Burned-in

Written on September 17, 2010, by bsouder in UncategorizedNo Comments

I was in a conversation with someone the other day and we began talking about one of my favorite topics- full, heartfelt engagement in the workplace.  It was suggested that one of the issues facing a stressed and overworked workforce was burn-out.

Perhaps.  However, on reflection I’m not sure I agree.  As a matter of fact, I’m no longer sure of what “burn-out” really is.

I believe the overriding issue is one of becoming burned-IN.

I had a college roommate once who loved the rock band Pink Floyd (OK I’m dating myself).  I owned the vinyl records of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.  My roommate played these records over and over again- and I mean OVER AND OVER again- for months.  Good thing I liked to study in the library.

Over time, the music lost its richness.  The original intention of the artist was lost.  It became simply a metallic drone in the background, and the music became less and less enjoyable as the tracks became worn and shifted from what was a wonderful multidimensional sensual experience to being flat, meaningless and empty.

Meaningless and empty.

Burned-in.

We risk burn-in when what we do day after day is simply a mental and physical exercise, and the motivation for our doing comes from a place of obligation and/or fear.  We mindlessly punch in, do what we’re told or expected to do, then punch out.  We remain in the same groove- perhaps because we think it’s safe, perhaps because we think it’s the “right” thing to do.  Either way, fear keeps us there.

We spend so much time in this “track” that we wear it flat.  The vibrancy and meaning, if ever there, becomes worn, or lost completely.

We’re burned-in.

From the perspective of a desire to bring out the best in people- this is no way to live, and certainly no way to truly realize the capacity of the individuals with whom we work.

We are meant to experience life in all its vibrancy.  This means we are to operate on all levels- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  When our work is aligned with our heart, and connects with our core values and sense of purpose- it allows us to experience more meaning  and exude creativity.   We reach a level where we transcend the track completely.  Gone are limited ways of being, limited points of view, and the stifling internment represented by the illusionary “steep walls” of the track we left behind.  We see the whole album- not just the track we were in.

That’s our true capacity as creative beings.  That is our true intention.  Full engagement.

And then burn-in is impossible, because we are no longer stuck in a track.

Joseph Campbell wrote:

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for
life.  I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being 
alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Feel the rapture of being alive. Now that is quite an intention for a workplace.

The truth is, the only person keeping you in your track- risking “burn in”- is yourself.

Today- jump out of your track- and by example allow others to do the same.  Share your creative gifts.  Authentically connect with someone as you never have.   Dare to open yourself to perspectives and people you avoided before.  Connect to that innermost part of you and speak, and act, from your heart.

Jump out of your track.

Don’t get burned-in.

Experience being alive.

Take a Ride

Written on August 4, 2010, by sandy in UncategorizedNo Comments

I was recently asked if I could recommend a book on “Connection”.

My first reaction to the question was to reflect on the books I recently read. I was struggling for a moment because I was thinking “Well, a specific book might mention connection, but its not a book on connection”.

Then it hit me.

Answering the question was a bit of a trap. I was potentially going to give the person a detour which would allow him to intellectually understand something, but not truly experience it.

Instead, I said “Well, I’m sure there are several books on Connection, and from my point of view, it would be like reading a book on Balance….you might just want to get on the bike and take a ride”.

Yes, just get on the bike and take a ride.

Or in his case, just be in a relationship with the intention of becoming connected.

There is a hypothesis here – that to be connected, you would have to have some interest in being in authentic relationships with those around you.

Connection with employees, colleagues, friends and family is not an intellectual study. It’s an experience. And if you are not having the experience of being connected, then you are not connected, and cannot truly understand connection.

The previous sentence is not designed to just state the obvious. The intention is to highlight that you don’t do connection, you be connection.

It may be helpful to get curious about relationships.  What is the relationship between connection and relationship? Reflect on your relationships and see where do you sense a level of connection and where are you more cordial, proper or guarded. The first step to being connected is noticing where your are/are not connected and look for a theme.

So, a couple of questions to explore to do a mini self-assessment on your level of connection:

  1. How often do you find yourself authentically interested in the other persons point of view?
  2. Observe yourself in relationships. Do you often “fight, flight or ….flow”?
  3. Notice when you do feel connected. Is it in a specific place? With a specific person? Is it a family pet? A holiday tradition? What does connection feel like?
  4. What keeps you from feeling as connected as you want to be (i.e., judgments, fear, too “busy”, etc)
  5. How often do find yourself distracted and closed in a social or work conversation?
  6. Where and with whom in your life would you like to feel more deeply connected?  What choices do YOU need to make to achieve a deeper level of connection with those people?
  7. Do a “cost/benefit analysis” of connection. What is the cost of being connected? What is the benefit of being connected?  What is the cost of NOT being connected?

….and then after you have taken the self-assessment,

Take a Ride.

Just get on the bike and go.

