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Can Spirituality and Big Business Tango?

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It is with great pride and excitement that I have once more accepted the invitation of LOHAS 2012 (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) to dialogue with some of the world's top business leaders attending their premiere gathering of thought leaders at their 2012 conference in Colorado this year -- June 12-14th, Boulder, Colo.

As a leadership and executive coach, privileged with influencing the influencers in business, the issue most on my mind is the necessity for imbedding spirituality back into our business infrastructures. I define spirituality as a deep sense of interconnectedness with the accompanying behaviors that honor that level of caring. Those behaviors would not include slamming down phones, repeatedly cancelling meetings, or blaming and shaming anyone in person, on the phone, in email, or by text.

In re-reading important data collected in 1999 by Ian I. Mitroff and Elizabeth A. Denton (A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America) and Dov Seidman's 2012, "The How Report," it is my strong feeling that old and new surveys reflect the same truth: Most human stress is linked to a loss of spiritual foundation in the workplace. Our modern-day plague is not a physical disease, it's an emotional one -- unhappiness. The greatest source of the problem is the lack of humanism in how business is conducted globally. Yes, we have the talk: mission statements. But no, we are not all walking the walk.

Personally, I don't care how the story has been spun for generations -- survival of the fittest, a company's only responsibility is to its profitability, no pain no gain. Bottom line: we do not leave our souls at home when we go to work.

Here are the questions I posed:

- Does spirituality play a role in how you run your company?
- If yes, can you speak about the influence of spirituality in your business model?
- If not, can you share your thinking about omitting spirituality?

Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-founder, B Lab

Does spirituality play a role in how you run your company?

Yes. In two ways: It's why I do the work I do, and it's all about the practice.

If yes, can you speak about the influence of spirituality in your business model?

The social Gospel, engaged Buddhism, karma yoga, tikkun olam, the sufi mystics... all the world's wisdom spiritual traditions say the same thing: We are interconnected, we should treat others as we wish to be treated, and we must be the change we seek in the world.

The work of B Lab and of each individual B Corporation are simply our imperfect attempts to manifest these truths in the marketplace.

Kevin Rutherford, The Caldrea Company, CEO

OK, here is how spirituality plays are role at the Caldrea Company (Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day):

Our dream at Caldrea & Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day is that together we will create a world where the better way has become the way. It's no small task, but we see ourselves as an unstoppable band of optimists looking to inspire everyone on the planet to breathe in, smile, and to "live beautifully." We are obsessed with this, from the products we make and to the servant leadership we provide to our treasured consumers, fans, customers, communities, team members, and our planet.

In our manifesto, we state this the following way: Whether it's through remarkable sensory products that bring happiness to people's homes, or an unwavering promise to the communities and ecosystems that sustain us, we believe in our power to change people's lives for the better.

The idea "live beautifully" means a lot of things both big and small to us at Caldrea Co. It's a contagious philosophy that gets us out of bed and inspires us to bring pleasure and balance to people's hectic lives. It's the glue that connects what we do every day to the larger impact we want to make on the world.

Steve Demos, Founder NextFoods

Spirituality or a guiding philosophy called Right Livelihood was core to the existence of the business as well as White Wave/Silk's ultimate success. We measured decisions against our consistency with this philosophy whether they were employee wage questions, quality questions or supplier questions. This consistency created clear cultural identities and boundaries along with realistic expectations and permitted everyone who touched the business to know what it stood for and meant.

Tom Szaky, Chief Executive Officer, TerraCycle, Inc.

Does spirituality play a role in how you run your company?

This is a hard question to answer, as my personal spirituality is what guides my daily decisions -- both consciously and subconsciously. However, if looking for a yes/no I would go with "no" as we try to run an agnostic organization so that all spiritual beliefs can co-exist.

If not, can you share your thinking about omitting spirituality?

Since spirituality is personal and especially because it can create controversy (when two different spiritual perspectives collide) I don't think there is a place for it in the workplace (TerraCycle). To us it is equally inappropriate as people wearing T-shirts with political slogans on them (e.g. "pro-choice").

Thank you Jay, Kevin, Steve and Tom!

Debbie Robins, M.A.
Named one of the top Leadership and Executive Coaches in the country
Trained CCCO: Chief Consciousness and Culture Officer
Best-Selling Author/Huffington Post Blogger

For more by Debbie Robins, click here.

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