When enough isn't enough.

Growth

We have all been raised to grow; in good health.  Most of us have also been developed to perform well at school, to find a great job, to excel in a professional career, to make nice money and to have a great family life. In that order.
Aiming for growth, setting goals and having specific desires are very natural and healthy things. The human kind needs to aspire. It is also generally accepted that we all perform better when we have clear goals and targets. And in general, we are happy when we achieve our personal and professional goals. Happiness is the reward.
Though not always. So when is it getting wrong?

Stretching

In business life, the commonly practiced terms of ‘stretching goals’ and ‘stretching people’ is close to entering the danger zone. Same for ‘raising the bar’ and many other buzzwords. ‘Bigger, better, faster’ is red alert. So are ‘double digit EPS growth’ and the desire from a Chairman for a short term share price move from $20 to $25, to $35. Or from the CEO to increase this years’ productivity by 30%.
But also in private life it becomes unhealthy when enough isn’t enough. Like the guy in the pup asking for –yet another- last Stella. Five isn’t enough. Nor is six or seven. He wants more. And more. A once-a-month visit from the Amazon or Zalando man isn’t enough. One week on the beach is too short. It should be two weeks and not with the old smartphone. I need to order the newest iPhone6.

The power of “enough”

And does that make us happier? Does it bring more enjoyment?  Dr. Jeniffer L. Patterson is questioning this in Psychology Today: “it is not inherently problematic to freely choose to aspire for “more” of certain objects, outcomes, and events. On the other hand, immoderation, compulsion, and addiction are highly likely to lead to trouble. As clinical psychologists, we have seen the wreckage in the wake of an inflexible pursuit of “more.” Rigidly chasing “more” can lead to missing out on enjoying what is already sufficient. Greedily amassing “more” can lead to the decay of what is already abundant”.
It looks that we –in private and in business life- have somewhat forgotten the enjoyment of attaining goals. Short-termism has replaced the enjoyment of achieving something by setting yet other and higher goals and desires. We have turned life into a permanent fight. Look at most inspirational or leadership speeches; all talking about winning the game, moving from ‘good to great’, fighting for the last inch, etc. Because enough isn’t enough.
aspiresDon’t get me wrong; personal growth is a very healthy aspire; so is growing business performance. But very few things grow endlessly. Trees don’t reach to the moon; nor does the man-made Burj Khalifa. We don’t get 10 feet tall. No –decent- companies have 100% market share.
For many aspires, it’s not bad to ‘think inside the box’; to enjoy the happiness in what is already sufficient. And, to sometimes ‘let go’ instead of pursuing excessive, greedy and unfulfilling desires.
It’s already proven that happiness is a lever for growth, performance and success. We probably just need to wait a few more years for further research to demonstrate that accepting and enjoying the ‘enough’, is a key driver for happiness.
 
This blog was originally published on Great Business Life Stories.

Leadership – and Captain ’s Culpability

This blog is about the responsibility of a leader – the captain. 

Tragedy

Brussels airport attack was on March 22nd, 2016. A year before, on March 24th, 2015, it was co-pilot Andreas Lubitz who decided to deliberately crash his Airbus into the French Alps. In the hours and days following that tragedy, public opinion was pointing at hundreds of culprits.
His ex-girlfriend, the medical doctor, his parents,…they all should have flagged potential issues. And of course many blamed Germanwings (Lufthansa); the employer. The management first and utmost. But also the company doctors, recruiters, instructors at the aviation school,…and all of his crew colleagues who demonstrated that social peer control doesn’t work.

