“Our essential nature is one of pure potentiality.”
~ Deepak Chopra
I was invited to spend the day with a group of manufacturing managers. "We want something in the area of professional development," my host, who extended the invitation, told me. "If it can also be uplifting-you know, pick up their spirits-that would be especially helpful, because this group is overworked and feels overwhelmed and unappreciated most of the time."
This vague request was both satisfying and frustrating; satisfying because the client, who I have worked with previously, trusted my judgment, but frustrating because his description provided little direction. One thing seemed to be clear, though: this group was not in a good place physically or emotionally ("overworked and unappreciated"), and they expected me
to "pick up their spirits."
After a few days of thought and still no sense of what to do, I found myself reading over an email before hitting the send bottom, and my sentence jumped out at me: Awakening, Inspiring and Empowering Human Potential.
Yes. That was it. I would develop a program using my sentence.
I wake up most mornings to this thought: What opportunity will present itself to me today in which I can awaken, inspire and empower human potential?
The answers don't always pop into my head, and there are days when I find it difficult to awaken, inspire and empower my own
potential, yet it is amazing how just keeping that thought present allows opportunities to present themselves. In these instances I find a way for my sentence to move from my head to my heart to concrete action.
Working with these manufacturing managers, I found myself facing a new opportunity to put my sentence to work. Now all I had to do was deliver.
I started by telling the group about how I came up with the idea for the presentation. I shared my sentence and explained how it has impacted me since I crafted it five years ago. Then I asked the participants to partner up and provided each with an agenda. On it, a quote by Jane Wagner: "A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?"
I asked everyone to respond, and it was unanimous-no one believed they were living up to their full potential. They all felt lost or thwarted in their ability to do so. Unsurprisingly, they identified the primary potential-blocking culprits as stress
and a lack of direction or purpose
Fortunately I was prepared. Not because I have great predictive powers, but because I seen and heard the same response over and over, and I understand the extent to which stress and the absence of purpose entomb potential. These two "potential killers" block individuals and organizations from experiencing the rewards and benefits of their return on potential
(ROP). The four batteries of potential energy
We need energy to find and unlock our potential. And our four batteries-our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being need to be at or near full capacity for us to live up to our potential. If even one dips below capacity, it drains energy away from the other three, and that stress is a disease that ultimately drains all four.
I talked with the managers in depth about how to maintain your physical energy through exercise, nutrition, sleep, and setting aside time every day for mindful and reflective activity. We practiced a progressive muscle relaxation exercise for five minutes, which helped everyone let go of the tension they were holding in their body and regain a sense of balance and relaxation. I also introduced the Seven Rituals of Renewal,
which if practiced daily will help keep all four batteries charged.
Next we explored our emotional battery. I asked them to identify what feelings or emotions they experienced going to work, during the day, and driving home at the end of the day. The list ranged from "anger" to "zoned out," all of which were unproductive in creating and maintaining the energy one needs to access one's potential. The emotions they were experiencing made them feel so drained of energy they were questioning if they could even find
One key learning was that most of the group had fallen into an emotional rut, meaning they had accepted their unhappiness and forgotten that we choose our feelings the same way we choose which shoes to put on in the morning. This realization alone was an awakening that stirred their interest and opened the door to emotional empowerment. What about that sentence?
How can a sentence keep our batteries charged and lead us to our potential? Daniel Pink has a wonderful short video I shared with the group called "What Is My Sentence?" The video highlights the ways in which one sentence can focus our energy and provide the motivation we need to live up to our potential.
The video and discussion afterward awakened their interest and curiosity, and now they needed some inspiration. I decided to show them the DeWitt Jones film Celebrate What's Right With the World.
In it, Dewitt uses the sentence "Celebrate what's right with the world"
to show us that no matter how bleak things may appear, if we are willing to open ourselves up to the possibilities, we can always find something to celebrate. Through his photography he demonstrates how our mindsets can make all the difference between an average photo and a great photo. The key is remaining open to the possibilities.
I could see everyone engaging with his words and photography. I could feel they were becoming inspired-inspired to discover and live up to their full potential, and to put effort into accepting that there was much more to celebrate that what they were experiencing at work. After the film I shared a story that ran in my local newspaper. To me it demonstrated the power one sentence has in helping a person live up to his or her potential.
