- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 1 Review [Part 1]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 1 Review [Part 2]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 1 Review [Part 3]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 2 Review [Part 1]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 2 Review [Part 2]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 3 Review [Part 1]
- Conscious Capitalism 2015: Day 3 Review [Part 2]
Reimagining the Possible: What It Takes to Be Wholly Human
Tony started out making an astute observation about top athletes and those fighting debilitating sickness. Both the sick patient and top athletes seek to have their bodies perform better. Both are faced with stressors they need to overcome. From this, he made three important points:
- Too much stress without sufficient recovery is not healthy.
- Too much recovery without sufficient stress is not healthy.
- We have to live in a “wave” (i.e., cyclic balance) between the two.
In other words, stress in and of itself is not bad. It is through stress that we grow both physically (think barbells) and mentally and emotionally. However, it needs to be had with a healthy balance of periodic rest and recovery. Having only stress (or recovery, for that matter) in one’s life will cause a breakdown.
Now each of us is faced with only a certain number of hours in each day. For many, this realization is a root cause of much of their stress. However, the secret is it’s not just the number of hours we invest that determines the value we create, but also the energy we bring to those hours.
For nearly 200 years, the mantra in business has been: More, Bigger, Faster. This worked fine as long as the demand did not outstrip the supply in terms of our being able to deliver on such an aggressive ideal. However, those days have long been left to history, and we are literally killing ourselves trying to keep up the pace.
Research has shown that great performers are only able to focus about 4.5 hours a day. Additionally, they get on average 8.5 hours of sleep each night. They never work more than 90 minutes without a break. This forms the baseline. Most of us are no where near the baseline.
To be our best selves, we need to invest daily in being healthy, happier and focused.
Now, if we haven’t been doing these things, there’s still hope. As adults, we have the ability to choose to continue to develop has human beings. Human development should not be left only in the arena of the young.
In addition to physical well-being, we should continue to develop in the areas of ethics and morals. Tony shared the following list of paired virtues, each representing a desirable attribute, though many in the business world would tend to gravitate to the “left-side” attribute.
These paired values are also known as “positive opposites.” In other words, while they represent (in some ways) opposing approaches, both values are good and positive. This is much different from the “negative opposites” that also exist. For example, the positive opposite of honesty is empathy, while its negative opposite is dishonesty.
Most of us tend to be much stronger in one of the values of each pair. In fact, many of our individual strengths should appear in the list. What we need to do is recognize this, and cultivate the paired values, the positive opposites, of our strengths. What we are seeking for is an eventual balance between the two.
Now this is all good. But, what happens when things go wrong, as they most certainly will? Tony suggested we ask ourselves these two questions:
- What else may be true here?
- What else am I missing?
Just like with the paired values, we are seeking for a balance of understanding—a holistic view that includes what others are thinking and (more importantly) feeling. He called this the Reverse Lens.
Reverse Lens: How does this person’s behavior make sense given what he/she is feeling?
If there is anything that gets overused in today’s business, it’s the reliance on presumed logic. Why? Because, in most cases that logic only has a single-sided view of what is happening. The best leader in the room is the one who can best control this, who can most effortlessly move back and forth between the paired values most graciously.
Just as the list of paired values represents positive opposites, there are many other paired positive opposites in the world. Another important pair is “caring” and “self-care”. As discussed above, a balance is needed. In fact, balance is a key ideal, and it’s desperately needed
The feeling of suffering is the biggest elephant in every room in every business around the world.
~ Tony Schwartz
You see, the more we can see and accept ourselves, as we are, the more we are able to care for others. Consider the following two statements:
- ”Yes, I am that, but not only that.”
- ”I accept myself exactly as I am, and I never stop trying to grow and change.”
By caring for ourselves, we become better able to care for others. We move from a belief in the survival of the fittest to a realization that we all rise and fall together. We’re an interconnected system.
Then, we will strive to add more value, to do less harm.
We are social animals, animals that react strongly to the environment into which we are placed. Our success as a species is often put down to our incredible brain power. However, one can argue if fact it is our ability to work together that has allowed us to thrive.
However, the environment needs to be correct in order for us to be able to work effectively together. Often we hear the words trust and cooperation bantered around as if they were directives received from on high. Yet, in reality, they are feelings, feelings that can only develop within an environment perceived as safe.
In “unsafe” environments, the exact opposite occurs, regardless of direction or edict, and cynicism and fear reign.
A positive example of a safe environment is Southwest Airlines. It’s not that Southwest Airlines has a near-magical ability to hire great people who love and care for the customer in a second-natured sort of way. No, it’s that Southwest Airlines creates a zone of safety for their employees. As bad as this sounds, the employees feel safe from their leaders, or, in other words, they know the leaders will protect them.
