Two articles in the Financial Post caught my attention. The first,www.vancouversun.com/business/Playing+business+game/…/story.ht… highlighted the successful approach a growing company is taking to staff training, and the second article dealt with the power of symbols to motivate. In their own way, each of the articles spoke to a different dimension of Archetypal Leadership.
When people put the words play and learning together, it usually conjures up images of kindergarten students acquiring their ABC’s in fun-filled ways. Wise teachers and parents know that young children learn very effectively in play-based settings (nothing stifles curiosity faster than unnecessarily formal instruction). But as the Quota Co has shown with dramatic results, the element of play also works very well with adult learners. As company owner Earl Robertson puts it “when training is fun, it’s memorable.” It’s also profitable: sales are up by 15% and the company has expanded from its Ontario base to operate in dozens of countries.
The use of play in learning reinforces the foundation of Archetypal Leadership, namely, that we live in two worlds, each with their own operating system. In the passion-based world, play has inherent value as the catalyst for fun, creativity and self-expression. In this world, people (of all ages) can learn without restriction, fear of failure or external judgment. They are pulled towards compelling new ideas.
In the fear-based world, competition is the driver as are performance standards and other external measures of success. It can develop its own form of self esteem.Neither world is superior and inferior to the other: there is a time for play (e.g. being receptive to new learning) and a time for results (e.g. putting that new learning to work). Two worlds, two operating systems, each with their own contribution to make to human development and effectiveness. As Kim and I point out in our recently posted workbook, an understanding of both worlds and the ability to move between them as necessary is the hallmark of the successful leader.
The second article, http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Learn+keeping+simple/7222694/story.html, is an overview of a new book by Steve Jobs’ former creative partner, Ken Segall, in which the author identifies the keys to Apple’s extraordinary growth and success (now the largest company in the world). The points Segall raises belong in both the passion-based world (“Thing Casual, Thing Human”) and the fear-based world (“Think Brutal, Think Skeptic”) but it is his “Think Iconic” that caught my attention. Segall is confirming the powerful role symbols play in leadership and human motivation.
Symbols or icons are simple ways to express complex ideas. Here’s the really interesting thing. Symbols do what text, talk and data cannot: they bypass our conscious mind and reach into our unconscious where our deepest emotions and drives reside. In Apple’s case, it was the deceptively simple ad about two iconic characters, one Cool (the Mac of course) and one Nerdy (everyone else). The symbols of simplicity (“I can do this”) and complexity (“I don’t get it”) resonated with consumers and the rest is, as they say, retail history.
The management of symbols is an integral part of Archetypal Leadership. What leaders say and do, what they pay attention to and what they ignore sends important messages to followers that are received at an unconscious level. These messages can either help (“learning can be fun AND profitable!”) or hinder (“just read the training manual”) the company’s bottom line.
In the final pillar of Balanced Leadership we pull all the concepts together and use them in a dynamic way. Think of a swing or another pendulum. This is the way you need to move from one world to another to find balance. It is not about finding a static position and holding the space. An excess of passion or fear will be detrimental.
The change itself offers great leadership potential. When the passion-based world and the fear-based world intersect there is a burst of energy created by their contrast. Also, when you transition from one world to the other, from pushing away fear to pulling towards what you love, there is a point of stillness in between. This moment of distance from both worlds can offer great insights into a situation.
In preparation for our upcoming course at Hollyhock (Oct 3-7, hollyhock.ca), we have made our workbook accessible (https://archetypalleadership.me/introductory-workbook/) to potential participants and anyone else interested in our leadership model. Our work is always in progress and your feedback can help inform our thinking. Thanks!
Kim and Laurie
Dan Pink tells us there is a disconnect between what business does (competes) and what science shows us is effective. Yet the HBR article on The Darwinian Workplace suggests that a system where workers are aware of their performance relative to others and best performers are given more and preferred shifts increases worker satisfaction (at least for the good ones) and increases productivity. This is recommended for people working in retail, restaurants and call centers. The reason Darwinian Workplace works is that the tasks involve problem solving. The important thing is to be clear on the distinction between productivity and creativity.
Productivity improves in the fear-based world. People that don’t make the grade will decrease in income and if they don’t improve eventually lose their jobs. This atmosphere can really motivate people and it feels good to be motivated. You certainly aren’t bored. You have flow; that sought after alignment of your heart, your mind and your will (Czicksentmihaly).
What I want to know is can a couple of workers get together and determine ways they could boost their collective efficiency on their own? Allies are a very effective means of improving competitive advantages. Would this improve the workplace atmosphere or be detrimental?
Also, how much agency does each person have to improve their ranking? Some workers may like ‘worker of the week’ awards, posted for customers to see, or the ability to their tools-of-the-trade to increase their efficiency. Research by Seligman on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows that soldiers who have a sense of agency can actually thrive in a war situation. It is the feeling that a problem looms over you and you have no ability to effect the outcome that causes trauma. Including the ability for individuals to use their brain power to take on the challenges to their productivity could make work even more effective and satisfying.
Now if it’s creativity you want you definitely don’t want a fear-based environment. Fear narrows your focus; creativity needs a broad focus to put things together that never existed before such as a new way to line-up or to catch a mouse. Creativity comes from the passion-based world. This type of work needs free space for thoughts to wander with no expectations of what the final product should look like. A sense that your personal way of seeing the world has value. Gifts of inspiration should be given that allow Creatives to follow their muse. The subject has to be something they are interested in (aligned with their talent) and they need choice as to how they work (timing, location, style) and who they work with. The current explosion of temp workers may be the result of creative people recognizing that this is the condition in which they can thrive.