Our local AHA hockey team, the Providence Bruins, is in the playoffs against the Hersey Bears. One of the players had a dream during a pre-game nap. The dream was about hockey, but then a sentence appeared: Be the better bear.
The player wrote it on the locker room bulletin board and the team immediately took it to heart. The Bruins were in a must win situation needing to win the next two games or be eliminated. Every member of the team used "Be a better bear" to be the better hockey player. They won both games and moved on to the next round of the playoffs.
When asked about his dream and the sentence, the player responded, "It means when you line up against your opponent, you have to take it upon yourself to be a better hockey player."
The Bruins may not win the championship, but they are living up to potential
they didn't realize they had and celebrating
victories they didn't think they would experience.
As the day came to an end, I asked, "How many of you were awakened, inspired and empowered to live up to your potential today?" The answer was a hearty applause. I have since received emails from individuals in the group sharing their sentence-and I have my own sentence to thank for that.
The Boston Marathon bombings are still running through my head and heart.
I know why my heart can’t seem to let go—it’s because of the many connections I have to the race and the area.
I grew up in New England and once again live 52 miles from the Prudential Center where the race ends. I used to be baffled and amazed by the marathoners when I was younger and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to put his or her body through the agony of running 26.2 miles. As a teenager, I would throw up after running the fitness mile during the first week of football practice, only later to be amazed that I could run 26.2 miles myself and enjoy it. Running became my avocation that led to my qualifying and completing the Boston Marathon in 1982.
Today, each of the stories of the victims inspires and disturbs me, especially disturbing is that of eight-year-old Martin Richard who was waiting with his family to see his dad finish. It awakened memories of my daughters waiting to catch a glimpse of me crossing the finish line and to share in my relief and excitement.
Even today weeks after the bombing there continues to be an outpouring of support, compassion, and empathy from everyone across the country, which has been a healing balm for the psychic trauma for all those affected. This coming together has helped families and friends to regain balance, hope, and faith in the reality that the human spirit is truly meant for good and not evil.
I know it is also during these times when we individually and collectively call upon our resiliency to help us move beyond and transform our pain into a deeper commitment to live every moment with purpose. We know the standard phases: Life is short. Time is the least we have of. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow may never come. And we would all be better served if we held these words not just as clichés, but also as the wisdom of being alive and living in a world where there are no guarantees.
In the midst of the chaos, immediately after the bombs exploded people, ordinary heroes responded. People there to celebrate life instantly began doing whatever they could to comfort and care for the victims. This passion to help continued throughout the day and into the week. Police and FBI put out requests for pictures, videos, and any bits of information that might be a piece to solving and preventing more chaos and tragedy. Phone lines and websites were flooded with residents sending pictures and videos and calling in information. While there were many factors that led to the death and capture of the brothers who committed this horrendous crime, it could not have ended so quickly without a community’s commitment to be part of the solution – to not accept that evil is stronger than good.
There are many lessons and insights that I continue to digest and try to make meaning of stemming from this event. The most important is, what will I do to not let the one life I have to escape without fully celebrating how scared it is?
I also think about our spirit of community—the compassion that people have when they allow their human nature to flow through their hearts and into their hands to hold those in need close. When there is a clear need or purpose and we see a way to contribute, we just act; we give whatever we can and we feel good about giving.
I wonder why leaders and organizations don’t believe in the goodness of the human spirit - the desire that lives in our hearts to be part of the solution not the problem.
Why do we manage by establishing rules to prevent a few from doing ill, all the while killing the spirit of the many more who want to be part of something and to contribute to the benefit of all? Why do leaders believe they are the ones ordained to solve organizational problems? Why do they often divide us by placing blame on one group or the other? The criminals who committed this terrible act were caught because of the thousands of onlookers who provided pieces to the puzzle. So can the folks on the shop floor. They know what’s wrong—you just have to invite them and ask, “What can we do to solve this problem?”
I recently had a conversation with a leader who experienced a crisis at his organization and was surprised at how everyone pitched in to do whatever it took to prevent the crisis from occurring. I asked, “Do you think there is any learning from this situation that could be applied to other issues you are challenged with?”
