you send us a list of your talks?", the speaker's bureau lady
asked. I've always found that an odd request because it sounds like
I should have a pre-packaged "top ten" list. However, in
describing my current interests I mentioned "spirituality in
the workplace". "Intriguing", she says, "what
exactly is that about?" Suddenly I realized that while I could
talk for hours about spirituality, I couldn't give her two sentences
describing what "it" was.
are we talking about? Were we spiritual in the psychedelic sixties?
Were Johnson & Johnson being spiritual in 1982 when they dumped
thirty-one million Tylenol capsules sending the entire corporate
world into a values kick? Is being an equal opportunity employer
spiritual? Is Jack Welch demonstrating spiritual leadership in revolutionizing
General Electric? Will Lee Iacocca be remembered as a truly spiritual
leader? How about tele-evangelist Jimmy Swaggart? How about you and
To understand what this spiritual stuff is all about, let's look
at four levels of commitment:
Everything we do is anchored to one of these four levels. Take environmental
protection. Green is politically correct. If you do not at least
look like you are recycling - get with it. Put the recycle bins where
people can see them and use recycled paper, at least for the annual
report. You don't have to like it, just do it!
That's pretty superficial so it is not hard to go a little deeper.
Recycling is politically correct and it may also be an intelligent
thing to do. Get some numbers together for a business case. That's
how most businesses make their decisions. Find out how much you can
save. Whether or not it is good for the planet is not nearly so important
as whether it's a good deal for you.
There is deeper water still. Beyond the political and intellectual
lies the emotional. You go out of your way to recycle. You rinse
out your tin cans and carry your Styrofoam cup past the handy garbage
can to the recycle bin. On a rainy Saturday you took your kids to
Tree Day in the park where they lovingly planted tiny saplings. Most
were mowed over the next morning, but that's not the issue. Your
heart is in this recycling thing and you inconvenience yourself to
protect our planet.
Quick recap before we go even deeper to the
spiritual level. Politically-just do it. Intellectually- have a
business case. Emotionally-go out of your way to recycle. Spiritually-
you chain yourself to a majestic cedar tree, defying the lumber
barons to cut through your naked body with their chain saws. The
tree and you will live or die together!
The key point in understanding this spiritual level is the recognition
that there is no separation between you and the object. This object
can be a person, a belief, a philosophy, a dream, etc. Unity is central
to spirituality. When you behave politically, there is a huge gap
between what you believe and what you say or do. The intellectual
level narrows that gap considerably as does the emotional level.
When you hit spiritual there is no gap. You and the object of your
commitment have become one.
Another example is the typical annual management conference or workshop.
Here is how it often goes as the group tries to work its way through
the four levels. Start with the President's address written by somebody in Public
Relations. This is usually a political experience. We laugh heartily
at the opening joke though we've heard it a hundred times. We take
notes of key phrases to use strategically during the reception that
evening. The obligation to applaud enthusiastically goes without
saying. If the group is particularly enthusiastic they could try
the politically motivated standing ovation. There are documented
cases where a standing ovation for the President has turned the reception
from a cash bar into an open one. Some groups are even more politically
overt and invite a high ranking government official to kick-off the
conference. We know that nothing of any substance will be said, but
then we aren't intellectually motivated at this point anyway.
The intellectual stuff comes with the industry specialist telling
us with considerable authority about the challenges facing the industry
in the global market place. You are given a binder bulging with the
data backing her up. This scares us half to death but it sure gets
us thinking. Coffee break.
Regional reports follow. Not much to be said here. The guys from
Central always take more time than they are supposed to. Lunch.
We're still in intellectual mode and so are invited to sign up for
various break-out groups focused on key issues such as customer service,
cost reduction, etc. If your corporation is highly controlling you
are preassigned to your group because they know you won't mix on
your own. Once there you fill pages of newsprint with brainstormed
ideas and spend the remaining time trying to talk someone into giving
the report. Whoever gets the job is obliged to begin with the reminder
that they are only the messenger, absolving themselves of any responsibility
for what they are about to say. See how we're slipping back into
The President acknowledges the plethora of great ideas and reassures
us that each one will be given the attention it deserves. We all
know what that means in terms of real change. The closing motivational
speaker is now introduced. This at least should be fun and upbeat.
This is the emotional part. The anatomy of a good closing motivational
speech is Laugh, Laugh, Cry, Laugh, Poem. All of which is wrapped
up by the sweatshirt ceremony in large or X-large. The conference
will get much better evaluations if the sweatshirts are any color
This may sound cynical but doesn't it also sound familiar? Where
in all of this well intentioned effort do we get real? Where do we,
without fear, make the kind of connections with each other that enable
us to truly transform our work and our world? We easily accommodate
the political and intellectual levels and nibble on the emotional.
The true foundation of our personal and corporate lives is spiritual
and we don't even come close to touching it. That is where the real
power and permanence is. The real force for change lies in our spirit
not in our strategies or our systems.
Team meetings, strategic planning, re-engineering
or parenting could easily have been used as examples. What I want
to make clear is that
everything has a spiritual core, a spiritual center. A fulcrum is "a
point on which a lever is placed for support". Change "lever" to "life" and
you've got it. This is how we find our balance. Once we learn to
connect to that core the world changes color and life and work will
never be the same again. How I wish this happened more often.
The following quotation must
be printed at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international
speaker and consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com