The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Finding a Reason to Get Up in the Morning
For more than three decades, Richard Leider, founder and CEO of the Inventure Group, has been working with national and international corporations to help “ignite” their employees and bring more ingenuity and purpose to the workplace. Through a worldwide practice, he’s taught over 100,000 executives and leaders from across the globe to “venture inward to discover their purpose and venture outward to make a difference in the world.” But he has seen a worrisome change in behavior and attitude over the years – a growing epidemic of corporate malaise.
Leider says the reason is simple: People have no burning reason to get out of bed in the morning. Before, business was business. But now “life has morphed into business.” Leider meets more and more people who hate their work. “I think that’s unnatural,” he says.
“We live in a complex world where the average tenure of a leader is about three years,” Leider says. “They make an impact and they move on. Organizations are no longer committed to the long run; people are no longer committed to the long run.”
This set of circumstances creates an atmosphere of volatility and ambiguity, leaving employees in a state of flux, according to Leider. Without a long-term sense of where a company is headed, they find it difficult to nurture their individual gifts, maintain their personal values and find a purpose in their lives. The end result? They become less engaged with their work.
“You need clarity about what you’re doing with your time, your life,” Leider says. “Your work purpose is the answer to that question.”
The transitory quality of today’s corporate world works against a fundamental human need to safeguard useful knowledge, Leider explains. We no longer have elders who pass on the important wisdom we need to move into the future. We are losing touch with people who can transmit their vision to the next generations, people who see what is essential and what is not. Such understanding does not come from massive amounts of accumulated information, Leider notes, but from experience.
“For tens of thousands of years, we’ve sat around fires trying to figure out the big picture,” he says. “But where are those fires inside of organizations? What we’re missing from organizations is any kind of glue that holds us together.”
The starting point for rectifying this situation is the re-cultivation of the incessantly busy, rushed, and electronically absorbed individual. People are “always on,” he says—skipping vacations, multi-tasking, trying to manage their frantic lifestyles as if it were a new game: “Volume-wise, more people are tuned in, but tuned in to what? What’s the point of the exercise? I’m for technology; however, it is hijacking the human moment, the wisdom moment.”
Leider knows that, fundamentally, people do not want to live like this. Since 1973, he has interviewed thousands of people over the age of 65, asking a deceptively simple question: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Most people respond that they would be less busy and more reflective. They would be more courageous emotionally. More effective in their relationships. More vocal about their beliefs.
“People want to understand their own bottom line,” Leider says. “They want their lives to matter. They want to leave a footprint. Meaning is fundamental to our health, our longevity, our healing, and ultimately, to our happiness.”
As an executive coach, Leider employs a wide array of strategies to help people forge a connection between their work and their wider vision of the world. But he realizes that he can only take them part of the way.
“The last of the human freedoms is choice,” he says. “We have to be more conscious and courageous about choice.”
As a powerful example of this truth, Leider points to the teachings of Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who treated fellow concentration camp prisoners suffering from extreme despondency. Frankl discovered that even under the most sordid conditions, man has the potential to find meaning in his existence. Those who survived the camps saw their meaning clearly.
It is this clarity of vision—and perhaps a certain fearlessness—that Leider urges us to maintain, especially in our everyday lives. We have to be sharp. Awake. Ready.
“We have to act out of our consciousness,” he says.