“It’s the difference between war and peace,” he told me. “The two situations are completely different.”
How many more bombings and crises do we have to go through before we trust that ordinary people—everyday workers—want to be part of the solution, not the problem?
The answer is simple: if we articulate a why everyone can share in and invite their participation, we can solve many of the issues challenging our organizations, communities, and even our planet.
Had the Boston Police Department said, “Stay out of our way! Let us professionals take care of the problem,” more chaos might have transpired and we still might be looking for the criminals. But instead they asked every single person in the city for help.
Let’s not let ego and fear kill the human spirit. If Boston can do it, surely we can too.
I was spellbound. Here I was not reading a book about teams, but listening to the wisdom of a team who had lived it day in and day out. This experience occurred during a recent workshop on workplace safety. I had the privilege of working with a high-performing team that has a stellar safety record. The purpose of the workshop was to invite additional dialogue regarding a survey the team had taken. The plan was to seek additional detail and nuance about what they were thinking, feeling, and the experiences that influenced their ratings in this survey that measured areas of safety in their workplace ranging from corporate ethics to hazard recognition.
While others took some time to warm to the task, this group was immediately engaged. They didn’t need encouragement or assurances of confidentiality. They jumped right in to a lively dialogue on each section. It wasn’t long before my curiosity was killing me—how was this group so invested, open, engaged, honest, and committed not just to safety, but to everything else they did?
So I gently interrupted our conversation. “Can I deviate for a moment from the agenda and ask what drives your team and keeps all of you invested and committed to what you’re doing and how you do it?” Immediately, they started to share the glue that binds them together in their common pursuit of safety and performance.
The first thing out of their mouths was a statement that indicated they each held a sense of common mission and purpose that drove their thinking, feelings and behavior. “We are very aware that what we do is very dangerous. One mistake has the potential to not only injure one of us—it could also have serious consequences for the people at this plant and the surrounding community. We don’t ever want that to happen.”
What came next was, “We know each other and we care about each other.” And the caring extends to wives, children, girlfriends, and boyfriends. “We know a lot about each others’ families; we know their names, what schools they go to, the sports they play, and when things are going good and not so good. When you know people’s families, you have a deeper understanding that what we’re doing and how we’re doing it has far-reaching consequences. This also helps us to keep in touch with how a person is doing personally, and sometimes we pitch in to give a coworker a break when he or she needs it.”
We agree to disagree. “It’s taken us some time, but we’ve come to the conclusion that disagreeing is just part of life. We don’t get that upset anymore when we disagree. We give each other space and sooner rather than later we come around and work things out. We know that nothing is more important than safety and that keeps us from going off on each other.”
We take personal accountability for our actions. “This has also taken us some time, but we’ve come to accept that we are the ones who can make a difference. It doesn't do us any good to complain, blame and look to somebody else to make our decisions. Our behavior and choices make the biggest difference, and we feel more secure and satisfied being accountable and in control.”
This team had no formal training in teamwork; they had only learned from their experiences and continued to put what worked into practice. This created a culture in which purpose, accountability, respect, caring, and dialogue was the glue that kept them safe and performing to their individual and team best. They are what books are written about.
That evening, I reflected again on the special opportunity I had to join in on these insightful and inspiring discussions. It became clear that what I teach and facilitate is what this group had intuitively and experientially put into practice. Their culture is infused with intrinsic motivation. They are motivated from the inside out. No one is dangling carrots or rewards or threatening them with consequences if they don’t act responsibly. They act safely and responsibly because it matters to them, and they take ownership and pride in it.
Self-Determination Theory informs us that if people are given or find a sense of purpose in what they do; if they are given the resources, permission and support to have autonomy in making decisions; the encouragement and opportunity to develop relationships with each other and their managers; and the ability to influence the things that matter most to them—they will not only achieve, they will thrive.
This team thrives in a very difficult environment. They do hard and dangerous work. Their success can be framed in a theoretical model, but what is most impressive is their commitment to make it stick—they are the glue.
