Category: Communication


                                                Leadership in Chaos                                                                    Photo Credit-courtesy of Scoop.it

Texas Church Shooting Leadership Lessons

As a generation Xer, there used to be a time when as an elementary school girl, I walked 10 miles from home to school, in the busy streets of a major city, walked back home, stopped by on the way home, bought a snack from my favorite snack shop with my money in my pocket for snacks, and got myself home with my own key to the house. I enjoyed the freedom and safety of learning, experiences and autonomy, as I grew in a very metropolitan and crowded city. Now, as a mom, I would not dream of having my children at 8 and 10 walk outside past our own street. We drive to most places during the week for school and extracurricular activities, and on weekends for events and fun outings. Driving, in my car gives me a sense of safety and security. However in reality, this is just an illusion. The truth is, the world has changed. Life has changed.   And in spite of the advents of technology, flooding of products from all over the globe, going well beyond meeting our basic needs, safety is in fact just an illusion.

 

Last weekend, on Sunday Nov. 5th, there was yet another horrific event that took place in our country. A shooting at a Texas church, killing 26 people, as young as 5 years old. That could have been any of us. There was a time where, churches similar to schools, were considered a sanctuary for people. Not anymore. Chaos is all around us, and as much as we want to ignore, blame, and shout at it, it is inevitable. It is in our homes. It is at our place of work. And it is even at our “sanctuaries”.

On a daily basis, the global economy, the growth of the population, and technology among many other variables continue to change the way our daily businesses are conducted.

Evidence of chaos is even more visible in the world of commerce and business as venture capitals, leverage buyouts and government bailouts continue to become the norm and layoffs ensue. There was a time when businesses could succeed as stable, bureaucratic and regulating institutions. The didactic, structure oriented processes were considered a key to performance and success. Involuntary Turnover and job loss were uncommon phenomenon.  In fact, the belief in order and structure crated the false notion that reorganizations were the key to productivity. Up to today, reorganizations are still very popular with the C-Suite. It has been found that nearly half of all CEO’s execute a reorganization within the first two years they join an organization. Regardless of the “reason”, these reorganzations are usually about immense structural changes in hope for better performance. In reality, according to a Bain & Co. study, out of the 57 reorganizations they studied, only one-third produced results; a profound mistake to completely buy-in to the idea that there is a link between structure and performance.

 

Beginnings of Chaos

Chaos Theory, which was most fully explored and recognized during the mid-to-late 1980s, has the premise that systems sometimes reside in chaos, they are constantly moving, but without any predictability or direction. According to Margaret J. Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, “Chaos is the final state in a system’s movement away from order.” According to her, when a system does reach that point, the parts of a system are manifest as turbulence, totally lacking in direction or meaning.

When Chaos Theory was first implemented in to businesses in various forms, organization management also gave way to organization management. Agile methodologies were introduced as a way for modern corporations to be able to respond as markets expanded and technologies evolved.  And the evolution of high-functioning teams gave life to Members of effective teams to frequently recreate their roles depending on the needs of the team at a given point.

Embracing change therefore does not mean to necessarily try and predict every possibility and structure the organization accordingly to reach order. It is to lead with the idea that change is constant and chaos is the way of life.

Leadership Redone

When it comes to leadership, as a Human Capital Partner to Fortune companies and Leadership Coach to the C-Suite, I have worked with organizations to recognize that leadership in today’s world, is a game of balance between innovation and Emotional Intelligence, not a commandment as many see it. During times of turbulence, change, and chaos, I have often times seen more control, more structure, and more top down decision-making; a very fear-based thought process that usually ends in disengagement by followers. In today’s economy, leadership of organizations is no longer the management of day-to-day operations. It is rather, seeing the functioning of the organization as a unified system. Therefore rather than dissecting for causes in the organization for organizational problems, according to chaos theory, organizational patterns can be studies to find behavior patterns.

In working with organizations and leaders, I first start by having a value-based conversation around respect.  What is respectable to one defines their values, motivations and aspriations.  That provides a muriad of data with the identification of Pillars of Safety which is a guided exercise I practice to get at the heart of many automatic behaviors.  The assessment of  emotional intelligence ; Identifying emotions and uncovering blockages in thinking and behavior. In embracing change and innovation, rather than a hierarchical, process oriented dynamics, I help him or her to view their role as a catalyst and a support, rather than a perfect, all mighty and in control responsible party. We then drive toward allowing talent and employees to lead with their competencies, with autonomy, functionality, support and 360 degree feedback and effective communication. We therefore, allow the system to naturally organize itself.

