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.
Flying Against the Winds of Science – Culture versus StrategyWhy Southwest's Culture eats USAIRWAY's Strategy
I’ve been doing considerable research and development of programs for workforce motivation, engagement and the role of incentives and rewards in building a culture of performance. What I have discovered is that incentives and rewards are primitive tools of the 20th century carrot and stick approach to motivating employees performance, and at best they only affect short-term results and come with great risk.
With this in mind I was fascinated to find two articles about separate companies exemplifying and employing the best and worst forms of employee motivation. The first company is one operating in the 21st century but still mired in 20th century beliefs about motivation and utilizing 20th century tools to accomplish its mission. The second has a record of consistent excellence in operating performance and employee and customer satisfaction for more than 20 years, with a focus on building and sustaining a high performing culture by utilizing a proven model of motivation that taps into the intrinsic desires of employees and customers.
My interest was piqued not just because of the content of the articles; I was also interested because I am a customer of both organizations and have a personal understanding of how their approaches to workforce motivation impact my experience. And I can attest that there is a significant difference.
The two companies are USAir Ways (USAir) and Southwest Airlines. I am a frequent customer of USAir – in fact, I just achieved Platinum status in their air miles program – and am an occasional user of Southwest. This is only because USAir provides better routes to my most frequent destinations. Therefore I use them out of convenience, not preference.
On one particular trip I wanted to make an intermediate stop before heading to my final destination. I chose Southwest on this occasion because it had a better schedule at similar rates. The hotel I was staying at provided me a complementary copy of USA Today
, which I decided would make good reading on the plane. As I was scanning the headlines, one in particular caught my eye: “US Airways makes progress
.” It chronicled how the company found itself ranked low on many indicators of passenger satisfaction, such as baggage handling, and how it recently achieved top ratings compared to other “legacy carriers,” which Southwest is not. The article stated that the company had to dramatically boost performance and one key initiative it instituted to aid in this was an incentive program called Triple Play Bucks
, which pays employees when the company achieves top billing in a number of categories. It went on to say that employees have received $350.00 each this year for a total of 13.1 million dollars distributed to employees.
The second article, “Gary’s Greeting,” by Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly, which appeared in the airline’s Spirit
magazine, discussed the importance of corporate culture and how the company has worked diligently to keep it vibrant for more than 20 years. Kelly stated, “Your business plan is what you are, but culture is who you are,” and the article noted the significance of Southwest’s Culture Committee
, which consists of employees from each major work location meeting quarterly to share ideas on how to keep their culture vibrant, meaningful and strong. The article highlighted the three qualities that define their culture: “A Warrior Spirit,” “A Servant’s Heart” and “A FunLUVing Attitude.”
A statement from Southwest’s investor relations web page notes, “Southwest is one of the most honored airlines in the world known for its commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People and Planet.” One could be skeptical and say this is a heap of self-promotion. However, Southwest was honored by receiving an Employees’ Choice Award
as one of the top 50 best places to work in 2012 – an award 150,000 companies competed for, all rated and ranked by their employees. Southwest came in 17th and the competition included companies such Google, Facebook, Nike, and Starbucks. No other airline was ranked in the top 50. Both airlines have accomplished a lot, however it appears USAir is still trapped in 20th century thinking and strategy about motivation. I am making this assertion because of the use of the Triple Pay Bucks
, which is a purely extrinsic, carrot and stick tool to buy performance. This ploy is fraught with risks and is difficult to sustain. When will employees begin to complain that $350.00 isn’t enough to behave in a manner that endears customers? Will USAir be willing to up the ante if necessary? What if oil spikes because of a world crisis and the company feels the need to cut costs? These are a few of the pitfalls for pay-for-performance schemes. I have had firsthand experience working with a company that compensated employees to serve on a committee to provide an important internal service in the organization, and when the organization made a decision to reduce compensation they lost members and now cannot recruit new ones. There is another factor to consider that is identified in numerous employee engagement surveys: employees who work hard eventually come to resent co-workers and the company as a whole when slackers receive the same rewards. What is most troublesome about USAir’s strategy is that since the 1970s this type of extrinsic motivation program has been proven to be a failure. One of the pioneers in researching human and organizational motivation is Edward Deci, Ph.D Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester. In this quote from his book Why We Do What We Do
, he succinctly articulates the core issue: “When people say that money motivates, what they really mean is that money controls. And when it does, people become alienated – they give up some of their authenticity –and they push themselves to do what they think they must do. One take on the meaning of alienation is that it begins as people lose touch with their intrinsic motivation, with the vitality and excitement that all children have.” Daniel Pink, in his book Drive,
states, “The problem is that most businesses haven’t caught up to this understanding of what motivates us. Too many organizations – not just companies, but governments and non-profits as well – still operate from assumptions about human potential and individual performance that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than science. They continue to pursue practices such as short-term incentive plans and pay-for-performance schemes in the face of mounting evidence that such measure usually don’t work and often do harm.”
