With so many recent business books detailing the sorry spate of corporate scandals, it’s refreshing and instructive to look inside an American company focused as much on community values and employee satisfaction as the bottom line. The CEO and the Monk [John Wiley & Sons] recounts the many benefits of CEO Bob Catell’s unusual, but enlightened, decision to encourage a former monk named Kenny Moore to roam freely as a company ombudsman at KeySpan, the $6 billion energy company born of the challenging merger of Brooklyn Union Gas Company and LILCO. Moore’s innovative programs include a corporate funeral, bread-breaking dinners with the CEO for small groups, and day-long “open space” meetings for as many as 400 without moderator or agenda.
The book interlaces compelling portraits of the two men: Catell, a former engineer who rose through the ranks to CEO; and Moore, who lived a monastic life for 15 years before his stunning career change, first to human resources director and then to his current position as a uniquely qualified roving corporate conscience, as well as confidant and mentor to Catell. Writes Catell, “It seemed to me he brought a different perspective, a human touch that warmed the cold business relationships for employees.” In a world of Enron scandals, that’s the type of recommendation we’d like to see more of.