 

 

Top Ten (10) Tips on Leadership In Times of  Unpredictability and Chaos

 

  1. Check your Emotions at the Door. One of the common misunderstandings about leadership is lack of fear. But if the opposite of fear is courage, we know courage is not the absence of fear, it is choosing to act with love in spite of fear. The reason one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence is Self-awareness is largely because Emotion Regulation is a must part of not only living a healthy life, but difference making, business leader in the 21st century. Not admitting to fear, means not accepting yourself as a human being and that creates fear in your team. If you acknowledge your fear but show fortitude and strategy you are inviting trust and courage and unity. 
  2. Make aware rather than frighten. Yes, in uncertain times people do need communication of information, otherwise, they will assume and gossip. However, there are two types of information, the kind they can do something about, and the kind they cannot. Using the advents of neuroscience I work with my  leaders to do just that.  Rather than invoking fear, in engaging your team and activating their sense of empowerment, it is pertinent to Ignite the reward centers of the brain by tapping into the belongingness need. As human-beings if we feel scared, and insecure, we will feel hesitant to take action. But if we are made aware, we will be empowered and courageous.
  3. Talk less, do more. Often times, leadership becomes the generator of opinions and not the generator of action. Input that doesn’t add value, is not leadership. Instead it’s best to resort to responsibility. Sometimes resources may not be readily available or training may not be sufficient. Taking ownership and preparing to accept the challenge is a great tool for trust building and encouragement from a leader. Our brain’s frontal cortex associated with problem solving and decision-making has the capability to dissipate fear toward best performance, if we rise above the reptilian and the mammalian parts of the brain associated with survival.
  4. Mobilize and utilize. We have all heard of the phrase “Analysis paralysis”. There are so many different ways we problem-solve, process information, communicate,  etc.  The power of a team is in it’s synergy and ability to utilize all of it diverse talent.  There are the communicators, analyzers, and creatives etc.  For example, creative and analytic types in teams, will feel more energized, hopeful and joyful when they can do just that, analyze. Rather than get busy without knowledge. Utilize this group to team up to gain knowledge and insight quickly.  Google did just that and look where they are today.  Strategize and Make a Move. Different personalities have a propensity for analyzing decisions more than others and prefer to delay decisions as much as possible. Learning when not to postpone decisions, when you are naturally aiming for perfection, and waiting for additional information, could mean failure. It takes an opposite personality or a coach to help you bounce off ideas so you can decide to do what you need to do with what you have, and don’t look back. Indecisiveness is the surest way to undermine credibility. 
  5. Lead with Inclusion, not diversity. During the past centuries, we have gone from segregation, to diversity but not necessarily to inclusion. Diversity seems like a forced mentality. A thought that by its mere existence casts doubt on reality. Diversity is all around us. We need only to learn to be inclusive. Leading with inclusion would invite different thinking, culture, skills, experience and innovation rather than simply standardization of the same old.
  6. Be a Connector. A leader takes the time to get to know the talent in the organization. Walking among the people and learning about their world. Communication failure, is most often the key to organization effectiveness and disengagement. So elimination of silo’s and physical space and internal networking opportunities throughout is they key to building connections among people and leadership. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes connectors as “multipliers who help create relationships between people”.
  7. Innovate, Don’t Dictate.  In uncertain times, arrival of new information often times means a challenge to the previous plan. Keeping an open mind to problem-solve with all levels of the team, encouraging creativity and innovation, rather than added control or measures to increase certainty will allow room for adoption of better solutions as they arise. The goal is to move forward at the best pace possible.
  8. Be an example of team not just a leader of it. During chaos, servant-leadership is the only leadership model that truly inspires a team, because it demonstrates that we are all in it together. To do this, you must stay consistent no matter how big or small the acts or tasks. That means no special treatment.
  9. Be Humble and honest. Much of the old leadership mentality is “no apologies”, “not admitting to mistakes” and certainly no “I don’t knows”. This is not confidence it is actually fear. Fear of not being adequate, not being taken seriously. In truth, people trust those leaders that they can trust, not those who are know it alls. Nobody knows all things, all of the time. So let the ego out the door, and be honest. If you don’t know something, tell them. The thing about ego is it goes both ways. You act with fear, you get fear in return; in reflection, acting based on ego, your team will not come to you with what they know or don’t know.

