Business is Bloody…
You have heard it many times. To be successful, the end justifies the means. When the opportunity presents itself, you better have a singular focus on the objective without getting distracted by anything or anyone that stands in your way. According to this logic, you either go through the wall that stops you, around it or over it. People may get hurt. But, in the end, you have met your objective measure of success. And this measure of success does work. You have all seen it work.
But sometimes the rules of our sport we call ‘business’ suddenly are pierced by a light that confronts and confounds our current understanding and the scorecard we use to measure our success. And that is what we found when we interviewed Alan Pratt.
Pratt is the CEO of Pratt Legacy Advisers and as the name infers, he focuses on creating an enduring legacy plan with and through the estate planning process.
About 7 years ago, Pratt was invited to join a C3 Leaders Forum (even before it was officially C3) at Starbucks Headquarters in Seattle. Since Pratt’s company is in Bellevue, this eventually became a challenge. So, when Ward Tanneberg invited him to join his C3 Forum at Tanneberg’s house on the eastside in 2007, he jumped at the chance.
“I had spent 15 years as a business owner”, said Pratt. “And like most of us, I have found, we feel isolated and lonely. We get real busy and we begin to disconnect from relationships because we are ‘doing’ things.”
In Tanneberg’s forum, Pratt found men in the same stage of life as himself and many who had gone through experiences that he would be facing in the future. “When you are running a business, it is not good to miss out on life”, said Pratt. “You need to take the time to know people ‘below the neck’.”
By knowing and trusting the men in his forum, he has been able to share at a much deeper level and allow the traits of Jesus to speak through the challenges to new insights that he would not have been able to glean on his own. “I believe all men need this”, he said. “But to admit it, then decide to pursue it is another matter. For those that do, there is more fulfillment to life than otherwise. Life becomes much different.”
Pratt’s group touches on marriage, children, business and the general things that appear on the surface to be under control. But, through this sounding board of men, what Pratt would call his ‘board of advisors’, a richness of perspective occurs.
One day, Pratt experienced first-hand the full meaning of his C3 forum’s impact on his life. The group had agreed to read and study a book as a companion to their forum gathering called Start with Humility: Lessons from America’s Quiet CEOs on How to Build Trust and Inspire Followers by: Merwyn A. Hayes and Michael D. Comer. Little did he know how the book and the perspective of his forum would strengthen and encourage him through a very difficult time.
As all of us know, when we are in a public forum called business, we are subject every day to questions on the quality of our products and/or services. And we hope to confront those questions with humility and grace. But what happens when the confrontation turns personal? When it feels like our character is being questioned?
Part of C3’s charter is to understand and live in the culture so that we can be part of God’s plan for our times. The trait of ‘meekness’ is not very well understood by the culture, nor by most Christians. For example: Webster defines meekness as the feeling of patient, submissive humbleness or a disposition to be patient and long suffering.
If this definition is true for our culture than you can see how it might collide with our scorecard for the success of a leader. After all, we read books and watch movies where our heroes refuse to submit to anyone and they challenge anyone who opposes their interests. Our leaders solve the crime, lead people into battle, confront evil and destroy their ranks. Meek leaders? Get me another resume please!
But what if ‘meek’ wasn’t ‘weak’?
One day Pratt was confronted by another trusted adviser of one of his clients by an inference that the creative approach he was taking was unethical. For a man who has spent his career believing that he had a reputation of unimpeachable integrity, the inference was gut wrenching. “I was devastated”, said Pratt. ” I did not know who to turn to. But there I was on a Wednesday in my C3 forum where we were studying the traits of humility and suddenly I knew I could share everything with my group; everything.”
His forum at first listened. They heard the outpouring of his heart; the anxiety in his demeanor; the self-doubt. They then walked him through the traits of humility that Jesus displayed: Self-Control: that is strength under control. Humility is not timidity or a lack of self-confidence. Therefore, it does not react immediately. It does not react while in anger. Second, the trait of not being impressed with one’s self-importance, especially when under attack. Third, the aspect of gentleness.
And then, according to Pratt, after reviewing many of these traits with his forum, another trusted advisor outside the group said: “Al, you know who you are. God knows who you are. Everything else is irrelevant.”
Written by Ron Worman