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Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear or read about corporate shenanigans. The media are consumed by corporate wrongdoing and often lunchroom or dinner party conversations eventually turn to who’s the latest to be investigated. While many conversations revolve around ethics and morality in the business arena, I suggest there’s another perspective – spirituality, rather, the lack of spirituality which is an underlying cause of bad behavior. And the bad behavior not only concerns corporate executives, but those who coach them as well. There needs to be a focus on integrity and authenticity at both ends of the coaching equation.
Spirituality, not morals or ethics
For me, bad behavior is all about spirituality. The conversation and upset about bad behavior in the corporate arena is about “spirituality,” not about ethics or morality. Why? Morality points to questions of right and wrong and eventually is based on social traditions or consensus that vary from culture to culture. Thus, morality becomes subjective and judgmental and separates one from another.
Ethics, on the other hand, focuses on a code of values that translates “morality” into daily living, i.e., do-ing and be-ing. Ethics defines right and wrong, how we relate to others, how we conduct business and how we behave in general, most often leading to judgments, win-lose, right-wrong, good-bad mind games and ego-based stuff.
Spirituality is non-judgmental and non-separating. Spirituality is unchanging, so there’s no debate, right-wrong, me vs. you, what spirituality is and isn’t. We all know what it means to live from the place of our soul and hearts. For those who come from a truly innately spiritual place, there are no labels and definitions, and spirituality is a way of be-ing and do-ing that is common to all of humanity, needs no descriptions, definitions, etc.
So, the “moral” is not spiritual and for much the same reason, neither is the “ethical.”
The spiritual is that which allows me to be non-judgmental, and to serve as a witness, observer and watcher. The spiritual is not “mind,” is not “information,” is not “knowledge,” is not a set of quantifiable DOs and DON’Ts . It is way, way beyond that. So, while the “moralist” and the “ethicist” spend time and energy “debating” the rights and wrongs of the corporate world, in their heads – mental and intellectual stuff – one who practices spirituality just notices, e.g., “That’s interesting.” “Hmmm, is that so?” without any ethical or moral judgment, i.e., no right-wrong, or good-bad.
Ego and mind – who’s right, who’s wrong?
Generally, when one is grounded in spirituality, there’s no need to engage in endless ego-based and mind-based discussions about corporate morality and ethics (i.e., “I need to be right; so you are wrong.” “I win the argument, so you lose.” “My labels and categories and information are right, so your labels, and categories and information are incorrect.” No need to live in an “I, I, I ” ego, judgmental and comparative mind.
Genuine spirituality does not judge. Genuine spirituality arises from one’s deeper, inner Self, one’s essence, with an integrity, honesty, sincerity and self-responsibility that drives one’s thoughts and actions. Genuine spirituality manifests patterns and behaviors that are common in all of life. Genuine spirituality is an essential essence of human nature, a nature which is all to often clouded, diminished and distorted during the course of our upbringing.
So, what often happens is we grow up less aware of an in-depth spiritual understanding of circumstances and events, and operate more from an outer-world-driven subjective and judgmental “moralist” or “ethicist” mindset based on information and mental models that are stored in our brains over the course of time. The essence of who we really are, our True Self, becomes dimmed as we grow up, and “my ethics and morals” are then developed based on mental models, beliefs and thoughts that emanate from our parents, schools, churches, synagogues, television, advertising, friends, reality TV etc.
The downside is that I come to believe that my mental models, my beliefs and assumptions and images of the world, my ethics and my morals are Truth (my Truth and thus, “the” Truth for everyone else as well).
One who is grounded in genuine spiritual understanding is not engaged in such ego-based stuff.
Why we argue instead of observe
Because so many of us identify with our ego minds, i.e., I AM what I know; I AM my information; I AM my mind; I AM my knowledge and, of course, I AM right, one often has trouble accepting and entertaining someone else’s perspective. Consciously or subconsciously, one feels forced to view another’s “perspective” more as a “position.” one point on a continuum, or one end of a polarity, which then forces oneself to be engaged in a “right-wrong,” zero-sum, ego-mind, conflict. Why? Because one identifies not with one’s inner core or essence where there is no polarity, but with one’s outer personality and ego-mind which need labels, categories and right-wrong analogs that provide one with a (false) sense of self and identity.
Genuine spirituality, on the other hand, surfaces as simply witnessing another’s perspective and generates no need or desire to “fight the good fight,” to be right. No ego; no mental drama. Just reading, listening, watching, and moving on, noticing, observing, witnessing with a “beginner’s mind.” A curiosity.
So, grounded in spirituality, one witnesses and observes what is happening in today’s corporate environment from an interesting perspective. Spirituality allows one to know and understand that when the Universe wants someone to learn a lesson, be it one person, a family, a team, a corporation, etc/, and one refuses to buy in, then the Universe will often deliver a rather hard “slap on the face” as a wake-up call. For the individual, this often occurs in the form of a divorce, an accident, illness, dis-ease, loss of a job, bankruptcy, etc.
For the corporation, it can mean total demise. Practicing spirituality, a “spiritual observer” sees what is happening in the corporate world and rather than excoriate the CEO, CFO, CIO, etc., based on ego-driven mental models and beliefs about good-bad, or right-wrong, asks a larger question: What’s the lesson/learning here FOR me (not for you, not for “them,” but FOR ME)?
Thus a spiritual perspective can tutor the executive, and those who coach the executive, in the following ways:
1. Spirituality is an inherent need of human nature. And with a single focus on spirituality comes healing (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, creative, etc.). Without a focus on spirituality, we become spectators, bystanders who feel good about pointing fingers, judging others, analyzing others, diagnosing and prescribing for others, but not being self-responsible for the betterment of people. This “feel-good-type-conversation” or perspective permeates the talk shows, Internet chats, water-cooler conversations and dinner gatherings. We hear lots of talk about “them.” We allow little or no time for an honest evaluation of “me” (as it’s too scary, too sensitive …). There’s lots of talk about the corporate folk, “them,” but few muster the self-responsibility to “show up” in integrity and be honest and sincere in our own interactions with people in our office (or in our own home, or at play) right here, right now.
