5:00pm. Richard leaves his office box. Climbs into his car, turns the key. News on the radio. Forty minutes’ drive under a light rain and he is at home, falling in a comfortable armchair offered by his wife fifteen years ago. Before he presses the remote control, Richard hears some brainwashing music coming from his son’s room. Fourteen, not easy everyday. If you ask Richard if he is happy, he will answer yes. But his eyes tell something different.
At work, everybody tells Richard he’s a good team member. So he likes his job and works hard. Without Richard’s perseverance, the company would probably not exist anymore. Don’t believe Richard’s life at work is a pleasure cruise. Some customers are hard to understand and Richard is strongly committed to satisfy them, without jeopardizing the company’s interest. The balance is sometimes complicated to find out. Fortunately, some others customers are so nice that they could become friends if… Life at work can’t connect to the private circle. Richard has an important role. You just can’t have friend relationships with customers, or you could eventually be compromised.
Richard plans to start a career as a concert artist. One day. He is a quite good piano player; since he was a little boy. Music has an enormous importance in his life. The project of playing music makes Richard wake-up every morning. Going professional is a difficult challenge. Richard has a family in charge and a responsibility in the company. Richard knows that setting-up the right strategy to become a concert artist is not easy at all. Where to start?
Today, Richard is forty-three. He has been celebrated by his wife and son so kindly. He feels loved tonight. This is good feeling. Richard can’t explain why he also feels a kind of guilt about that. A little later, trying to sleep, he points out one thing that has been surrounding for a while. Richard is visualizing his lifetime cursor. Half way between birth and death. Possibly. This is still far, but it exists, it’s on the line. Life is a so short line. Richard feels the need to draw up the report of his first half lifetime. A report. A list of primarily important things achieved for the day he dies. It’s an absolute need. Richard is not able to write a single line. Now Richard feels alone, empty, distraught. This is the beginning of a gigantic internal seism. Richard is convinced he has done nothing good, nothing primarily important to him. Important enough to face his death with. Richard is now terribly discouraged. He has no idea of how to fill this enormous hole of forty-three years, by now, no delay. Get back all the lost time. Or die, incapable, stupid Richard.
We’re all good candidates to mid-life crisis. This doesn’t happen because of who we are, or even because we secretly host a sleeping weakness. It happens per our social way of life.
At work, Richard plays a role. Richard adapts his behavior to the image of himself the others — colleagues, managers, customers — send back to him. This role is not aligned with Richard’s most essential goals. The first, deep, hidden aim of Richard isn’t customer satisfaction. It is to be loved and recognized by others. Richard can renounce to who he deeply is — a piano player, not only — in order to deserve the title given by the company. Unfortunately, this universally shared capacity is not lifelong. Our deep personality comes to surface as soon as we have to consider our death.
We are all Richard. From the top manager to the humblest employee. Almost. Some people go quite straight in their life path. Not without doubts or black areas, they’re not super humans. A noticeable common point of persons going straight is the quality of the relationships they build around them. Long term relationships, a robust real-life network. This network creates a cushion of trust around them. And trust is the antidote to our fears. Remember that all democratic societies are built on trust relationships. Elections, financial markets, daily buying goods, our family. Everything.
Real trust. An obvious short-term temptation would be to use emotional science to make believe, establish a fake trust relationship without the time and sincerity it requires. Manipulating people doesn’t work at long term and cause even bigger devastating returns. Our prehistoric brain has been built to detect hidden dangers since millions years. Nobody can overtake that collective intelligence alone.
Playing a role at work requires us to limit our relationships to others.Unconsciously, like a thin role-mask installed. Therefore, we can’t freely show who we are. As we don’t show up, the trust relationship with others is not strong enough to put our fears down. Then, an invisible curtain of fear remains around our person and we build walls to feel protected. As protective walls, we invent beliefs. Richard strongly believes that he can be fired at any moment if his customers’ feedback is not good enough. Indeed, failing would reveal that the Richard at work is not the real one. The real Richard is a piano player. Richard don’t want to hear that yet. One day maybe. Richard is also convinced that working hard saves the company, and protects him against failures. Not at all. Richard thinks building a family comes after managing his career. Indeed, failing to progress in the company’s hierarchy is not suitable for bringing up children, and be recognized as a good husband and father.
