Author on a mission to re-energize corporate zombies

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2014 - 11:34 AM

A combination of Eastern tradition and Einstein can unleash the power of your employees, according to author and culture change consultant Gina Soleil.

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Consultant Gina Soleil, center, worked with Network Medics owners James Matheson, Kevin Calgren and Patrick Massey on the leaders’ energy and business processes.

Photo: GLEN STUBBE , Star Tribune

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Zombies aren’t just lurching across movie screens these days. They may be sucking the life out of your business, according to Gina Soleil, a Minneapolis cultural change consultant and author. That could be a zombie staring back at you in the mirror.

Soleil knows corporate zombies exist because she once was one herself.

That was before she set out on a mission to re-energize and engage business leaders and employees, which she details in a book, “Fuel Your Business: Energize People, Ignite Action and Drive Profits,” published in December by Career Press.

To bring the walking dead of the workplace back to life, Soleil offers a novel solution: Jump-start corporate culture by clearing its chakras.

Soleil, a longtime adherent of alternative practices who also cites Einstein as a major influence, notes that Eastern tradition identifies eight chakras, or energy centers, found at specific locations on the body.

Businesses, Soleil maintains, have their own chakras that correspond to those in the human body. She proposes eight business principles that align with the business chakras and outlines strategies for building a healthy “energy ecosystem” inside a company.

Soleil’s first principle — “functional leaders drive profits” — corresponds to the body’s crown chakra, which sits just above the head. Such leadership energy creates “an environment that either fuels productive energy or breeds exhaustion,” Soleil writes.

‘Left-brained approach’

Soleil calls her antidote “a left-brained approach to a very right-brained way of doing business.” Despite that, or maybe because of it, she said those drawn to her work primarily are men in law, accounting or engineering firms and, first and foremost, tech companies.

“Tech companies are run by entrepreneurs who lived in the corporate world but left … to delve into unknown territory to move something forward,” Soleil said. “They’re looking at this work and saying this is logical … and it’s grounded in science.”

Soleil, who has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and strategic management, previously worked for companies including Best Buy and Caribou Coffee. Her consulting clients have included UnitedHealth Group, Best Buy, Wipro Technologies, McQuay International and the Nerdery. She’s projecting $2.5 million in revenue this year from book sales, consulting and speaking engagements, up from $150,000 last year when she was writing her book.

Her defining moment in casting off zombie-hood came early one day as she watched employees enter Best Buy’s headquarters. Soleil, who had run big-box stores and helped the electronics retailer launch its “eq-life” health and retail concept, was interviewing for a new job after getting laid off in 2006.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, they’re zombies!’ ” said Soleil, 36, who quit the interview process and soon launched Monarch Leadership, a holding company for her consulting and other ventures. “All of a sudden, the light bulb went off and I’m like, ‘I’m actually the zombie. I don’t want to be that any more. I don’t want to live in a way that doesn’t honor who I am.’ ”

Jennifer Hovelsrud, senior communication consultant with UnitedHealth Group, said Soleil’s method is a common-sense way of connecting with employees.

“To me Gina articulates the most honest, real and effective way to engage employees,” Hovelsrud said. “It’s basically a map for how you can have a healthy relationship with your employees that translates into results. You’re not just thinking of your employees as doers but really leveraging the energy and power they hold to help you achieve your goals.”

Soleil’s work on both business processes and leaders’ energy were among factors that contributed to a 20 percent increase in gross profit in 2013 at Network Medics, said James Matheson, president of the Minneapolis-based tech consulting company.

“Gina basically was in our office every day, and we did see dramatic changes,” Matheson said.

The expert says: Teresa Rothausen-Vange, management professor at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business, said Soleil’s work tracks the professor’s research findings on employee well-being, trends in business psychology and the growing influence of Eastern practices in management theory.

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