You might wobble, you might feel awkward, you might be uncomfortable, you might…..take a wonderful new ride in discovering, experiencing, and knowing authentic  connection.

“My Bad”

Written on June 3, 2010, by bsouder in UncategorizedNo Comments

Very often we work in organizations where there is a culture of blame.  Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is a little more insidious; the bottom line is that any time we move the problem away from ourselves, we are to some degree playing the blame game, and what ensues breeds fear- the poison pill for any organization.

Effective leadership- and we are all leaders to some degree- means that instead of looking for the “responsible party”, we first look to ourselves.

Imagine instead of asking: “Who is responsible” and “When are they going to solve the problem?”, we shift our thinking, and ask, “How am I responsible?” and “How can I be part of the solution?”

Can you see the shift?  When we are blaming, we are victims.  When we take responsibility, we are empowering ourselves.  And truly taking responsibility means more than lip service.

A recent un-natural disaster may highlight my point:

I was watching the morning news- I have been keenly interested in the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, where oil continues to spew out of broken pipes 5000 feet on the sea floor.

There was a lot of finger pointing; the blame game is clearly underway in many ways.  One of the questions asked-  “Who is responsible?”

And I realized, as a profound feeling of sadness came over me:

I am.

I am responsible.

At this point I could launch into my reasoning, but for the purposes of this blog, it is unnecessary- and most of you probably get it anyway.

I accept my responsibility for this disaster. My mind quickly shifted then- to:  What can I do to help solve the problem?

The next time you see the problem as “out there”, pause- take responsibility- and be the example of effective leadership.

How am I responsible? What can I do to help?  Then take action.

Imagine if every person watching the disaster in the Gulf took responsibility- and did ONE thing to help solve the problem?   I know I did.

Simplify.

Written on May 20, 2010, by bsouder in UncategorizedNo Comments

Effective Leadership need not be complicated.

I live in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania.  The Amish are a religious order who emigrated from parts of Switzerland and Germany in the 18th century.  The most well-known and visible part of their culture is that they have decided to forgo modern conveniences such as electricity and motorized vehicles.  They live relatively simple lives; focused on work, family, community, and their religious faith.

Oh yes- one more thing- they are also successful business leaders, even though very few have any formal education beyond the eighth grade.

There have been quite a number of articles written recently about the business success of the Amish.  According a study in the Global Business and Economics Review over 90% of Amish businesses are still successfully operating after five years, compared with less than 50% for small businesses in the US.

What accounts for their success?

Their success is enabled by the parts of their culture we can’t see- yet underlies everything they do- their values.

The Amish culture is founded on some basic core values, which include humility, honesty, community, and service.   Their behaviors, in the home or at work, are extensions of these values.  Examples of this range from their transparency and authenticity when engaged in conversation (even with us “English”), to Amish business leaders working hand in hand with their employees, regardless of the task.

They also recognize a higher purpose in everything they do.  It’s not about the money.  They see great meaning in their work; from tilling the soil in their farms to their beautiful craftsmanship in many creative disciplines from furniture building to carpentry.

Their businesses are successful because of the values they hold, and because their behaviors and mission are aligned with these values.  No pretenses.  No ambiguity.  Simple.

It’s interesting, but not surprising, that in Jim Collins’ classic book Good to Great the values he associates with great leaders (Level 5 leaders) are many of the same values one would associate with the Amish culture.

I used to think that the Amish were “backward” and “missing out”.  Now, after seeking to understand them, and learning about them, I know better.

Effective leadership isn’t complicated.  It’s actually pretty simple.  We are inspired by leaders who reflect back to us the best within ourselves.  We are energized because we can see our own values, our own capacity, our own creativity, in and through them.  Great leaders connect us to our own greatness.

Management gets complicated sometimes- running businesses in the modern world in all this global complexity requires a lot of experience and knowledge to create productive and efficient operations.

But this isn’t about management.  It’s about leadership.

So perhaps one of the keys to effective leadership is actually to simplify your approach, and get back to basics in much the same way the Amish have never left theirs.

Know yourself.  Know your values.

Behave in a way which is aligned with those values, and exemplifies the best in you.

In that process, you will enable those around you to recognize, and realize, the best in themselves.

Listen.

Written on May 10, 2010, by bsouder in UncategorizedNo Comments

Are you listening, really listening?

Often in a meeting we will simply stop and observe – Who is not listening? Who is not speaking?. A simple observation can provide valuable insight on the current capacity for relationship and trust in a team.

As we observe the speaker, its not just the amount of air time they “consume”, its also the mood they convey as they are speaking. As we observe the listener, it’s not just the silence they provide, it’s the level of curiosity they create as someone is speaking.

You see, the difference lies in the intention- when we speak with the intention to authentically share and discuss, an opening is created.  When we listen with the intention to truly understand another perspective, we open the doors to learning and growing.

