At one of my recent photography assignments, a senior vice president was very impressed with the amount of gear that I brought with me and how prepared I seemed to be. He noticed how I planned for the unexpected by bringing redundant pieces of equipment. He asked if I did anything else besides photography. I informed him that those areas that make me a very successful photographer, creativity, balance, leadership and personal development, also help organizations provide for increased passion, happier employees, increased profitability and a more balanced workforce. He was intrigued.
He runs the company ‘college’ that trains their employees in those areas that are specific to his industry. While he said that the majority of the programs are technical, he thought that adding one of my programs would ‘round out’ the course work. According to the Aspen Institute's Maureen Conway, coauthor on a report on the benefits of targeted training programs, " changes in technology and in the general business environment have compelled many companies to increase their investment in training in order to remain competitive. " Not only is it important to introduce technical concepts specific to an industry, but in many ways, it is more important to add training that will help employees become more adept at generating new ideas. New ideas are what keep a company in business. With this study in mind, I thought that I had a real opportunity to add value to this company.
I telephoned the person responsible for the content of this organization's training all the while referencing the senior vice president who had asked me to call. I mentioned the value of my programs and how it is important to introduce a concept like balance early, so that employee's will practice it from the beginning of their employment or careers. There was an uncomfortable pause on the phone, and then I was told that this company's first order of business was to become more professional and not focus on ‘soft skills’ like work/life balance. My contact said, “We don't want to add any non-technical training; rather we want to motivate our employees to become more professional by working harder and by working longer hours. "
I was taken aback. This was exactly the opposite approach that I would have expected, but it seems to be what is still happening in some American Companies. According to the Wall Street Journal , many of the nation's largest retailers such as Wal-Mart, Radio Shack and Dollar General, have and are still pressuring their salaried managerial staff to work overtime in order to save money and to increase profits. Wal-Mart alone has 30 overtime suits pending in 28 states. I wonder if these managers had gotten a training class on how to be more professional by working longer hours? The employees are fighting back and just might get those back wages for which they earned. I have seen time and again that an organization cannot continually increase profits through working longer and harder hours. This is a short-term solution that has long-term consequences.
If I want to capture the best photography of an event, of a person or of a place that I am visiting, I need to make sure that I elicit the most authentic response from my subject. One that is natural and not forced. A key way that a program on personal development helps to elicit more authentic responses is by giving employees the tools to be more present in the moment, allowing their intuition to come to the surface to aid in their interactions with others, and allowing them to be true to their innermost intentions. The result is increased creativity and new ideas. One of the largest software companies, SAS Institute, has seen it's sales grow consistently in the double-digits for over two decades to over $1 Billion annually through such ‘non-professional’ practices as three weeks or more of annual and ‘guilt-free’ vacation and by making sure that their employees are not working past 6PM. By encouraging its’ employees to have balance in their lives, they have allowed the generation of new ideas and subsequently increased profits.
Increased profits and happier employees only come when employees are encouraged to be more true to themselves. I make sure that I don't overwork myself and provide for proper balance both in my photography assignments and in my professional speaking programs. If I focused on the hours put into a project and not on the quality experience, I would almost always ‘miss’ the photographic opportunity that is created by natural circumstances. Can you imagine if your employer asked you to be creative for the next 30 minutes to generate a new product idea? It just wouldn't happen for it would be too forced. It's time that a positive habit of creativity is encouraged through the introduction of work/life balance concepts early in employment. Everything we see around us once started as an idea, yet how can we generate new ideas if we aren't training people to make the space for them?
Mark Sincevich works with individuals and organizations to increase their communication power so that they gain a fresh perspective, generate new ideas, sharpen the focus and create more business. He uses a unique photography angle in his creative keynotes, meeting facilitation and powerful presentation skills programs. Mark is the Founder and Chief Perspective Officer of Staash Press, a member of the National Speakers Association and the Executive Director of the Digital Photography Institute. In between assignments, Mark can be found spending time with his family or writing in cafés with character. He can be contacted at 301-654-3010 or http://www.staashpress.com