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Howard's End: Baby-Boomer Executives Waking Up

Slow down, stop multi-tasking, work less, follow your heart and soul and work from the centre of yourself. These are messages baby-boomer executives are taking on board as a spiritual awakening travels across the world. Maree Howard writes.

It's not religion as such but it is spiritual. It's about inspiration, philosophy and, if you choose, religious faith. It's about carefully listening to others while also listening to your inner-self. It's about finding an inner peace. It's about the age-old question of the meaning of life and my existence - why am I here?

It's about the Hebrew word "Avodah" - meaning both work and worship. It's about Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and non-denominational perspectives.

This spiritual movement is bubbling up in some of the major corporate offices' around the world. It is a movement which bridges the divide between spirituality and work.

There have always been people in business, including many New Zealanders, who have practised their religion as part of their business ethic. But as baby-boomer executives across the world get older and face mortality, the big question - spirituality - is exploding.

The old business and political leadership - my way, or no way - is going and almost gone.

Maybe the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, is seeking spirituality and meaning when she regularly challenges mountains and seeks peace and solitude in remote areas. I suspect she might even meditate - and why not?

But it's not just in corporate or political offices that spirituality is catching on. At many major business schools the spirituality starts with the chime of a Tibetan bowl and a few minutes of deep breathing and meditation. The Dalai Lama has also made it his crusade to speak about spirituality to global business leaders.

Potential young executives at business schools, who will enter a high speed, high energy, hard-driving world, are now being instructed in ways to reconfigure how they think about business and people. They are being instructed to always carefully listen to others, to take time-out and attempt to find a quieter, inner peace, away from pressures of the everyday world.

Today, nothing is mutually exclusive. While words like God are avoided and there is no religious dogma, business people are becoming organised and holding regular meetings and conferences on what is now being called spirituality and meaning - to the point where even their annual holidays are focused on countries who can offer peace and quiet meditation.

This spiritual awakening in the work place appears, in part, to be a parallel movement of a broader religious reawakening across the world.

The core belief of spirituality is that all individuals have dignity, we are all interconnected and that a transcendent being or force defines the purpose of human affairs.

Companies are finally realising that they employ the whole person; that they don't buy a worker's labour for just eight hours a day. That working teams of people respect one another and promote learning down through the ranks. That there is a mission in life which transcends the bottom line. That even the humblest of people have bright ideas. Ultimately, listening and caring about a fellow human being creates a higher performing organisation - or country.

Scoop has earlier promoted visions of a New Zealand VisionCorp. There is a biblical saying which goes something like this; - "The people perish through lack of vision."

Perhaps all we need is a New Zealand political, business and bureaucratic establishment who will follow the awakening ethics of spirituality and meaning. Perhaps we need a new department called "Ministry Who Actually Listens to All People." And that is the bottom line!


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