Mitchel Groter Interviewed by John Ellington of Moments of Clarity Press

24 Jan 2011

How does our spiritual development relate to our personal and  business life?

Many people I know and work become perplexed when the word spiritual or spiritual development is mentioned in the context of their professional or even personal life. I have been advised I not mention the S word when I am talking to a new potential client.  I have chosen to bypass that bias. I don’t think I can support the need to comparentalize who we are into little boxes and cages and deny the simple truths like, “your handshake is your contract” and if it doesn’t mean anything all the contracts and agreements your lawyer draws up will not protect you from being burned in a business deal.

If we live long enough we will experience a betrayal in a personal and business relationships. These things will happen. Spiritual Development is the alchemy that makes living through these life experiences valuable on many levels and reinforces what I heard Jean Houston say,  “all things human this is part of our human homework.”

It isn’t important that we are able to define our spiritual life in linear terms or be able to describe it all in words. What is important is a sense of awe. And this can come from experiencing a sunset, a sunrise, focusing on the perfectly formed fingers and fingernails of an infant or the feeling in your heart when your experience compassion or empathy. It is grace to allow the mystery of creation to infuse our body, mind and spirit.

How do we define spiritual development so it fits into our life and doesn’t cause confusion?

A sense of awe doesn’t feel relevant at first. To experience the sunset, you have to leave work. To watch the sunrise, wake up early. What awe can do for you is keep you present. And being present allows you to make the choice not to displace your frustrations and impatience on an unsuspecting barista at Starbucks or resist the impulse to be the first driver to make it to red light. It brings the precious awareness that you really aren’t listening to a coworker or a friend and need to shift your awareness and bring your best to that moment or decide to tell the truth when spinning your wheels.

These are often experiences of the divine within me that that altered my experience, changed my neurochemistry and give me a new pair of glasses to look at the choices, and how I choose to behave in the myriad of difficult life transactions and interpersonal scenarios.

Words, sounds and images can be rich and valuable ways to explore, express and experience the mysteries of spiritual energy.

There are different dimensions to our human experience that become exposed as we enter the dark room and start allowing ourselves to experience a change in heart and risk working and living from a place of honesty, integrity and justice. This doesn’t suggest that negotiating and making agreements to get things done magically eases the challenges of satisfying each party’s self-interest. What it does suggest is that resisting the temptations to manipulate, obfuscate and spin our responses to get what we want will help us avoid the inevitable negative consequence of strained and broken relationships. It also drastically reduces the possibilities of building and co creating successful and profitable professional and personal outcomes.

A big lesson learned. There are many facets to penetrating the beauty of a diamond or the various dimensions of spiritual development.

I am reminded of a powerful lesson I learned from my greatest business mentor Lee Golinello. I was selling high digital media systems and storage to Nickelodeon Studios. At the time it was a leading edge shared network solution from an innovative technology company that was the forefront of bringing this technology to marketplace. My client was Nickelodeon’s Larry LaFave. He was the VP of Engineering and a very brilliant broadcast engineer who also had real business acumen my other client was their gifted VP of Production and Post, Chris Silveira.

In the course of the pre-sales process, I arranged for demos and a simulation of his existing environment to test out the new-networked storage system. It seemed to work and met the testing and mission critical success criteria we and developed which would serve as the key condition for satisfaction.  With my team we did as much due diligence and testing as we could. Larry was the VP of Engineering for last three Summer Olympics decided they wanted to become an early adopter. We set realistic expectations and he knew there would be some challenges and technical problems but the manufacturer assured him they would support him with us being the first three levels of support.

Our team integrated and installed the system into a post-production team working on a new TV series. It worked well for about two or three weeks and then it started (as new technology will) to develop strange problems that required support and troubleshooting. We solved the initial issues and then new ones developed that we needed the software and hardware engineer who designed the solution to address. The Manufacturer stepped up and sent an engineer from California and two weeks later and more problems developed. The technology company balked at sending their engineers again unless Larry paid them and reimbursed them for all their travel expenses. Larry blew a gasket and called to tell me what happened. I told him we were in support of his position and do our best to facilitate a solution. We were as unsuccessful as Larry was in getting a reasonable response.

This went on for about 4 weeks until I met with Larry, Chris, General Manager, and their General Counsel. We reviewed the facts, minus blame, minus interpretations and minus assumptions. The next day Larry sent me a copy of the scathing letter they sent to Technology Manufacturer. To net it out, the letter said, “back up a truck to our loading dock, pack up all your crap, send us a refund check and never even attempt to sell us or group at Viacom even a paper clip.”

The Manufacturer still refused to accept accountability and negotiate.

The Business Theater – Act 1: Let the blaming begin

They accused me of incompetence and our company for misrepresenting the capability of their technology poorly servicing Nickelodeon. They  continued to draw the hard line ( driven by fear) and refused to comply with the good folks at Nick request to divest themselves of their stuff and issue a full refund.

The Business Theater – Act 11: let the war of the $450.00 dollars per hour lawyers begin

“And they roared a terrible roar and gnashed their terrible teeth”

Larry and Chris were justifiably upset and stressed. Post-production deadlines were missed and a host of other negative consequences were piling up. After the last of a series of difficult meetings with Larry, Chris and the executive team at Nick, Lee called me into her office and said “ Mitchel, we did the best we can to resolve their technical issues and try to persuade the Technology Manufacturer to do the right thing. They have refused and made it our problem and positioned us as the scapegoat.  I have decided the only ethical thing we can do to make this right and preserve our relationship with Larry and Nickelodeon is to refund them all the money they paid for the hardware, the installation services and this also includes your substantial commission.” Ouch…. I had already spent the commission money…Ouch…. This was a substantial six figure transaction…Ouch-Yes this was spiritual development for me and sometimes it hits you right in your pocketbook.

Larry dumped the gear and two weeks later invited me for a cup of coffee at the studio. “I spoke with Lee after she mailed me the check for what we paid you. She told me it included your commission. This was a hard situation and I want to give you a large order for new local storage docks. I guess we keep it simple and use a few terabytes of removable storage. Send me a quote and I will fax you the PO.”

He didn’t rehash the situation he looked into my eyes. “I want to thank you and Lee for not allowing greed to break our business relationship.”

While I felt a surge of excitement knowing I would make a good commission on the sale, something more valuable happened. It was another experience of the inherent goodness in life in people. It emerges in a flow of divine energy when simple honesty and justice is becomes the choice in a business or personal relationship.

This changed my neurochemistry and give me a new pair of glasses to look at the how I would conduct business in spite myriad of difficult transactions with difficult people.  It taught me not be victimized by mine or anyone’s security fears.  It takes courage to have our old programs for happiness dismantled. I don’t always remember but I know in the core of my soul that feeling safe has nothing to do with whether people, places or things are fitting into my movie and reading the lines I have written for all the players.