© Tom Wojick, The Renewal Group, September 2012
I’m sure you’re aware of what a credit rating is—also referred to as a score. It’s the number that gets assigned to you by institutions that collect data about your money handling behavior. And that number can be the deciding factor in many life decisions, such as purchasing a car or a home, and in some cases even getting hired.
Unfortunately, many people go about life not knowing their credit score until the moment they’ve made a big decision—only to shockingly find out their credit rating is not high enough to get approved for what they want. Does this sound familiar? It’s never a pleasant experience to be told you are not credit worthy.
Once the shock, disappointment and maybe anger subsides, you might start racking your brain trying to figure out what the heck is in that report thwarting you from getting what you want. Trying to find the answer can be just as unpleasant as receiving the rejection.
Before long, it begins to sink in that information about how you live your life is constantly being monitored and evaluated by unknown people in unknown organizations in the most dispassionate way. Even more disturbing is that you may find out that the information is inaccurate. It can make you feel helpless and powerless.
In some aspects, your credit rating is similar to your credibility rating. But in other respects, your credibility rating is far more important because it impacts the most valuable asset you have—TRUST. Everything in life revolves around this powerful emotion. It can disrupt global financial systems and ruin a valued relationship. And once it’s lost, the ability to recover and regain one’s credibility is less than assured. Forget about buying it back—even if your credit rating is excellent, trust is never for sale.
Yet everyday we take risks with our credibility rating by not paying attention to our words and deeds. Just like the credit rating agencies, every day people observe and experience what we do and how we do it and make decisions based on how well our words and actions are aligned with the values we espouse as well as a set of commonly held values: respect, compassion, honesty, responsibility, and fairness. These moments of credibility are not stored in a dispassionate computer in some unknown location—they are stored in the hearts and minds of the people we interact with and have relationships with. They become our relationship capital. Eventually, these credibility data points accumulate to the extent that our credibility will be damaged or lost, or if we’re lucky, honored with a seal of trustworthiness.
Life is difficult enough without having to live without credibility. Imagine going through an entire day knowing everyone you encounter questions or is suspicious of your motives, your sincerity, your honesty, and your fairness.
No matter what position(s) or title(s) you hold in life—father, mother, supervisor, leader, or teacher—your credibility rating is paramount. Without relationship capital and without trust, you cannot influence, you cannot lead, and your most important wants and desires are at risk of being unfulfilled.
Don’t wait to find out your rating. Start today by asking, “Am I walking my talk? What I say and do—are these things in alignment with my stated values? Do they portray a sense of respect, caring, honesty, and fairness?”
Connect with people you know and trust and ask for their honest assessment. Asking for feedback is a courageous activity. Once your strength and confidence grows, extend your feedback process and circle with colleagues and employees. Whatever feedback you get about your credibility rating is a gift. Because now you know your “score”—and you won’t be shocked and rejected later when it matters most.
“I think they know we’re in trouble, but for the life of me I don’t get it; they just don’t seem to give a damn. Lately we’ve been our own worst enemy.”
The plant manager’s consternation, confusion and frustration were evident in his voice and body language.
“We are facing major challenges in the next few years and if we can’t find ways to innovate, out-work and out-smart our competitors, I’m not sure this company will make it. It would be a shame. This company has been a provider of good paying jobs, has served and given back to the community, and has for years delivered better than average returns to its investors.
He knew in his head and heart that if he couldn’t get his employee’s attention and get them motivated to vigorously support his company’s plans to meet these challenges, not tomorrow but today, all could be lost. As we talked, the indicators were clear the gap between management and employees had been growing for a few years.
“Now is not the time to be sparring with one another - we need to find a way to work together.”
Employee Engagement is a term that has emerged over the last ten to fifteen years in business world that attempts to capture what this plant manager and his employees were experiencing: engagement,
or more specifically disengagement
. A number of globally recognized consulting companies have made a science and a business of studying its causes and assisting organizations in overcoming the crippling effect it has on employee performance. These companies, through the use of surveys and studies, have been able to directly link employee disengagement to bottom-line metrics such as employee turnover and retention, customer satisfaction, product and service quality, accidents and injuries, creativity and innovation, employee discretionary effort, and most importantly trust and loyalty. To this point, the Gallup Organization claims, “Workplace measures like employee engagement might be even more important as predictors of an organization’s economic health than EPS (Earnings per Share).”
