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5 November 2008updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Walking the talk

Eoin McCarthy works to encourage others to apply Quaker principles to their lives and businesses.

By Eoin McCarthy

The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss noticed that “It is in each other’s gaze that we come into being”. I walk alongside men and women who accept me as I am, and who quietly show me what a great life can look like. Amongst them I have learned to nurture my inner resilience, to practice life-sustaining connection with my body, my partner, my environment, and the underlying unity of all things. I honour the primacy of my felt experience over any dogma or belief systems and I test this by sharing it in diverse Quaker groups.

In my work I act as a sounding board to business and public sector leaders. I help leaders create value with their teams through enterprise, technology and service, and to recognize and reward them for it.

As the global has become local and vice-versa, just like the rest of us, in the pursuit of positive brand value, leaders are pursuing unprecedented transparency and disclosure. I help them see that creating value in this way can only succeed and be sustainable when it is underpinned by values that assure that the walk matches the talk. By initiating conversations about what a transformed, ecologically and culturally and sustainable organization would look like, I help them discover what this is and to espouse it personally.

Sometimes, in business, we are confronted with acquaintances acquiring advantage by avoiding compliance costs through deceit or evasion; paying bribes; turning a blind eye to extortion; or otherwise embracing values held in priorities other then those we espouse. I used to make sense of such incidents by classifying them as moral relativism. To arrive at some kind of judgement and get past it, what I would say is: “Whatever!.. So what!… Anything goes… There are no universal standards… Live and let live”.

Of course this left me feeling not a little uncomfortable, knowing as I did, that for humankind collectively and over time, doing business with such a narrowly focused awareness is socially, economically, environmentally and ecologically unsustainable.

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In my work now I take opportunities to respond compassionately to others’ discomfort with the frustration that this often causes. I testify, recount, refer to, and give examples of occasions when I have observed business partners, suppliers, or speaking their truth and walking their talk. I encourage people to passionately pursue an outcome without resorting to physical, verbal or psychological violence and to display cross-cultural respect and collaborative intent. Finally, I encourage businesses to avoid needless, excessive or unsustainable use of the world’s resources.

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