Tibet is a harsh, unyielding land. There lies no room for frill or luxury. Every item must be employed for the mere success of survival. In short, it is very like today’s American business climate.
Behind the high Himalayas, and out on Tibet’s wind-wincing plateaus, her nomads carve a comfortable life as utter minimalists. If a sickle, harness, or butter churn fails beyond repair, it is quickly discarded. Conversely, everything that potentially might prove useful is seized upon and treasured. Dr. Stephen G. Payne, president of Leadership Strategies, insists that today’s managers must scour their horizons with the same scrutinizing eye.
* The Price of Potential. Fred trudges daily into work, feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and bored with the routine. His absenteeism and error rate are high. Alice comes in all cheery, but never quite seems to settle down to the task at hand. She talks, but seldom actually contributes to a team project.
Payne asks the manager, “Is it worth the effort to capture Fred’s and Alice’s spirit? Will it be good for the company, and its profitability to make them vibrant employees?” (Hint: if your computer had slowed to half-speed, would you pay to repair it?) If the manager answers “Probably,” he is committing himself to the tricky waters of helping unleash another person’s spirit.
The key is envisioning Fred not as a dead engine which needs to be charged from without, but rather a hobbled steed whose inbred desire to run has grown weary by its confines. Along with his natural, gifted abilities, each employee harbors an innate fountain of enthusiasm. The good manager finds an outlet for his employees’ gifted abilities. The great manager learns how to tap into their innate fountain of natural energies.
* Spirit with Legs. It may tax the manager’s imagination to view either Fred or Alice as a racing steed. But this is where Payne requires a small, and quite logical step of faith. “Assume that within each of us there roams a force wanting to build, to create - to do good for the company - for humankind,” he says. “And assume that this force in each individual is seeking to find greater expression in an imperfect world.”
While many managers can point to this force and its fountain of enthusiasm in certain employees, they interpret it as something inborn, rather than situational. Fred, they say, is just naturally always sluggish and bored, while Joe bursts with energy and innovative ideas no matter where he finds himself. “Look again,” says Payne. Watch Fred with playing competitive tennis, or leading his sons’ scout troop up the slopes of Mount Rainier. You might be surprised at how he radiates energetic force and even leadership potential. The inattentive Alice might equally amaze you with the hours of intense study which produced her latest commentary on James Joyce.
Imagine Fred’s full competitive force and Alice’s scholarly intensity channeled into your company. At this point most managers get perplexed. Of course, they want the supercharged Fred and Alice. They would be giddy to have an office filled with such individuals. But if Mr. Payne is telling me not to put my motivating shoulder behind them, what’s a poor manager to do?
* Finding Your Force. “The primary element in an employee’s environment is you, Mr. Manager,” insists Payne. The equipment, the size of the office, even the task itself, all take a back seat to the person leading the team. It is your model that can crush the spirit, or peel back the layers of frustration and let their energies willingly run.
“Producing this effective managerial model demands a major realization,” says Payne. “That enviable fountain of energy lying somewhere within Fred, Alice, and Joe also lies within you.” The manager, hopefully, even more than most, feels that force urging to charge ahead and create beneficial things for the common good. Be it a positive meeting, advantageous product, or a simple encouraging, decent act. “In short, as manager you’ve got to belly up to your own spirituality, and make it work,” says Payne.
With yourself, as with employees, unleashing this spirit is not a matter of creating a front or a persona. The spirit exists and only seeks release. Once the manager frees his own spirit, he begins to operate as the engine’s distributor, sending out his energies to all those around him. The specific acts become more logical - and more inspiring to others.
Invite Fred into your office - not for a review, but for his advice. Convince him that you value his ideas and vision. As he leaves, thank him and tell him you want to hear more in the future. Similarly, managers can encourage free-acting spirit in group meetings. Brainstorm with the employees, finding your own special phrases to entice and reward fresh ideas. Along the way, there will come a sharing of values. Your thoughts on using the tools of integrity, honesty, and humanity will work naturally with the team. These values are not odd or individual, they are common. Employees simply need to be shown their marketable value in the work setting.
The leadership journey of the executive has begun. In time, he will begin to move his primary focus onto developing the spiritual growth of each person working around him - passing on that best which he possesses. This subjective, personal growth, Payne assures executives, absolutely and directly leads to the objective growth of more widgets and more profitability. It is, after all, people who carry out every aspect of business.
Finally, comes the realization that this force is not yours to distribute or an employee’s to unleash. Rather the force exists independent of us. That is the final logical step. The force is ours to partake and pass on. This sharing of the elemental, vital force is what Dr. Payne calls spirituality in the workplace.
“Even as I say it, I can sense managers across the Garden State recoiling in horror,” says Payne. The very term fills most business executives with an uneasy fear. “For most people, the word spirituality conjures up images of cathedrals, candles, prayers, and robed priests,” Payne says. “It seems wildly irrelevant to meeting today’s sales or production quotas. So, spirit and business are things we see as naturally separate.” Certainly, several of the more ostensible efforts to imbue company employees with some sort of inner bonding have proved faltering and artificial. Visions of coworkers singing “KumbayaUnleashing the Spirit” or accountants joining hands in a circle by the pale moonlight, are more apt to rouse a deep inner spirit of only embarrassment.
Forget the forced rituals, says Payne. Instead, he prescribes this systematic method of peeling back the layers of frustration, growing one’s own spirit and passing it on. “There’s no need for fear of the term. Spiritually is only this resourceful, rich spirit with legs,” says Payne.
Ask those Tibetan nomads who greet their harsh clime with an almost impossible sense of joy, persistence, innovation, and whipcord-resilience. They will assure you that these traits are sparked by their own deep spirituality. For them, it is not some cultural oddity, but their primary tool for success. If it did not work, they would discard it like a broken hoe. Yet it does function and they are wise enough to know they cannot survive without it. As said, these nomads face the same stark climate as today’s American business scene. Biz4
Stephen G. Payne calls himself an ex-CEO on a mission. He wants every executive to achieve the very best results from the leadership journey. And he is working at it, one client at a time. Payne grew up in a family of gunmakers and engineers in Birmingham, England. (Payne’s great-grandfather actually sailed form Britain hoping to make guns for America’s Civil War.) Taking himself out of the family trade, Payne entered Aston University, earning first a bachelor’s in 1969, followed by a PH.D. in chemical engineering. Payne began consulting work for London-based PA Consulting. After providing managerial guidance to firms in the civilized city of Paris, Payne was ordered across the pond. He landed in Huntington, West Virginia to help guide that region’s CSS Railroad. Undaunted by the culture sock, Payne rose to be CEO of PA Consulting. In l994 after descending into his own Valley of Despair, Payne emerged with an epiphany and founded Leadership Strategies. To date, his company has helped the managing heads of many Fortune 100 corporations as well as small professional firms toward that best possible executive leadership experience.