Too often we speak with the intention of telling- and we listen with the sole intention of “waiting them out” so we can speak again, all the while sitting in judgment of the speaker.

Its sad, actually sad, to see a team with the capacity to be extra-ordinary settle for status quo because there is little authentic communication.  A lot of talking, not a lot of understanding, or learning.  What a shame.  What a lost opportunity.

When a leader actually engages their team, and allows the team to engage with each other – the level of sharing, trust and connection can be felt like you might feel the temperature in a room change.  You can actually feel the energy shift of an aligned team where ideas are exchanged without fear of judgment or reprisal, in the spirit of learning and exploration, and debate is productive.

What if we really valued listening, really hearing another’s point of view?

The main concern with listening is that it takes too much time. There is so much to do, and so little time in which to do it. We sacrifice listening for perceived speed. What we really sacrifice, however, is genuine understanding.  We sacrifice an opportunity to expand our perspective- and learn something.  And we sacrifice the possibility of  establishing an authentic, trusting connection with another human being.

An old indigenous saying goes “If you want to go quick, go alone; if you want to go far – go together”.

When we take the time and focus to engage with another point of view we actually see more.  No two points of view are alike and in the spirit of learning – that can be a very good thing.  We expand our field of vision, and connect in a way which allows us to become more effective- to “go farther” than we knew we could.

Steven Covey tells a terrific story about observing himself as he spoke abouthis son. He says “I don’t understand my son…he wont listen to me”. Read that again if you would. Do you hear it? Do you see it? If you want to understand someone, you would listen- truly listen- to them.

Re-Connect.

Written on April 9, 2010, by bsouder in Uncategorized1 Comment

What if you could bring your entire self to work every day?

I mean ALL of you- your mind, your body, your emotions, and your spirit.  I mean bringing it all ON- every ounce of energy, creativity, enthusiasm, and joy.  Pretty cool?  Yep.  Wishful thinking? Maybe. Maybe not.

The sad truth is that the majority of those in the corporate world are checked out.  Actually, recent Gallup surveys show that the MAJORITY of employees are checked out- disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees 2:1 in surveys from as far back as 2005- the so-called “boom” years!

What a waste.  A waste of time for the employees- spending most of their waking hours wishing they were elsewhere.   A waste of investment by the employers, who only get a fraction of the potential inherent in their employees.  And a waste of unrealized human energy in general for the planet, which could certainly be put to better use elsewhere.   A big, colossal waste of energy and time.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What’s preventing these millions of people from engaging?

It’s not money.  Try as corporations may to promise monetary rewards for full engagement, study after study has shown that beyond a certain point, money is a poor long-term motivator.  In fact, some studies have shown that beyond the level of subsistence, more money may actually have the opposite effect on our happiness.  For all of you claiming that this is not true for you- think about it- sure a nice raise or bonus may give you a temporary sense of material worth- and that feeling will be as fleeting as whatever stuff you buy with it.  Give it a week, a month, maybe longer, and the emptiness will be back- and you’ll be in search of your next quick fix.

It’s not the other long list of things corporations do to entice or motivate people…. security, benefits, processes, metrics, rallying cries to “beat the competition” blah blah blah.  Interesting maybe- on an intellectual level, and sometimes temporarily playing to our egos, in addition to making us feel “safe”- but that’s about it.  Not inspiring.  We leave the meeting, the team building session, the review- sit down at our desk, and nothing really changes.  When can I go home?

The truth is actually simple.

We’ve lost Connection.

Connection to ourselves.  Connection to each other.  Connection- and alignment- to a meaningful purpose.

Instead of being connected, many of us go about each day in a state of numbness- numb to ourselves- ignoring and not embracing who we really are and what we are capable of; numb to each other- avoiding authentic interaction and acknowledgement of our fellow humans; and numb to the world around us.  Oh we may see, listen, feel- but usually only briefly.  We’re in a hurry, you see- to get to the next shallow engagement in a dreary list of “to do’s”.   And we’re afraid as well; consciously or unconsciously afraid of the consequences of opening up deeper connections around us.

Connection is the antidote to numbness.  When we are connected, – something else happens entirely.  Connection is a most powerful source of energy and inspiration.  Feeling authentically connected with ourselves allows us to again experience that part of us which is boundless energy, creativity, and confidence.   Authentic connection with each other allows us to share that energy, multiplying it in a way which is intensely creative.   And connection to purpose- an intrinsic purpose- a purpose truly meaningful to us- aligns and propels us.

Wow.  Heavy stuff.

Not really.  Actually there’s little heavy lifting involved at all.  Just some courage and conviction to discover and stay true to who you are, with some trust and openness thrown in for good measure.

We have created Entheos Partners to enable individuals, leaders, and organizations to realize their inherent capabilities and capacities, and to create cultures which connect, align, and inspire to produce extraordinary results.

Connect with us- and re-connect with your source of inspiration.