Cooperation or Competition, which leads to greater abundance?

cooperationWe are but parts of the whole. Each part informs the whole and the whole informs each part. This is true for a family, a team, an organization, community or society. We recognize cooperation is what best serves each of these units individually and collectively; from a single person to the largest of groups. So, why does competition dominate our minds and institutions?
Our corporate and political cultures are reflective of the Darwinian notion of competition, “kill or be killed”. We can see the result is an ever-expanding economic divide between the “haves and have nots”. This divide, in a sense has created a polarity. The opportunistic “haves” seize upon the polarity notion and posit, there are only two options and it must either be “this” or “that”. (You can see this reflected in today’s politics and our two party system.) These arguments are perfectly positioned by the “haves” to seem like there are only two choices and no matter how fancy they are framed, they all end in “I win, you lose”. We see examples of this by leaders and decision-makers where the deck is stacked in the favor of the decision-maker, by the decision-maker, which leads to distrust for positions of leadership and authority.
A novice observer could easily see we (individuals, families, teams, organizations, communities, etc.) cannot come together in unison and have the full power and benefit of our collective expertise, if our institutions and organizations model and reinforce internal competition. We are obviously then divided against each other, instead of united around our common challenges. Even worse, despite all the energy and resources being used most of it is wasted as we work against each other.
So, what does this have to do with corporate culture and leadership?
Remember, I said in the beginning the parts inform the whole and the whole informs the parts? We do not live in bubbles and the more businesses openly reflect the personalities, cultures and societal norms of its people the more the organization fosters cooperation over competition. Not only is a cooperative approach to work more profitable, healthy and sustainable but, the next largest talent pool available to the labor force, called the Millennial Generation is also keenly aware of how large institutions have impacted individuals, families, and the larger community through reported mass lay-offs, buy-outs and shutdowns. Millennials saw this happening to their parents or their friends’ parents and heard it discussed on the news, as well as, social media and throughout their communities and schools too. Needless to say, anything that causes a shaking to one’s sense of security is going to be remembered for a long time.
Therefore, the Millennials are responsively focused on supporting organizations that are mission and purpose driven, not simply money driven.
Despite years of conditioning and examples to the contrary, I’ve seen a few shining examples of the wisest of executives and leaders who have recognized and tapped into the abundance of cooperation, throwing off the constraints of competition.
In fact, a ten year, longitudinal study compared organizations who operated consistently with the tenants of Conscious Capitalism (Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture – a highly cooperative approach to workplace management) against the earnings of the S&P, revealing the organizations who operated from a conscious capitalism approach exceeded the S&P earnings by 1,025%. (That’s not a decimal point, it’s a comma – one thousand and twenty-five percent!)
How do we make the shift to cooperation when all we’ve known is competition?
The Conscious Leader
The aware, awake (conscious) leader is not threatened by cooperation but, recognizes the greater value of a workforce representative of their local community of consumers and stakeholders. That by serving the greater needs of the community through providing good jobs, good pay, safe working conditions, opportunities for growth and a chance to serve something greater than the individual themselves, the organization is best positioned to achieve long term success. To make the shift the leadership approach must be one of being a servant leader; enabling the greatest capabilities of our followers through support of education and resources, aligned with organizational purpose.

Walk the Talk
We hear executives and leaders from all levels of organizations state their desire for cooperation amongst employees, only to implement competitive bonus programs, play favorites, and operate from a win at all cost mentality, which can compromise employee health by a culture tolerating abusive and toxic behavior. Whether the executives recognize the incoherence of the stated vision and the actual environment is another matter. Examine policies, procedures and norms considering whether they are a barrier or conduit to the corporate mission.

Walk the Walk
It’s important to know the “temperature” of your greatest and most expensive assets. Get out there and be a leader known, recognized and loved for who you are and not feared because of your role. Conduct regular engagement surveys and other mechanisms for feedback and measure growth milestones to make sure operational priorities are well balanced with your people priorities. Investing in your people creates loyalty and foundational strength, not to mention a greater capability to serve customers. To put the operations ahead of your people will result in sub-par employees and regular turnover, impacting client services, as well as increasing headaches and costs!

