Pope Francis, St. Vincent and a Gen-X CEO

by | Nov 11, 2017 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

Graphic courtesy of Harvard Bussiness Review

What do Pope Francis, St. Vincent and a Gen-X CEO have in common? Visitors to this site will easily see connections between Pope Francis and St. Vincent. What might not be so obvious to them is how a Gen-X CEO belongs in their company. (For those not familiar with the terminology a Gen-X is someone today’s Millenials regard as old.)
I recently read in the Harvard Business Review “Why a Gen-X CEO Hired a Millennial to Help Him Keep a Learning Mindset” I particularly liked it because it expresses so much what I believe is “the what, why and how” of ongoing formation. But I was also struck by how in tune his approach was with St. Vincent and Pope Francis.

The Gen-X CEO and the Millennial

This Gen-X CEO  recently hired a 24-year-old, Morgan, and given him the title of Director of Execution and Evolution. “I told him his job is to help me grow my business and my mind.” Here is one of the things he is learning from him.
Get with the times. When I was younger, I used to hate how most sales trainers spoke. It’s why I initially didn’t want to become one. Their stories came across like, “Back in my day, we used to…” And they’d tell one stale story after another.
But now I understand how that happens. When you do something year after year, it’s natural to fall into that pattern. Your stories become your shtick. And if I’m not careful, I’ll become that guy. Recently, I was showing a prospect what I thought was a great example of an email exchange. But the date on it was from 2014. For people Morgan’s age, that’s looking back at a time when they were still in college, before they spent three years in the working world. It’s ancient history.
I’ve asked Morgan to help me avoid dating myself. I want him to be the one to tell me, “Hold on, old man” — so that trainees in my courses won’t secretly be thinking that.

Pope Francis

I could not help thinking of Pope Francis! Pope Francis may be 80 but he has a profound understanding of our times and eternal truths.
“There’s a phrase that should never be used: ‘It’s always been done that way.’ That phrase, let me tell you, is bad.  We must always be changing because time changes.
The only thing that does not change is what’s essential. What doesn’t change is the announcement of Jesus Christ, missionary attitude, prayer, the need to pray, the need to be formed, and the need to sacrifice. That does not change. You have to find the way, how to do it, but it does not change.
But the ‘always done this way’ phrase did so much damage in the Church, and continues to do so much damage to the Church.” 
He reminded us that it is necessary for us to leave our comfort zone, and avoid the temptation of wanting to control everything or try to achieve a useless perfectionism that only stops evangelization.

St. Vincent

“I suspect that Vincent himself would deny that he was creative. Many historians tell us that he was not a particularly original thnker. But my own judgment is that St. Vincent was remarkably creative in this sense: he listened well; he knew a good idea when he heard one and he was inventive in putting good ideas into practice. He had the capacity to shape good ideas into concrete forms, many of which have lasted for hundreds of years.

Continuing our 400-year heritage

There is a danger when we look back over our 400 year history. The danger is that we will only see the accomplishment and not the spirit that led to those accomplishments.
We could easily forget how much Vincent changed over his lifetime. In his presentation “From Here to Where?” to the Vincentian Family at Vincentian Symposium in Rome Fr. Dennis Holtschneider reminded us of some forgotten facts and truths about those 400 years. Change has been with us since the beginning.

Questions as we move forward

  • What is my instinctive reaction when I hear a young person suggest a different way of doing things?
  • Do I actively seek to discover more effective ways of serving people on the peripheries?
  • What skills will I need to evangelize in a world increasingly shaped by digital technology?
We would love to hear from you!

1 Comment

  1. Tom McK

    Well put together–thanks

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