 

Conclusion

Following the Sunday mass shooting at the church, in response to President Trump’s tweet in that the shooting is a “mental health problem”, Puente said firearms restrictions for people with a history of domestic violence, substance abuse disorders and other high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence. He went on to say that “Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach.” Both suggesting point to control, regulation and division. Neither is actionable. Neither is working with chaos. Both comments are divisive as one blames the mentally ill, and the other Gun owners. Meanwhile the chaos continues to consistently move forward. Don’t we owe the victims and their loved ones more than simple statements of “the problem”?

One of the most influential business writers of the 1980s and 1990s, Tom Peters in his book Thriving on Chaos wrote “we live in a world turned upside down, and survival depends on embracing revolution.”

The most successful leaders understand that it is not the organization or the individual who is most important, but the relationship between the two. Guns are not going anywhere and neither is mental illness. Working as a society to accept both entities and learn to innovatively work with both is going with the times. Rather than constant blaming, accusing, and attacking, we can begin by accepting diversity of thought, culture, skills, experience and yes mental health. Design conversations around all layers of the population, and all groups. In truth, by doubting, blaming, and assuming members of society, we are creating more of the same and manifesting more fear, more pain and more threat. Hope is only in acceptance and in inclusion and that is what a leader brings to the table.

 

 

 

                      Photo credit: Getty Images

Privacy is a concept very well confused in our culture today.  In an era where almost all of our electronic devices track our everyday move, our psychographics and socio-economic decisions give life to Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to sell the next big thing, without our permission, and social media networks know where we go and what we do and with whom we do it with every minute of the day, other aspects of our lives, our trials and tribulations, and struggles which are simply part of the human condition such as unemployment, depression, disability and mental illness are considered private issues.  Well, are they a matter of privacy or are they more a matter of not wanting to deal with real agendas?

In an effort to respect employees’ privacy, many employers avoid employees’ mental health concerns.  However, like it or not, these issues have a tendency to make their way into the workplace. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 43.8 million adults in the United States experience mental illness in any given year.

Yes, there are Employment Laws and Fair Labor Standards, but in a world where yesterday’s hero is today’s villain and due to hopelessness and limited Emotional Intelligence, a majority fall in to co-dependant status, villains can easily pose as leaders and saviors.  So what is the real solution?

 

Even ignoring the lack of support and clear danger to the quality of life of the employee, purely calculating the costs it is clear that employers can’t afford to ignore mental health issues in the workplace.

 

Last Thursday, as the New York Times reported that Harvey Weinstein, the face of the entertainment company had been accused of sexually harassing women, both inside and outside of his company for over nearly three decades, it was yet another wake up call that mental disorder is not necessarily a silent killer. One might ask, how sexual harassment is a mental disorder. Well, according to the Wikipedia definitionSexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors”. In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Finnish researchers have recently discovered that bullying could result in serious mental disorders. While victims of bullying are more likely to develop anxiety disorders, or already suffer from it, the bullies themselves were at higher risk for having or developing antisocial personality disorder. Therefore it is fair to say that sexual harassment has its roots in perceived power or lack thereof. And as opposed to popular belief, recognition of mental disorder in morally questionable individuals who we may not approve of such as Donald Trump, does not reinforce the negative stigmas associated mental illness, but rather adds to the negative stigmas.

 

The World Health Organization and the National Business Group on Health indicate that mental and behavioral health conditions have direct costs as much as $100 billion for employers. And when one factors in indirect costs, such as loss of productivity and the influx of disability claims, you are now faced with a major disaster.  

 

At first Weinstein had announced that he would take a leave of absence.  However, then he began fighting and contesting the allegations. It took three directors to resign, before the company board fired the founder on Sunday.

 

The trouble here is two-fold: Weinstein was a founder and top executive, and hence a decision-maker.    However what happens when we turn a blind eye to a culture gone wrong is that, as employees, the same infrastructure we hoped would be supported by our attempts at passivity, would turn around to disintegrate, but this time without notice.  

While as employers playing mental health professionals is not wise, providing clear boundary setting education to the entire employee population on mental health issues and the importance of clearly defined boundaries is expected.

An employer’s efforts to bring to light realities, helps destigmatize mental illness and allows others to come out of the shadows and seek treatment.   employees recognize its prevalence can help employees feel more comfortable acknowledging that they’re struggling in some way. 

