There is something fundamentally wrong with institutions that claim their people are their greatest assets, yet treat them as expendable resources. Too many companies are more concerned about the sustainability of their capital resources – the buildings they work in, the cars they drive and the equipment they buy – than they are about the sustainability of the human resources that actually make the delivery of their products and services possible.
Human beings are wired to work, but the problem is we don’t come with operating manuals.
- How do we work best?
- In what sequence should we operate?
- With whom should we work?
- In what areas should our potential be developed?
- Where is that sweet spot for each one of us that unleashes our personal competitive advantage?
- How do we combine groups of people to create teams that can generate more than the sum of the individuals together?
These are some of the fundamental questions we need to answer to effectively use ourselves as resources for the companies for which we work. Unless a leader/manager is extremely adept at recognizing and correctly deploying the gifts of their employees, the machines will continue to get more attention and care than the people who run them.
Oftentimes we are developed and deployed in ways that are not in alignment with our true talents and potential. When people are tasked to do things that do not support their natural talents and strengths, it is like putting water in the gas tank of a Mercedes-Benz. While the high-performance machine may still move forward, it acts as if it is out of gas, sputters and eventually dies.
The good news is we now have enough understanding of human dynamics and intrinsic motivation to address this issue in ways previously unavailable to us.
Too often, we accidentally trip into our areas of high performance. When we are in this sweet spot, time stands still and we operate in a state of pure joy. Ideas come easily, progress seems effortless and our energy is boundless. We are able to break out of our predictable molds and become, as Barbara Frederickson so eloquently writes, “generative, creative, resilient, ripe with possibility and beautifully unpredictable.”[i] Once we have tasted this optimal state, we try to recreate it. Unfortunately, the fleeting nature of this experience, the complexity of human beings, and our inability to separate ourselves from our own patterns, makes this difficult to do.
Core Components and Interrelatedness
CoreClarity is based on a foundation of Positive Psychology and what makes human beings successful. We begin with the premise that all individuals are unique, and the late Dr. Jerry Fletcher’s work that states each one of us has a very specific and individualized high performance pattern that we follow when we do something beyond our own personal expectations. This pattern is not discernable without external intervention.
Supporting the work by giving people a higher plane to focus on is Barbara Frederickson’s Broaden and Build theory that leads to human flourishing. Instead of focusing in on deficiencies, or points in time where performance was not superior, we focus in on specific past successes. By looking at the times where an individual has tapped into his/her personal genius and (hopefully) reached a state of Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, we can identify and choose to intentionally broaden and build on these positive past experiences.
By adding in Don Clifton’s Strengths Psychology and his taxonomy of talents, we have created a process that takes individuals through a structured program that helps them identify the elemental building blocks of their strengths and intentionally use these innate talents to create a life where they – and those with whom they work, live and play - have the capacity to flourish.
Changing Management Practices and Processes
The philosophical underpinnings of management must change to accomplish an environment that can engage and unleash human potential on a wide scale. Managers must believe that people should be led, not managed. Deadlines, inventories, projects and other inanimate objects and artificial means should be the focus of management, not the people themselves.
When one thing is taken away, something must be put in its place to fill the void created. Instead of managing the people that report to them, managers must be given the responsibility of leading their people to a place where they can all tap into their potential individually and collectively – and accomplish the goals given to their team and department. By creating an expectation that each individual will bring the best of who they are to work each day, we must give the managers the means to tap into their own potential first.
The following practices and processes will have to be reviewed and modified (sometimes only slightly) to fit this new focus:
- Strategic planning
- Team creation
- Promotion and compensation policies
- Performance appraisals
People want to be led, not managed. To be a good follower, or player, if you will, people have to understand themselves first, so they can apply what they bring to the game to support the team.
In sports, this is easy. The rules are clear, the equipment is standardized, the playing field is specific and the outcomes are easily measured. Talents are readily spotted and intentionally grown and leveraged. Individual performance is tested and immediate feedback is available. There is a common language for each sport that everyone knows and uses.