As many companies do, USAir took the easy way to achieve a strategy, possibly not realizing or caring about building a positive, high-performing company culture for the long term. A familiar quote goes, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” to which I can’t help but add, “There are no free lunches.” The opportunity to build a service culture may have been lost for USAir; surely they’ve lost the opportunity to ignite the intrinsic motivation waiting to be released in their employees.
It is also important to note that for some employees, programs like Triple Pay Bucks
can be perceived as an insult, because it insinuates a lack of respect, concern and personal pride that they take in their job – something that management assumes they can stimulate with the metaphorical dangling carrot.
Alternately, I must share one example of how I experienced Southwest’s spirited, heartened and fun-loving culture. On a 45-minute flight (air time), Southwest’s flight attendants started to take drink orders as the flight was taxiing. Once the plane reached a safe altitude they put a drink and a bag of peanuts in every passenger’s hand and did so with a smile. On a recent USAir flight of the same duration, as well as same route, a flight attendant announced after takeoff that there would be no beverage service because of the short duration. That is the absence of any kind of spirit and no amount of Triple Pay Bucks
will instill it.
I will continue to fly USAir because it is convenient. I don’t have high expectations; therefore I only occasionally get upset at the absence of service and caring. I look forward to opportunities when I can fly Southwest and experience what it is like to be a customer taken care of by genuinely happy, motivated employees.
The Renewal Group has developed programs to assist companies in developing high-performance cultures by awakening, inspiring and empowering intrinsic motivation and human potential. Our Partners in Safety Program
demonstrates how companies by utilizing intrinsic motivation concepts and tools can build high-performing safety cultures within their organizations and The Edge Program
provides leaders and managers with the concepts and tools to unleash intrinsic motivation in their employees and our Relationship - Centered Leadership
program assists leaders in developing the Seven Hallmarks of Leadership that build their power to inspire and influence employee engagement.Postscript: On a later flight on USAir I met a flight attendant who makes a difference not because of triple bucks, but because he is intrinsically motivated. I'll share this story on a blog soon to be posted
Partners in Safety
Ever since the industrial revolution there has been a consistent history of workplace accidents and injuries. Recently there have been tragic and catastrophic accidents within the mining and oil industries, which have cost billions and the loss of many lives. Although there have been significant improvements in workplace safety brought about by regulation, the technology, improved processes and organizational commitment needed to improve worker safety, accidents and injuries remains a significant problem and business risk.
Still, no amount of regulations, oversight, education and organizational commitment will eliminate workplace accidents and injuries. To believe so is misguided.
As long as a human being is directly or indirectly involved in a work process, there will be accidents and injuries. However, this does not have to be an unpredictable, mysterious or acceptable reality of doing business. Beliefs about human motivation – and the workplace models and approaches that have been used since Henry Ford produced the first model T – do not address the human factor, nor do they improve how people perform. The reasons are clear and are backed by extensive research. Theory X and the “carrots and sticks” and reward and punishment approaches may produce short-term improvements, but in the long term they stifle motivation and engagement and contribute to people making unwise decisions.
The question must be asked, “Why, when the personal and organizational stakes are so high, do we choose to rely on motivational approaches and systems that produce minimum levels of compliance and contribute to worker disinterest and defiance?
The Partners In Safety Program
is a solution. It is based on models of change and motivation that have been validated by years of research and demonstrated effectiveness in creating and sustaining organizational cultures that motivate and engage employees in achieving and exceeding organizational goals; safety being priority one. Down load the entire overview under our Free Downloads
I recently reviewed a case study of a project of which I was a member of the development and delivery team. The project was designed for the US Navy Chaplain Corps at a time when they where in the midst of transformation, it was titled, Accelerating Change With Emotional Intelligence
. What I didn't realize was that this project would have as much an affect on me as it did on our participants.
In 1969 I graduated from college and within a few days received notification that I was required to report for my induction physical. The Vietnam War was still raging and every night the news was filled with body counts from both sides; it was a frightening and tumultuous time both for our country and for me.
I was recently married and fortunate enough to have been accepted into grad school that Fall, but our country needed more and more bodies to fight the war and deferments had run out for me.
