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This Ted Talk inspired my thinking about taking time off. Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh his creative outlook.
What do you think?
My friend Josh Allan Dykstra tells it like it is without a lick of candy coating. He graciously allowed me to share this with you:
In our business culture today, we have a relentless focus towards more — towards buying more, towards having more, towards selling more. We’ve even codified this unending expectation into our work lives in the form of “quarterly returns.” The explicit and implicit expectation set upon our organizations is unending growth, quarter after quarter, year after year, forever and ever.
Put another way, we live on a planet with finite resources and somehow we think that infinite quarter-upon-quarter returns aren’t just possible, but are somehow sustainable…?
It turns out, there IS something that provides unending growth and ceaseless consumption of resources: we call it cancer.
Maybe you’ve heard this analogy before, but I think it’s worth sharing: profit is to business like oxygen is to humans. No sane person would argue that oxygen isn’t important (vital; essential even) to life. But oxygen is not the point of life. In fact, if someone were to get confused on this and start living as though the accumulation of more oxygen was the point of life, we’d probably say they’d lost their mind. They’d start building bigger and bigger tanks to store extra oxygen, and when local laws would prohibit more storage, they’d find ways to store their oxygen in tanks overseas. The laws of the land would prohibit their ever-expanding storage, so they’d create lobbies to change governmental laws so they could go get more. They’d try to steal (in “legal” ways, of course) oxygen from smaller or unwitting “competitors.” In short, they’d structure their whole lives entirely around the pursuit of more oxygen… and for what? This would be complete absurdity.
And yet…? (I think you see my point.)
A few months ago, I was at the Positive Business Conference in Ann Arbor, and during one of the Q&A sessions after an on-stage panel, a badass dude named Raj Sisodiaspoke up from the audience. He said, “Maximizing any one thing in an interconnected system creates a destructive effect on the other components of the system.” He was speaking about the destructive power of focusing on maximizing profits alone (and thought the panel hadn’t been clear enough on the detrimental effects of this).
He also said: “The leader’s responsibility is to the long-term flourishing of the organization, not to shareholders.” We’ve gotten very confused about this aspect of business — we think the primary responsibility of our companies is to “maximize shareholder return,” but this idea is essentially like making your whole life about accumulating more oxygen.
Nothing is everything. Put another way: whenever we focus too much on one thing, we cause harm to everything else. This is true in pretty much all parts of life, as far as I can tell.
Why can’t we figure this out in the world of business?
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Josh Allen Dykstra is an author, speaker, and consultant. He writes and speaks about the changing world of business, helping you understand the future of work and how it impacts the way we design organizational culture. He also serves as an advisor to select technology startups who want to make the way we work more human and meaningful. Find him at www.JoshAllen.com.
Sheryl is the COO of Facebook. Sheryl wrote a book called Lean In to empower female leaders. Watch and you’ll agree that the world is a better place because Sheryl is doing her thing.
Sheryl is good people!
Dave Kashen at the company Be Unleashed blogged recently for Fast Company Magazine. Dave is brave and honest as you will soon see. I’d like to share with you his latest thoughts from the trenches of the tech sector:
The “Not Enough” Trap
As a leadership coach for some of Silicon Valley’s leading startup CEOs, I get a peek into the internal workings of some of the most brilliant and accomplished entrepreneurial minds in the world. And one of the things I’m finding there is giving me cause for alarm.
Driven by “Not Enough”
One of the primary drivers of the frenetic striving and Herculean accomplishments of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs is a deep sense of not being good enough. Not smart enough, not brave enough, not creative enough. Somehow, in some way, not enough. This sense of lack, and the compulsion to anesthetize it through achievement, combined with the right combination of smarts, guts, and ecosystem are creating a boom in the startup world. Billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created. And that’s a great thing.
