& & by Pia K. Hansen & & & &

Office politics is an entire world of its own. Who gets promoted and who doesn't is fodder for gossip sessions at the coffee urn for many weeks, and some employees seem to always be ahead of the game. They reach their goals and get their promotions, all the while gaining the respect of their co-workers and bosses. Sure they are hard workers, but not only do they have talent, they probably also have fewer personal hang-ups than the souls they leave behind in cubicle land. Tired of seeing the next guy heading off on 'business' trips to the Bahamas? Feeling run down and overburdened?

To help workers, managers and business leaders of all sorts get on the right track to a better work habitat, the Spokane Area Conventions and Visitors' Bureau and the Scherer Yeoell Group will present a series of workshops, the first being on Tuesday. It deals with how to become a better person and leader, both in your professional and personal life.

"This is not just a bunch of people dancing around the candle, singing. This is not just fluffy stuff," says Spokane's John J. Scherer, the lead presenter at the workshop and one of the nation's top management consultants. "One difference between our program and many of the other management and leadership programs out there is that we have found a way of integrating the hard stuff and the soft stuff. The soft stuff is actually what we call the thought stuff."

What exactly does that mean? The hard stuff is usually anything business related, and the soft stuff is made up of personal and spiritual issues -- two integral parts of being a whole human that are usually separated at most mainstream workplaces.

Scherer believes in the power of reestablishing this connection, and in 1993 he wrote Work and the Human Spirit, which over the years has become the center of his management and consulting business, as well as the name of a movement he says is changing the way companies look at leadership and development.

"We all have a bone-deep desire to be fully expressed into the world, in order to see who we are and become what we do," says Scherer. "We need to reconnect who we are with what we do, and when that happens, it releases an enormous energy -- even joy. Though there will still be ups and downs, there'll be less stress."

His book tells the stories of a handful of people he has helped achieve their goals, including the woman who had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but acted more like someone who'd been scrubbing stairs for her whole life. Regardless of her capability to stay focused and centered during her martial art performances (she earned the belt in only three years), she was unable to carry the feeling of accomplishment and strength from the studio out into the rest of her life. Once she made the connection, however, she was able to solve a lot of problems she had been facing in her personal life -- and she felt a lot better.

"We have a 'Leadership Intensive' we offer, which is a four-day personal and professional development process, designed to expand the mind, stretch the body and deepen the spirit," says Scherer. "It's a holistic approach. We teach people to center themselves, and there is a nutrition component to this course as well. I believe people need to be like top athletes to thrive in the workplace, they need to take care of the body and the spirit at the same time."

In 1984, Scherer opened his business in Spokane, which today employs seven people, but is busy expanding into what Scherer terms "a virtual organization" linked through modern communications technology. A new office just opened in Houston, and another is on its way in Naples, Fla. There are Centers for Work and the Human Spirit in London and in Toronto, as well.

"All together we have 12-13 associates in the U.S. and Europe," says Scherer, who began working with people and behavioral therapy when he was the Lutheran chaplain at Cornell University in New York in the early '70s. Then in 1973, he was brought to Whitworth College by Bob Crosby, whom he teamed with to design the first master's program in applied behavioral science. Today he works with workers, managers and the "up-and-coming-crowd" in companies like Boeing, Ford and Levi Strauss.

"We work above the waterline with operational stuff, and below the waterline with personal stuff. A successful organization must attend to both the chart and the heart," says Scherer. "Anybody who works needs to start thinking like a leader. There's a necessity for every single person to see the connection between what's being done and the bottom line. And then there's a second bottom line: The human spirit ultimately determines how profitable things are."

The first all-day workshop, "Moving your Organization From the Past to the Possible," is on Tuesday, Sept. 12; then "Leading and Managing for Peak Performance" follows on Tuesday, Nov. 14; on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2001, it's time for "Facing the Tiger: How to Turn Conflict into Positive Change"; finally, on Tuesday, April 10, 2001, the theme is "Breakthrough Thinking: How to Create Extraordinary Results in Difficult Circumstances." All workshops are at the AG Trade Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., from 7:30 am-4 pm. Cost: $150, rebates and group rates available for Spokane Area Conventions and Visitors' Bureau members. Call: 623-1297.

Bloomsday 2020 @ Spokane

Through Sept. 27
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