, there is more chance for people to fill confident they can fully be themselves, yet this is so unexpected in today’s organizations and people have become so conditioned to just act that there is no guarantee that a business will operate more heartfully. I believe that an important set of skills is needed to increase the chances to operate that way: coaching. Acting in coaching mode invites people to listen to understand, to connect with their inner self to discover the path, to conduct conversations from their heart rather than their brain. This is why at Scott Bader, we decided to build a coaching based culture.

Heartful leadership does not mean in my view that hard business or people decisions cannot be taken. This is probably where trust in the leader’s intention becomes even more critical, and it takes a journey to get there.

Jean-Claude Pierre holds a masters degree in Polymer Science from ITECH Lyon, an MBA from Hult and a Ph.D. in Organisational Systems from Saybrook University.

His career to date has spanned technical, commercial, venture capital and management consulting positions, initially with blue-chip companies ICI, Ashland and BASF working in an array of markets across three continents.

After being based in England, France, USA, and Germany, he has worked in China since 2006 where he became President of a global division at Beckers, a Partner at Hejun Management Consulting and most recently Managing Director at EMS Group.

Jean-Claude joined Scott Bader as Group Chief Executive on 15 June 2015.