Last week-end, I went to a yoga retreat

by francine Hardaway on June 1, 2002

Last week-end, I went to a yoga retreat ten miles down a dirt road in the middle of the national forest that surrounds Sedona, Arizona. Amid the glorious red rocks and the Korean-influenced vegetarian food at the Sedona Healing Resort, about twenty of us tried to make it to enlightenment without wine, TV, cell phones, radios, and protein. (After day 1, someone went into town and brought back chocolate, thank God).

The theme of this retreat was “Remembering Your True Self.” Part of the retreat consisted of journaling, answering the question “Who am I?” In order to get to that question, we had to answer several others, including 1)who would you like to apologize to, 2)who would you like to forgive, 3)what was the worst part of your childhood, and 4)what are you really done with.

The point of this exercise was that we carry small things with us for a long time, and often we’re not even aware of the burden we have been carrying. But that burden determines who we are.

The question of “Who am I?” came up again this week in another, very dissimilar context: a workshop Stealthmode Partners sponsored called “Creating a Corporate Culture.” Joelle Hadley, one of the best management consultants and presenters I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen many), was leading the participants through some formulas for productive and successful cultures.

I know I will not get this exactly right, but here’s an approximation of one of them:
A + (S+K)+G =IRPP, which means that an employee’s attitude, plus the sum of his skill sets and knowledge, plus a set of defined goals, adds up to the internal rate of personal productivity.

This attitude stuff is important, because we all bring our attitudes with us to work every morning. A corporate culture is made up of the attitudes of all the company’s employees. And our attitudes are, in most cases, subconscious and negative.

That means either we don’t know who we are (we don’t remember our true selves), or our concept of who we are is negative.

It’s hard to build a productive workplace or a personal relationship on unacknowledged or negative self-concepts. No wonder most companies end up swamped in office politics, petty infighting, and lost productivity. Joelle told us that employee surveys reveal 76% of the workforce is either “just showing up” or overtly hostile to the company that pays the bills (think Dilbert). There’s always a corporate culture, but it often doesn’t serve the corporation.

What’s the cure? According to Joelle, managers must bring their whole selves to work. This means abandoning the “game” face most of us use at the office, and really connecting with colleagues and employees. Apparently, attitudes, even long held, can be changed if a manager (managers are unbelievably powerful) contributes to an employee’s self-esteem rather than destroys it. And employees who have higher self-esteem make greater contributions to the company.

The five biggest motivators for employees are personal praise, written praise, promotion for performance, public praise and motivational meetings. Notice that money does not figure in these top five. No one wants to answer the question “who am I?” as “I am a paid mercenary.” But most people get only routine, impersonal feedback from their colleagues, and no praise for jobs well done.

Most managers take very little time to connect on a personal level with their employees. In fact, because of all the EEOC rules and the harrassment and diversity training that’s out there, I bet most mangers are *afraid* to talk to their employees. Unfortunately, we’ve painted ourselves into a corner.

I have always brought my whole self to work. I haven’t had a choice; I’m out of control. In teaching college, it worked. In public relations, it sometimes did not. At Intel, it *really* did not. Intel’s corporate culture regurgitated me after a year. They didn’t have to fire me; I quit.

Now, as I am helping startup companies, I understand that if you begin with a corporate culture that encourages employees to bring their whole selves to work, you eventually develop a work culture that’s as strong as(or stronger than) a family. During the dot-com era, many companies had cultures that were so strong they kept people at work for days and nights on end. Articles appeared in magazines criticizing these companies for trying to replace the family. Yet the people who worked for dot coms felt ownership in the companies and were willing to give their best efforts. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way as companies once again downsize through a recession.

Imagine the other people on the retreat with me remembering their true selves in Sedona. Then the retreat is over, and they’re back at work. They have done all the work to remember who they are, and perhaps they have actually brought their whole selves to work. After all that effort, no one notices. Bummer. Back to the game face. I’m outta here.



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: