Growing Our Human Potential in the Workplace

By George Zimmer, ITP Honorary Doctorate Recipient and Chairman, CEO & Founder at Generation Tux and zTailors

To succeed in business and maximize innovation in the 21st century, we need to unleash the energy and potentials that lie within meaningful relationships and inspired human connectedness. While the 20th century was about products and feeding the supply chain, today’s work world is about relationships. To build productive human relationships, the essential ingredients are trust and fairness – supported by competence, authenticity, caring, compassion and kindness. We must inspire creativity, encourage risk-taking, and boost the cultivation of reciprocity in order to develop leadership for a truly conscious capitalism.

How do we create an environment of trust and fairness that fosters these qualities? In my experience, it involves several dimensions. To thrive, conscious businesses need to focus on developing our organization’s social and emotional intelligence. While skills are important to success, we must also recognize the importance of personality and attitude in a healthy work environment.

Leadership is about two things: character and competence. Creating a learning culture where people can develop their human capacities is a key to the kind of success in which innovation and creativity can flourish. Pixar is a great example of how this key leads to winning outcomes for all stakeholders.

What about when our employees mess up? Of course, we must respond to employee mistakes appropriately, especially mistakes affecting customers. At the same time, we need to be forgiving and even encouraging of missteps. Mistakes can be the fodder on which new behaviors are born.

Placing value on experimentation and the generation of new ideas can lead to breakthroughs. We need to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and teach within our organizations. As noted by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, in his book, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration: “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” John Lassiter’s remake of Toy Story is just one example of risk taking that paid off.

Giving our employees the benefit of the doubt can foster trust and develop loyalty and commitment for the long haul. Our companies will thrive when our employees are met with challenge. They must also be greeted with the support and encouragement that comes when they don’t have to hide their mistakes.

Encouraging transparency makes for a work environment characterized by honesty and integrity. Enhancing personal relationships within the corporate environment enhances reciprocity and good will among employees. It also leads, according to the latest science, employees to be happier and healthier. This makes good business sense.

Developing a culture of conscious business is about supporting creativity and removing the blockade of fear. One of the myths of leadership is that the leader is certain of his or her decisions. This is a fallacy from everything I’ve observed.

The first thing to understand about decision-making is that we’re rarely certain. Most of the time we’re just making our best guess. Any leader, when they are honest, will freely admit that we reach many decisions, sometimes very important decisions, by simply making a probability call based on our experience.  We’re not certain.  But yet as the leader, we need to project confidence about the decision.

Bringing the fullness of our human potential into business and our world may serve to invite a kind of positive workplace culture that creates authentic meaning, purpose, and a better experience. Ultimately, it serves the bottom line.  While there’s ample research about the role of reciprocity and productivity in the workplace, there is less research to show the interconnectedness of the employee’s experience and the way they transmit those positive feelings into each transaction.  This benefits all of our stakeholders. Some things are just intuitive.

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American entrepreneur and founder of Men’s Wearhouse, George Zimmer’s experience caring for his mother, who died of cancer, led him to support research into the therapeutic use of MDMA.

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