by Deborah J. Levine
Originally published on September 6, 2014 in The American Diversity Report
There are two basic motivations of the entrepreneur. The first is Money, the bottom line. Some say that business people have no soul, that we’re in it only for the money. But the second motivation for entrepreneurs is self-fulfillment, a spiritual sense of purpose. Maybe this spirituality is linked to your faith tradition, but the spiritual element translates across the boundaries of specific religions and cultures. We entrepreneurs make our home where spirituality and business overlap, and it’s about time that we make our address public.
Blogs abound on entrepreneurship and its marketing, sales, financing, recruitment, and networking. Conversations about spirituality in business are less frequent. The spiritual awareness is left to “social entrepreneurs” who have somehow carved out a separate niche from the rest of us. Or, the language of spirituality is morphed into leadership terminology, which is helpful, but a bit cold. Let’s end the silence on spirituality and take a closer look at how it connects heart and soul to our business.
We need a strategy to raise the connection from sub-conscious to deliberate, maybe something like the Food Pyramid. That would make the strategy easily digestible, painless, and even entertaining. That’s how we like to do things these days. I discovered that out in years of field testing across numerous industries. Yes, it took years to shed my Colonial-British vocabulary and my Harvard-ese syntax before I got comfortable telling stories with a slight Yiddish flavor. If figured if I could do it, so could you, although maybe minus the Yiddish. Thus, the storytelling methodology of the Matrix Model Management System: Guide to Cross Cultural Wisdom and its workbook.
THE 3 SPIRIT GROUPS
The first step towards accessing the powerful intersection of spirituality and entrepreneurship is to define and name the kinds of spirituality applicable to a business context. Through storytelling, we can identify, name, and own that spirituality. Begin by identifying the three key groups of entrepreneurial spirituality: Vision, Humanity, and Character. In today’s business world, with its high number of unpredictable variables, we need Vision that has soul, Humanity that inspires, and Character that shouts integrity and trust.
VISION WITH SOUL
The next step towards connecting spirituality and entrepreneurship is create a personal dictionary describing the elements of each Spirit Group. We start with the first step of all entrepreneurs: Vision. Look beyond analytical planning into your heart and soul. What words come to mind? Here are some possibilities: hopeful, inspired, futuristic, and wise. Give your Vision greater depth of meaning and purpose by regularly practicing this exercise.
HUMANITY FOR REAL PEOPLE
“Humanity” often implies grand thoughts of world peace or community volunteerism without clarity for business applications. Yet, if we apply Humanity to cross-cultural communication, we can make these abstract ideas appy to real people. Words such as cultural sensitivity, business etiquette, cultural competence, customer-oriented, and inclusion are popular with today’s relationship-driven businesses. Think they’re boring and over-used?
Try defining yourself with their opposites and you’ll quickly realize that the words aren’t just terminology. Anybody want to claim cultural in-sensitivity? How about rudeness instead of business etiquette? Want to say your business “is all about me” instead of the customer? Probably not, so start writing notes for a story that shows your humanity, memorize it, share it, own it. Now make the perceptions of your Humanity stick with the third Spirit Group, Character.
CHARACTER: THE MAKE-OR-BREAK FACTOR
I have no doubt that everyone reading this article has Character, and at least some aspects of your Character are admirable. Try looking into the mirror and starting a sentence with “I am … “ and then add each of these words in separate sentences: responsible, dependable, accountable, reliable, trustworthy, honest, fair, and ethical. Bring them to the surface of your consciousness. Own them so that when you make choices they echo in your head. A leader, a company, or an entrepreneur needs these elements Character at the ready, or their Vision and Humanity won’t be trusted. We read stories in the news on almost daily abut how a seeming lack of Character, or soul, rendered irrelevant even the most advanced innovations and technology.
What happens if you lose the trust of your customers? Your clients? Your backers? If you’ve paid attention to the spiritual side of your business in the past, you may have enough credit in the Character bank to overcome even a major problem. But for most of us, losing Character credits and therefore, trust in your Vision and Humanity, is incredibly time and effort intensive.
You will need to address the very soul of the business. Explain how your Vision and Humanity intersect and how your Character drives them. Give them food for thought by defining and naming each elements in your spiritual dictionary. Articulate the elements by embedding them in stories demonstrating the three Spirit Groups. This is a monumental task when it has to be done quickly, the very definition of damage control. We need to articulate our spirituality sooner than later. “Later”, in our fast-moving world, is best defined as “too late.”
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