You can read the rest of this Feature Article
by downloading it from the free download tab on this page. In it you will find:
· The eight core drivers of engagement
· Key organizational metrics that are warning signs of disengagement
· Behavioral/Emotional climate vital signs of disengagement
· Why organizations fail in diagnosing and treating disengagement
· Why and How Self-Determination Theory treats the root causes of disengagement
· A sample treatment program to build employee intrinsic motivation and engagement
We’ve all been there: in a discussion, meeting or presentation when someone interjects, causing a disruption in the flow of your thoughts or agenda. How do you respond? Most likely, you’ll be energized by whatever emotion(s) the moment elicits in you. But what will be the consequences if you allow the energy from that emotion to hijack you? Will your reaction be aligned with your organizational vision, your personal purpose and values? Will it convey to others the type of friend, parent, spouse, or leader you want to be? What will it mean for your future?
In his blog, Do You Know What You Are Feeling?
, Peter Bregman shares a couple of similar experiences in which his emotional energy nearly hijacked his responses. These oftentimes overwhelming, stimuli-induced situations occur multiple times every day, particularly in our fast-paced and stressful lives. And while we may be inclined to believe these small situational events have little consequence, we can see from his article that how we respond to them makes all the difference: harnessing our energy and emotions can be a moment that deepens our insight and growth and strengthens our relationships, but letting it get the best of us can have negative consequences that are equally far-reaching.
Peter relates how he decided to sit on a feeling rather than react to it: "But I didn't do anything right away. And, as I sat with the feeling, I realized that while I felt a jumble of emotions, mostly I felt hurt and untrusted." In the midst of a personal issue, his decision to sit was critical for him and his protagonist. By tolerating his emotions and allowing himself to explore what they were urging him to do, he was able to regain emotional balance and perspective and make a wise choice.
Learning to tolerate emotions may seem like the old Western method of tolerating pain by biting on a bullet, but once we understand and trust that by tolerating and exploring our emotions we gain insight and wisdom, this allows us the chance to make decisions that create positive outcomes.
A simple and very effective tool to assist in tolerating emotions is called VET: Validate, Explore and Transform. First, identify what you are feeling and accept that you are experiencing this emotion. Once you validate, you can be begin to explore the emotion and discover its purpose. In this process, you may learn that your initial feeling was not your true feeling. In Peter’s example, he found that his anger was really stemming from feeling hurt.
Once you validate and explore you are now poised to transform your feelings and the outcome of the situation. Instead of sulking or lashing out, Peter wrote an email to the person who stimulated his feelings of hurt and was surprised when "she sent me a wonderful email back, acknowledging her mistake and thanking me for my willingness to let her know when she missed the mark." If he had let anger dictate his behavior, the outcome would have been much different for both .
Emotions are chemical messengers sent to inform us and to move us. Tolerating that first barrage of chemicals is key to finding insight into the situation that activated our emotional system, which will then help us make better decisions. There is a quote by Albert Camus that goes, “Life is the sum of all your choices.” Making the most of these everyday decisions is the difference in living a life filled with regrets or a life fulfilled. And tolerating our emotions is critical in these decision points. Thank you Peter Bregman for sharing your personal experiences.
My colleague and I had a great visit to Galveston and a very positive, affirming and learning experience at the National Safety Council’s Texas Conference and Expo, the theme of which was The Pursuit of Continuous Improvement: a Journey to Safety Excellence. Our presentation, “A Path To Sustainable Zero,” was well received and generated many comments and questions from the participants. One said, “It’s refreshing to hear about a program that gets to the heart of what safety is really about.” Another offered, “I wish more companies had the courage to take an honest look at and approach to safety.”
