You may recall the scene in the film, “The Lion King, ” in which Simba, having been banished from his murdered father’s kingdom, is floundering in the forest looking for sympathy from anyone who would listen to his sad tale of self-pity. He comes to a stream and, as he gazes into the waters, the form of his father appears and says: “Simba, you have forgotten who you are - you are more than what you have become. ”
We all are more than what we have become.
There are several reasons why this is so. One of the reasons has to do with our work environments. In college, I had a job in a pizza restaurant. One of my tasks was to keep the stainless steel oven doors clean. My manager showed me how he wanted me to do it. After a while I realized I could improve on the process and did so with the results he said he wanted – clean and no streaks. One day, he saw me doing it my way and marched up to me and said: “What do you think you’re doing? I showed you how I wanted it done!” Thinking he would listen to reason I said, “I thought . . . ” and he cut me off right there and shouted, “I’m not paying you to think, I’m paying you to do what I tell you to do!” Our work environments often do not require us to think in order to perform our responsibilities; in fact, they often require us NOT to think in order to do our job.
Prolonged exposure to this kind of work environment results in a psychological situation that can be illustrated by imagining an iceberg, only the tip of which is visible. What lies below is immense in comparison. The top of the iceberg I call the “operational consciousness, ” which comprises the actions most of us take on a daily basis in our jobs, at home and in our communities. We’re seldom called upon to go any deeper than our operational consciousness. We’ve grown accustom to thinking that what’s in the tiny top of the iceberg is all there is to us and, that once we’ve performed to the best of our perceived ability, we can’t do any better. “I did my best” is often used as an excuse for not doing any better. Occasionally, however, we are challenged to go deeper into ourselves, beneath our “operational consciousness” into what I call the “deep down;” once there, we find ourselves performing better than what we previously thought our best was. We can challenge ourselves to do better than our best by simply spending time in silence and solitude thinking into our “deep down, ” communing with what we often ignore and forget: our memories, our hopes, our dreams. The power of any organization lies not in its balance sheet assets that can be assigned a monetary value but in the “off balance sheet” intangible assets: the untapped depth of its employees.
A well-known definition of “synergy” is “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts;” and this definition is often illustrated by the equation, “1 + 1 = 3. ” Synergy, from this understanding, can only happen as an outcome of the interaction between two or more people. This is true, but not the whole truth about synergy. I’ve found that there’s tremendous power in what I call, “the synergy of the solitary soul. ”
When an organization formalizes a process that encourages and enables every employee to spend time thinking into their deep down, the synergy of multiple solitary souls that emerges will result in quicker and more creative solutions to problems, better decisions, more complete, accurate and timely information and a much more lively, livable, enjoyable and productive workplace.
Ken Wallace, M. Div. , CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.
Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems Coaches worldwide for General Motors.
His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design® program.
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