Like many of you, I was brought up with the view that hard work was necessary. It didn’t matter so much if you liked what you were doing, you simply had to grin and bare your way through whatever situation you were in. This is how you got ahead in life and that was that, anyone who didn’t was a slacker. Throughout my career I have worked with a number of companies that also adopted this view of the world. Survival of the fittest was the order of the day. For those wanting to move up the career ladder 'nice' was somewhat of a weakness, and signified a lack of intensity. People who didn't appear frantic simply weren't working hard enough and certainly didn't deserve any recognition. Looking back, I was a participant in this game, and played it hard. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anywhere right?
This is what I refer to as the ‘existing' paradigm of work. Many companies and their leaders still operate like this, often because that's business!
The existing paradigm of business performance
In recent times, there has been an acceleration of insight into how our bodies and minds function. Scientific discoveries across a range of fields have demonstrated the irrefutable body-mind connection. What affects one actually affects both.
It is only over the last few years that I have been properly able to reflect on what operating from the existing paradigm does to our bodies and minds.
Most of us are already familiar with our ‘fight or flight’ response to perceived threats. When we are in this mode for extended periods of time, it impacts every cell in our body. It also directs important resources away from functions which support digestion, immunity and healing and repair. Is it any wonder that long term chronic stress has been linked to almost every chronic illness a human being can experience.
In survival mode, our perception of the world becomes ‘stress perception’, and all of a sudden things seem more threatening than normal. Our mental and emotional states as well as interpersonal relationships suffer. Our lizard brains (all I care about is survival) get all the resources and our ‘human’ characteristics (like logic, creativity, problem solving and empathy) take a back seat. It all happens unconsciously, which means we often don’t realise we are silently deteriorating ourselves. We don’t realise our potential, our energy decreases, and unfortunately this has become a shade of ‘normal’ for many.
Now imagine an organisation operating from the existing paradigm which is comprised of a group of employees who are operating from ‘Fight or Flight’, and therefore contributing to ‘Group Stress Perception’. Our abilities to be innovative, creative and effective problem solvers reduces. Regardless of their best intentions, people can’t find their best effort and fall short of their true potential. Many are unfairly considered 'disengaged'.
This paradigm takes its toll on the physical, mental and emotional health of employees and this has a direct impact on productivity. Could ‘Chronic Group Employee Stress Perception’ be one of the biggest liabilities an organisation might face in the future?
A new paradigm has already emerged
Now imagine a workplace that is operating from an emerging paradigm which is already benefiting those brave enough to acknowledge it. By supporting the skills and knowledge to balance physical, mental and emotional, the workplace receives a dividend in the form of employees who are capable of greater contributions - a like minded partnership with mutual benefits on each side of the employer-employee exchange.
It is a workplace where employees are encouraged and supported to make choices which empower their own wellbeing. It is full of healthy people with vitality, clear thoughts and less fatigue. People are taking responsibility for their own choices and performance, and willingly collaborating through constructive behaviours and good humour. Most importantly, people are dealing with whatever is being thrown their way, with many issues dissolving before they even become issues in the first place. Importantly, this workplace is still performing and pushing to improve profit, just in a way that supports those who have prioritised their health.
In a world which continues to demand innovation and creative problem solving, it's a workplace that finds solutions that others simply can't see.
Why the needless battle?
From a human perspective, humans have known how to calm the mind, centre emotions and avoid chronic stress for many thousands of years. It's just that Western science has taken this long to come to the same body-mind knowledge that 'Eastern' traditions figured out without the lab-coats and guinea pigs.
The emerging paradigm respects and embraces the possibilities of anything that supports physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing (what I refer to as 'Synergistic Wellbeing'. In this emerging paradigm, health is a priority, a platform to future greatness. The existing paradigm however doesn't really see it this way. At its worst, ill-health is worn as a badge of honour. People clinging to the existing paradigm describe the emerging paradigm as oddball and woo-woo, seeing visibly tired and worn out employees as the only ones truly putting in.
Surely anything that helps to avoid unnecessary suffering would be viewed favourably?
Getting down to business
Let’s look at this from a purely business perspective. I pondered earlier whether ‘Chronic Group Stress Perception’ will be one of the biggest liabilities an organisation will face in the future. Could supporting employees to empower their own wellbeing (bringing them out of fight or flight and stress perception) help to build an asset base that delivers increasing returns and a significant sustainable advantage?
We all agree that the future is uncertain, and the organisations that survive will be nimble, agile and able to continually deliver more and better value. The question is, which levers will help to build this capability?
If we were talking about a machine that broke down less, produced more per hour, self-corrected errors and didn't upset the other machines, it would be purchased at a premium, and the company would do whatever it could to get more just like it.
We are not talking about machines, we are talking about people - easily a company's greatest potential asset. Those poeple who have access to higher levels of creativity and problem solving, interact well with others and have a high level of output are a valuable asset with a high yield. For this reason, they can usually find work anywhere, and probably prefer to work with others who are like them. Those who contribute to Group Stress Brain Perception are building a liability with high-interest.
The power to choose...
Leaders make choices all of the time about how their Companies will succeed, which then impacts many things including the people that will be attracted to it. And people who choose to empower their own wellbeing and also perform can pick and choose the Companies they want to work for.
Which style of organisation do you think will be in the best position to remain profitable and carve out a sustainable advantage?