Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creating A Game Worth Playing

Part 8 of a continuing series on CEOing by Tom Voccola, Author, The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose

Last month we were talking about the universal belief in the workplace that says:

• All bosses are idiots

• All employees are helpless and hopeless

So what kind of feelings do you think this kind of belief is going to generate?

It triggers anger, resentment, fear and survival, and, according Naomi Eisenberfer, a leading social neuroscience researcher at UCLA, “when a leader creates a stressful workplace, employees unconsciously slip into a state of fear and survival. This sets up a threat response [in the individual employee] which is both mentally taxing and deadly to the productivity of a person. Because this response uses up oxygen and glucose from the blood, they are diverted from other parts of the brain, including working memory function, which processes new information and ideas. This impairs analytical thinking, creative insight and problem solving: in other words, just when people most need their sophisticated mental capabilities, the brain’s internal resources are taken away from them.”

There is a case to be made for positive leadership. And that happens when you are feeling clear and confident about the future yourself. Which brings us to the third CEOing Principle.

To be Powerful in the World, you must learn to Co-create and Master a Game Worth Playing.

To engage people, you are going to have to provide a picture of the future they can feel good about. I call it A Game Worth Playing. You need to inspire them, challenge them and call them forth to be the best they can be. You don’t do that by judging them. You do that by understanding that, as Deming said, “Nobody gives a hoot about profits.” What they care about is doing a good job!

So your company must be consciously designed to foster the emotional engagement one feels when they are part of something meaningful, feel challenged with respect and appreciated for their contribution. When people feel that kind of engagement they have no problem taking personal responsibility for the outcome, and doing a good job

You must do this for the employees as people! Not for the company or the bosses, not for the customer or for the shareholders, but for the employees so they feel connected with and in alignment with your dream, so they feel they are making a difference and a contribution.

Again, Naomi Eisenberfer from the UCLA neuroscience study, “…when leaders make people feel good about themselves, clearly communicate their expectations, give employees latitude to make decisions, support people’s efforts to build good relationships, and treat the whole organization fairly, it prompts a reward response [in the brain]. People become more effective, more open to ideas, and more creative.”

This is what W. Edwards Deming meant when he said “innovation comes from people who take joy in their work.” It’s your job to create the circumstances within which joy can occur.

Now there is a very practical and selfish reason why you want to do this.

In short, as a business owner you will face two possibilities:

• You can work for the business, or,

• Your business can work for you.

If you truly intend to be a successful entrepreneur, you will learn to work "on" the business not "in" the business as soon as you can. And that means being able to empower and trust people. (By this time you must have read the E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber. If not, I'm sure you can find a copy at your local library.)

The idea is to turn your employees into “colleagues” and your business into a cash machine that works whether you are there or not. If your business works without you, you have choice, you have freedom. You can keep it. You can sell it. You can grow it. You can do something else.

Next month, The Right People on the Bus


Entrepreneur, speaker, author and CEO Guide, Tom Voccola is the CEO of CEO2, a Chief Executive Consulting Firm specializing in the rapid transformation of corporate and organizational cultures. Tom is the co-founder and past Chairman of the Los Angeles area CEO Round Table for the American Electronics Association, and the author of The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose. His life’s work is to inspire a new generation of leaders who transcend ego and its fear based agenda. His work gives executives immediate and authentic access to new levels of power, influence and freedom within their organizations.

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