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Operating in a world of threat

A focus on “me” for survival

I recently attended a virtual conference offered by Culture Amp on how to intentionally drive culture at your organization. Their CEO, Didier Elzinger, gave a presentation that really got me thinking.

As Didier pointed out, in business, we are all operating in a world of threat and experiencing feelings of “not enough.” Not enough time. Not enough pay. Not enough work-life balance. Not enough resources. Not enough people who want to work like I do. Not enough validation for who I am. Not competent enough. And the list can go on.

As such, we are in protect mode all the time. I’m reminded of the old adage scarcity vs. abundance. A scarcity mindset creates a hyper fixation on what’s lacking leading to fear, jealousy, stress, anxiety and other negative perspectives. It creates an intense focus on “me” in order to survive in the world of work, and ultimately leads to an Us vs. Them culture.

And, boy, does it feel like there is a lot of Us vs. Them happening right now. It seems like everyone is pointing fingers in multiple directions and waiting for someone—anyone—to alleviate the pain and help them find the answers. A COO of a law firm recently said to me, “Every leader in every law firm is struggling with engagement right now, and no one knows how to fix it.”

As Didier put it in his presentation, we need to “unhook ourselves from the threats and work to move from me to we.” Sounds easier said than done, I know.

Where do you start? First, understand that there isn’t a magic bullet fix. No one action will create the results you seek. With that realization, and second, open a dialogue with all invested parties and create an awareness of interests for all.

You may just find that people have more in common than they realize. For example, everyone values work-life balance—all generations and all ages. It just manifests itself differently for each person…AND, it doesn’t have the be the same for everyone. The key is to stay focused on the interests (work-life balance); don’t get caught up in too much disagreement for the how to go about it (leaving at 5:00 pm, 4-day work weeks, etc.).

Step three is to create an environment for co-collaboration and co-creation of a new culture, which is nothing more than “how things get done.” Help contributors avoid the need to be “right” so everyone can truly listen and bring an open mind to the table. When judgment is suspended, creativity can abound.

I think what’s really missing right now is that the Us’s aren’t talking (and listening) to the Them’s and vice versa. If we all stop focusing on what isn’t happening (threats) and start a collaborative discourse on what could be happening (possibility or abundance), we could start to improve engagement.

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