Bill Pollard on Seeking Truth in the Doing of Business

September 6th, 2018

I recently spoke with one of the great business leaders of our time, Bill Pollard, legendary former CEO of Service Master. I met Bill a number of years ago and a YPO conference where he was speaking. Bill, a committed follower of Christ, shared with the group how he envisioned himself, not just as a business leader, but as a pastor with spiritual responsibilities for his workplace flock at Service Master that numbered 200,000 people in 45 countries. The corporate objectives at Service Master were simply stated: "to honor God in all we do; to help people develop; to pursue excellence; and to grow profitably."

Bill recently communicated his concerns about the drift in today's business leadership in an article for The Trinity Forum. He asks an important question:

As we conduct business in a pluralistic society, can we agree on our source of truth? Can the business firm make money, create wealth, serve customers, and also become a moral community for the development of the human character of the people producing the results of the firm? Can leadership make a difference?

Reflecting on the moral failures by leaders in business and other sectors, Pollard has doubts about the effectiveness of legislative initiatives to create the honesty, integrity, or character needed to create great organizations.

To craft a culture of character requires executives to be intentional, to know their source of moral authority, and to help develop people to think and know what is right and wrong when there are no rules of compliance. This, I suggest, is all part of the process of developing the workplace as a moral community. A community that is focused on the dignity and worth of every person. A community that expects of its leaders truth and transparency in their conduct and dealings with others.

The ultimate litmus test for any of a firm’s moral standards or actions should be the resulting effect upon people. Do such standards and practices reflect the dignity and worth of every individual? Do they encourage the development of the whole person and not just a pair of hands? Do they provide an environment where there is freedom to explore truth, including the question of God and His role in transforming the beliefs and actions of people?

He closes with this.

For me, the world of business was a channel for fulfilling and living my Christian faith – a channel that reached from a janitor’s closet in Saudi Arabia to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and encompassed sweeping streets in Japan to ringing the bell of the New York Stock Exchange. That channel continues to test my source of truth and challenges me to integrate that truth in the conduct of business and the cultivation of character – developing our people in not only what they were doing but also in the person they were becoming.

Please read the entire article on the Trinity website, but here is a bit of Pollard wisdom to whet your appetite for more.

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