Imagine a new model for employee success and performance
This post is part of a series exploring the archetypical successful employee: the corporate hero. This archetype, whether real or perceived, heavily influences the behaviors of today’s workforce. In this series, we will push against our limiting beliefs of what it means to be an employee, how to break away from the status quo and rid ourselves of inherited behaviors that no longer serve us, what allows us to thrive at work and in life, and how to design the conditions of the workplace in support of a new type of corporate hero.
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we live in a society where our success, on an individual and collective level, is determined by the amount of money, power and status we amass.
Because of this, the models for success within our organizations are the people who sacrifice themselves, their time, their relationships, their health and their happiness in service to their company.
This “company man” is the shining symbol of success within our Capitalist society – the person that arrives first and leaves last, the person chained to their desk, the person running from meeting to meeting unable to catch a breath, the person who never takes their vacation.
Our inherited, outdated expectations and biases no longer serve us or the companies we work for.
As we move away from Industrial Age work and ways of organizing, we must also move away from an Industrial Age mindset of what work is and what it means to be a successful employee.
"Our inherited expectations and biases no longer serve us or the companies we work for.
As we move away from Industrial Age work, we must also move away from a mindset of what work is and what it means to be a successful employee."
For the last century, two factors have largely been responsible for generating individual success (money, status and power):
Productivity: make as many widgets as possible within a period of time. Simply work hard, put your nose to the grindstone, buckle down, bootstrap, make it work and get shit done. Do more with fewer resources in zero time.
Talent: using your God-given gifts to get ahead in life. According to this worldview, you were either born with a skill or ability or you weren’t. Fundamentally, one’s talent or ability to do something cannot be grown or changed.
Productivity and talent. Are these factors still the largest drivers of an individual’s success in a knowledge economy? Sure, they play a role, but are they still the primary force for success? I don’t think so.
Knowledge-based work requires that we have the time and space to be calm. To think critically. To collaborate. To experiment. To be mindful. To be creative. To focus. To ponder. To be aware of ourselves. To continuously learn and grow.
If this is the case, then how do we measure productivity when we no longer make physical widgets, and thinking becomes our product?
And, with a society that changes at breakneck pace, demanding that individuals constantly learn and grow their minds and abilities to stay afloat, how can we measure talent?
If productivity and talent take a back seat for creating employee success, then which factors are in the driver’s seat?
"Haunted by the corporate heroes of the Industrial Age, we have sacrificed our most basic human needs to be productive workers."
Haunted by the corporate heroes of the Industrial Age, we have sacrificed our most basic human needs to be productive workers.
When asked what we most desire in life, for ourselves and our children, peoples’ answers overwhelmingly fall into three categories:
- To be well
- To be fulfilled
- To be safe
Without health, happiness and security, how can we be expected to grow as individuals and make our highest contribution to our companies and the world?
Can we replace our current model of success (money, status and power) with a new model that prioritizes health, happiness and security?
The simple answer is yes.
The execution is much more complex. And yet, companies have an enormous opportunity to shape the minds and lives of their people.
"How might we redesign the conditions of our organization to create a new definition around success for our people rooted in health, happiness and security?"
My challenge to you comes in the form of this question:
How might we redesign the conditions of our organization to create a new definition around success for our people rooted in health, happiness and security?
A big challenge, but one I believe you are capable of undertaking.
If you don’t know where to begin, look to each of the Four Contexts:
- Systems – implicit and explicit rules, policies, procedures, processes, platforms, organizational norms
- Spaces – design of the physical environment and how communication is used within this environment
- Social – networks and groups, teams, support systems, mentors and coaches, friends and family, and social norms
- Self – meaning and stories about the world, confidence and capability, autonomy and control, level of awareness and self-actualization
Reimagine your organization and culture through these Four Contexts while continuously asking, “will this generate health, happiness and security for our people?”
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