 

While In addition to costs, employers have a legal obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to refrain from discriminating against individuals with mental illness, they are also obligated to abide by the same guidelines in treating employees vs. founders.  Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are two types of sexual harassment: a) quid pro quo and 2) hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can be physical and psychological in nature. It’s important to note that it is the aggregate of the incidents and not a single event that constitutes harassment and work hours and location don’t have a bearing on this definition.  

Langelan describes four different classes of harassers.

  • Predatory harasser This is a harasser who gets sexual thrills from humiliating others. The goal of this harasser is to just to see how targets respond. No response could even lead to rape.
  • Dominance harasser is the most common type, and usually is for the purposes of an ego boost.  
  • Strategic or territorial harassers are those who harasss to remain dominant or keep privileges.
  • Street harasser: This is verbal and/or nonverbal behavior, with frequent appearance in public to embarrass.

 

 

Overall, the culture of an organization is defined by its leadership and if leadership does not walk the talk, then there is no atmosphere of trust or a moral code, and as a result, there are no boundaries or expectations that employees can rely on. In a 2012 study of male adolescent American football players, “the strongest predictor [of bullying] was the perception of whether the most influential male in a player’s life would approve of the bullying behavior”.

Photo Courtesy of PBS:                   What Irma Left Behind

Hurricane Management and Leadership that Works

Strong Leadership and Hurricanes are very similar in that they are both transformational, purposeful, and engaging. However, one way they are very different is that leadership cannot be a force that cannot be reasoned with, otherwise, it will have consequences one of which is follower attrition or turn-over.

 

Many automatically associate Turnover with cost cutting, downsizing and poor employee engagement although this is not always the case. There is a type of turnover that is the voluntary kind and is in fact good news for an organization, especially when the organization aspires to be a Learning Organization. Take a technology company like Google, if Google hired three hundred entry-level engineers in 2014 and in 2016 had a voluntary turnover of 50%, is that a bad thing? No, absolutely not. On the other hand there is turnover of the voluntary kind that is due to poor employee engagement, lack of productivity, poor innovation, lack of job mobility, poor communication, etc. This is a real dilemma with real implications. But there is also a turnover of the involuntary kind that occurs during change. It is associated with engagement, poor communication and culture issues, centered around change, but not necessarily discontinued after change.   Take the case with GE.

 

GE Case Study

Consideration of GE has reportedly announced layoffs to balance spending cuts   This information comes merely months after the move of their corporate headquarters to Boston. Beside the fact that GE is among the various organizations the government bet on funding over $150 million in state and city subsidies, we wonder whether there is also a hyperbole parallel to their GE –Workout Method at play here.

As I/O psychologists we are of the understanding that change in large organizations is not a magical wave of a wand Despite evidence-based practices that help organizations save money, work more efficiently and increase employee engagement, the true road block to effective change remains to be institutional inertia. And what is inertia? Is Inertia just lack of movement, or is it lack of agreement?

One of the key aspects of the GE-Workout Method is that Leaders and managers identify areas for key business improvement and challenge those closest to the work to recommend ways for reaching that goal. Then on the other hand, those closest to the work, make specific recommendations in how to meet the goal and implement the approved recommendation within 90 days. Well, call us idealistic, but isn’t there an underlying assumption at play here? A key business improvement is all we heard. We didn’t hear any information in the form of initial feedback or observation even from or about the people who are running those business units. Now in developing this process, GE has presented the case that it fights beaurocracy. But if the identification of the problem is still rising out of the Leadership and Management, isn’t that more of the old beaurocracy? In a survey of clients of the GE Method it was cited that 20% mentioned the “risk of sub optimized analysis and decision-making” that can result from the Work-Out’s requirement for executive, on-the-spot decisions. Another 20% also mentioned “executive anxiety and defensiveness” with regard to the speed and process of decision-making.

 

Why Employee’s Emotions Matter

 

The limbic system, which combines higher mental functions and primitive emotions into one system, tells psychologists that decisions cannot be solely made by the cortex. It’s not only responsible for our emotional lives, but also many higher mental functions such as learning and formation of memories. According to the study presented in Association of Psychological Sciences . “When individuals are making a financial decision, “reflections” often occurs. Under conditions of acute stress, increased risk taking behavior was observed”. In fact, neuro-imaging and bio-feedback data has shown that stress may influence neural responses to feedback in the ventral striatum suggesting that stress may dampen our perceptions of the subjective value of our decisions.  