Reporting for my physical, I boarded a bus in my hometown with about 30 other guys; a few were acquaintances from high school. We traveled a few hours to the induction site. The bus was very quiet; not much talk at all. Everyone was somber and seemed to be contemplating their future. Where will I be a month from now?
we all wondered. We were commanded to get of the bus and line up. There had to be more than 300 boys, all there for the same reason. Guys in uniform were yelling and pushing us from one station to another. Much of the examination took place in large rooms. It was my first taste of military life.
Under my arm I carried a large brown manila envelope that contained x-rays from three knee surgeries I had during my senior year of high school and first year of college, a result of playing football. Except for my knees I was in perfect health. Although my knees eventually forced me to quit playing football in college, I was still able to run and be athletic. I thought surgeries might disqualify me, but in 1969 the rumors were that only being disabled would keep you from passing.
As I was standing in line I was approached by an aggressive man in uniform who yelled, “What’s in that envelope, boy!” Before I could answer he grabbed it out of my hand and left without a word. I wanted to protest, but it was obvious this was not the time or place to protest or put up a fuss; it could only lead to something I wasn’t ready to handle. My orders were simple and didn’t need to be verbalized: keep my mouth shut, follow the person in front of me and stay on the yellow line. Stop whenever I’m told and do whatever I’m commanded to do.
At some point later in the day I was pulled out of line and told to report to an office at the far end of the room. I knocked on the door and a voice commanded me to come in. The person behind the desk said, “Sit down.” He asked me to identify myself and then told me to drop my pants! As I was unbuckling I noticed he had my x-rays on the desk. He then asked me to stand up on a stool, and as I did he looked at the surgical scars on both my knees. “Get down and pull your pants up. You’re through.” He put the x-rays back in the envelope and told me I was unfit for duty and to report to my station and wait for my bus to leave.
I sat very still for about another hour before the contingent from my hometown finished the process. We boarded and headed home. About 30 minutes later it started to sink in. I wasn’t going to be drafted and in a few months I’d be attending classes instead of learning to survive in the jungle. I wanted to laugh and stand up and yell with relief, but didn’t because surely no one else on that bus was feeling as joyful. In fact, that ride home was one of the most difficult ninety minutes I have ever experienced in my life. It was obvious that I was the only person on that bus who knew what his fate would be. Everyone else was once again in deep contemplation. There were occasional laughs and remarks – “Can you believe what just happened?” “I’ve never been through anything like that in my life.” “Did you see that guy crying in the corner?” As soon as these words would leave someone’s lips, most knew more days like this waited ahead.
The war came to an end a few years later. I graduated from grad school and took my first job; I was on my career path. Over the years I noticed that I would experience a sense of guilt and remorse about not being part of the war. I felt like I didn’t do my duty. I had escaped; I chickened out. I had hid while others took my place.
In the mid-80s I moved to the Washington DC area and after work one evening I decided to visit the Vietnam War Memorial. I had heard so much about it – how it was a healing place for many. But for me it only deepened my sense of guilt about not having fulfilled my duty. I never let anyone in on these feelings and thoughts. They didn’t haunt me over the years, but they would certainly visit. And although I knew it hadn’t been my decision not to serve, that didn’t stop the guilt from returning.
In 2003 I had the good fortune to work with 6 Seconds on a project for the US Navy and Marine Chaplains Corp. It was to develop a program to equip chaplains with the tools to be effective change agents. They are key influencers and resources to captains, commanders and the men and women who look to them for solace, guidance and forgiveness at sea and in battle.
For over a year I worked with chaplains from Norfolk, VA to Okinawa, Japan. At first I didn’t realize why this program took on such significance for me until we presented the pilot program in Newport, RI. In the opening introductions I realized I now had my chance to redeem myself, to serve my country and to heal my wound.
I would like to take this time to personally thank 6 Seconds and our team, and most of all the near-900 chaplains around the globe who invited me in and allowed me to share my story with them. We helped each other in ways that were much deeper and more important than how to become an effective agent for change and transformation. Every day they heal psychological and spiritual wounds and I’m very thankful to be one of the many they have touched.
I invite you to read the case study of this project. It’s an excellent description and demonstration of how emotional intelligence can be applied to help organizations and change agents effectively implement and steward change and organizational transformation. Resources:Military chaplain: Marines in Iraq look to pastor for answers to tough questions, Christian Science Monitor ArticleMinistering to Soldiers, and Facing Their Struggles
, NYTimes ArticleEQ: Case Study, 6Seconds