Exploring why we suffer from a lack of soul in the workplace, insight from David Whyte, and a list of suggestions on how to tap into the soul at work.
Having spent a lot of time in corporate environments, I’m still struck by the lack of attention and focus given to the ‘soul’ at work. We think. We do. We do lots. In short, we work in a very action-orientated way, we think in a linear fashion, and the tools we use to come up with new ideas are limited. Limited because the environments we work in are not conducive to nurturing the soul – straight lines, shades of white and grey, stale air, artificial light. Success does not come from working harder. It doesn’t come from doing ‘more of the same’. The soul is the bridge between our limited minds and the infinite world of spirit. To achieve all that we want in our careers and business, connecting to the individual and collective ‘soul’ is becoming far more important, as people start to question purpose, start to ask ‘why’ they’re investing so much of their energy and time at work.
Soul is critical to business success. David Whyte, the ‘corporate poet’ writes:
“For consultants and management gurus, the soul is a slippery customer. On one hand, it may be dismissed completely… With little understanding of the essential link between the soul life and the creative gifts of their employees, hard-headed businesses listening so carefully to their hard-headed consultants may go the way of the incredibly hardheaded dinosaurs. For all their emphasis on the bottom line, they are adrift from the very engine at the centre of a person’s creative application to work, they cultivate a workforce unable to respond with personal artistry to the confusion of global market change”.
This was first published over 15 years ago. And I think it’s only now becoming clear that the ability to tap into the ‘soul’ at work can be a tool of competitive advantage, of sustainable success and fulfilment.
So what does it take? Here’s a list of soul-foods that can easily be brought into the working environment –
Beauty (flowers, coloured walls, art exhibitions…), Story-telling, Using art to brainstorm, ‘Stream of consciousness’ writing or journaling, Silence and stillness at the start of meetings, Encouraging people to start sentences with ‘I feel…’ as well as ‘I think…’, Fun and laughter, Make a Difference initiatives, Focus on listening, Playing games… add your own favourites to the list. Let me know what works for you.