After more than 30 years experiencing the world of business and organizational function (dysfunction), I recently awoke with something like the opposite of an existential crisis. Maybe I should call it finally coming to my senses, but after witnessing so much command-and-control, take-it-or-leave it and my-way-or-the-highway leadership, and the aftermath of worker unhappiness and dis-engagement, I realized I have a purpose.
Call me soft, naïve or just plain idealistic, but I believe in people’s fundamental right to be treated with respect, dignity and the occasional tangible reward. Tootsie Pops and animal crackers are some of my favorites. I’m a big fan of the value of a healthy – physically and emotionally – community, and an enterprise full of workers, during the workday, constitute a community. But when leaders show up with their egos on full display, leading primarily with strength and power, normal human beings get afraid and retreat into positions of safety. If your business relies on innovation, whether in your products, services or operating procedures, FORGET IT!
As it turns out, my belief that quality relationships between leaders and workers result in higher engagement has been validated time-and-again in real research by really smart people with their names on books and articles. Ultimately, the right leadership style yields wonderful benefits to business, things that all businesses want like passion, innovation, retention, customer experience, shareholder value and BOTTOM LINE RETURNS.
There is a lot of effort and resource out there to help with organizational development, yet the bar on employee engagement has hardly moved over the past ten, maybe twenty years. So, do we keep doing what we’ve been doing, hoping that magically we’ll get some traction? I’m thinking that we try something different.
It’s my strong belief that the only thing that may need changing is for leaders and managers to STOP TAKING THEMSELVES SO SERIOUSLY, in other words, LIGHTEN UP and lead from positions of warmth, compassion and vulnerability which will build TRUST. And guess what, trust is the basis of all great relationships and great relationships, within the context of work, lead to engagement and a more VITAL BUSINESS. Seems simple, eh?
Well, it’s not. Self-awareness requires a ton of mindfulness, intent and commitment, none of which come easily to the mere primates we are. The first step is to understand what taking yourself so seriously looks like, then working on a strategy and process to bring mindfulness to your organization in a scalable way. This isn’t formulaic, but something to create in a way that considers the personalities, structure and culture of your business.
When you’re ready for a more vital business, reach out to The Institute to put yourself on the right path. And, stop taking yourself so seriously!
Provocateur and Leadership Doctor