Think Long Term
I’d like to believe that leaders would recognize the long term societal cost of squeezing employees with high demands and diminishing returns is not worth the short term gains to the business or executives. Yet… I’d be naïve to think there aren’t those bad actors that actually do put profit before people.
Yes, we have some work to do as a society in the areas of honoring long term commitment and sustained growth. Currently, the business norms honor and recognize immediate, short-term results! You know the feeling, living quarter-to-quarter and thinking “I gotta make the numbers”. It is these extreme demands to make the numbers or potentially face loss of employment that coerces an epidemic of short term thinking.
Please know, the decisions we make to support short terms gains are almost never the same as those we would choose for long term gains or successes. Why? Because the short game is predicated on the return, with no regard for the resources. However, a long term plan must consider the availability and sustainability of resources (natural and human). Without these (natural and human) resources neither products, nor services can be expanded to generate more revenue and profits.
Yet, almost paradoxically to the short term thinking, the long term interests of both business and responsible stewardship of resources are not mutually exclusive but, in fact complimentary to one another.
Unfortunately, we have seen extreme examples were short term interests where chosen, using the company and employees to serve selfish means. Names like Enron, Bernie Madoff and Volkswagon come to mind as top level executives who acted in their own best interest, ultimately harming individuals, families, businesses and communities as a result.
It’s evident many individuals and institutions still operate from a competition-perspective of I win, you lose. However, with an ever-increasing skepticism for authority, demand for greater transparency and a growing economic divide the cooperative-perspective may finally over-take the competition-perspective yet, for mutual short and long term gains.
A simple shift in perspective and a stepping out of our conditioned thinking around competition, demonstrates an elevated consciousness. We are no longer trapped by the limits of competitive thinking and the results in produces. Given our new cooperative perspective, we can now consider the sum of all parts and the impact of each on the whole. In other words, when we take the whole into consideration, we are now conscious of the impact of our decisions on our people, families, community and society at large and can make sure our decisions are of benefit to our people, as well as, our bottom line.
By Ryan McShane
Ryan, has been serving the Human Resources Profession for over 20 years and currently operates a consulting firm specializing in small business Human Resources Advisory Services, Leadership Development, Career Transitions Consulting and Outplacement.
Ryan is passionate about creating and leveraging conscious business practices and systems to enable both, individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential. By promoting greater self-awareness and a conscious approach to workforce management, Ryan seeks to enable a stakeholder orientation, giving rise to equal consideration of People, Planet and Profit.

To speak up is to be shipped out.

Leaders, could you be sabotaging the return on your best investment?

Allow me to ask you a seemingly simple question: Would you spend the extra money to buy a color copier and only use black and white prints? Of course, you wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a poor investment of money. The same is true for employees. If employees do not obtain results and contribute at their highest levels, we do not receive a proper return on the single largest investment most companies make—employee salaries!

I write mostly about how to maximize employee performance, but today, I’m going to share with you what can absolutely shut down employee performance and how to avoid it.

It’s the epidemic no one talks about across ranks, but you can bet employees are talking amongst themselves.  You see, if you disagree or even propose another approach some leaders see this as a direct challenge to their authority. In fact, you’re labeled a troublemaker, dissenter and nuisance..

In these cases there is likely one of two things happening, either the ego is in the way or these leaders are not in fact leaders, but figure heads placed to maintain status quo.

The ego scenario is more common and leaves employees with the sense that, if the idea wasn’t the leaders, it’s likely to be rejected. This “leader” wears their authority on their sleeve and any perceived threat to that authority (real or imagined) is reason to “put that employee in his/her place.” These leaders are performance killers!

The less common, placeholder leadership position is likely to reject anything new or different, because “this is how we’ve always done it.” They will seek to avoid conflict at all costs and even resort to non-responsiveness or passive aggressive behavior toward the employee(s) viewed as challenging the status quo.