But the dark underbelly of this startup boom is that too often companies are getting built in a way that leaves founders and team members drained, exhausted, and ultimately, unfulfilled. It’s the result of building a company because you think you have something to prove. It leads to a near constant state of anxiety and fear of failure with fleeting moments of celebration. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Wired for Fear
Human brains are predominately wired for fear. It makes sense evolutionarily that in a world of lions, tigers, and bears, those with the most sensitivity to danger would have the best chance to survive and reproduce. The mental constructs “I’m not enough” and “I don’t have enough” are brilliant survival programs for creating a near constant state of vigilance and drive to succeed.
But we no longer live in that world. We have conquered all of our natural predators and civilized our society at such a rate that our brains are fairly outmoded for our modern world. So too, is the way we operate as creators and builders of businesses.
Driven by Love
As society’s innovators, entrepreneurs have a great opportunity to pave the way for a new way of conducting themselves and their businesses–shifting from a context of “not enough,” fear, and lack to one of sufficiency, love, and inspiration. The pioneers are among us.
When you conjure up an image of Sir Richard Branson, what most likely comes to mind is a man who loves his life. You picture him grinning ear to ear, laughing heartily, and warmly shaking someone’s hand or giving them a hug. He’s a man who savors life, and whose entrepreneurial endeavors themselves appear to be acts of love and creative expression. Herb Kelleher, founder and chairman of Southwest Airlines, is another entrepreneur who clearly built a company from a place of love and service. Southwest is renowned for their extraordinary culture, and the caring they show for each member of their team and their customers. Their ticker symbol is LUV. Their examples serve as a shining counter-example to the norm among entrepreneurs.
Moving Beyond Fear
When I challenge my clients to believe they are enough just as they are, they often reply that they’re afraid to lose their drive to succeed. They worry that if they felt the sense of peace and appreciation that comes with believing who you are is enough than they would become couch potatoes (or worse, failed entrepreneurs). What they initially fail to realize is that there is another, more powerful source of motivation: love. When you imagine contributing to another person, or a group of people, in a meaningful way you can’t help but feel a stirring in your heart and an energy in your core that pulls you into action. And from this inspired place, your level of focus, creativity, and energy is far greater than when you’re driven by fear and lack.
When you experience your work as contribution to others, you handle setbacks and obstacles in stride instead of seeing every bump in the road as a potential to expose you as the fraud you believe you are. When you operate from love, you’re at your most creative, imagining the future you want to create rather than resisting the present you’re currently in. You focus on how much value you’re delivering, not just how much you’re capturing.
So, you ask, how do I shift from operating from a place of fear and lack to one of love and inspiration? One moment at a time.
I once had a meditation teacher tell me that you can change your entire experience of life if you extend your exhale by one second. Just one second. The breath serves as both an indicator and a signal for our nervous system that we’re in danger. When you slow down your breath, you send a signal to your nervous system that everything is okay, and free up your mind for creative activities.
Notice the all-too-common tendency to judge and evaluate your own performance. “Why did I say that?” “That email was way too long.” “Why didn’t I ask for the deal?” We spend a good portion of our mental lives criticizing ourselves for falling short of the ideal we hold ourselves to. One great way to instantly transcend this inner conversation is to focus on the contribution you’re making in others’ lives. Imagine the person or people you’re impacting, and what their life was like before you or your company touched their lives. Now create a clear picture of what their life has been like since, and notice the positive difference that you created. Typically, you’ll begin to feel inspired to create more of the same.
One of the most pernicious traps we fall into as entrepreneurs is shifting our focus from the inspiring future we want to the frustrating reality that we’re not there yet. We essentially collapse the imagined future into the present, and wish things were different than they are right now. When you resist reality, reality wins every time. Instead, put the future rightfully where it belongs, in the future. Rather than begrudging how far you have to go or wishing you were already there, simply imagine the future you want, enjoy the inspiration and excitement that comes, and take the next practical step forward.
For startups, the culture of the company is largely forged by the inner experience of the founders. Entrepreneurs, it’s time to elevate your inner game for the sake of the people who will be impacted by you and the companies you build. When you choose to believe that you are good enough, and experience the lightness, joy, and love that naturally occurs from that place, you will build an extraordinary company that not only makes you rich, but also enriches people’s lives.