 

In truth, employees are people and people can only function if they feel valued and understood. In fact one of the key aspects of Emotional Intelligence is that those with higher emotional intelligence are expected to be able to manage stress more effectively and draw boundaries as necessary to protect their emotional wellbeing. According to Equity Theory, if employees’ subjective measures of stress are heightened because an employer’s expectations and respect for the employee are inequitable, or one sided, the employee will not feel supported, capable and keen to cooperate. In other words, the employer’s valuation cannot be effective if it is conditional. If in response to a key business issue, there is havoc and crisis, threats of job cuts, and focus groups designed to make changes fast, morale will be shaken and human capital will not be onboard. Financial results can only be gained through consistent, human capital or people practices. And it is our strong belief that through consistent and supportive processes, problems could be researched and identified within the existing systems and then through behavioral science tested and implemented in large-scale, low-cost approaches rather than job elimination.

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Fact:  The more successful you are, the greater your risk of developing blind spots. Why?  Because we all suffer from Hubris to some various degrees.  If you have ever attended one of our workshops on Emotional Intelligence, you have undoubtedly heard Dr. Namin speak on Hubris and how the greatest Achilles for most CEOs is their inability to see that and other possible blind spots as they grow to be more successful.  The road from Good to Great means reinventing oneself and constantly discovering character defects and breaking bad habits that stand in our way.  One such habit, or what we like to call character defect, is perfectionism.  

 

Although it may seem that perfectionism may have served you well at certain points of life because it has pushed you to do your best, be more competitive, etc., in reality, it has not surmounted to you feeling more confident as a result of those wins, but has rather built you up to be more dependant on them. Complicated, we know. But what is not complicated is yet another fact. The fact, although seemingly counterintuitive, is that there is actually a very dangerous cycle; a Triad of psychological disorders that is given life and fed by perfectionism.

There’s a direct link between perfectionism, depression and anxiety; Crippling anxiety for that matter. The lowest level of the anxiety causes procrastination. One may think that perfectionists want everything done neatly, thoroughly and timely, which they do. However, more often than not, they feel such pressure to do things perfectly that they are overwhelmed before they even start. A soothing behavior is then to keep occupied with a million other tasks, so that they always have an excuse for why they’re unwilling to do; what actually needs to be done.

 

If you already know that are a perfectionist, you’ve probably already found it troublesome; possibly have even been majorly hurt by at some point in your life. Quick decision to write things or people off, disappointment in your own abilities and anguish in missed opportunities, not to mention impaired or lost interpersonal relationships.

 

In a recent coaching session, I was asked by a very well accomplished executive and perfectionist; “Based on what we’ve discussed and what you know about me, do you think I will be successful if I venture to doing….?”  I knew better than to say of course, or no you wouldn’t. You see, because I come from a school of thought that believes no one lives by the truth of others; even if they find that other person trustworthy and credible. Everyone lives by his or her own truth.

 

So, let’s get back. What is Perfectionism?

According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, it is “a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression (2), and eating disorders (3)”.

In other words, perfectionism is the idea that a state of complete flawlessness can is the only acceptable way. Perfectionists believe that any outcome anything less than perfect is not good enough and completely unacceptable.

 

Anyone having ever worked with a perfectionist boss knows the pain and anguish we are talking about here. Nothing is ever good enough. Unrealistic expectations, micromanaging characteristics, attacks on the employee’s character which leads to bullying, belittlement and the demise of the overall morale of the department/organization not to mention legal ramifications. Furthermore, let’s not forget perfectionist project managers. They get so sidetracked by going for perfection, that they end up halting the progress of the project, causing conflict and frustration among others, undermining collaboration and bringing about missed deadlines instead.

Perfectionism not only causes the individual undue levels of stress, hopelessness, frustration and anxiety, but can make other’s lives miserable leading to ostracizing just to keep sanity.

 

So what? What is wrong with striving for perfection?

 

  1. An obsessive and pathological concern with wanting to ‘be perfect’ can lead to worry, regret, and fear of the future.

     2.  Perfectionists tend to procrastinate, because of their unwillingness to begin projects for enjoyment and     

         good outcomes. They know deep in their hearts that starting the project will cause overwhelmingly high  

         levels of stress and pressure for them, because it has to end in absolute perfection.