If we change the way people see themselves and others, we can create an environment of transformational change. When people fundamentally understand themselves, and believe in what they have to offer, it changes their personal attitude.
When we give them a language that helps them understand the internal workings of others, it creates and builds trust quickly. Trust in their own capabilities and where and how they best work gives them the confidence to step up to the plate when the stakes are high. Trusting that others know who they are and when and how they best work, allows everyone to tap into the power of the people and organization in ways previously unavailable.
A common language and improved communication leads to better relations between people and a different level of collaboration.
We have found the most powerful place to start is with a team in crisis. Most crises are due to relational issues. These are easily addressed through our In-Powering People & Teams program that we have used successfully with hundreds of teams and thousands of individuals worldwide. In normal situations, this program is delivered in as little as nine hours, in two or three different segments over a period of two to ten weeks.
For teams in crisis, we recommend a retreat environment where more time is allotted for the delivery of the program and people are outside of the office in a relaxed setting where informal discussions can easily be conducted between sessions. The more time available for these interactions, the more healing that can take place as a result of the program.
- Have the manager and team take the assessment. (See Challenges above for more information.)
- Unpack the information in a team meeting or retreat, using the CoreClarity framework.
- Give the team time to talk through the individual information and share their insights with each other – and sleep on the information, even if it is only for one night.
- Reconvene the team and review their experiences and insights.
- Complete the team portion of the program which includes:
- When talents and strengths collide
- How our frames of reference and synaptic connections color our view of the world.
- What to do to expand our vision.
- How the talents work in problem solving.
- How to create strong teams using the talents.
- Address specific issues facing the team and use talents to start the solution-finding process.
- The unique potential competitive advantage of the team assembled.
In step 2, each individual starts to understand his/her own autopilot: those recurring thoughts, feelings and behaviors that he/she does without thinking about doing them. By taking these elemental building blocks of the strengths of the individuals, we then broaden the scope and give them ways to intentionally build on the talents by adding specific skills, knowledge and experience that supports his/her unique value proposition.
Then we help them unpack their talents so they can understand their past successes in a way that will support them in intentionally tapping into their unique combination and repeating the patterns of their own successful endeavors.
Getting to the core of a person’s recurring thoughts, feelings and behaviors, we can help each individual start to create a template for understanding his or her own unique value proposition and intrinsic motivation – and by sharing between them, those of the others on the team.
The beauty of the program is that is helps the team members begin to understand that no one thinks quite like they do, and that all perspectives are unique – and valuable. By giving them an understanding of their own value and worth, they can acknowledge and appreciate the value and worth of their fellow teammates – including and especially those with whom they have had interpersonal squabbles with in the past.
Changing a team or even a department of as many as a thousand people has been done to date. What we propose and has not yet been accomplished is a large-scale, enterprise-wide application of the program.
To complete an enterprise-wide deployment, the members of the C-Suite have to believe in the program and apply it in all of their actions and processes. Then, the program can be cascaded down to their direct reports, and on down into the rank and file of the organization in a phased manner – all the way to the grass roots and each individual on the front line.
If the company uses Kaplan & Norton’s Balanced Scorecard, the scorecard for each individual can be enhanced on the Learning & Growth line to include training that will apply only to the talents and needs of that particular individual. Targeted training will increase the return on that training as we can highlight, with surgical precision, the specific needs of each person.
This is a program that changes people. Not because they change who they are through the process, but because we give them the ability to understand who they are at their core, and the permission to bring that person to work each day.
Our goal is to put the management of each individual’s life and career into their own hands so that, when the right opportunity for them to enter into their sweet spot presents itself, they will enthusiastically jump on that chance to be the best of who they can be. Also, perhaps more importantly, when they are presented with an opportunity that will not support their core, they will be able to turn it down with grace and the self assurance that they are not the right person to take on that assignment.