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spike bullet May 2004 - Spirituality in the Workplace

Everything I know about Business I learned in the Monastery
Resources (links, books, articles, humor)

spike bullet Everything I know about Business I learned in the Monastery

By Kenny Moore

Advice to Managers from a former Monk:

  1. Focus on building community, repairing trust, offering hope and trying to heal.
  2. Engage the heart and soul of employees.
  3. Abandon coercion in favor of invitation.
  4. Invite commitment.
  5. Explore the sacred component of leadership.
  6. Shine your light and lead the way.
  7. Have fun.
  8. Allow employees to contribute their inherent talents in the workplace.
  9. Recognize the talents that employees bring to work.
  10. Use our hands, heads and hearts in service of something larger than ourselves.
  11. Nurture the spiritual within the confines of the commercial.
  12. Know that we can all have an impact.
  13. Work on the impossible until it becomes possible. 

When I lived in the monastery as a Catholic priest, 40% of my superiors thought they were Divinely inspired.  Now that Iím working in Corporate America, the numberís up to 80%.  In  my company, Iím one of the few who have a core competency for dealing with executives who believe themselves to be infallible.  My CEO has even recognized this skill and has me reporting directly to him to assist in changing the companyís culture.  

Focus on building community, repairing trust, offering hope and trying to heal

Oddly enough, my years in the Church gave me some decent skills for succeeding in the business world.  I often feel that the jobs have proven to be quite similar, except the pay is now a lot better.  Much of my work continues to remain priestly ó building community, repairing trust, offering hope and trying to heal an inherently flawed human system.

Morale continues to remain dismal in most companies and employee surveys reveal three disturbing trends: nobody trusts, workers donít believe senior management and employees are too stressed out to care.  Problems with trust, belief and caring.  When I lived behind the cloistered walls, we referred to these dynamics as a crisis of Faith, Hope and Charity.  

Corporate America is facing a spiritual problem as much as a fiscal one. Napoleon once said that leaders are dealers in hope.  That sounds like a sacred quality to me.  So, maybe itís not all that surprising that the job of todayís executive is as much spiritual as it is managerial.

Even though prayer cards now outnumber Dilbert cartoons in employeesí cubicles, talking about what is holy in the workplace leaves most corporate managers somewhat in a quandary. 

Engage the heart and soul of employees

How do engineers and accountants become both astute business leaders as well as proficient spiritual guides?  Addressing this predicament is a bit trickier than streamlining business processes or outsourcing operations overseas.  

Engaging the heart and soul of employees to gain business success is no easy task.  While throwing money and corporate perks at workers garnishes their compliance, it does little to guarantee their commitment.  And as weíre increasingly coming to discover: if you donít get commitment from employees, the business falters. 

Abandon coercion in favor of invitation

Commitment is not something that can be coerced or conscribed, it can only be invited. It comes as much from the heart as from the head.  

Employees wonít bestow it if they mistrust their leaders.  Monks seem to understand whatís required for soliciting peopleís commitment.  Many business leaders donít.  Itís probably because much of their education was spent on measuring, managing and marketing ó Not inviting. 

Explore the sacred component of leadership

Courses in business school seldom explore the sacred component of leadershipís responsibility.  I wonder if thatís partly responsible for the high turnover in the executive suite?  Todayís corporate leaders may have lost their godly compass and consequently the loyalty of their workers.  Some form of Divine Retribution may be underway for those residing in the corner offices.

The good news is that thereís a host of employees out there yearning to throw their commitment behind a leader who is making even small progress in mastering the art of invitation.  The ancient Greeks used to say that in the land of the blind, the Cyclops rule.  It is such a rare business skill that it seems leaders donít even need to do it well.  

Invite commitment

Merely making the effort to abandon coercion in favor of invitation appears sufficient.  Employees seem to be instinctively drawn to officers who are giving it a try.  

