It often seems that people stand in the way of their own success. They get so focused on whatever they are trying to achieve that their thinking becomes habit, they fail to see, let alone consider, other options and their thought patterns and consequent behaviours become shackles. This inevitably limits outcomes and inhibits their own success. That is why there is more than a little validity to the old cliché, “You are your own worst enemy.” It takes an outsider to identify their issues, and even then they may not always change.
So perhaps, rather than a cliché, we should consider it as a statement of fact. Doing so immediately makes it universal and demands remedial action. Particularly if you recognise the implication that it also applies to any CEO or business leader! Then you are compelled to take a closer look at yourself and your role, and ask yourself, “How am I impeding my success and that of my organisation or team?”
Opening yourself up to this possibility is only the beginning. It does not provide any answers in and of itself. Furthermore every situation is unique and different which makes it unlikely that there is a single solution. Yet, much of our rigid thinking is the result of inadvertent acceptance of collective thought, whether it is called ‘conventional wisdom’ or whether it is simply unconscious influence. Recognising that provides a good starting point in the quest for solutions, not least because it suggests that your issues might not be as unique as you think.
Let me illustrate what I am getting at.
This week I came across an article entitled, “Building a High-Performance, Highly Engaged Culture.” It begins with the statement that, “Pressure to deliver short-term results and accommodate Millennial employees complicates the culture challenge.” You may agree, but it is a good example of how you can be susceptible to what we might call “the wider consciousness.” Millennials are not a sub-species of humanity: they are simply a modern generation that has grown up with greater exposure to technology and rapid change than any previous generation. Perhaps their aspirations are also higher but, as human beings, they still have many of the same needs that people have always had: a decent livelihood offering the chance to have a nice home, raise their children comfortably, enjoy their leisure and minimise the risks of ill-health or any other misfortune, possibly with the opportunity to broaden their experience and travel. Consequently, as an employer, I would suggest that your primary responsibility is to create an environment that delivers this.
This means your challenge as a leader is to remedy the historical failure to treat employees as humans, rather than to classify and meet the needs attached to different generations. In fact, this is implied in the article itself, with:
- PURE’s commitment to, “Help our members [i.e. employees] become smarter, safer and more resilient so they can pursue their passion with greater confidence.”
- Boeing’s recognition that “the magic sauce” for creating a competitive culture is that, “It’s got to align with individuals” and “That ‘alignment’ with the aspirations of employees is key.”
Both make the employee primary and recognise that, ultimately, a high-performance, highly engaged culture depends on the extent to which employees feel fulfilled. Identifying them as a solution for the Millennial issue sells them short and does everyone a disservice. The fact is they also solve every one of the other challenges identified in the article, and effectively prove that ‘Every Individual Matters’.
In any case, if everyone is their own worst enemy, it follows that, to engender and embed engagement for a high-performance, you need to lead – and live – by recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters’.