Finally, Richard thinks that living with a role-mask within the company will drive well all the others aspects of his life.
So why are we all behaving the same unwise way? We face a collective, global, social trouble. We are not accountable individually, but collectively. Which doesn’t decrease our level of duty, but simply hides it.
Companies need to make money and grow. Or die. This is how economic open markets are. For all the nineteen century, we have thought that human being could fit in those requirements. During the twentieth century, industry, commerce and service activities have grown and filled all the possible big areas, building rich economies. — With noticeable dirty leaks like energy production and environmental preservation. And human being consideration.
The twenty-first century looks more oriented to repair what has to be. Too slowly for our lifetime view. Progressively and globally to an optimistic long-term sight.
Companies can make money and raise their goals only if their human capital is organized and motivated for. A company is 100% human built. There’s nothing else.Considering internal parameters, the success of the company depends on how human beings are keen to contribute. We have learned this statement from a social science appeared in the first half of the twentieth century, the behavioral psychology. Despite its fundamental input to our societies, this discipline couldn’t penetrate enough the world of work. Until it finds a new breath with the recent neurosciences massive progress due to revolutionary cerebral imagery technologies.
We now know who drives in our behaviors. Emotions. Our emotions have a significant impact on our behaviors and decisions at work. Worse: our fears — so a hidden daily parameter of our life, as you understood — is handled by the most prehistoric part of our brain. Just as if a tiger or a mammoth could suddenly appear and kill you at any moment of distraction.
As a result, efficiently motivating your company’s teams requires you to use appropriate tools.
“What?! My teams are plenty motivated and happy to work, and my company successful!”.
I have my own beliefs: you actually do you best to lead that company. Teams are all made of Richard(s). Leaders core mission is to make others succeed. Then, as a consequence, drive the company to success.
The idea is not to wearily hold the role-mask social system. Playing a role drives employees to either burn out or awake somnolence. The idea is to enable a shared force to deconstruct the company as a role-mask driven machine, and rebuild it with individuals revealed. Then, as a logical almost mechanical gear, teams get the entire potential of wellness of each of their members. At short and long term.
Every cent invested in revealing people multiplies in collective benefits more than any other. Setting-up such development strategy supposes a slightly different human organization and communication channels. The route has to be granted by the leaders as a global model across the company, through a slow and delicate change process. The reason to this is the monumental history of pyramidal hierarchy-based companies created between 1900s. Our prehistoric brain, which manages our fear and others emotions, has heavily recorded this vertical, full of menace schema: the company’s head shouts instructions, the pyramid obeys. Companies — especially the biggest ones — are naturally, organically reluctant to change. Change has always meant risk and loss of power. Up to the digital age. Since the digital revolution, the risk area has moved to “no change”.
This is why companies are struggling between the absolute necessity to evolve, and the gigantic hole of defining the right changes, that are of an undefinable nature; a social, human being nature. We live in the age of information running freely everywhere from hands to hands. No hierarchic structure can resist, except if everybody understands it. There is a time factor: biggest companies may take a longer time to collapse. Or change.
Good leaders are a lot. Visionary leaders are quite few. Does it mean a transformation solution can be only designed by a few illuminate spirits? Not at all. Company leaders may not have to imagine a solution by their own. They only have to setup their organization to let the employees do it. More employees are directly involved to company’s destiny; more accurate the model will be. Who knows the customers? The production bottlenecks? Who needs process improvements to get better quality and return earlier at home?
Stop controlling, start to trust. Every point you control runs a role-mask dialogue, as the voice of an unconscious fear. Every person you trust — then feels protected and recognized — will give you what the company needs the most. By the way, as a manager or company leader, do you often feel alone? Would it be possible that you are encircled by role-mask voices.
From a totally flat management to minimalist vertical hierarchies, individual employee involvement and profit-sharing enabled, a lot of companies have already deployed these “Trust-based” models. A too small number. Let’s accelerate, the transformation tools are available.
Come with me and let’s tell to Richard that his company has decided to organize a piano concert for all employees and customers this year. This will be a fantastic opportunity to associate the company brand to a great moment of emotion and culture. Guess who will play?