Will top talent and especially next generation talent put up with a culture of compliance over creativity and impact? Consider for a moment we currently have 4 generations in the workforce: Seniors, Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. There are very few seniors remaining in the workforce. Yet, many boomers still remain due to a financial downturn and an effort to recapture lost investments. The boomers, also, still hold the majority percentage of leadership roles in companies. When we step back and consider the larger social influences and their impact to each generation, we are reminded just what this does to perceptions and ultimately how they lead.

The Senior demographic were dutiful and loyal. Boomers shared some of these characteristics, yet, later, went through a phase of questioning the corporate establishment only to have their questioning quelled by the enchantment of material items obtained through positions of authority and prestige. Next, we have the stereo-typically defined “question everything group” Generation X, who saw their parents downsized and became jaded with the corporate institution. Finally, we have the Millennials who grew up doing everything in teams and received trophies for participating and, yet, has no experience of life prior to digital technology. They are referred to as the “digital natives”.

One can see the very values typical of each generation create a variety of perspectives about the world around them. The perspectives if considered equally across generations would provide the value of diversity thought leading to adaptability to proactively meet, ever-changing client business demands across a new digital landscape.

What happens if the perspectives are not given equal consideration and influence, as is the case in many authoritarian-dominant structures? We are limited to operate through the lens of that one structure as defined by the current leader(s). In other words the “how” is pre-scripted to past experiences and we hear things like, “we’ve always done it this way”, a common perspective of the status quo “leaders” mentioned before. Additionally, the authoritarian style implies anything outside the prescribed is non-conformity and rightly punishable.

It comes down to this folks, where a dominant perspective is maintained in positions of authority which do not necessarily represent the views of the entire workforce, employee engagement is unlikely. When employees are not permitted opportunities to question, to grow and to seek new ways of doing then they effectively begin to shut down.

Leaders who do not permit questioning and alternative approaches or perspectives will reduce motivation and creativity; in essence, creating a culture of doing just enough to “fly under the radar” and collect a paycheck. The “color copier scenario” of not getting what you pay for plays out over and over in many organizations across the nation. Billions are being lost through disengagement of employees. Sadly, employee engagement levels are at their all-time lows and disengagement at its highest across the nation.

Hiring and paying smart, talented professionals and not listening to what they have to say is the color copier scenario, all over again. You’re not getting what you paid for!

Don’t wait any longer. You could be hemorrhaging money in disengaged employees. Now is the time to examine what are your disengaging systems and outdated modes of leadership that shutdown employee performance.

3 Steps to Avoid and Eliminate Employee Performance Shutdown:

  1. Assess, examine and reflect on whether leaders’ behaviors are creating outcomes consistent with company purpose or mission as it relates to stimulating employee performance.
  2. Create and clearly articulate a culture of openness, supported by policy. For example, promote and recognize creative thinking and innovation leading to greater efficiency and service.
  3. Model dialogue. Be the example and demonstrate a willingness to have the “tough talks”.

Very simply, if you are in a leadership position and you cannot accept another opinion or viewpoint from employees without viewing it as dissent, then you are hurting the people under your stewardship and the organization’s revenue.

It pays to know!

By: Ryan McShane, Vice President, Marc3 Leadership Solutions [email protected], marc3solutions.com, 410-688-5054

For a Free Assessment of your Leadership Team’s impact on Employee Performance, contact me here to schedule. [email protected], www.marc3solutions.com, 410-688-5054

Marc3 Leadership Solutions provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” expanded capabilities leading to Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.

 

How to maximize and engage staff and have them thank you for it!

If you subscribe to a command and control style of leadership, operating from positional power, (“Because I’m your boss, that’s why. Now do it.”) and have no plans of changing your approach, I invite you to keep scrolling. This article is not for you. However, if you operate from command and control, recognize its limitations … Read more

Workforce Engagement is Abysmal! But Why?

