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Nurturing soulful organisations

BeSoulful founder, André Kilian, is a long-standing friend of Mergon whose life work and passion for integrating soulfulness in the workplace has played a pivotal role in nurturing the organisation’s relational culture and shaping our collective story. In this article, we asked him to speak to us about soulful organisations and their potential for true impact. These are his insights.

The Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, once wrote, ‘If you love what you do, you will do it beautifully’. We have all experienced this – that moment of ‘flow’, when passion and purpose converge, and time becomes irrelevant as we engage in work that feels somehow effortless. It’s as if there’s a synchronicity between our inner and outer worlds, and suddenly our work becomes ‘soulful’ – bearing meaning and beauty and carrying the potential for transformation.

Most of us desire to live soulfully, especially in our professional lives. The idea of giving our time and effort to something that resonates with our passions, is deeply appealing. We seek to do this kind of work alongside others who feel equally engaged and inspired to bring their true selves forward.

Sadly, however, this is not often the case in the workplace. We can frequently experience a dissonance between our true selves and the perceived or expressed expectations of others. Ego overrides what we know to be right and true, and we succumb to the pressures of performance. In this disconnect anxiety, fear, pretension and insecurity can often take root, and our interactions tend to become disingenuous.

Nevertheless, we yearn to bridge the gap between our inner and outer worlds and be a part of something that is genuine, transformative and ultimately, beautiful. In essence, we long to be a part of a soulful organisation. But what exactly do soulful organisations look like, and how do we nurture them?

Guiding questions for soulful organisations

Based on my personal insights into Zohar’s theory of spiritual intelligence, I believe soulful living involves continuously asking questions about three themes: God (purpose), ourselves (identity), and the world we live in. Naturally, soulful organisations follow this same line of thinking, shaping their purpose and culture around three fundamental questions that resonate with these principles:

      1. Purpose – why do we do what we do, and what are we a part of?
      2. Identity – who are we as an organisation, and how can we stay true to who we are while doing business?
      3. Impact – How can we make a positive difference in the world we live in?

These organisations value purpose beyond profit, recognising the importance of collective purpose for the organisation as well as the purpose of the individuals within it. Soulful leaders seek to discern the ‘why’ behind their organisation’s existence whilst considering how each contributing member’s ideals and core values are expressed and align to the organisation as a whole. As they ensure the organisation’s purpose is more than a statement on paper, but a lived experience and shared aspiration within the corporate culture, they unlock depth and meaning, and a true sense of soulful integrity within the organisation.

Pushing back the ego

According to author Frédéric Laloux, soulful organisations are those that have moved away from the hierarchical model of predict, control, and command. Instead, they see themselves as being an organism that keenly senses and creatively responds to its unique circumstances. What has catalysed this profound shift in perspective? Laloux would argue it is when its people, and particularly its leaders, learn to displace the ego, the driving force behind our motives and decision making.

He says, ‘By looking at our ego from a distance, we can suddenly see how its fears, ambitions, and desires often run our life. We can learn to minimise our need to control, to look good, to fit in. We are no longer fused with our ego, and we don’t let its fears reflexively control our lives. In the process, we make room to listen to the wisdom of other, deeper parts of ourselves. What replaces fear? A capacity to trust the abundance of life. All wisdom traditions put forward the profound truth that there are two fundamental ways to live life: from fear and scarcity or from trust and abundance.’

Through an abundance mindset, mistakes do not define us but inform our next steps. Rather than aiming to be ‘the best’, Simon Sinek explains in his book ‘The Infinite Game’, ‘we seek to be better every day’. Instead of focusing on winning and dominating, the emphasis shifts to persevering and personal progress in the right direction. Sinek writes, ‘The primary objective in an ‘infinite game’ is to keep playing, with the best outcome possible being that you end your turn happy with your progress in it.’

The power of relationships in soulful organisations

Relationships are the lifeblood of every organisation, a sentiment echoed by Laloux when he writes, ‘The single-most important component of any organisational culture, and of wholeness, is the quality of relationships and authenticity of conversations across your company.’ Trust unlocks a healthy relational culture where it is granted upfront, even before a track record of merit is established. In return, people are more likely to take ownership and hold themselves and one another accountable for their actions. They are inspired to bring their authentic selves to the table, recognising their unique gifts and distinct roles that, if held back, would limit the organisation’s full potential.

Soulful organisations recognise the power of collective intelligence and the beauty that emerges when diverse perspectives are woven together. By embracing this complexity and leaning into our differences, we learn to celebrate the richness of our relationships and harness their full potential.

There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as this – working alongside people whom we genuinely appreciate and respect, inviting them to be a part of our lives. People who share our passion and express it uniquely to the world around us. And above all, what could be greater than being a part of a collective purpose, an invitation to something far bigger than ourselves, where God is making himself known through us? This is the essence of true soulfulness.

BeSoulful is a consultancy that creates spaces for individuals, teams and organisations to explore how to live and work soulfully. Through a dedicated journey, André guides them in discovering what truly brings meaning to their lives and uncovering ways to live with greater authenticity and integration.

Order his book, ‘Water: Live and Lead with Integrity’ on Takealot or Amazon.