By Lori Stevic-Rust
Traditionally, the concept of spirituality conjures images of prayer, nature, and personal self-growth. Who would have guessed that it could also be a powerful tool in building a strong and profitable business?
Spirituality is defined in a very inclusive manner, unlike religion, which tends to be defined by an institution or formal doctrine. The concept of spirituality embraces the notion of a deep connection to something bigger than oneself. It is often described as a way of loving and relating to others with integrity and compassion and tied to the concept of meaning and purpose in life. The spirit is traditionally believed to be that vital force within living beings that gives us vigor and energy while providing us with a sense of determination and courage. It can come from organized religious beliefs, a spiritual connection or a focus of energy and attention on the present. Regardless of the source, research is clear that those who view themselves as spiritual tend to live more fully in the present, are more creative and cope better with adversity, and in general make stronger leaders.
The search for purpose and meaning in life has plagued people for centuries. The process of this quest can often leave us feeling either exhilarated and renewed at the realization of meaning or empty at the inability to find meaning or purpose. Think about some of the language that we use when we talk about purpose in our lives. We refer to it as “something being missing.” While we may not be able to put a label on what is missing, we are keenly aware of an incomplete feeling. This feeling can be triggered when confronting a life-changing event, an illness or a work environment that is stressful and unsatisfying.
Issues of downsizing, globalization, poor job satisfaction, and burnout have led to renewed interest in the role of spirituality in the work environment. Work-life satisfaction surveys reveal that employees who feel valued as a contributing member of an organization are more productive and loyal. A leader with a strong spiritual belief in the importance of building character and integrity in the work force demonstrates the greatest performance of organizational goals. Cultivating a culture of spirituality has been called one of the best tools for performance improvement. Spirituality is associated with better health, strong engagement, and peak performance. It is no surprise then that corporate business is now focusing on integrating the concept of spirituality into organizational policies and practices.
Leaders of organizations who acknowledge the importance of spirituality tend to lead with integrity, honesty, and fairness. Employees tend to report more satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity. Employees report feeling valued beyond their roles and have a greater sense of social responsibility and are often more self-directed.
Strategize to Improve Spirituality
Practice meditation: Mindful meditation has been shown to alter the chemistry of the brain by releasing the relaxation response. Just 15 minutes of mindful meditation a day has been shown to significantly improve cardiovascular health, immune function, and mental acuity while reducing stress. Many companies have begun to offer yoga and meditation classes to the workforce to improve well-being and performance.
Define business vision around spirituality: A management culture that is based on spiritual values of mutual respect, integrity, honesty, kindness, and nurturing growth for everyone yields a successful and stable workforce.
Become focused on others: A dimension of spirituality is the feeling of connectedness to others — the willingness to do more for others than for yourself. Connection to others not only decreases loneliness but also improves our sense of meaning and purpose. When organizations extend themselves to charitable organizations in their community, the workforce becomes more cohesive and loyal to each other.
Build a culture of shared goals: One of the most frequently cited reasons for employees to experience burnout or leave employment is a feeling that their ideas and performance don’t matter. A successful business understands the importance of moving toward a shared vision and ideas as opposed to a vertical hierarchy. Work products and decisions can then be viewed in the context of what is morally right and beneficial to the community.
Today there is a trending topic of something called the “triple bottom line,” which is a focus on “profit, people, and planet.” It is a focus on the importance of businesses going green and on valuing the workforce that drives the profit. When the workforce is engaged, loyal, productive, and creative, profits are realized. In a USA Today poll, six of 10 surveyed felt that businesses would benefit from an infusion of spiritual values into the work environment of being socially responsible, respecting each other and running a business with integrity.