In addition to presenting, we also had the opportunity to listen and learn from the experiences of other safety professionals. One of the presentations I attended was on initiating a behavioral-based safety program. The presenter outlined the key steps in the process: form a committee, create observation checklists and train employees to be observers who know how to use the checklists. He emphasized that it was critical to take blame out of the observations so that trust can be built. He further commented that without trust the program would never be accepted and it could not produce results. And then the “ah-ha!” moment: in response to a question concerning implementation, the presenter said, “Before you can even begin the process, you (management) must make decisions on what you want and what roles you want employees to play.” There it is. The defining paradigm, or worldview, that is the foundation of most safety programs. It is one in which management operates from a core belief that employees are not interested, capable or trustworthy enough to make the “right decisions” pertaining to their safety and to the safety of their co-workers. And it is this core belief that causes organizations to lose the war on safety.
Daniel Pink states in his book Drive, “Organizations still operate from assumptions about human potential that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science.” This is why organizations continue to search for the holy grail of safety without realizing it is their core world view about human motivation and potential that is the impediment to building and sustaining a high-performing safety culture. They are constricted and bound by antiquated 20th century science on human motivation.
Edward Deci, Ph.D, a pioneer in the Self-Determination Theory, says, “Unfortunately, we observe many mangers and academics who doggedly cling to the now discredited tools of command-and-control methods; these methods ensure the death of employees’ motivation and pro-active engagement in work.” I doubt that there is a “Holy Grail of Safety,” but I’m convinced that the path to building and sustaining a high-performing safety culture is not found by following and applying folklore science and discredited tools of command and control management, which is why “A Path To Sustainable Zero” adheres to a view that nurtures the intrinsic importance of safety.
“A Path To Sustainable Zero” operates from the belief that employees want to be safe and that they care about the safety of each other, and if given the opportunity and trust to demonstrate these intrinsic values they will not disappoint themselves, their co-workers or their organization.
In a recent “what do we want” focus group, a handful of employees crafted the following statement:
“I want to work in an environment that regards my personal safety as a top priority so I can fully engage in my work. I want to feel respected and cared for and to experience satisfaction in the work I perform.”
It’s not managements’ role to force safety on their employees but rather to encourage and allow it to emerge from within them. This statement validates that employees deeply care about safety and that the role of management is to provide the resources, support and training safety leaders and supervisors need to foster and monitor the development of their employees’ intrinsic motivation to create and sustain a safe workplace.
It isn’t perfect and it does take time for employees to trust the transition to a totally new model and approach to safety. Remember that they’ve been trained in Skinner’s operant conditioning system, which believes animals must be trained with carrots and sticks in order to perform. However, if management stays on the new path with the conviction that employees are capable and invested in creating a safe workplace, it won’t be long before employees become fully engaged and everyone experiences the benefits and rewards of a high performing safety culture.
I have a theory about values, leadership, and workforce engagement that is related to a study I read on brain imagining and sacred values. The study, titled, “The Price of Your Soul: Neural evidence for the non-utilitarian representation of sacred values,”
was conducted by Gregory Burns, PhD, Director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University. Through the study Burns found that “sacred values prompt greater activation of an area of the brain associated with rules-based, right-or-wrong thought processes as opposed to the regions linked to processing of costs-versus-benefits."
The study gave participants an option to disavow any of their personal value statements for money. Disavowing a statement meant they could receive as much as $100 by simply agreeing to sign a document stating the opposite of what they said they believed. The disavowing was interpreted as the value statement not being sacred to the person. Statements that the participants refused to disavow were classified as being personally sacred.
Brain imaging indicated that scared and non-sacred values activated different areas of the brain. The scared values activated areas associated with right and wrong
and the non-sacred values activated areas related to pleasure and rewards. In addition, the researchers found that the amygdala region became activated when a person’s sacred values were challenged.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls our “911” stress alert reaction
s of fight, flee or freeze when it perceives a threat to our well-being. It is also associated with our emotions, particularly emotions connected to perceived negative experiences, which over time creates
a filing cabinet of negative memories. In our modern world people usually
don’t react physically by fighting or fleeing, they react emotionally. We fight by arguing or being stubborn; we flee by disengagingmentally and emotionally, which lessens commitment; and we freeze by shutting down our creativity. It is emotional reactions like these with which a leader must contend. Therefore, developing one’s emotional intelligence is critical to effectively counter and minimize these stress responses.
