I've always thought of myself as spiritual but not religious. When I felt my internet company was undergoing a crisis of spirit, I wasn't sure where to turn. After a lot of thought, I decided to introduce feng shui principles into the workplace. My staff and I brought plants and mirrors into our main work area and hung flowing fabrics from the ceiling to help the flow of positive energy, or "chi."
We all agreed our efforts gave us a feeling of peace, and productivity increased for a while. Eventually, however, I realized redecorating was only a surface fix. The real change needed to come from within.
Tricia Molloy, author of Divine Wisdom at Work: 10 Universal Principles for Enlightened Entrepreneurs, says business owners can use spiritual principles as tools to "make better decisions, solve problems more easily, build authentic relationships, be more productive and prosperous, be more creative, experience less stress, have more fun, and strike that elusive balance between work and life." And many entrepreneurs are doing just that.
Faryl Robin Morse, 40, was guided by her yoga practice to read The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life by Geshe Michael Roach. From the book, she gleaned that "spirituality and a financially successful business are not mutually exclusive."
"Every business owner faces a moment in time when it's easier to not do the right thing than to do the right thing," says Morse. "I've always taken the approach that whatever financial sacrifice I have to make to sleep well at night has benefited the company and me personally." Morse's company, New York City-based Farylrobin Footwear, grossed more than $3 million last year.
For Lisa Guidry, 37, president and CEO of Extreme-Technologies Inc. in Houston, believing in a higher power is central to who she is as a person. "I bring this belief with me to the office every day, and I believe it shows in the way the company is run, inside and out," explains Guidry, whose tech company exceeds $3 million in revenue. "When you run your company according to a higher principle that goes beyond just making a profit, you end up attracting like-minded employees."
Guidry, who calls herself a "committed Christian," says she doesn't limit the philosophy by which she runs her company to her own personal beliefs. She says her staff includes devout Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. "To me, having a spiritually charged workplace is more about attitude," says Guidry. "It doesn't mean we're placing a value on a particular religion."
Catherine Fox Milian's employees have been open to her efforts to bring spirituality into the workplace. "My business can be emotionally draining," says the 33-year-old owner ofChic Parisien Bridal Boutique in Coral Gables, Florida. Milian's mother, who is involved in alternative healing, introduced her to Tibetan monks who came into her retail space to bless her store and employees.
"After the monks gave the blessing, operations, customers and business just started to flow very easily," says Milian. "Relations between clients and staff were wonderful and open. Problems are [now] resolved with more ease and grace."
Sadee Whip, a business consultant and executive coach, defines spirituality like this: "In its most basic form, it's a feeling of connection to something greater than one's self. Bringing this connection to one's life, rather than keeping it inside and private, is living spiritually."
Whip says spirituality is an essential component to work success. However, she warns, "Being too controlling or dictating how spirituality is articulated would really kill the spirit of the workplace."