    3.   The irony of it all is that perfectionism makes for less effectiveness, when the initial goal was more

          effectiveness. Because perfectionists “throw out the baby, with the bathwater”. Translation: quitting,

          complaining, or uprooting the process out of anxiousness, because perfection was not immediately

          forthcoming.

 

Where does perfectionism come from?

Before action, there is thought, and before, thought, there is attitude. And attitudes can be viral and pandemic. The attitude to see the wrong rather than the right is what feeds perfectionism. When a child is raised in an environment of perfectionist attitudes, they begin to model that attitude as their way of life. Some examples include:

Hyper -critical or demanding parents, parents/caregivers who were quick to point out mistakes and slow to give praise.

  • Having to perform under huge expectations and feeling valued purely
  • through achievements.
  • The sad concept is that these parents and caregivers where most likely

victims themselves.

So where does it all stop?

One of the best ways to get a clear understanding of whether you are a Perfectionist is to gather a 360 Feedback.  You can do this with your personal circle (three close people) or at your work environment (boss, coworker, employee) this is best done professionally.  The Feedback can be a tremendous gift; a tool and an immense opportunity to become aware, adjust your unwanted behaviors and create the balance necessary for joy and a sense of accomplishment to enter your life. 

 

Some sure tell signs of perfectionism are:

 

1) You obsessively play and replay a mistake you made

2) You are intensely competitive and can’t stand negative feedback

3) You are overly critical of others

4) You are constantly striving for independence and won’t ask for help

5) You find yourself very angry or sad or both a lot of the time when your expectation are not met

 

Our Five Tips for Keeping your Perfectionist in Check:

 

  1. Find and replace your “natural role models” (parents/caregivers) and find new role models. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning those you love, but rather rewiring your thoughts. Below are some examples of great role models.

 

  1.  Look to the past, but just as a planning tool not a self-Assessment/ identifying tool

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank did not have success out of the gate. Shortly after college, he was at rock bottom and living in his grandmother’s basement. However, he worked hard and persevered, and now uses the methods of his football playing days to build his business for the future. His managerial style is not unlike that of a captain of a sports team, and his company culture enforces a team-focused mindset that breaks into huddles for meetings, instead of having the typical round table discussion. The idea is to grow from past struggles and use those struggles in a different way to make future goals obtainable. In other words, learn from your mistakes.

 

  1.  Surround yourself by free spirited individuals

If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers. There are many examples of people who have failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

Stories are a great way to get inspired. This is exactly why religious books, and mythology were used to help people transition from one phase of life to another in many cultures. There is power in story and identifying with a character that has gone through many trials only to re-emerge as the hero.

 

  1.  Defy “Normalcy” and Strive to be Different

Break the binds and the shell that is dictated by society, norms, ideals, religion, or beauracracy. Define who you want to be by defining your boundaries instead.

Google CEO, Larry Page. Clearly, he’s intelligent and creative. He’s also driven, ambitious, and collaborative. All of these traits lead to his appreciation of innovation and his desire for others to bring innovative ideas and new thinking to the table, as evidenced in his work philosophy—“We should be building great things that don’t exist.” That thinking propels the company to take on radical-seeming projects (called “moon shots”) that push the boundaries of whatever is currently the “norm.” And that thinking drives his rigorously pushing employees to do their best, to set their own expectations for the moon.

 

  1.  Start, Fail, Repeat, Repeat Repeat

Working for Jeff Bezos isn’t always a walk in the park. He has high expectations for his employees, and doesn’t apologize for it. In a Wall Street Journal article, there is a story from the early days of Amazon, when the company was only a bookseller.  It is said that in those days, the company was so underequipped that they didn’t even have packing tables to pack the books, and employees had to pack thousands of books, long hours at a time, on their knees.  

But by 1999, Amazon had 500 employees for the sole task of answering emails. They were each expected to answer 12 emails per minute, and could possibly be fired when that number dropped below 7. Without his penchant for continuously raising the standard for his employees, this would have never been achieved.  

You see, what many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that he came from a farming background, not an MBA, executive culture. Having been raised on his grandfather’s farm and working there through his adulthood like, he was in the business of running and fixing tractors. Hence he began to be well versed in loving the process not just the end.  He is keen to the art of perseverance.  His fortitude and ability to accept failure, as a byproduct of creation is what sets him apart from perfectionist creators.  

