Workplace Evolution

Gayle Gregory of Workplace Evolution and author of a book by that name, discusses cutting edge workforce Management techniques and organizational development breakthroughs, and how they can help in areas like employee morale and retention. We discuss “Me Management” — described as the ultimate in personal accountability and responsibility. It provides creative ways to dismantle the limiting beliefs and fear-based thinking that keeps us planning and acting in small ways … playing not to lose rather than taking the risks inherent in the launch of new ideas.

Gail was a worker and manager at UPS for many years, rising through the ranks to eventually lead an organization of 750 people. She left and took a long sailboat trip with her husband. On that trip she began to face some of her fears — particularly the fear of not having a job — and began to realize that fear was itself a stumbling block to performance.

After achieving a series of breakthroughs on the sailing trip, Gayle began to put together the pieces of her current teachings about leadership.

So much of the training we do in modern workplaces don’t “stick” — we may have a great meeting or a great training, and yet within a week or two we go back to our old ways. The way out is to work on the underlying beliefs on which our behaviors are based.

Gail believes that the first thing we have to overcome his fear. In the first second doing that, practice mindfulness — become more aware of what it is we think moment to moment, and day-to-day.

As you practice mindfulness, and become more aware of your thoughts, you will probably discover — as several studies have suggested — that between 85% and 98% of your thoughts can be classified as “negative”. These are thoughts around loss, the fear of loss, or things we are trying to avoid.

Gail recommends taking three steps:
  1. Stopping – as soon as you notice a negative thought, do not flinch away. If it’s a thought about (say) losing your job, then let that thought exist — don’t try to squash it or shove it away.
  2. Curiosity – from a place of curiosity, look at the negative thought. If it’s a thought about losing your job, examine it and figure out where it comes from and what it looks like.
  3. Hospitality – invite the thought in for tea. Let the implications of the negative thought play out in your mind without judgment or interruption. If there are negative feelings coming with it, like a ball of ice in the pit of your stomach, then feel it, without judgment.
These three steps will rob the negative feeling of its ability to harm us, warp our thoughts, or distort our decisions. The fear loses its power over us.

This is radical acceptance.

Become aware that you are creating reality by the way you interpret your environment.

A partner once asked Gayle in the middle of a conversation, “Out of all of the thousands of interpretations you could have made, why did you choose that one?” And that question highlights the subjectivity of our reality.

Someone cuts you off in traffic. We immediately project onto them our vision of what they did, why they did it, and what sort of person they are. Yet we know none of those things. We can just as easily replace our first image — that they are a jerk — with another — that they have a sick child they are taking to the hospital. Our reactions to these two versions of reality may be very different, even though the observable facts are identical.

Most of our mental models of reality do not come from the environment — they come out of our own heads. And by taking responsibility for that, by noticing and acknowledging our authorship of our world views, we can break free of the sense of victimhood we may have. We can stop believing that these internal stories we tell are “real” and allow ourselves to see other interpretations.

This opens a door to a greatly improved workplace.

We stop having a tiny, limited vision of our own potential. We catch ourselves assuming negative things about co-workers.

Our co-workers notice our new acceptance of them, and start to feel less judged and less fearful, more accepted. Conversations become more candid and more effective.

And the important lessons from Steve Balzac’s interview about Team Formation come into play — by creating a safer working environment we enhance teamwork.
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