Many years ago when I was in the army one of my superiors said to me ‘You chose us we didn’t choose you’. It was a powerful message as no-one forced me to sign up. More recently I read a book called ‘The Art of Living Consciously’ by Nathaniel Branden which gave me an opportunity to reflect on the power of choice for individuals.
One of the things I have observed in my career is how so many people working for organisations have an attitude that they are entitled to something. That the organisation owes them something. Being someone who is absolutely passionate about culture and treating people with respect, I believe that organisations do have a responsibility to their people to treat them fairly and equitably. I believe that organisations not only have a responsibility to reward their people for their contribution but that great leaders really care about the overall well being of their people. Not just the physical and safety aspect of employee welfare, but the higher level self actualising view of supporting their people to fullfill and realise their potential.
However this goes two ways. Employees also have a responsibility to their organisation and to the organisations stakeholders. It is our responsibility to deliver outcomes for our stakeholders and challenge ourselves to think and act consciously rather than being on auto-pilot and cruising through our working life. We need to challenge ourselves as to whether we approach things to satisfy our own security needs or are we able to mitigate our fears and achieve the best outcomes for our stakeholders. Are we managing risk to avoid personal discomfort, do we layer in costs and resources to make our life easier? Do we do things because we need to prove ourselves, to keep people happy, to fit in, to satisfy the boss, to avoid conflict, to protect our status or are we doing what is in the best interests of our stakeholders?
Leaders and organisational cultures in this instance are no different. They can also operate on autopilot and send mixed messages to their staff. The term ‘shadow of the leader’ is closely aligned with the fact that staff will subconsciously adapt to the leaders own personal fears and insecurities in terms of how they play out in a day to day basis. Leaders need to challenge themselves and ask whether they are leading in a way to protect their status, to lay low, to look good, to impress others, to satisfy their own perfectionist needs, to win, to save face, to avoid stress, or because they don’t trust others? To highlight this, you will often see in large organisations that an entire business unit or operation will shadow the fears and insecurities of their leader, which can have significant impacts on the business performance and productivity of their people.
To conclude, unfortunately most people are unaware of how their subconscious fears and beliefs drive their behaviour. Both individuals and organisations operate on auto pilot and unintentionally fail to spend their energy in a way that maximises outcomes for their stakeholders.
It is actually a question of integrity. If you work through this example, The next time a trades person comes to your house, how would you feel if they spent half their day in meetings wanting to keep their fellow tradespeople happy and doing things to keep their boss happy, and then expected you to foot the bill. Our expectation would be that they should be working on your house and providing value. What value are you proving to your organisation and how are you ensuring you are conscious with your choices?