No less than doctors and healthcare are practicing medicine than corporations are also practicing Business. We’ve all heard medical practice before but, have you heard of business practice? While, we’ve not found perfection in either it’s no one’s fault per se, however, we must keep searching for optimization; the perfect blend of a human-centered design and a profitable approach.
Organizations typically use protocols or best practices (of the time) as their guiding script for action. Doing so allows the individual and the collective workforce to understand expectations and while in the beginning it’s necessary to exert additional energy, ultimately we learn the “new way”, which quickly dissipates to unconscious actions with require very little energy compared to when in learning mode. In other words, now we can begin “coasting”.
However, what are the costs of coasting as a person? What are the costs of coasting as a company? Leaders, we must sincerely and bravely dare to ask, “Is our organization coasting with the unconscious goal of stasis or evolving with the times? Oh, we say there’s a mission and core values but, how are each honored in the behaviors of employees and leaders of the organization? Have we constantly challenged our employees and leaders with growth opportunities personal and professional, practically instituting a growth mindset? Or have we kept hacking at the tree the proverbial tree and neglected to sharpen the ax?
How many of us just want to coast or relax? Why strive? Why yearn for something better? Accept what is, right? It’s so much easier, isn’t it? Isn’t striving for stasis a part of the human condition?
What is the natural result of continuous demands on employees and leaders to produce without opportunity to recharge the batteries with reflection, learning and growth opportunities? To keep this metaphor going a bit longer, what percentage of time do you think we should allocate to chopping the tree vs. sharpening the axe? Is 90/10 enough? 80/20? 70/30? The exact percentage depends on several factors beyond the interest of this writing, yet it demonstrates the point, the axe still needs sharpened, at least as far as we want to make our jobs easier.
We can obviously see the benefits of a sharpened axe. So, it’s not a stretch to see clearly the connection to engaging employees and leaders in learning opportunities.
So, what stands between agreeing with the concept in theory and applying it practically? Us! Yep, us. We are the ones who can become complacent and even more so if the culture of our daily work environment is too stagnate with repetition. Again, another tough question, how do we shake off the conditioning toward stasis or rather what is known as the comfort zone effect?
We already know that in order to spark organizations to lean forward in all its actions, relates to aligning people to purpose through collectively established and honored value. In doing so, we’ve created an environment where all within the organization are supported in realizing their individual capabilities, ultimately yielding the highest service of the organization’s stakeholders. Kind of sounds like all the fish are swimming in the same direction, doesn’t it? (Yes, I just snuck in another metaphor on you)
The practice of operating unconsciously (from our habits) is both a blessing and a curse. The obvious blessing is that we save tremendous amounts of energy by having habituated our daily tasks. We don’t require near the focus and concentration we did when we were first learning the role.
The real threat here is one that exists in every person and consequently every organization. What happens when stasis or unconscious, habitual action is our end game? This tendency drives one toward comfort and protection of that comfort both of which, are a death sentence to growth. When stagnation and mediocrity become the status quo and everything new and outside of current practices are seen as a threat to the status quo, what kind of culture does this describe?
A dying one?
One cannot thrive when the goals are to continue to do the same things over and over. (We know this!) We as people are simply not wired for repetition, but require novelty to increase and maintain energy in our lives and spirits. The sooner organizations become more employee-centric, appealing to the innate desire to grow, the sooner they will realize exponential growth.
Igniting the Spark of Cultural growth:
CREATE A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Employees automatically become more invested in an employer when the employer becomes more personally invested in them. Taking the time to understand an employee’s personal goals and values is an outstanding way to ensure (as an employer) we are providing the rewards and workforce culture that’s truly important to our talent and aligns with core values of the company.
Maintain the Connections
By practicing the actions that will help you to get to know your employees individually and collectively, we create the energetic bonds that lead to greater tolerance for complexity and adaptability; two central factors for business success today.
AVOID PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE
The simple matter at hand is that most of our organizations are more profit focused than human-centered. (I’m not blaming or wagging fingers here) I get it. Businesses are in it for a profit. Yet, how profitable is it to constantly turn over your best and brightest talent because they want to grow?
SERVE THE TALENT TO ACHIEVE THE PURPOSE
Millennial talent are said to desire most from their work experience having access to the latest technology and being surrounded by bright minds, who are purpose driven. Ask any Fortune level CEO today and he or she will tell you that talent attraction, engagement and retention is the number one strategic people challenge they face.
CREATE THE CHANGE OR BE EFFECTED BY IT
To do something different, something would have to change. (You read that right) So, the question becomes, would you rather the change be designed by you or forced upon you. These are really the only two options; evolve and change with the times or do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Listen, I get it. Change is hard and while you initially may want to respond with “no thanks”, and keep thinking I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. It’s good enough. I invite you to think about it this way (and isn’t it all mindset?). Think about when you first learned to drive a car or use a computer. You had to change how you thought and operated to be good at either and now you’re likely quite accomplished in both! This simple example demonstrates at first you didn’t know what you needed to know and with it came a little anxiety. However, over time the understanding came (and for many it came quickly), and with it new habits and ways of thinking.
Looking back (for some of you several years J) you can see the effort made in the past was exactly what made “the doing” of driving a car or learning to use a computer so easy today.
What you may have also noticed is that when we get on the other side of a change we often think, why didn’t I do this sooner? Obviously, something keeps us from stepping out of our comfort zones.
Taking the Temperature
It’s time to take our pulse or lick our thumb and stick it in the wind and see which way it’s blowing and ask are we stagnating or growing? Is it our systems that have stagnated? Is it our processes that haven’t kept with the times or is it that, we haven’t engaged our people (staff and leaders) in a growth mindset? Evaluating issues to be systemic, procedural or people-based is a great beginning for breaking down the elephant, that is the organization into bite sized chunks. (Was that a third metaphor? This guy’s on fire!)
FORM the TEAM OF “DESIGNERS”
Assembling multidisciplinary and multi-hierarchical teams to address each phase (Systems, Processes and People) will create the inclusiveness demonstrative of walking the talk for skeptical employees reticent to buy into the change that leadership is selling. What this does is allow the exposure of professionals of all levels and roles to collaboratively create a purpose driven process, serving something bigger than them and modeling the future of the entire organization, while taking into account the perspectives of those actually doing the work to achieve the organizational purpose.
Don’t look now, but, I thing we just took a huge step into creating a coherent, conscious and growing organizational culture!
A consciously designed organization will yield a culture that supports growth and aligns talent to pursue the highest good for all stakeholders, reflecting its overall purpose.
When we face another hurdle whether it is a new job, better results for your team or starting a new business we can remember “what once was difficult, I now take for granted how easily I can do these things. My next challenge will be the same; a little extra effort and a lifetime of new skills and positive habits will follow. Besides, to date, you’ve already proven you can overcome any challenge you’ve faced. Right?!”
So, now, you’ve been given the steps to start. You are invited to light that spark of creating a growth culture. Engage employees and leaders to know each other on a deeper level, beyond their assigned roles. Create opportunities to learn from one another and collaborate to leverage collective experience to ensure alignment of a human-centered and profit conscious approach.
It’s time to address the comfort zones we’ve unconsciously created and allow them to dissolve under the light of conscious action aligning systems, processes and people to organizational purpose.
As the great poet and singer Jim Morrison once said, “Come on baby light my fire”!
By Ryan McShane
Ryan owns and operates HR Evolution, a Consultancy dedicated to Leadership and Career Growth Solutions. Services prepare and equip leaders to empower employees and build a winning culture. While career services brand and communicate the strengths of clients to obtain their dream job! www.HRevolutionllc.com