Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to excite and attract people.

How can you ask people for their best efforts and their commitment in ways that excite and attract them? Too many of the current ways of asking, instead of exciting and attracting people, bore them, frustrate them, annoy them, make them hostile or resistant, in short, produce the very opposite qualities to those that will make the organization run smoothly. Better performance will be achieved when there’s greater congruence between what’s being asked of a person and what they’re willing and able to give. To develop, motivate and hang on to talent, you’ll have to convince your people they’re working in an environment where they can grow and be enriched. This means redefining what success means for people today. The key is to develop broader jobs, to take away the stigma of the horizontal move, to focus on creating a small-enterprise environment within the context of the larger organization that develops a sense of ownership and entrepreneurship.

According to research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, the activities that give us the most satisfaction in life are those that engage our psychic energy in increasingly complex and challenging tasks. When we are in “flow,” the activity absorbs the body and mind. A true flow experience increases productivity, improves self-esteem, reduces stress, and inspires creativity. We lose our “self,” and order and harmony prevail. Flow experiences lead to the increased complexity in consciousness that’s necessary to evolve the self. This complexity also “provides the energy and direction for some of the most important transformations of technology and culture. Cars and computers, scientific knowledge and religious systems are created more out of a joyous desire to find new challenges and to create order in consciousness than from necessity or a calculation of profit.” Most flow experiences seem to occur when people are working, meeting new challenges that match their skills and interests. The desire to achieve complexity must be shared in order to be effective. Csikzentmihalyi says “We must join together in a community of shared belief about the future.”

As noted in earlier posts, human beings are more social than solitary. Most of us depend on social interaction and position at work for much of our sense of identity and self-worth. This places a lot of emphasis and reliance on external definitions of the self. However, simply relocating our PCs - the weaving looms of the 21st century - to our homes can leave us lonely and isolated in the suburbs.

So it seems best to keep your mind alive and move on when you get blocked or bored. As the poet Tennyson wrote in his poem, Ulysses, “How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unburnished, not to shine in use.”

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