 

His idea for Amazon was not a genius one, but he had a vision, and the vision was to turn Amazon into a machine. Over the years, he was so attuned to his customers, that he was able to continuously improve the process of procurement and shipment.  What was initially a small system, became a massive enterprise.  Amazon’s functioning and customer service, came alive like a machine, not unlike the tractors he had built and took apart years before.  By having patience with the process, not fearing failture but taking in lessons it taught, Bezos has now created an incredibly efficient machine. A machine, which is now famous for being able to make same day deliveries in over a dozen US cities.

 

This thing called Life

Sun Tzu, the Chinese Author and Philosopher in the Art of War said:  “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things”.  We live in a culture of Win-Loose; a culture of immediate gratifications that tries to teach us and our children that what you have objectively is what and who you are.  Who we are is in our minds, and how we live our lives and touch those we come in contact with is what defines us.  Your life is not a snapshot bur rather a reel of film, with segments of many many trials and tribulations and that is why What you are is defined by the means and not by the end.

Evolution. What does it really mean? The first creature we would recognize as human called homo ergester first appeared in Africa two million years ago. Not long when compared to the Oldest species that inhabited earth over 600 million years ago. These species include sharks, ants, Jelly Fish and Sponges among others. The phrase survival of the fittest is what has been described as the outcome of how species with certain talents and capabilities are able to manage environmental threats and reproduce and therefore continue to prosper as living creatures rather than die out or become extinct.

 

Environmental threats exist no matter what. Any time there are multiple interests or forces at work, there is conflict. It is believed that Conflict is a result of various reasons. Malthus, the eminent economist says that reduced supply of the means of subsistence is the root cause of conflict. According to him, conflict is caused by the increase of population in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression. According to Charles Darwin, the biological principles of “Struggle for existence” and “the survival of the fittest” are the main cause of conflict. Sigmund Freud and other psychologist hold the view that the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflict. So we know conflict is an inevitable fact of life. However, in spite of the various causes the dynamic of conflict is founded on one main phenomenon; Power.

 

Even, in job related or interpersonal relationships where there is no tangible resources to be controlled per say such as money, food, autonomy, process, etc. the exercise of power could involve control of intangible resources such as decision-making, attention, freedom, time, love, etc. even though it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in an abusive relationship whether a bully-type dynamic at work, an abusive personal relationship or an abusive marriage, one party establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics the abuser uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

 

So let’s take some evolutionary theories regarding conflict resolution; Darwin’s theory regarding conflict for example. What does the term “fittest” really mean? Is it referring to our physical embodiment, like our body mass index, speed, skeletal build, or height? Is it referring to our cognitive intelligence like the size of our brains, how good we are at problem solving or finding food during difficult times? Or is it referring to our ability is to prevail through the process of conflict against the opposition or worst yet predators? The answer cannot be our physical embodiment because if that were the case, the dinosaurs would not have gone extinct. In fact one of the most successful species that has ever lived, the ant is one of the smallest and most fragile species. The answer also cannot be our cognitive intelligence because our mammalian brains evolved to the cerebral capacity they are today only since 200,000 years ago, while the successful species described above were around way before our time and have continued to prosper.

 

So how does this relate to survival of the fittest you ask? According to the various personality inventories, with the DISC being one of them and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator being another one, it has been studied that certain personality types are more likely to be entrepreneurial. According to Timmons New Venture Creation: entrepreneurship for the 21st century, entrepreneurship is “the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is initiating, doing, achieving and building an

enterprise or organization, rather than just watching, analyzing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion. It is the ability to build a ‘founding team’ to complement your own skills and talents. It is the know-how to find, marshal and utilize resources (often owned by others) and to make sure you don’t run out of money when you need it most. Finally, it is the willingness to take calculated risk, – both personal and financial – and then do everything possible to get the odds in your favor.”

Entrepreneurs take a stance on their vision, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes”; we call it being emotionally intelligent. The ability to take risk in spite of fear, the ability to curb anxiety in spite of uncertainty, the ability to cope in spite of failure and the ability to persevere in spite of failure.   Two out of the four Emotional intelligence characteristics involve recognizing emotions in oneself and being able to work through them in spite of how difficult they may be in communicating with others.

