There is a growing trend in America. A spiritual re-awakening is evident. People are looking for personal meaning. They have witnessed whole careers destroyed because of the unethical acts of others. They have watched the things they gave their life to diminished by corporate leaders whose philosophy was, "I've got mine, the hell with everyone else."

People are searching for a reason to show up for work every day to do a job, care for a family and interact with friends and relatives. They are questioning whether there is such a thing as loyalty. Recent events give credence to the growing number of companies turning to healing the soul that is the core of the company. This has given rise to a new breed of business consultants Richard Whiteley refers to as corporate shamans.

Unlike traditional consultants, who look at business as a machine, figure out what's broken and apply their skills to fix it," says Whiteley, "corporate shamans focus on the human element, essentially the living, breathing and throbbing heart of any company."

Corporate shamans use spirituality to help companies recognize and heal the malaise and low morale that are often the cause of reduced productivity, high turnover and debilitating tension in the workplace. "How one restores a company's soul is not a topic you'll find in the curriculum at your ivy-league business school like Wharton, Harvard or Yale," said Whiteley. "But at universities such as Loyola, Emory, George Washington and Antioch you will find more and more professors implementing spiritual practices into their business leadership courses."

In his book "The Corporate Shaman," Whiteley points out that corporations need a kind of Harry Potter-approach to business. Such a process can be divined by looking back, not forward, and applying the ancient healing tradition of shamanism to your company or your life.

Whitely was introduced to shamanism in 1992 and now has a healing practice in Boston. He uses the timeless form of the parable to bring to light the issues, personal and work-related, at play in the workplace. In parable form, Whiteley tells an engaging story, revealing how leaders, managers and those who follow them can use shamanism to find a sense of meaning and purpose in themselves and in their organizations. He suggests such fundamental questions as:

  • To what extent do you use your intuition in making important decisions?
  • Do you consider the impact your decisions will have on the people?
  • Are you able to be vulnerable in work situations as opposed to always having the "right" answer?
  • Are you willing to step outside your normal way of doing things and try an alternative approach?
  • High profile companies like Boeing and Xerox are among the many Fortune 500 companies who have benefited from the advice of spiritual consultants. "When I was in business school in 1968, we were required to take a course called Decision Making Under Conditions of Uncertainty. I was always amused at the title because what decisions do not entail uncertainty?" Whiteley mused. "If there's no uncertainty, what's left to be decided?

    "Anyway, the course was based on creating decision trees and analysis by putting colored balls in different urns. I found it tedious. Now fast forward to today's rapidly-paced world of business. It is a time when urgency seems to rule our lives. (People) are required to make important business decisions in a nanosecond."

    Whiteley maintains that the cumbersome and time-consuming process of constructing decision trees has given way to a resurgence of what used to be called "gut feel," actually nothing more than intuition. When faced with a dilemma, ancient shamans would undertake a meditative process, often involving a "power animal" assigned to help guide us through life.

    Is our "guide" really from some other world or is it just a gimmick to short circuit one's rational mind and help access that great resource of natural intuition? Who knows for certain? "I believe it is from outside of myself", says Whiteley. "But whether it is or isn't doesn't really make a difference if the end result is positive and useful."

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