Transformational as the New Norm
In his best-selling book, A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink explains that the Information Age has given way to the “Conceptual Age,” which requires a different kind of work from a new kind of worker—those who consider transformational outcomes the norm, not the exception.
These are the folks who place too high a value on their own time and potential to accept mediocrity in themselves or in their companies. They demand of their workplace the opportunity to do their best on a daily basis. They are eager to meet the current challenges and changes that many companies are still reluctant to embrace.
People Are the Motivation for Enterprise
Most enterprises exist today to provide products, services or information for people or to build the machines that make people’s lives more comfortable, safer or healthier.
When the world still ran on a primarily agrarian economy, systems and mechanisms emerged more gradually in response to the slowly evolving needs of society.
For example, my great-grandfather, who was born right after the American Civil War, was a talented inventor who constructed unique systems for irrigating and tilling his Missouri farmland. According to family lore, he never stopped making adjustments to the root cellar so stored food would last longer with less spoilage.
However, the Industrial Revolution and several major wars flipped the priorities for people like my great-grandfather. Within his lifetime individuals found it increasingly necessary to adapt to the needs of the mechanical systems they or the giants of industry had invented.
Technology Is Tidy
As a modern society, we are comfortable with the clarity of technology. It is something we can put a finger on. If a computer has a problem, we can fix it. If a machine breaks, we can install a new part. If a system is inefficient, we can streamline it.
These are objects we can touch and control. They are things, and we are very accomplished at dealing with “thing” processes and structures. We can measure, calibrate and quantify them and their performance. Mechanical remedies for mechanical problems.
Still, a challenge for both employers and employees is that people are not things; they are human beings. And the entire industrial/technological complex gets weak in the knees when people act out their inevitable emotions, wants, needs, values, beliefs, fears, illnesses and a thousand daily variables that threaten the stability of production lines and supply chains everywhere.
People Are Complicated
I once witnessed the unfortunate experience of a very talented computer programmer who was promoted to manager other programmers. The poor man was so overwhelmed by “people issues” that he would stay in his office with the door closed for hours at a time. Mercifully, he was relieved of that position, though not before chaos erupted in his department.
Even Henry Ford, who paid his workers the then-unheard of salary of five dollars a day, is said to have complained, “Why is it when I hire a pair of hands, I also get a person?”
People are complicated. They are highly creative in their unpredictability. The good news is that growing numbers of employers are beginning to pay attention because employee demands for personal consideration at work are likely only to increase.
The Hard Side of Soft Skills
What was once considered “soft” or “touchy-feely” is now becoming the “hard stuff” of employee training and development. Companies that fail to consider the people factor in both their external business practices and internal relationships are suffering negative financial consequences that cannot be ignored.
When the cost of replacing an employee equals 200% or more of his or her annual salary, proactive companies are now considering how to help that individual remain a satisfied, productive member of the organization’s team.
Where once we trained people how to “do” things efficiently, we’re now training them to “be” effectively balanced in how they work, especially within a multi-generational, multicultural workforce.
Both Skills and Attitudes Count
We need people at all levels of an organization (and a family) to make balanced decisions, take appropriate action and create positive results within an atmosphere that meets today’s changing expectations for what a joyful life might be.
In our companies we need both well-honed skills and effective attitudes that allow individuals to work productively alone as well as with other people. We need an awareness that shapes our values and informs our behavior, and that travels with us wherever life and career may direct.
Increasingly, I hear managers report that they are looking for mature attitudes in their candidates. Then they train for the specific skills required in a particular job. Where do those attitudes come from?
It is difficult to train attitudes because they are “inside” features—the result of culture, ethnicity, gender, age and personal values. These are the unspoken, and often unconscious, attributes a person brings to the workplace. Often that quality is intuition. Thankfully, intuition can be improved—though the process is not easy.
If we are to attain the effectiveness that we hope for at home and away, we must grow into an awareness of how work “works” from both a personal perspective and in relation to other people. In so doing, we may find ourselves dancing in an inspired partnership that spirals through the steps, rhythms and tempos that make up our daily lives—all the way to joyfully great work.
Copyright © 2017 Cheryl Eckl and CherylEckl.com. All rights reserved.