To separate the authentic leaders from those approaching it as just another management fad, discriminating workers are applying the same criteria Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart used: I know it when I see it

Shine your light and lead the way

Like plants drawn to light, workers are inherently attracted to leaders who are sincerely implementing this refreshing skill.  These executives represent a type of heliotropic leadership in the rugged jungle of business life.  

They radiate a hallowed luminescence that employees gravitate towards and are nurtured by.  With this type of leadership, corporate toxicity is kept to a minimum and a form of workplace photosynthesis takes place.

Have fun

Thomas Aquinas, the medieval monk and scholar, once said: "Without work, it is impossible to have fun."  Urging employees to contribute their God-given talents in the workplace is liberating for the worker and an enhancement to the business.  It also injects a needed flair of enjoyment into the workplace.  

Allow employees to contribute their talents in the workplace

A small but growing number of executives are learning to engage the spiritual side of business.  It entails recognizing the inherent sacral qualities that employees bring to work and making demonstrated efforts to use them to satisfy customers.  

Spirituality at work isnít about hosting prayer groups or Bible study sessions.  I donít think the business world is ready for that, and Iím not sure it should be.  The separation of church and state continues to be a viable model in such a diverse world.  Championing religious practices in the office sounds to me like the makings of another Holy War.  Alas, in a global economy, itís not even clear whose version of God weíd need to direct our prayers to.  

Recognize the talents that employees bring to work

I believe that the Divine is more interested in having us acknowledge our talents and use them for the betterment of others as well as ourselves.  Thereís something inherently holy about embarking upon that effort.  Iíve spent numerous years working in large hierarchical institutions, twenty of them corporate and fifteen religious.  Whenever youíre dealing with large numbers of people joined together around a singular effort, many of the operating principles seem to feel oddly similar.  

The media once asked Pope John XXIII how many people worked at the Vatican.  "About half of them," was his reply.  It is amusing how the challenges confronting leaders ó religious and secular alike ó have some universal qualities.  

The journalist Eric Sevareid once said that he was a pessimist about tomorrow but an optimist about the day after tomorrow.  Iíve come to feel the same way about business.  I donít expect corporate malfeasance to end anytime in the near future.  The workplace is a mirror of life.  

Use our hands, heads and hearts in service of something larger than ourselves

Like it or not, evil is part of the human condition and will always be with us.  Besides, if immorality were to suddenly come to an abrupt halt, much of lifeís drama would be lost and organized religion would be out of a job.  And as Alan Greenspan keeps reminding us: losing jobs is never good for the economy.  

The Divineís invitation to us is to get in there and be a player as the ancient drama of good and evil unfolds.  Using our hands, heads and hearts in service of something beyond myopic self-interest is whatís required.  

Business has tremendous potential to be a force for good in the world.  While it hasnít always lived up to this challenge, the opportunity remains ever present.  We who labor there have direct influence on the outcome, and our impact has the potential to be significant.

Nurture the spiritual within the confines of the commercial

Some might balk at the impossibility of effectively nurturing the spiritual within the confines of the commercial.  And for these people I have a compassionate understanding of this challenge.  

However, one of the things I learned in the monastery was just because something is impossible, that doesnít mean you donít need to work on it.  Why else would I have been required to take the vow of chastity for so many years?  Some of what we are required to work on will not be accomplished in our lifetimes.  Thatís what vision, brilliance and legacy is about.  

Know that we can all have an impact

To those needing encouragement, I give you the words of Father Theodore, my revered monastic confessor: if you think youíre too small to be effective, then youíve never been in bed with a mosquito.  

We all can have an impact, even if itís a small one.  The poet Theodore Roethke said it well, "What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible."  

Work on the impossible ó until it becomes possible

The challenges are formidable, yet the need is great.  Life invites us daily to take the risk and act on making the impossible happen.  Itís at the heart of what makes showing up for work so exciting.

Spirituality ó both within and outside the workplace ó  will only increase as we move further into this century.  Thereís a vast horde of aging baby-boomers growing older by the day and being uncomfortably confronted with their own mortality.  

