THERE is a question executives are increasingly asking as they climb the corporate ladder and it is: “Is this all there is?”
This lament comes often from middle and senior managers who report frustration that after having “arrived”, they find that there is something missing.
In essence, they are looking for meaning and purpose and a sense of spiritual growth. They want to bring their “whole” selves to work.
We give little conscious thought to our spiritual lives when we make career choices — to the detriment of both ourselves and our organisations.
When was the last time you asked if a career move was “good for your soul”? This is a vital question but we often ignore it because we are worried about what others think or believe it would jeopardise our chances of being hired.
But things are changing and during the last decade there has been an explosion of interest in spirituality at work.
Your spirit or your soul can be defined as the “inner, deepest part that is concerned with purpose, values, relations with others and the feeling of making a difference by being one’s real self”.
The research indicates that spirituality is increasingly one of the determinants of career behaviour.
In her research into “the influence of spiritual ‘meaning-making’ on career behaviour” with participants from diverse religious backgrounds, Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, founding director of the Holistic Development Group and co-author of The Map Of Meaning: A Guide To Sustaining Our Humanity In The World Of Work, concluded that four purposes were significant:
• Developing and becoming oneself;
• Unity with others;
• Expressing oneself; and
• Serving others.
Spirituality at work therefore can be summarised as a need for:
Meaning: work that gives a sense of purpose;
Authenticity: being your “whole” self and bringing that “whole” self to work; and
Connection: expressing yourself in relation and unity with others.
This framework can be used as a way to audit either current positions or potential career moves to ensure that these factors — which are indicators of spirituality — are present. They go some way to safeguarding against getting to the position of asking “what’s it all about?”
With a MAC™ analysis one asks: “Will this move bring more meaning, authenticity and connection into my life?”
Let us look a little deeper at each of the three concepts:
Meaning can be defined as doing something that leaves you with a sense of purpose, that ensures a contribution to that which is bigger than short-term corporate objectives.
Does your current job or the job you are considering give you a sense of satisfaction that your role makes a difference to others? Does the job really make you feel that you are “making a meaningful contribution?”
Ways of Assessing Meaning at Work
• Are the organisation’s products or services of benefit to society?
• Are relationships and rewards with the organisation’s stakeholders (particularly its low-cost overseas suppliers) equitable and fair?
• Is there a positive climate in the workplace?
• Does the organisation have policies and a culture that promote equality and respect between different cultures and faiths?
• Does the organisation promote gender equality?
Does the organisation have a CSR (corporate social responsibility) policy that allows regular contribution to a “cause”?
Some say that the whole purpose or our lives is a journey to become our natural selves. Authentic people know who they are or have a passion to “become themselves”.
Ways of Assessing Authenticity at Work
• Are the skills required in the role a good fit with your natural skills?
• Does the organisation encourage the identification of employees’ signature strengths — for example, Belbin Team Roles, MBTI, DISC, Brain Dominance etc?
• Are there regular training and development programmes that encourage employees to grow into their natural selves?
In the pursuit of finding the authentic self, questions you can ask include:
• What is it that I do which, even when I do it badly, I do it better than most people I know?
• What is unique about me that does not come from my family or culture?
• What do I really love to do?
It is possibly the easiest of the three M-A-C qualities to recognise. It requires a sense of caring and a focus on others rather than focus on self.
Connection skills means a culture where people are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say, a place which helps us be in touch with our feelings, and which in turn breeds happiness and well being.
Ways of Assessing Connection at Work
• Is there an open communicative atmosphere?
• Do colleagues help each other out?
• Are occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays celebrated?
• Is conflict dealt with openly and seen as an opportunity for growth?
I have worked with thousands of people in my 40 years of consulting in 57 countries and I have noticed that “spirit” often gets left behind in our stressful modern work environment until it is too late.
To ensure that this does not happen to you when looking at that new job, besides thinking about salary and perks make sure you do a M-A-C Spirituality audit.
That way you will make sure you don’t wake up in mid-career with that “what’s it all about” feeling.