In business, there are so many external forces at work trying to destroy an organization that constantly threaten this zone of safety. As leaders, we rarely have any real control over these threats. However, we do have control over what happens internal to the company and the environment that is created. It is our responsibility to build and protect that zone of safety.
Simon then wrote four chemicals on his flip chart (yeah, no PowerPoint here) that our bodies use to reward us for different types of good behavior. They were:
|Chemical||What it does …|
|Endorphins||Mask physical pain|
|Dopamine||That sense of accomplishment—what you feel when you find something you are looking for or finish something you are doing (checking it off the list)|
|Serotonin||The leadership chemical—comes from public recognition (and other behaviors), and makes a person want to work for the group|
|Oxytocin||The feeling of love and friendship—enjoying the company of others|
At this point, we also need to bring in the concept of a strong purpose. This isn’t the same thing as vision, though vision relies on it heavily. Vision is knowing what the finish line looks like without knowing exactly where the finish line is. Without a destination/purpose we tend to fall back to the only thing we then have: metrics.
Metrics themselves, really aren’t a problem. In fact, they can provide a Dopamine “hit” as we move towards our goals—a good thing. However, when we create an environment that only relies on metrics, a performance-only-based environment, what we are actually doing is creating a Dopamine addiction-forming environment. Just like any addiction, over time it will become very destructive, as the “users” will start to do anything to get their next “hit”.
So, our organizations cannot be solely based on goals. There needs to be that higher vision, that loftier purpose in place. Again, this turns us back to the leaders.
Now in almost every social animal society there is the concept of the “alpha.” And, we are actually quite comfortable with living within such societies. It’s the reason why we are not opposed to our leaders having higher pay or other perks. In fact, we are quite willing to serve our alphas needs, and we are constantly evaluating each other to understand who are the alphas among us.
But, it’s not about one group of people being “better” than another group. Granted, we recognize the alphas as being “better” in many ways, but it’s not a master-slave relationship. There’s a second part of the unspoken social contract that is in place.
Unfortunately, many leaders forget this second part.
The second part of the compact states that in times of trouble or war, it is the alphas who are to lead the attack. They are the first ones into battle and the last ones to retreat. In other words, they must be willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the group, and it is for these purposes the group has bestowed the special perks.
If people believe you would sacrifice everything, even your life, fighting for them, they will follow you with their blood, sweat and tears. However, if they believe you would sacrifice them for your own gain, the compact is broken, and they will turn to fear, cynicism and outright fighting with the supposed leader.
In other words, leadership is a responsibility, not a role, whose price is one’s own self-interest.
So, how can we become better leaders? What do we need to do to create the right safe environment for our teams and coworkers?
First of all is the coming to understand that when we were in a junior position, we were responsible for a job or a job function. Now, as a leader, we are responsible for the people who are responsible for those jobs and job functions.
We need to come know our people, really know them. There can’t be pretense or insincerity in this. That is spotted a million miles away. And, the reason you need to know them is because you care… care about them as individuals, not about what this exercise is going to do for the bottom line.
Along with this is appropriate physical contact. As humans we need and want physical contact. The most common, appropriate contact is the handshake. Consider, which of the following would you feel most comfortable with:
- A deal with a handshake and no contract, or …
- A deal with a contract but a refused handshake
We find security in that contact.
Now again, it must be appropriate. I’m not advocating anything that would even come close to inappropriate touching or the like. I shouldn’t have to say it, but I do.
Additionally, truly listening is another important key. Never ask how someone is doing unless you are ready and willing to listen, truly listen, to the response. True leaders listen and are present for those around them.
Roam the halls with no other motive than to simply find out who people truly are and how they are really doing, and not just doing at work but doing in their lives.
These things builds trust, but it can’t be a one-and-done deal. Consistency is key, as this trust will need to build over time. Consistency is far more important than intensity. In fact, erratic and/or inconsistent application of these things (i.e., appearing to care) will almost certainly have the opposite affect, causing the recipient to first doubt the veracity of the gesture and the doubt the motives underlying it.
When the crisis comes, and it will come, the time for trust building is over. We see so many movies with hero-leaders who swoop in at the strategic moment to save the day. In reality, these are not great leaders. Movies aren’t made about great leaders because there isn’t the tension and drama in their environments of safety. Trust gets built over time, and then is relied on when the dragons raise their billowing heads.
We want to build environments where goodness is done and witnessed (along with the releasing of the associated Oxytocin). In fact, all the chemicals are needed in appropriate amounts. This balance can only occur in safe environments.
When workers work in such environments, where they have a greater purpose, they go home with a feeling of being fulfilled by their work. This then translates to happier home lives—another virtuous cycle. You see, it’s not the working late that necessarily hurts children, it’s the coming home unhappy.
[Note: I’m not advocating long hours at the office either using the previous statement as a crutch. Spend time with your family—nothing is more important to your children than your time. But, you need to be happy.]
As a final thought: Be the leader you would like to have.
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