Martin Rutte - spirituality in the workplace


    A Spiritual Link in the Workplace

    Reprinted from Maclean's Magazine, April 12, 1993

    A spiritual link
    in the workplace


    Most Canadian executives' idea of spirituality these days is to pray every night that they'll have a job the next morning.

    But there's a Canadian guru-in-the making named Martin Rutte who is staking his career on the novel notion that the profit motive and spirituality can mix. His company, Livelihood Inc. of Sherman Oaks, Calif., is beginning to prosper by giving that revolutionary-sounding advice to such blue-ribbon companies as Apple Computer, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Virgin Records and Southern California Edison.

    A Hamilton, Ont.-born psychologist, Rutte spent 12 years as a consultant in Toronto developing a successful Canadian customer base including Labatt Breweries of Canada, Esso Petroleum Canada, London Life Insurance and Via Rail, before moving to California where he found an even more receptive audience. He was the keynote speaker for four consecutive years at the corporate leadership and ethics forum of the Harvard Business School and is becoming recognized as a pioneer in the most unlikely of missions—attempting to instill spiritual values in the North American workplace.

    "By spiritual values, I mean those values that lie at the core of our humanity, that come from our highest, deepest self," he told me during a recent interview near his office outside of Los Angeles. "However, when the question of spiritual values is examined, highly charged issues arise that threaten to block deeper exploration and the discovery of any underlying and revealing insights." His view: "In my experience, I've found that by engaging and exploring the issue, we tap a powerful source of deep fulfilment and creativity. Such new approaches in modern management theory as productivity and quality improvement, human motivation, teamwork and systems perspectives have markedly enhanced effectiveness. But one other dimension has to be taken into consideration —the one that relates management to fundamental matters of the spirit which lie at the heart of all beings."

    The trouble with this kind of talk is that one has to be a believer to understand it. But what Rutte preaches is not only in tune with the growing number of men and women who have enriched their lives with spiritual quests, but makes good economic sense because employees at any level of any company are demanding more than pay cheques for their work. What people want is an environment that encourages, respects and appreciates spiritual values. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with organized religion. It does mean a deep desire for more fulfilling work, and more than that—a commitment to manifest our dreams.

    The toughest part of planning one's own spiritual growth is that it seems less a matter of acquiring new ideas and perceptions than discarding old ones. The need is to become a warrior on your own behalf and to embrace your own individuality so totally that your identity and purpose become crystal clear. According to Stuart Wilde, an essayist on the roots of spirituality: "Most of the organizations and structures around you are designed to take away your individual power. The quest for spirituality allows you to win back active control over your own life. The political, social and financial structures that are imposed on us today were designed hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Their function is to influence and control the people so that they can be manipulated into supporting the system. With enough courage, inner power and charisma the individual can push against that manipulation and win back control, divesting him or herself of the encumbrance of the beliefs of others to become free."

    There are practical applications to all this. because those who have followed the often lonely quest towards enlightenment have found themselves empowered—both on their own and on their companies' behalf. After Rutte completed a study for John Morgan, the former Labatt Breweries president wrote of him: "He knows that each of us has a vision of the future, but his particular strength is his ability to get us to articulate those visions and make them happen. To call him a visionary is an understatement, because he is able to build visions into reality. In our case, that vision put Labatt at the forefront of employee empowerment and involvement in the business."

    Rutte sometimes bills himself as "a vision coach," pointing out that where you've come from isn't nearly as important as where you want to go. "All true leaders," he says, "carry within them the present reality of their organization and their vision of its future." Adds Rutte: "A true leader must see himself or herself as a warrior bringing vision into the world. He or she has to call on reserves of single-mindedness, discipline, and surprisingly, in this Wagnerian scenario, a sense of fun. But above all, he or she has to be as dedicated to his vision as a knight is to his crusade."

    To differentiate his Vision-thing from long term planning, Rutte explains that corporate direction usually begins and ends with cautions about what "can" and "cannot be done." Vision, on the other hand, operates from an intuitive feeling about where the company should go, thus touching people at a more profound level, The problem is that most people have been trained through school and society to nurture their desires for survival, promotion and success, so that they don't allow themselves to operate at a deeper level.

    Rutte isn't troubled when his listeners stare at him as if he were a creature from another planet, which is paradoxical because his slim frame is usually sheathed in a Giorgio Armani suit. It doesn't bother him, because as he rightly points out "Spirituality is an experience. It's your level of consciousness that determines what that experience will be. It's a connection with the living light."

    Summing up the current situation, Rutte concludes: "We're in a paradigm shift. There will emerge new businesses and new ways of work. Environmental degradation and lack of fulfilment are coming to an end. Respect, a calling forth of people's individual gifts and spirituality—that's what's coming in."

    I pray he's right.