The monks used to say that religion is the aphrodisiac of the elderly.  I expect that the boomers will want to die as well as theyíve lived and theyíll be looking for some Divine assistance to make it all work out successfully.  

Who knows, spirituality in the workplace might do for the economy what Viagra did for the male libido?  But I donít think Bob Dole will be its spokesman.  As a former monk whoís learned some sharp business skills, Iíd look elsewhere for endorsements.  Perhaps Iíd start with the Dalai Lama.

About the Author

Kenny says, "If youíre thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation.  I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say.  Please E-mail me at kennythemonk [at]"

Kenny Moore is co-author of ďThe CEO and the Monk: One Companyís Journey to Profit and  PurposeĒ (John Wiley and Sons, 2004), rated as one of the Top Ten best-selling business books on  He has over 20 years experience with change management, leadership development and healing the corporate community.  Prior to his work in corporate America, Kenny spent 15 years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest Ė doing a very similar kind of work, but getting paid a lot less.

Kenny has been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning News, and interviewed by Tom Peters, The Wall Street Journal and Fast Company magazine regarding his unique leadership style.  He can be reached at (973) 956-8210 or kennythemonk [at]

Copyright © Kenneth Moore 2004, used with permission of the author.  Thanks, Kenny!!

World Wide Web graphic  Internet Resources

color bullet Definitions: 

Heliotropic: Turning toward the sun (or toward the light) ... Webster's Dictionary

Heliotropic: (From Robert M. Burke:

  • Organizations are heliotropic in character in the sense that organizational actions have an observable and largely automatic tendency to evolve in the direction of positive imagery.  Positive imagery and hence heliotropic movement is endemic to organizational life, which means that organizations create their own realities to a far greater extent than is normally assumed.
  • Organizations do not need to be fixed.  They need constant reaffirmation.  More precisely, organizations as heliotropic systems need to be appreciated.  Every new affirmative projection of the future is a consequence of an appreciative understanding of the past or the present.

color bullet Good Karma - the Dalai Lama's words for the new Millennium

Good Karma slide show (PowerPoint slide show 78 kb)    A presentation with inspiring words from the Dalai Lama  Also available as a text version.  Right click with your mouse on the link above and select "save as" to save to your hard disk.  Double-click on the downloaded file to start the slide show using Microsoft PowerPoint.

color bullet More Downloadable Inspiring Wisdom and Wit

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • The CEO and the Monk: One Companyís Journey to Profit and Purpose,  Robert Catell, Kenny Moore, Glen Rifkin.  John Wiley & Sons, 2004.  ISBN: 0471450111
  • The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer. Hay House, 2004.  ISBN: 1401902154  
  • Tomorrow's God, Neale Donald Walsh. Atria Books, 2003.  ISBN: 0743456955 
  • The Messiah Seed, Story Waters.  2004  ISBN: 1-4116-0593-4  Excerpts
  • The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, Mark Sanborn.  Currency (Doubleday), 2004  ISBN: 0385513518

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related Newsletter Articles:
    Seven Principles of Spirituality in the Workplace
    March 2000 - Spirituality in the Workplace

Other Articles by Kenny Moore:
    July 2002 - Executive Development and the Fates: A Case Study
    October 2001 - Celebrating Employee Heroism Before the Fact
    September 2001 - 9 Fun Things to do in Developing Your Leadership
    Enron Redux
    What do you want to be caught dead doing?

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

If you can dream it, you can do it. ... Della Reese

Be not afraid of life.  Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help you create the fact. ... William James

Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world. ...  Albert Einstein 

A vivid imagination compels the whole body to obey it. ... Aristotle 


Carefully watch your Thoughts, for they become your Words. 
Manage and watch your Words, for they will become your Actions.
Consider and judge your Actions, for they have become your Habits.
Acknowledge and watch your Habits, for they shall become your Values.
Understand and embrace your Values, for they become Your Destiny.
... Mahatma Gandhi

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.  We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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Page updated: October 16, 2023   
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