For the last three summers I have been very lucky to work with a company based in Austin, Texas for an entire month. In 2016 I was thrilled to support this organization with the creation of a learning & development program for the leaders and the support staff at their home office. In Summer 2017 we updated the program and were able to measure the effectiveness of the training and other initiatives on employee engagement [elevated from 61% to 87%], productivity [increased by 11%], retention [improved by 18%], and revenue [increased by 8%].
This summer the project was expanded to the supply chain leadership team and supervisors which I am in the process of designing and writing for now. Before I begin creating any new program I spend time with a variety of employees: permanent, seasonal, full-time, part-time, highly-productive, high-potential, average , and poor performing people. I need to understand where they are today in order to get them to where the organization [as well as the people within it] wants to be through Q4, into 2019, and beyond. The dialogs and survey results I compile are usually equal parts encouraging and disappointing. It still amazes me to learn about how powerless people believe themselves to be in their career path and how disenfranchised they feel while they perform the basic functions of their roles. In addition to learning about their wants and needs for a development program there is always some fascinating dialog around what the people can do today to support their growth, development, and happiness at work.
There have been some pretty consistent topics that we have been discussing and many of them revolve around self-development and managing realistic expectations about their performance and the work environment. As human beings, we have between an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s – at least – 50,000 chances to build yourself up or sabotage yourself.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is rarely the situation, but the thoughts about it, Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking”
TRAIN YOURSELF TO FIND THE POSITIVE IN SITUATIONS
Don’t Ruminate. Problem Solve: So many people spend hours thinking about the challenges an obstacle presents or marinading in catastrophic anticipation and predictions they have about an issue. Or – they dwell on things that have happened in the past. When you find yourself having thoughts about an issue, question what those thoughts are doing. If you are actively looking for a solution, keep processing. If you are simply dwelling in negative thoughts about things that may happen – change your environment for a bit. Move on to a productive project or assignment where you can focus on results and solving problems. Being strategic and proactive is absolutely a great quality to have and the more they can show they are willing to provide suggestions to everyday impediments, the more amplified their voice will become.
Be Your Best Advisor: One of the questions I ask people is when is the last time they gave someone advice? Who did they give it to? Was it solicited advice? Why did they choose you to ask? Most people can – usually – give me several colorful and vivid examples of when, how, and why they are the trusted source of advice for family & friends. My question is then, why are they not able to apply that same thoughtful advice to themselves. Make it a habit to internally speak to yourself in the same way you’d speak to a family member or friend that sought your words of wisdom.
Balance Emotions With Objectivity: One huge challenge in many workplaces is the ability to make decisions using a balanced measure of logic and emotion. BUT…
Be Grateful: Fabulous things happen to us and around us every single day. We interact with genuine and amazing people each day. Gratitude has been linked to a host of physical and psychological benefits, including happiness. One study even found that people that practice gratitude are up to 25% happier. So whether you make it a habit to talk about what you’re grateful for with family or friends, or you write a coworker a note or email to say thank you, make gratitude and articulating “thanks” to people a habit. Look for the good in your day and celebrate it. It is a simple, yet very effective way to boost your well-being.
UNLOCKING YOUR POTENTIAL
The business landscape changes quickly today. To unlock human potential in any busy, noisy, and possibly blurry environment, practices that help us both slow down and speed up – in ways that complement each other – can help shift the pattern from feeling like you have no control over your day, your career path, or your goals to excitement and enthusiasm around what you do today to make you better skilled, more valuable, and more productive.
Recognizing that the world is changing rapidly, both in terms of broad, global trends that are driving business and the space around our day-to-day lives. The exponential pace of change and innovation in tech, the tools and resources we have at our disposal, customer experience – the options available to us to meet our needs and pursue our goals are evolving rapidly and often capriciously. In many ways this makes us more empowered than ever. To some that is energizing, exciting, and inspiring. To others it’s unsettling.
One of the fundamental shifts that we are currently experiencing is the shrinking of time spans, in large part due to exponential technological advancements coupled with the instantaneous proliferation of ideas and information across a very, technologically driven, social, and connected world. Things that used to take decades now takes years; things that took years may only take months…you get the picture. In the business world this shift is disrupting established businesses and business models, weeding out organizations that failed to adapt and keep up with today’s fast-paced business world. It has also created a new set of businesses and business models and designs better adapted to agile and innovative organizations. As individuals we need to be adaptable and action oriented – otherwise the world will weed us out, quickly.
CRUSH Negativity & Cynicism With Your Purpose: “Cynicism is the enemy of passion and performance,” according to management expert Gary Hamel. Mr. Hamel says, “There is an incredible level of cynicism in organizations today due to the gap between espoused versus enacted values. Organizations talk about values but fail to translate them into reality.” Focus on purpose to engender inspiration and unlock passion. “Purpose inspires – innovation depends on inspiration,” says Says Hamel. “If you really want innovation in organizations you have to unlock three things in humans: Initiative, so that people see ideas and problems and take responsibility; creativity, so people use their innate imagination to solve problems, and passion, so that they are bringing all their energy and all of themselves to their work. People aren’t inspired by economic motivation alone. A higher sense of purpose is what truly unlocks potential.” Make it a point to make culture contributions each day at work!
Practice Mindfulness To Maintain Focus & Be Present: A huge challenge preventing people in organizations from reaching their potential is distraction and inability to focus. According to a 2016 LeadershipIQ survey, 71% of people report frequent interruptions when they’re working. Meanwhile, only 29% say that they can successfully block out everything else while working. Here is some interesting reality…when people get interrupted frequently, there’s only a 44% chance that they’ll leave their day feeling like “today was a really successful day.” By contrast, when people can block out interruptions at work, there’s a 67% chance they’ll leave feeling like “today was a really successful day. Additionally, studies have shown that in the workplace we generally cannot go for longer than 11 minutes without being needed or interrupted by a coworker and – the kicker…and it takes more than 20 minutes to get back to the task at hand. Focus on what you’re doing in that moment. As a society, we have – for the most part – forgotten what it’s like to really be present. This kind of mindfulness is critical in all that we do. It affects how we feel and what we are able to accomplish.
Find Your “Flow”: Human performance expert and founder of the Flow Genome Project, Jamie Wheal, says, “Flow is the peak performance state where you feel your best and you perform your best.” Why does finding your flow matter? Flow unlocks intrinsic motivation. People have an innate desire to learn, grow, explore, challenge themselves, and develop. Being fully aware of and understanding your reasons for being and doing – these contribute to the ‘flow’ of an individual. Using flow, we give ourselves the best shot of maximizing our potential.
Take Action: I read once that purpose inspires and motivates, values guide behaviors, and habits define us. All three of these need to align in the day to day operation of your role if your hope is to unlock your potential for your highest level of performance. Unlocking human potential comes down to aligning purpose, values and habits in a way that creates engagement with and a passion for purpose. Far too frequently, people over-think endlessly about what they could or should do. They question their ideas so much that they paralyze themselves and are unable to take action. A vision with action attached to it can change the world. Take bold steps, don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Get up and get going. You will be far above the rest when do decide to just…go.