"Spirit" appears to be an "airy fairy" and hard to grasp thing. It is these things and it is also very real. You all notice what is special about an organisation, team or person when their spirit, or yours, is centred, connected, energetic and flowing. Then astonishingly wonderful and unpredictable things happen and people achieve "the impossible". I hope to give some practical developmental ideas that you can use to encourage this to happen.
The problems and benefits about working with the spirit
In many organisations people connect rather superficially. This may be all that is necessary to get the work done adequately. However, when you have a connection that is deep, open, and honest and trusting you can share what you are, hope for and believe important. This releases energy to achieve amazing things.
Connecting at a deep level can be rather frightening as it leaves you feeling open and vulnerable. This quality of connection to others also strengthens our connection to who we truly are. This can be disturbing. Some people have a deep fear of intimacy, even of intimacy with themselves.
These fears are just feelings. With caring leadership, effective tools and good facilitation you can go through them and come out to a place where you feel at one with yourself and other people and know that you have a truly worthwhile task to do together. This is wonderful!
Several years ago, Chris Bull introduced me to Core Process. The idea is that we are all uniquely good, and have unique talents. At our core there is a unique positive process that operates all the time. We experience it working most clearly when things are going very well, or we are emerging strongly from a difficult time. The core process appears to be unchanging. When you find it, it gives you a clear sense of who you are and what you are here on this planet to do.
You can help someone find their core process by listening to the times when they felt most alive and fulfilled. Then you pick one of these times and help them discover the essence of what they were doing as a verb and noun. These phrases are all memorable and the person often feels that their phrase makes sense of their life experience and purpose. I have had the privilege of knowing "lighting fires", "growing life", "revealing magnificence" and "detonating mixtures" and many more.
From one spiritual perspective, I imagine souls volunteering to be incarnate here and when they arrive, having a job to do. When they do that job, their core process, everything works wonderfully well!
This work centres people and helps them build their energy and self esteem. He or she decides to be the person he or she truly is and acts with courage and determination. It is practically useful in career and management development and life coaching.
You can imagine the energy and mutual trust that flows in a team where everybody knows and values each others' unique strengths and gifts.
The core process has become central to my work and of four colleagues. We are founder members of the Flame Institute to research, promote and develop it.
Sharing our dreams
Another way of looking at the spirit is to consider it to be something that guides our evolution into something greater. It is hard to think that evolution has stopped with us. I think that evolution is continuing but that it is now more obviously cultural rather than physical. Pierre Theilard de Chardin in "The Phenomenon of Man" predicted the next stage of evolution would be shared consciousness through connected thoughts across the planet. He called this these connected thoughts a "noosphere". The Internet is a step on the way. It enables us to connect more easily than ever before.
I also believe that we have more in common than what separates us. We are literally one family; all of us are related to everyone else if you go back far enough. The same spirit runs through all of us. We also have common interests and common aspirations, to be at peace, to learn, to enjoy and preserve our world, to serve, to have happy families, to have enough to eat. Unfortunately, most of us have been told many times that these hopes are "naive and idealistic" and we find it hard to share them. However, in my experience when we do share our dreams, because there is enough trust to do so, we discover we want the same things. This is enormously liberating.
You can test this easily next time you work with a group. Ask them to take turns saying how they would like things to be and see what happens. I have done this many times and never found conflicts in what people want. After this, it is easy to work with them to find their way forward.
There are some simple ways to do this in Vision Building and lots in the literature on Appreciative Enquiry
Connecting with each other
I have noticed that when I am functioning well, I can sometimes be so present with another person that I can pick up their unspoken feelings. Perhaps I feel sad, even want to cry, when there is no reason in my life to feel sad and the other person is talking about something neutral. But when I say, "I am feeling sad and am wondering where that is coming from", the other person owns to being very sad and talks about it, or cries. I don't understand how this happens so maybe this too is in the realm of spirit. I do know that it happens more when I have had lots of good "listening to" myself so am not preoccupied with my feelings and experience.
If you want to build an intense connection with a friend, agree to look into each other's eyes for a few minutes and see what happens. It is a profound experience, as you can't help caring as you see each other clearly. In organisations as they are, this level of connection may not be necessary, or even desirable. You can build strong enough connections though by deciding to pay attention and listen to each other. This is also building the spirit of the organisation.
One very practical vehicle for doing this in a team is to ask people to tell their personal stories, while the rest of the group listens. You don't want every detail, of course, but say three or four highs and lows can give you all a very clear idea of what makes each other tick and builds trust. There is a lifeline exercise on the website, that does this, that you are welcome to use.