October 2000 - Overcoming Obstacles to Success
This month's article is contributed by our good friend and teacher, Dr. Jose Stevens. Jose and his wife, Lena, have traveled around the world working with business executives, managers and professionals, helping them become more productive. We asked them to discuss some of the challenges managers face that are common across all countries.
Moving Beyond the Obstacles: Transforming the Dragons at Work
by Jose Stevens, Ph.D.
There is nothing quite so rewarding and enriching in this world as the incredible diversity and uniqueness among people, especially in the dynamic atmosphere of the workplace. The wide range of talents and skills manifested by all the various personalities the world has to offer, allows us to specialize in our own areas of interest without giving up the benefits brought to us by those with complimentary abilities.
Management Challenges are Similar Worldwide
Unfortunately, this ideal human community is often seriously curtailed by the presence of fear patterns that lurk within us and that take over when stress builds to uncomfortable levels.
Since stress is inevitable in corporate life, these fear patterns or dragons will raise their ugly heads regularly wreaking havoc on productivity, efficiency, profitability and morale until we do something about them.
The seven obstacles (also referred to as fear patterns or dragons), have simple ordinary names like Self-Destructiveness, Greed, Self-Deprecation, Arrogance, Martyrdom, Impatience and Stubbornness.
Over the course of twenty-five years as a psychotherapist, executive coach and team builder, my wife Lena (involved in teaching and consulting as well) and I have had the opportunity to study these patterns in individuals.
We have been able to identify how they function in the high stress environment of business, law and in organization structures of every stripe and variety.
Good News / Bad News
We found both good news and bad news.
The bad news is that these seven obstacles or dragons of the workplace are responsible for millions of dollars of lost revenue due to sabotage, low morale, accidents, vengefulness, spite, avarice, short sightedness and a long list of fear pattern oriented activities.
However, the good news is that the obstacles are not fixed parts of human character structure but rather more like viruses or parasites that try to come along for a joyride.
They can be erased with specific knowledge and practices.
Here are a couple of our own experiences that may give you a little insight into the way these obstacles show up at work and what might be done to move beyond them before they cause endless trouble.
An important thing to understand from the outset is that all humans are vulnerable to this fear pattern or dragon behavior given enough stress and just the right circumstances. No one is immune to being influenced by their dragons and if we know this, we can be both compassionate and objective about others.
When we see stubbornness, impatience or arrogance in ourselves or in others, it is more effective to target the behavior rather than criticize the whole person.
Take the example of Jack C. and his dragon at work. Jack C. held the title of CEO in a rapidly growing, highly successful, fast paced software distribution firm.
Jack was an optimistically oriented individual that liked to inspire his crew with a can-do attitude. He promoted high production goals and regularly motivated his staff with rousing talks about how they could take on almost any task and accomplish it over their competition.
At first this strategy worked fantastically well and soon orders generated by aggressive marketing began outstripping the company's ability to fill and deliver. The firm began hiring staff trying to expand at breakneck speed.
The stress of this context soon began to shred the nerves of everyone at all levels of the operation. The small original staff who had once enjoyed the high-spirited comradery of a start-up was now lost in a morass of new policies, unknown faces and mixed directives.
Among the results devastating to the company was a lack of attention to details and a loss of quality both in the work environment and employee performance.
Before the crisis, Jack had proven himself to be an excellent promoter and motivational expert able to get almost unbelievable productivity out of his competent crew. However, with spiraling levels of stress, he began to lose sight of the vision and the fun of working together with his people.
He became lost in the production goals. Greed, arrogance and impatience began to appear regularly within his personality. Gradually — almost imperceptively — staff began to notice that Jack wasn't being himself anymore.
He was short with people — emphasizing deadlines and production targets — instead of smiling and encouraging staff. He dismissed complaints and grumbling out of hand threatening to fire those who couldn't keep up.
At times, he could be overheard yelling at his managers behind closed doors and sometimes this spilled over into the warehouse. As he pressed for more staff, hasty interviews were set up and more than a few bad hires were made for key positions.
He demanded more warehouse space and the firm went out on a limb to acquire more equipment and workspace. Morale sank to an unbelievable low.
When a downturn came in the marketplace, the company had to hastily layoff staff, break leases and sell off equipment. It was not until this low point that Jack sought consultation in the form of executive coaching for his state of affairs.
He was depressed, drank too much at night and hated going to work.
How the Dragons Disguise Themselves
The tricky aspect of the obstacles or dragons is that in their mildest form, they can appear as helpful personality traits that support successful business practice.
For example, a little greed can be mistaken for genuine enthusiasm and the simple ambition to be the best with a healthy market share in our field.
There is nothing wrong with that unless the motivation comes from the wrong place, fueled by the fear of there not being enough time to build a company slowly and there not being enough to go around if you wait.
In Jack's case, the greed pattern caused him to lose sight of what he had going for him and a balanced sense of what was enough. His reality had become focused on what he could lose instead of what he was gaining very day.
The fear of "losing" created just that very scenario where he ended up losing much more than he bargained for.
After working on his dragons of greed and impatience — humbled and back on track — Jack C. began very successfully building his company back up in a more balanced way.
In another example, we were brought in to restore communication and relieve stress in the sales department of a pharmaceutical distribution company.
A sales unit of twenty plus employees was not getting along with their supervisor who had become increasingly difficult, unapproachable and quick to criticize.
The result was a staff that was calling in sick, gossiping behind her back and refusing to produce simply out of resentment.
The real problem: The supervisor's dragon of arrogance was trying to cover the extreme uncertainty she felt about being able to handle her tasks.
This fear pattern had her reacting negatively, asserting false superiority, judging and criticizing ignoring her staff instead of going for help, support and clarity from upper management.
The stress created by her behavior activated all the fear patterns and obstacle behaviors in members of her sales unit — producing an environment in which productivity and success were virtually impossible.
After addressing her fears of inadequacy and working with the dragons of the staff through helpful tools and dialogue, a harmonious work environment was restored.
Staff not only came back to work but their relationships with each other and commitment to the team were reinforced.
What does it take to successfully work with this consulting model of Transforming Your Dragons?
Companies and individuals who have followed these steps have been highly rewarded in terms of effectiveness, resiliency, ability to cope with change and stressful situations with a bonus of increased personal awareness and well being.
© Copyright 2000, Jose Stevens, article used with permission of the author.
Jose Sevens Ph.D. is the author of the book Transforming Your Dragons. He and his wife, Lena Stevens, are the founders of Power Path Seminars ™ and the Transforming Your Dragons ™ consulting and training model.
For more information about Power Path Seminars, coaching and consulting services please contact Jose or Lena Stevens at: 505-982-8732, email admin [at] thepowerpath.com , website: http://www.thepowerpath.com , Mailing Address: Pivotal Resources, Post Office Box 272, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
A training course certifying business consultants and
trainers in the Transforming Your Dragons model is scheduled for November
1-3, 2000 in Santa Fe, NM.
Page updated: June 06, 2009 Institute for Management Excellence, Copyright © 2001 All rights reserved
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