–Dave Kashen serves as founder and leadership coach/trainer at San Francisco-based Unleashed, a premier leadership & culture development firm for startups. Previously, he was cofounder of Wellsphere, and worked for SPO Partners and Goldman Sachs. He also writes the awesome culture blog, and you can follow him on Twitter @awesomeculture.
Professionals in the corporate training field often lament that after a day of training is done, it’s hard to tell if the students will really behave differently once back at work. It’s a very realistic concern – it takes effort and discipline to change a habit. In order to make the most of the money spent on training, it’s important to have plan in place after the training is complete. Here are some tips:
Make sure that managers are aware of what their staff is learning. One good scenario would be to have the managers attend the same training as their staff. Another fine way to go would be to have the managers attend a special training where they learn what the staff will learn and then go over a process to help staff in the following months make the necessary changes in behaviors.
So how can bosses help their staff makes changes? After the training, in a staff meeting or in one-on-one meetings, the manager can ask employees what they learned. The manager and direct report can collaborate to create goals related to the training and a deadline to achieve them. For instance if the training was about diplomacy in the workplace, the manager can ask an employee to practice three of the techniques learned in class at work by the end of the week.
Another important consideration is “modeling.” Employees look to their bosses for cues on how to behave at work. If the boss models or uses the new diplomacy techniques, employees learn that this training is meant to be taken seriously.
A boss can also use recognition to encourage a change of behavior by giving accolades to those trying the new behaviors. Appreciation is a proven motivator for employees.
I’m presenting for ASTD-LA on April 5th in Torrance, CA – here’s the scoop.
You walk into a classroom ready to set up for your presentation. Rather than an empty room, there are twenty-five seated people looking at you impatiently. “You’re late!” you hear from a man in the front. “We should have started an hour ago!” You glance down and see that you are wearing clown shoes and no pants. “I must be dreaming,” you think, and thank goodness, you are.
Have you ever had a presentation anxiety dream like this? I have!
The “Running a Tight Ship” workshop offers tips, tools and ideas to keep your sessions friendly and focused. By “friendly” we mean that your participants will feel welcome, comfortable and ready to learn. By “focused” we mean that your event will start on time, end on time and be protected from going off course. We’ll have group discussions and share war stories. Expect to leave with the wind in your sails and who knows – you may find yourself sleeping better before big presentations, too.
Now that so much learning is happening online, I use video as one of my storytelling tools. The same techniques used by TV and movie directors can be used to create memorable teaching moments. My colleague, Bryan Jones at eLearning Art shares one of these techniques called the Establishing Shot. I think he did a great job. Click on the photo if you’d like to check it out.
Great stuff, Bryan!
This morning, I finished reading Igniting the Invisible Tribe by Josh Allan Dykstra. Josh describes how to “design an organization that doesn’t suck.” (My kind of guy!) And he’s calling for nothing less than a workplace revolution. One concept I love is the idea of doing away with a top-down, hierarchical structure and revamping the concept of management. Instead he calls for us to see ourselves as either either Builders or Architects. Both roles have value and one is not better than the other.
Josh asks us to change our words and thinking about those who do work that we wouldn’t want to do. For instance, just because I don’t want to do accounting work does not mean that no one wants to do it. It’s simply my preference. What if my contributions and the accounting (or janitorial) ones were viewed as just as vital and valuable? Josh suggests this type of thinking is critical in the new workplace. Dignity for all.
Today I get to meet up with Josh for coffee. Can’t wait to talk with him more about the concept in his book about businesses of the future and how they need to be Connected or Meaningful or Human. If you want to feel the excitement of what’s to come and be a part of it, read this book.
I created this video to help newer managers deal with employee discipline. This stuff is never easy – for either party. How do you think this went?
Here’s the talented team that helped bring this scenario to life: Written, Produced and Directed: Jean Franzblau, Director of Photography and Editor: Benjamin D. Brooks, Manager played by: Rachel Alig, Employee played by: Alicia Prato