Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Life Enriching Organizations: Focusing on Serving Life

Many corporations focus on the end goal of making money. This can easily become what is most important to the organization. All the strategies and marketing focus primarily on bringing in more money. It may become inherent in the culture. This thinking can also be present with nonprofit organizations.

There is no doubt that money is important for both of these type of organizations. Money in the form of revenue or donations gives the organization the ability to sustain itself, attain more resources to do more good or create more products and security. The problem is when money becomes the driving force and we forget what the organization is about that we run into problems.

Every organization has something potentially that they could offer to make life better for others. It is wonderful when an organization can identify this and make this the focus without compromising this value.

Rosenberg states that when it comes to doing things for the right motivation (to serve life) in the business world "we must be concerned that our product serves life. That our motive is not to make money but to serve life." He adds, "Don't ever, ever do anything for money but request money to meet your need for meaning."

Motivation to Serve Life
When we have this balance we don't forget our mission or what we have to offer the world. We can evaluate if corporations, schools, churches and businesses are serving life or not by whether what they offer actually makes the world a better place.

If we focus more on making money than on how our product or service enriches life we get caught up in the trap that faces many organizations. The needs and values that the people and the organization have get lost and caught up in a strategy to make money. This single-minded focus means that employees are now more likely viewed as a means and ends to attaining more money for the company. Their value is determined by how productive or how much revenue they can generate.

In an nonprofit organization for example, an employee with the ability to offer quality counseling, education or service to the community may be judged not on his exceptional ability to do this so much as his ability to bring in money for the organization by providing these services. The value of the employee shifts and quality may be compromised for quantity (data, generation of money, etc.).

This can lead to employees getting a sense of being used or not being valued for their abilities and talents. The creativity, values of contributing to life and excitement that drives them may be lost and the mission and purpose of the work is not the driving motivation.

Miki Kashtan writes in her book Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness that, "By and large we have created social systems in which human needs are routinely unmet. So to prepare us to be willing to put up with such systems we must become accustomed to tolerating unmet needs from early on. This is a major aspect of the process of socialization."

Intrinsic Motivation
When we focus on how what we are doing serves life and that becomes the focus, individuals, teams and departments are motivated intrinsically. There is research demonstrating that rewards do not work in work environments long-term because they take employees away from being motivated intrinsically. When rewards are promised or given individuals are motivated by them and not the "why."

The key is for leaders to be able to articulate the "why" behind the requests and strategies being chosen. Yet, many leaders do not have the skills to do this and instead opt for obedience and compliance with no explanation of what needs are being met by the strategies that they propose and, at times, impose.

Fear Cultures
When compliance becomes the primary focus and people are judged based upon whether or not they are compliant, a fear culture may be in the making. For example when 100% compliance becomes the focus we must now focus on what will happen when it is not attained. There is a higher likelihood that we will do what many of us have been socialized to do - use punishment and rewards to get others to do as we would like them to do. This breeds fear of punishment and competition instead of cooperation. This can suck the life out of any company.

Another Way to Inspire
Inevitably, there will be times when a goal is not reached or productivity levels are not attained. When this happens we can become curious and try to determine what is getting in the way of attaining the goals. There is usually a need or value that is not being lived out and needs attention. For instance, a team may need training or more support (staff) or volunteers to attain the goal. When we meet these needs the likelihood that the needs of the whole will be met increase.

Instead of punishing, which instills fear, we can discover what strategies can help everyone involved attain the goal. We come alongside and learn what can help employees and teams thrive with a spirit of support and encouragement.

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