 

One particular article has actually emphasized that these four personality types are more likely to be financially successful. But let’s put money aside and concentrate on just the entrepreneurial personality type for now, because as we know money can come from doing good and doing evil and it can do good as well as do evil. We believe that the “entrepreneurial spirit” or personality in this case, is not just relevant to the world of business, but rather to any venture that requires similar skills such as starting a new relationship, or a marriage and working though and nourishing it to flourish year after year. The four MBTI personality types ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs which are entrepreneurial are all curious, creative, take responsibility, and are decisive. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth. According to the Journal of Small Business Economics as a result of these four sub personalities, they are Persuaders (enterprising) as measured by the Holland Occupational Themes. However, persuasion can either be tied in with psychopathy, machiavelian and/or narcissism or it could be tied in with conscientiousness, social helpfulness, and absorption; a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. In reviewing the Big Five personality components, Contrary to expectations, a study in the Journal of Business Venturing found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur’s openness and long-term venture survival. On the other hand, according to the Journal of Management Decision, creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. However, in a recent study in the issue of Harvard Business Review, Target Training International Ltd., a research firm, a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs identified five personal skills that clearly made them unique. The above personality traits applied but according to the study, the glue that held them together was “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills”. These include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. Our research at Center for Work Life in working with hundreds of executives over a period of 18 years has found similar results.

 

It is believed that personality traits are usually pretty stable. However, interpersonal skills as practiced through emotional intelligence training are learned and open to change.

 

So how does this all tie in with our original question of what is evolution? Whether in the work place or in interpersonal relationships with friends, spouses or loved ones, we are constantly striving to either survive or evolve. Of course, similar to many other aspects of life, this is not an all or none dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. In Darwin’s terms, these two concepts were one and the same, but we say they are very different when it comes to social and psychological development. There is a difference between the individuals who tolerate, hide, ignore, avoid and stay on their own path when the evidence clearly calls on them, versus those that turn the system up side down because they strive for a different vision and are unwilling to take it as is. They resist control and instead choose cooperation.

Of course in symbiotic relationships where there is equity or a balance between give and take the power is distributed equitably.  We believe that Emotionally intelligent individuals are the highly evolved members of our society and of our species. Remember the sponge we talked about earlier? The one who has lived on earth for over 600 million years ago? What is the secret to its long and prosperous existence? It has been studied that as sponges feed, they filter out tiny particles of organic matter from the water. Researches believe, millions of years ago these particles would have included dead microbial matter, which rots and consumes oxygen. Sponges helped to clean water of this material. Without all of the rotting going on, the water would have experienced a significant decrease in oxygen levels.

More oxygen in the water then set the stage for more complex life forms to emerge, such as the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine ecosystem, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today. So rather than merely surviving, the most successful species on the planet, thrived by “thinking” outside of itself and enterprising on the vision of coexistence, support and a symbiotic relationship with other species that it yearned to neighbor some day. So in spite of having no IQ at all, no cerebral cortex, no significant size or particular muscular strength, the sponge could just have been the most emotionally intelligent species that lived.

As humans, we have achieved so much through the art, science and technology. However, the illusion of control, or the misrepresentation of the power to guard resources has led us to kill, repress, exclude and severely harm our own kind. Rather than control, what if we shared our resources, capabilities, and strengths with others. Rather than possess, what if we freed rights and took responsibility not just for ourselves but also for other human beings and species. What if we learned to be better communicators? Being intelligently aware of our own challenges and communicating them while seeking others challenges and empowering them. Interestingly, it turns out that fortunately we have the wiring to do just that. As opposed to homo ergaster and homo erectus, as homo sapiens we surpassed the test of time and were the only species that continued to live on the planet as descendants of apes some 6 million years ago. But why? Homo erectus was slightly bigger and more powerful than Homo sapiens, so why did we survive when they did not? The most simple answer could be that this happened because we had bigger brains. But it turns out that what mattered was not overall brain size but the areas where the brain was larger. “The Homo erectus brain did not devote a lot of space to the part of the brain that controls language and speech,” has said John Shea, professor of paleo-anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York.

“One of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread rapidly across the population”.  

 

One could argue that not all people have the luxury or even want to be emotionally intelligent, because they have to be strategic. Our response: strategy or strategic action is associated with a competitive advantage-seeking behavior to create value.   If that value were one sided, meaning just valuable to us, or worst, gained at the expense of disvaluing others, that value would surely be short-term. And value, which is short-term, is not value at all. Hence true gain in competitive advantage utilizes Emotional Intelligence within all strategic decisions to create influence rather than control and hence a win-win for all.   Sponges could have ruled the planet. They could have reserved all of the earth resources for themselves. But they were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago and created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very ancestors.

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