In the workplace, there is often a perception that employees should only show up as their “acceptable selves”. This seldom results in the authenticity and engagement of employees in the office, and can ultimately impede organizational effectiveness. I have studied, participated in, and led many diversity, inclusion, leadership development, and change efforts over the past 30 years. Reflecting on these experiences gives rise to both my frustrations and excitement in the arena of work and inclusion. Nevertheless, I am so grateful that my work experiences provided a laboratory for learning about motivation, engagement, human potential, and allowed me an opportunity to observe the complexity of the “wild wide world of work.”
My frustrations originate from the deployment of training, workshops, and even policies which tended to be ultimately ineffective in the long run when it comes to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion. During the 1980’s and 90’s, from my perspective as a so called change agent and organizational development consultant, what I really created within the workplace was increased cynicism, apathy, “program du jour” mindsets, with individuals, teams and organizations, who I truly wanted to help. Thankfully, this provided an abundance of lessons learned and provided insight into opportunities for better addressing these challenges.
Spurred by the latest scientific research in the field of positive psychology, and advances in neuroscience, individuals interested in taking organizational effectiveness to the next stage, now have tools which have a greater propensity to deliver not only results to the organization, but engage and tap into latent potential within the individual now more than ever.
One recent thought which has come about from adopting a “Positive Organizational Scholarship” approach, is the realization that real change does not come exclusively from the “Mind”, but an integrated approach capitalizing on the “Heart” wisdom, and then operationalized with the “Hands.” However, in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, most individuals within organizations assigned to help in the arena of effectiveness, were ill-equipped to address “Heart” issues. Positive psychology researchers and social scientists, collaborating with neuroscientists, now deploy better tools and practices to enhance workplace experiences; Something, most innovative employers are interested in, as well as creative employees.
My passion and acumen is focused around organizational culture and designing practices to tap into and “ignite” human potential. A co-laborer who has the same mindset, however who is much more prominent then me, is Dr. Robert Kegan. Along with his longtime partner in organizational research, Dr. Lisa Lahey, a new understanding to unbuckling interior employee potential was authored in “A Radical New Model for Unleashing Your Company’s Potential”.
Kegan and Lahey assert that although there are obvious benefits to focusing in on the “objective reality” (material objects, and anything that you can see or touch in time or space), what fuels actual creativity and innovation is the “subjective reality” (thoughts, emotions, memories, states of mind and immediate sensations) an area often considered as un-discussable or un-accessible within organizational life. However as humans both areas need to be accessed and managed. We must bring our whole selves to the workplace.
According to Kegan, employees often have two jobs: one which is seen and one which is not. The latter is a second job that consists of looking good, being politically correct, managing perceptions of others, which is a cost to the organization, especially in mindshare and attention.
Kegan and Lahey studied companies who did everything that they could to create a social field, or culture where employees could overcome those interior challenges, and vulnerabilities (see Brenè Brown, “Daring Greatly”). Kegan and Lehay coined these companies as Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDO). Companies who aspired to this effort incorporated structures where all employee wanted and received unfiltered feedback, including top executives. These were not set aside developmental programs, but real time ways in which business is done. Of course this in NOT something for the feign of heart, and requires organization courage, trust, unafraid of constructive conflict, which at this time I believe few have, but more are coming on board.
Take a look at this excerpt, which highlighted a DDO.
I would encourage anyone interested in increasing their own authenticity and development, others they lead, or organizations take a look at Kegan and Lahey’s, latest rendition on organizational effectiveness.
I once read the notion that the road to authentic individual or organizational success is narrow, and few find it; And the road to individual or organizational destruction is wide and many take that route. It is my thinking that sustainable organizational effectiveness is experienced by few. Kegan and Lahey offer some sage insights that are simple to understand, yet difficult to implement. Who is willingly to take the first step?
This blog was written by Gerry D. Bouey. Gerry is Managing Partner of TBG Leadership & Consulting, LLC and currently a PhD candidate in Organizational Leadership, Learning and Service.
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