In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic to discover what helps human beings be happier, live longer, and work better. The process involved identifying the areas around the world where people lived the longest. They then compared the lifestyles of these various areas to determine their commonalities. Buettner labeled these happy, long-lived areas Blue Zones, which became the title of his best-selling book. Places like Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California routinely see populations reach age 100 while most of the rest of the world feels like they’re 100 when they hit 60.
My ego has been taking a hit lately. As I prepare to work with a client I always ask what their main objective is for my session; what one thing they would like the group to leave with. I expect (hope) to hear, “Oh wise sage, please impart what-ever knowledge you have gleaned from your years of experience. Make these people better leaders, employees, and yes…human beings.” When I come out of that fog I hear the client say, “We just really need a good laugh!” This statemnt is usually preceded by “Things have been really tough lately, so…” “We’ve been going through a lot of changes, so…” or “There is a lot of uncertainty, so…”
Mitt Romney picked a running mate and Obama and Biden have decided they want another 48 months in the White House, let the games begin. (Note: If you are excited and/or worried that this will be a tirade against one party or t’other, don’t be. I haven’t made a mistake that big since I truthfully answered the question, “Honey, what do think of this outfit?”) What I will say is that political races have degenerated into the kind of illness I see infecting business across this great land of ours. Namely, if we can keep people’s attention focused solely on beating the other guys, they won’t notice that the mess we have created ourselves.
When a basketball team enters the court for a game, they don’t run it, set down their water bottles, and start the game. They warm up. They spend a good fifteen minutes bouncing the ball off the backboard, throwing it back and forth to teammates, and psyching up for the game. There isn’t a coach of any sport in the world who would allow a team to start a game without warming up, but that is exactly what managers and team leaders demand in the workplace everyday. People straggle in from various offices and departments throughout the building, put down their coffee, open up their briefcases, and sit down. Everyone mumbles in conversation until the one in charge says, “Okay. Let’s get started.”
Ben was worried. He had just taken over as President of a growing wholesale grocery company. The company was doing well on the books, with over 20% growth each year, but Ben could feel something uneasy below the surface. Employee morale was low, and teamwork; well if they tried to form a company softball team the members would probably use the bats on each other. Their situation reminded me of a survey taken of the U.S. workforce recently.
Stevie Ray has been a columnist for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal since 1997, making him the longest running local columnist for the publication. Not long ago, his column became nationally syndicated to all Business Journals across the country.
Stevie writes from his perspective both as a business owner and man-on-the-street customer. He is the author of four books and has his work published in the Harvard Business Review. If you like what he has to say, leave a comment. If you don’t like what he has to say, leave one anyway.