Guilt and Responsibility

So, what will you do when such a tragedy –perish the thought- would happen in your company? As a leader, I am sure you have implemented strong disaster and recovery plans. As well as a solid risk management policy. Fine, but how will these help you to ensure that public opinion is not targeting you and your colleagues as the prime culprits? Because don’t forget, it’s you chasing continuously for efficiency, productivity and profit while stretching your staff. So you are guilty, aren’t you?
Here, there are things to do and things not to do. The “do’s” are simple and not complex at all. Show trust! Trust in all your colleagues and staff for what they have contributed in the past and what they will be contributing in the disaster investigation and conclusion stage. The “don’t do” is the chasing for culprits; it doesn’t help you nor the victims of the disaster. Because once you offer an offender, the ball keeps running. As it will be the offender’s boss who failed; and at the end it is you the company leader becoming the guilty party. It is your job to support all your staff up to the stage where legally appointed prosecutors will take final decisions.

The Captain ‘s Job

Now of course you will learn from the disaster and do the utmost to avoid repetition. But, yes but, not everything in life can be avoided. And not everything should be regulated; certainly not over-regulated. Let’s not forget, the locked cockpit door is only resulting from the September 11 tragedies. Only days after Lubitz’ malicious act, countries implemented laws and companies regulations to ensure a minimum of two crew members in the cockpit. So what, and what about conspiracy. Should we go to three or four crew members in the cockpit? And five security guys in the cabin; on all flights? Should we stop flying because one pilot concealed sick notes?
Should you stop doing business because there is a risk that one day you may be blamed for a serious disaster? Should you stop doing business because –that’s a fact- you cannot foresee everything? Because you are not the Almighty?  As a leader – as a captain- you may be politely pleading to open the door, next shouting ‘open the damn door’, and next trying to smash the door; if the door doesn’t open you have nevertheless done the utmost to safeguard your company, your staff and your customers. That’s your job.
 
This blog was originally published on Great Business Life Stories.

Yeah! The Comfort Zone is back.

This blog by Herwig Dierckx is about the comfort zone, that mythical place where nothing seems to happen. Read this blog for a different take on that.

The Comfort Zone

Over the last decennia, corporate organisations have tried to increase their business performance through stretching their employees. This strategy has given rise to views and practices that worked for some people and didn’t for many others. And these practices also gave birth to the popular management buzz like: raise the bar – leverage competencies – bigger, better, faster – advanced growth. It all goes hand in hand with an endless drive for change. It seems another older buzz has completely been forgotten; i.e. the Peter-principle whereby people get over-stretched and over-promoted up to their level of incompetency.
Where this has delivered great career opportunities to some, it resulted for many others in burn-out, in severance and in some extreme situations even into suicide.
Slowly but steadily, we see progress. “Let’s take her out of her comfort zone” slowly makes place for the view that “the comfort zone” isn’t a bad place to be. Companies start to understand that continuous and speeded-up stretching of their staff isn’t the best strategy for ultimate profit delivery. Also the most ambitious managers start to re-enjoy and to understand the benefits of working for a while in their comfort zone. They experience that the comfort zone is not their enemy. On the contrary, it’s a great place for reflection, for stress reduction, for reloading the batteries and a lever for next steps.

Buzz

“Stepping out of your comfort zone” is such a big buzz, so big that we forget the real meaning and value of your comfort zone. It’s your body and mind that tells you that this is the place where you feel at ease; the place where we have access to what we are looking for. By recognising that the comfort zone is an acceptable place to be, people –in business as well as in private life- will also experience that this place itself is continuously on the move. You may move a bit slower than when you are pushed out of it or when you are stretched to the limits but it delivers authentic and lower risk growth. And much more sustainable.
The internet is full of pictograms indicating that it is outside of your comfort zone where “magic happens”. Some of the managers that I have been coaching had been –violently- pulled out of their comfort zone, but didn’t experience any magic. Frustration, doubt and a lower self-esteem were the results. Getting these people re-engaged with their comfort zone, that is what delivered the magic and the subsequent great opportunities.

Relax

So for all those fast-paced goal-getters, sit back, relax and breathe normally –yep I know where this comes from- and take a while to enjoy your comfort zone. Add a bit of self-reflection and you’ll land on great new avenues.
 
This blog was originally published on Great Business Life Stories.