Organizations would be wise to establish emotional intelligence as a leadership prerequisite if they want to reap the benefit from higher levels of workforce engagement
I believe that workforce engagement issues are a result of leaders and organizations not operating from a foundation of sacred values
. The Institute for Global Ethics
did exhaustive surveying and research in an attempt to identify what core moral and ethical values were held in highest regard by people and communities throughout the world. No matter where they went, they found the same answers: honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness,
. In essence, these are core sacred values
Applying the brain imaging research from the sacred values study, it would seem that if any of these five core values were in essence disavowed by anyone – in this instance, a leader – it would activate the “right and wrong
” areas in the brains of his or her employees and at the same time activate their amygdale, putting each into either a fight, freeze or flee state of reaction. The result could be a strong feeling on part of an employee to not trust this person and to feel that they have been “wronged,” both of which will negatively impact engagement, commitment, performance, and most importantly, trust.
Values authenticity is the core issue. Leaders and organizations who – within their heart, head, and gut – are not authentically aligned and committed to these core sacred values will never be able to fully capture the hearts and minds of their workforce nor their stakeholders.
The Gallup Organization, which has made a science of employee engagement, reported that in the third quarter of 2011, “Seventy-one percent of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive.”
This means that 71% of the country’s workforce is emotionally reacting by fighting, fleeing or freezing.
Why? Because they believe that their sacred values are absent or being disavowed. A leader cannot drive workforce engagement if he or she does not authentically hold these five core values as sacred.
When I’ve had the opportunity to talk, or should I say listen, to employees, these five values are at the core of their concerns and issues, and are the crux of their disengagement:
- “I can’t trust what my boss tells me.” (Honesty)
- “They don’t care about how these changes are going to impact my family.” (Compassion)
- “They said they would take care of this issue months ago, but as you can see nothing has changed.” (Responsibility)
- “Our benefits have been slashed. They even took away our break time, but the executives are still driving a company car.” (Fairness)
- “What really galls me is that they didn’t even tell us about these changes face to face. We got it in an email.” (Respect)
When a leader, or any person for that matter, applies a cost versus benefit assessment to a situation, without regard and consideration of these sacred values, they will run the risk of their decision meeting stiff resistance. The consequences of taking these risks are varied, but one thing for sure is that the integrity of that relationship will be damaged and regaining that level of integrity again will be extremely difficult.
These same sacred values are at the heart of the issues that are polarizing and creating conflict in this country and around the world and thwarting people from finding solutions to their most pressing problems:
- Income inequality (Fairness, Compassion)
- Foreclosures (Responsibility, Fairness)
- Government (Honesty, Responsibility, Fairness)
- Politics (Respect)
- Healthcare and Social Policy (Compassion, Responsibility)
In some situations a leaders’ inauthentic behavior is unintended due to a lack of sensitivity and awareness, but in many cases leaders willfully choose to disavow sacred values because they value the reward more (bonuses). These value lapses – intended or unintended – have led to the rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and to the overthrow of regimes in the Middle East. People need and must feel that their leaders hold these five scared values authentically, not superficially, or else they will disengage and react by fighting, fleeing or freezing. And as tensions increase due the real and perceived disavowal of these sacred values, the potential for humans to react physically as well as emotionally also rises, as we’ve seen throughout the Middle East.
Leaders from all sectors of our society must develop a deeper understanding and sensitivity of how these core sacred values dynamically hold relationships, teams, organizations, and countries together, all be it sometimes in a chaotic way. When organizational and political leaders focus on and subscribe to the perspective of cost versus benefit, there undoubtedly will be tension and that tension will give rise to conflict and disengagement.
In his book Moral Courage
, Rushworth Kidder states, “Successful organizations must require moral courage in their leaders and then work assiduously that it is rarely needed.” I agree, but more importantly leaders must take on the hard work – the work of authentically committing to these sacred core values and then modeling moral courage when they are challenged. To create a highly engaged workforce leaders and organizations would be better served to first look in-ward and to evaluate the depth of their commitment to these core sacred values. Authenticity and Moral Courage are two of the Seven Hallmarks of Relationship–Centered Leadership. If you have an interest in building workforce engagement and becoming a high-performing leader, we invite you to explore the Relationship–Centered Leadership program. For more information on this program download a description from the Free Downloads tab