February 18, 2021

TPL Insights: Building Peak-Performance Cultures #55 – Dispelling a Myth About Engaged Workforces

By sitemender

With paraphrased content from Lori Gentles’ book “Oh Slap! My Choices Determine My Destiny”

One very common misconception is that the engaged workforce is the land of rainbows, lollypops, ping pong tables, long breaks, coddling, and kumbaya. Rather, it is truly the land of purpose, mission, values, hard work, accountability, and results.  Engaged workforces are led by and comprised of people who believe, as Lori Gentles does, that true success comes from making better decisions, leading an empowered life, and surrounding yourself with people who are like-minded, and willing to live and work accordingly. You will not find whiners, thumb-suckers and people who have chosen victimhood over victory in engaged workforces.

Lori Gentles, at the time of this writing, is Chief People Officer for the City of Santa Monica. Lori is one of the most accomplished business leaders I’ve had the pleasure to meet and wrote a book on which this piece is based. I encourage you to read Lori’s short but extremely poignant work. During my discussions with Lori, she never told me she was an author; but she had a quality about her that made me want to know more. A little googling and I discovered Oh Slap!. I downloaded the book on Kindle and read it over three evenings. I am a voracious researcher and read everything I can get my hands on, to support our study and architecture around peak performance cultures. Oh Slap! went immediately to my Top 10% and will remain there forever.

Lori confesses that her book was born of frustration from decades of working with people whose personal genius lies dormant because they don’t get that they have it, or they’ve given up on realizing it. Lori asserts, and I concur, that most people shy away from their personal brilliance due to low self-esteem, resulting from negative and limiting belief structures developed in childhood, reinforced, and perpetuated by their own repeated self-declarations of lack, societal expectation, laziness, and herd mentality. They have given in and given up. Despite being born seventh out of eight children into a family of limited resources and a father who drank too much, Lori decided to reject the conspiracy theory that says only the few have what it takes to really make it. Says Lori:

You can always tell what a person truly believes by their results. This is a harsh reality, and most people prefer to stay in denial and believe the conspiracy. It’s less painful. But now that you’re awake after the double slap across your face, you can leverage your paranoia for your good by becoming an inverse paranoid maniac. Act and believe as if the world is conspiring to help you. Instead of believing that everyone is using their precious time to plot and scheme against you, to trip you up, to obstruct your success, flip the script. Believe that everyone you come into contact with is instead rooting for you, cheering you on, and setting you up to win big. No matter where you go or what you do, you can’t lose. Why? Because there is a conspiracy for your good.

What you imagine, visualize, and hold in your mind manifests. Thoughts become things. According to the universal law of cause and effect, your thoughts, behaviors, and actions create specific effects that manifest and create your life as you know it. Don’t like the life you know? You can change it. Visualize people around you are responding enthusiastically and positively to your needs. People want to help and want to be needed. So, instead of preparing to defend yourself, putting on rejection repellent, gearing up for a fight, visualize people waiting eagerly to help you meet your goals. And let’s just say by chance you become an inverse paranoid and there is that one miserable person who revels in other people’s demise—so what. Just say what the ole Southern Baptist church folk say, “I’m gonna pray for you, baby—you need Jesus.” Come up with your own saying . . . but whatever you do, don’t let one sick miserable mofo get in your way. Also, remember that even royal mofos are brilliant—they just don’t know it yet. Pray, chant, light a candle for enlightenment and keep moving forward. All good that you put out will come back to you. You reap what you sow—you know this—the other side of cause and effect.”

Let’s get this straight. You are an adult; you are self-sufficient. You make choices every day – some good, some bad, some stupid. You do not rely on your momma, your employer, your partner, or your co-worker to pave the way for you. Is in not in the employment contract—read the small print. The traditional employee/ employer relationship is lopsided. There is a disturbing and crippling misconception that the employer is supposed to make employees happy, promote them, understand their family needs, support them, not hurt their feelings, and give them fifty million chances, even though they are underperforming. Aargh! I actually had an employee tell me that as the leader, I am responsible for their level of overall happiness on the job.

I don’t know about you, but I flat out reject this notion that I’m responsible for someone else’s happiness. True, as a leader, there are certain responsibilities one has, such as cultivating a positive and safe work environment where individuals can flourish and grow. But to say anyone is responsible for your happiness is just too much. Make me happy, boss? Get real. Unfortunately, contemporary literature on leadership endorses this unrealistic notion. I proclaim traditional leadership dead. Traditional leadership perpetuates mediocrity and entitlement; it undercuts creativity, ingenuity, and resiliency that is generated through self-reliance. Dependency on the supervisor (employer) for emotional and physical health, personal and professional happiness, and financial security is shortsighted. This mentality hurts organizations, hurts individuals, and dare I say hurts the nation. If we really cared about people, we’d teach them to fish, to swim, to walk, to run, and to fly. We need to dare to care by telling people the truth with compassion.

The purpose of these posts is to share what we’re learning about building cultures of peak performance. In future posts, we’ll dig further into how most peak performing organizations checks all nine boxes in terms of practicing the nine principles: Unified Leadership, Disciplined Hiring, Leading with Purpose, Stakeholder Engagement, Cost Leadership, Measuring What Matters, Customer Experience, Clarity in Everything and Staying Ahead of the Curve. If you’d like to take a quick survey enabling you to assess your own organizational health, or talk about how we can help you, please give us a call.

Warmest Regards,

Rob Andrews
Allen Austin
Consultants in Retained Search & Leadership Advisory