While our corporate Learning and Development Teams are actively working hard to infuse purpose, engagement and meaning into our daily work lives they are fighting an incredibly hard battle. The modern work world is a “broken and antiquated system,” according to Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business: Men Women Work Family. “For many Americans, life has become all competition all the time,” Slaughter wrote in a September New York Times opinion piece, “A Toxic Work World.” “Workers across the socioeconomic spectrum … have stories about toiling 12- to 16-hour days (often without overtime pay) and experiencing anxiety attacks and exhaustion. Hours spent at work that fill us with anxiety rather than fulfillment chip away at confidence, optimism gratitude and courage. When these elements drain away our attention and productivity and competence follow.
In addition to the always-on pace, office politics creates additional friction. A study of 400 U.S. workers from staffing firm Robert Half International says that nearly 60 percent of workers believe that involvement in office politics is somewhat necessary to get ahead. "There is at least ‘some degree of politics at play’ in every organization", Robert Half International’s Chairman and CEO Max Messmer reports.
Without clarity around a collective purpose, every meeting, project, discussion along the way feels reckless and pointless. And as our engagement at work degenerates, our overall motivation begins to dip. Humans are hardwired for connection, however when there is a lack of trust, our focus degenerates toward fear, and we defend our turf and become polarized around things that could otherwise be easily resolved. Stress is cumulative and spills over into our personal lives. When we bring stress home it essentially multiplies with negatively charged conversations that unintentionally impact our most important relationships.
Manifesto for a better way
While the statistics for corporate dysfunction are staggering, I would like to suggest that an Interpersonal Revolution is at hand and we can change how we think, act and treat each other at work and at home with simple steps. If we do in fact make an effort to change a few small things, we’re more likely to see better innovation, increased productivity, creativity, joy and purpose flow freely out of corporate America. So what’s this simple recipe?
The answer has recently been uncovered by a group of neuroscientists. Our amygdala has some amazing functions including, emotion, survival, and memory. When this tiny part of our brain receives 'belonging' signals that make a person feel connected, safe, cared for and optimistic about their future, they play at a higher level. Let's call it flow. This level of flow and belonging occurs most often when the leaders of an organization have spent the time to create a highly personalized environment that involves human connection. The positive outcome of human connection is that each individual on the team has a greater willingness to stay and endure the challenge in front of them and ultimately give themselves fully to building a future. All of this occurs because our amygdala is satisfied that there's no reason to fight or run. Instead, we work together, powerfully
The point here is that Corporate America can’t change until its leadership does. And this journey begins with getting clear about what gets us out of bed in the morning.
Clarity is the child of careful thought and mindful experimentation.
- Brendon Burchard
When we set out to become a leader the way isn’t paved or certain. This often bumpy road is what develops and cultivates character and the resilience necessary to keep going and transform into the person who can handle the task, build a culture and inspire others to achieve the goal. High Performance coach, Brendon Burchard, who has spent over a decade observing High Performers and their habits will attest to that while excellent leaders do many things right, falling down in the midst of success happens when they lose sight of their purpose. This could be because of distraction in the market, a competitor or some other existential crisis that has them and their leadership team pinned down. When the C-Suite loses their purpose, their company culture falters and sometimes fails. Alternately, the essential habit of seeking clarity is the thing that keeps leaders engaged, growing and fulfilled over the long haul. The fundamental questions that get executives to clarity include: Who am I? (What do I value, what are my strengths and weaknesses) What are my goals? What are my dreams? These are essential questions for clarifying their vision and determining if there is congruence between their personal vision and the one they’ve bought and sold for their organization. Unfortunately the majority of leaders haven’t articulated any of these questions in writing. Clarity begins with written language that defines our values and answers the questions in living color much like architectural plans instruct the specifics of a beautiful home or building. Often times, getting clarity on what we really want brings unexpected joy because getting clear reveals the answers that have been hidden and are now liberated with language. Common sense right? Try it and see. Joy is just around the corner.