Luke 19:12-27 Parable of the Talents
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Using what you have to make life better for others
Clare Chapman: It is good business to be purpose driven with good values, and taking opportunity to make life better for employees and customers.
WE ARE staying with the HTB Leadership Conference 2014 and its theme of Friendship. Jesus said “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) and as Nicky Gumbel pointed out in his introduction, the way Jesus did everything was on the basis of friendship, with God and with others.
Clare Chapman believes in this principle. For her to apply this principle, has been a greater challenge than for many of us, as ‘head of people’ for organisations as big as Tesco, Europe’s biggest employer the NHS with 2.3 million, and now on the board of BT with its workforce on 70 countries, and also retail group Kingfisher. Nicky Gumbel asked her how she reconciled ambition and belief.
She said: “For many years I had my spiritual life in one box and my professional career in another. I have come to realise that the two are very closely connected.
“I feel that I have been given some talents. In a role like mine you do have the opportunity to make life better for employees and also customers, and great fulfilment comes from using those talents.”
She went on to talk about having a clear purpose in what you do, and where wealth creation fits with that – reflecting on the Parable of the Talents (Luke 19:12-27) and the praise given to those who had gained more, and the rebuke given to the one who was cautious with his resource.
She said: “The pursuit of wealth is not the problem, but the sole pursuit of it is.” As Tesco grew to become the third largest retailer in the world, chief executive Terry Leahy had said that this did not come from the ability to go after margin, but the ability for the organisation to live its values.
Many businesses are learning that they can become a force for good, and are discover the Catholic-origins ‘Blueprint for Better Business’. It sets out five principles, including being fair and honest to customers and suppliers, acting as guardians of what the next generation will inherit, and having a sustainable purpose. Purpose and values are important.
She said: “We learned this at Tesco about leadership. For a company to thrive, you need to have people who are generous – generous in spirit, generous in behaviour. Are you creating an environment where people make each other feel small, or one where they feel big?”
Her final word of advice to the 6000+ taking part in the conference was that big change can happen through faith and courage. She said: “Don’t live with regrets. Leadership is taking people to places they would not have gone without you.
“The advantage of being a Christian in a business situation is about having a purpose and a faith so much bigger than any of us, which enables you to stand up and have a go one more time.”