Workplace studies have shown that a majority of organizations are suffering with turmoil just under the surface, seething to escape. The turmoil is the emotional static that is heavy in the hallways, during meetings, in the tone of email messages and in one-on-one exchanges.
This emotional static has been created by a series of events, compounded by small “paper cuts” , until employees feel wounded and are not sure why. Often executives are focused on watching the trajectory on company performance charts. When things are going badly, they panic and send mandates through the organization: cut, downsize, reorganize, centralize. In all the commotion, employees are not consulted about the underlying problem or asked about ways they might contribute to the solution.
After a while employees feel that their unique gifts are not valued. The fullness of their identity and offering becomes invisible. Little pieces of themselves get left behind. The “Who I am” is not welcomed and is therefore not engaged. Because of these diminishing effects, employees do not feel safe to venture out, to see how far they can help push the envelope with creativity and innovation.
It’s an issue of focus.
When we are focused on defense and protection, we cannot be focused on contribution and outcome. Instead, our priority becomes the filtering and gathering of evidence for our defense and protection because we don’t feel invited to contribute at our highest level.
How can we shift the focus?
In every situation that we face, we determine our own experience. If we choose to shift our focus toward gratitude in any given situation, the experience is positively altered for us.
Tell your employees, partners or colleagues things that you want them to be thinking about. Tell them stories about recent wins, examples of ways the vision is becoming a reality, the progress to a plan, great customer feedback, why the culture at the company is working. These stories help direct the content of thinking and steer it toward positive causes for great outcomes.
When outcomes are not what you desire, looking at what messages are being reinforced in the company will point you in the right direction for course corrections.
Leaders would also serve their organizations well to do an acknowledgement exercise. When leaders talk about their companies, they are often quoted as saying “it’s the people”. If this is true, when is the last time you as a leader outside of a formal “review” process wrote a note to your team members or colleagues about what you appreciate in them ? Have you ever called a meeting just for some unexpected and unplanned acknowledgement? When given recognition, and when there is genuine gratitude being expressed, the focus begins to shift toward what is possible. Letting people know they are appreciated and looking for ways to involve them in problem is a specific way to shift focus.
Empowering our resources
Once we fully embrace the fact that our employees and colleagues can be rich resources, we treat them differently, we approach them differently and more importantly, they respond differently. They respond by bringing all of their gifts to bear on the situation. They literally place themselves at the table and say, “I am willing to be useful. I have a spirited contribution to make. This is my perspective. This is my idea. I am willing to lead and I am willing to follow. I am willing to learn and I am willing to teach.”
Tell your employees the messages you want them to be thinking about. Check in on their thinking regularly. Shift their focus when necessary. You will be astounded at the unexpected and delightful ways they will help you breakthrough to the next level of performance.