2. On a macro level, in this country, to say the least, systems are breaking down. Education, health, environment, and corporate. No surprise. Coming from a perspective of spirituality, for me, this is as it should be (i.e there’s a lesson to be leaned from the dissolution of our systems.) Shocked but not surprised. Why?
Many folks have not gotten it on a micro level – as individuals seeped in a culture of excess, greed, toys, materialism, self-medication and the need to acquire – creating a culture of greed, corruption, and dishonesty. Often, when we don’t “get it” on an individual level, the Universe gives us a larger slap on the face, on a larger level. Thus, the demise of larger systems.
3. It’s crucial to ask, “How am I conducting myself on a daily basis?” Again, lots of “discussion,” mind stuff, information, but how many of us “walk the talk” when it comes to acting with honesty, sincerity and self-responsibility at work – right here and right now, in the past hour, the past day, the past week, the past month…?
4. It’s crucial to ask, “Am I showing up and acting with honesty, sincerity and integrity, according to my inner essence, my True Self, in alignment with my inner core values right here, right now in my workplace environment?
5. The tug on our collective (corporate/business) sleeves urges us to reconsider what we value, to evaluate “how so?”. So much of our life, our faux joy, our faux happiness, our well-being, our health, our identity, our self-image (who we take our self to be), and our ego is tied up in money, wealth, the “packaging,” and the externals. “Why do I have such an inextricable attachment to money, that I can be close to ruin (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically) because of money and what it represent?”
6. Finally, it’s crucial to ask one’s self some tough questions, when it comes to how many of us, self-righteously, pontificate about the current corporate state of affairs. “Am I being hypocritical, a phony, fraudulent, inauthentic, insincere, dishonest in my own everyday affairs?” For example, consider the following situations, without judgment, and then ask, “How can I tug on my own sleeve about my integrity and authenticity?” “How am I doing in my own everyday life with respect to coming from my essence, my spiritual side, my inner source and core values when I relate to others?”
Scenario 1: Lunchtime during a busy day. It’s 1:30. I go shopping and am running late. I cut into the checkout line, pay the cashier, not listening to her greeting, and dismissing her, bump into folks on the way to the parking lot, drive out cutting someone off, run a red light and make a right turn at the sign that says “no right turn” so I can get back to my office and engage in a conversation about the “morals and ethics” of corporate America.
Scenario 2: Friday evening. Out to have drinks with some of the team. Spend lots of time being sarcastic to, and verbally abusing, some of the younger teammates (with what I call my “wit” and fine sense of humor in a “just for the fun of it” or “only kidding” context) so I can appear smart and witty, while criticizing (or gossiping about) some of the staff behind their back, with the excuse that I’m just letting off steam after a hard week of work while, at the same time, presenting my “noble, moral and ethical” opinions about how to clean up corporate America.
Scenario 3: Wednesday morning 6:00 am. I’m at the gym with a buddy and rather than work out, we spend forty-five minutes watching the “babes” in their aerobics class and making lewd, sexist comments interspersed in our conversation about what’s “wrong” with corporate America.
Scenario 4: Tuesday night after dinner I watch TV and some cable talk shows, which I “steal” through a “black box,” resting and relaxing while watching a program on how CEOs are stealing from their companies.
Scenario 5: Friday lunch – I drive to lunch, make suggestive comments to the waitress, gorge myself with too much food, have one Vodka too many and speed back to work, endangering my self and others, so I can have a few minutes to get on the Internet and read how corporate folks are being irresponsible.
Scenario 6: Wednesday morning. I wake up late and am angry and take it out on my spouse and children, feeling every bit a victim, and behaving downright mean and nasty, while I think how the CEO being interviewed on TV this morning should be more “humane.”
The point? It’s not about “them.” It’s about me. At the end of the day, as a spiritual witness, observer, watcher, I am aware that if I take care of my spiritual self, and the next person does the same, and the next, the cataclysms that we witness will no longer rule the day. It all starts with tough questions and these tough questions start with me, right here, right now.
Spending precious time and psychic energy in moral and ethical conversations about “them” won’t do it.
So, some questions for self-reflection:
- For me, this is the $10 (spiritual) question. How am I allowing my soul to manifest right here, right now? How am I regarding my fellow employee, colleague, spouse, child, neighbor, stranger, right here, right now, this minute, today?
- What’s driving my do-ings and be-ings? My soul? Or my ego-driven self-images and limiting beliefs that are often tied to the past (resulting in anger, resentment, abuse, frustration, control, defensiveness, blaming, greed, pride, jealousy, argument…) or the future (fear, worry, tension, stress and anxiety)?
- How much of my day, so far, have I spent analyzing, judging, and criticizing the actions, thoughts, beliefs and deeds of others (i.e., corporate folks, and others), as compared to looking inward to grow my own soul and manifest right action, right thought, and right understanding–right here, right now?
So, the challenge is for me to watch, observe and witness my self in every moment, be mindful and present right now, and tug on my own sleeve, rather than be judge and jury, rather than be preoccupied with others, rather than be a spectator on the outside looking in, and egoistically believing I am effecting change.
Either “I” walk the talk, or I don’t. It’s about me, not “them.”
As Gandhi said, “If you want to see change, be the change.” Corporate and business change begins with each of us, the executive and the executive coach, right here, right now. This is what genuine Spirituality is really, really, really all about.
(c) 2019, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
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