The data is in! Employee Engagement is abysmal in the majority of workplaces today. But, why? We can no longer ignore it with thoughts like, “not MY employees” or “we’re not THAT bad”, resulting in inaction and burying of heads.  These mere “thoughts” and refusal to investigate and address engagement for fear leadership may have … Read more

A Choice in Thought & Perspectives- “This is Water!”

The following piece is a reflection on the prolific writer, David Foster Wallace’s YouTube video, “This is Water!” http://youtu.be/gGLavCC9H5E

 

As David begins his narration of the video, he describes an encounter between three fish, two of whom were swimming along lazily when they see another fish, who asks, “how’s the water boys?” As the third fish keeps swimming by the two fish look at one another and ask at the same time, “What the heck is water”?

 

This anecdote speaks to awareness. The two fish being surrounded by water all their life do not recognize water as anything separate from themselves, only something that has always been there and a part of their lives. This ancient story of a fish in water is often told to bring awareness to people about living more conscious lives often resulting in a more fulfilling, joyful and impactful existence.

 

Much like the water, seeing that our thoughts are separate from us, we have a choice that if exercised can contribute to the raising of consciousness for not only us as individuals but for all of humanity!

 

The video goes on to illustrate unconscious thought patterns that lead to frustration, feelings of being trapped and events that appear to be happening “to you”. These all too familiar scenarios of commuting through traffic and navigating busy, grocery stores, illustrate a few ugly aspects of unconsciousness.

 

When we are not aware of our thoughts and thus react to whatever “comes up” in our minds that is said to be our “default mode”. The default mode is an unconsciousness that leads to a belief that it’s, “all about me”, “all these people are in my way and interfering with my interest in getting home to make my dinner.” (Notice all the me’s and my’s)

 

However, as David Foster Wallace states, if we are fortunate to be awake enough to realize that we have a choice of thought, then we have options and we have freedom in how we see situations. But remember, this is not our default setting; it does take effort and practice.

 

Mental default settings are like a blinking 12:00 on a watch, clock or DVD player. The blinking 12:00 is the default setting we see anytime power was lost and then returned to the device. Just like the clock, the mind can easily be changed from the default setting. All one has to do is change it. Yes! It really is as simple as that, once you have awareness and willingness.

 

So, by now you may be thinking, “But Ryan what does this have to do with employment and human resources”?   Our level of consciousness impacts everything we do! It is a gauge for how we interact with the world around us, from interactions with co-workers to considering all the realms of possibility when it comes to solving an operational challenge. I believe education and more specifically, workforce education will soon include a focus on conscious leadership.

 

Here, we boil it down to the basics: Am I aware of my thoughts? Are these thoughts helping me or someone else? Yes? Great, continue! No? Can I learn something from these thoughts? Yes? Then create action around that learning to reinforce new habits. No? Then change your mind.

 

Yes, it is just that simple. However, it has been discovered that we have a major influence working against us, biology. Biologically we as humans tend to resist thoughts and actions that are outside of our prior experiences, because of the potential for or actual discomfort this may create. Yes, most people are naturally conflict avoidant. But, biologically we are also highly adaptive, if we choose to be.

 

So, here are a few tips to keep you moving in the practice of conscious living, when you encounter thoughts (which lead to feelings) that don’t serve you or anyone else, examine those thoughts. Discuss them with others to see these thoughts from a different perspective. Suspend judgment and consider all angles and perspectives on a particular thought or situation before taking action. By doing so, one will have a fair and balanced context, often leading one to find the least objectionable ranging to the most efficient solution.

 

Perspective shapes our world view. An unconscious perspective (default mode) of being in the center of the world and everything around us is either working in our favor or against us, leads us to being in a constant state of self-seeking, judgment and clash with opposition. But, what if we adopted a conscious perspective, leading us to choose our thoughts for a greater good?

 

By: Ryan McShane, Vice President, Marc3 Leadership Solutions [email protected]

 

Marc3 provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” with Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.

 

Contact Ryan to get the results that, elevate individuals and organizations to their highest potential.

marc3solutions.com, 410-688-5054

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