Note: This “TED* Thoughts” begins a new series that will run throughout 2012. Each month will focus on a particular aspect of life in which to apply TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™. This month it will be at work – and work can be in any kind of organizational setting. In addition, each week will be focusing on a different facet of the TED* framework. I hope you enjoy this new format!
A friend and colleague recently sent me an interview with Meg Wheatley, consultant and author of a number of books (including one that had a profound impact on me: Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe [Berrett-Koehler, 1992]. The interview by Art Kleiner appeared in strategy+business magazine.
There were many, many quotable statements, several of which I will share in this and later “TED* Thoughts.”
When asked why perseverance is important, she replied:
“Everyone is working harder, and in most cases, in greater isolation. The current pace of work and life, along with increasing fear and anxiety, make it more difficult to have the energy and enthusiasm to keep going. Years of good efforts have been swept away by events beyond anyone’s control, such as the economic crisis or the natural disasters of the past decade…”
She later added:
“In most companies, we do not have (and I believe won’t have for the foreseeable future) the money to fund the work that we have to do. Leaders have two choices. One, they can tap the invisible resource of people who become self-motivated when invited to engage together. This approach has well-documented results in higher productivity, innovation, and motivation, but it requires a shift from a fear-based approach to a belief in the capacity of most people to contribute, to be creative, and to be motivated internally. Alternatively, they can continue to slash and burn, tightening controls, and using coercive methods to enforce the cuts. This destroys capacity, yet it is the more common approach these days.”
When challenging realities face us, the default of most individuals is to “go reactive.” In other words, the default is to seek protection in the false hope of the Victim Orientation. In this way of thinking, interacting and taking action, we put our focus on the problems confronting us, which engages our anxiety and fear that then fuels reactive behavior. That reactive behavior is usually some form of “fight, flight, or freeze” and leads to the types of actions Wheatley describes.
But there is another more empowering and resourceful choice that faces leaders and everyone in the workplace.
By adopting and committing to a Creator Orientation, we actually increase our capacity to rise to the challenges we face and to take action that can still move us forward and gain the higher engagement, productivity, innovation and motivation of which Wheatley speaks.
In a Creator Orientation, our focus is on the envisioned outcomes that we want to create. Placing our attention on what we want to create then taps the motivational power of our passion which propels us to take the Baby Steps to move toward and accomplish the outcome(s). The actions we take inevitably still include solving problems, but we are much better equipped to prioritize and choose the problems to tackle those that are in service to our vision.
As you face whatever your particular challenges are in your organization – as a leader, a team member or an individual contributor – by remembering to focus on what you want to create and tapping the inner motivation to go after it, you are stepping into the Creator role of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic). Doing so will contribute to the effectiveness of yourself and those around you because we know that TED* Works!