Welcome to our interview with Michael Anderson. Michael is an Educator, Speaker, Author, Expert, and his new book Soul-Centered Leadership is a guide for conscious business people who are ready to lead and create through and with their higher power.
Welcome Michael, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0.
Q1: How can we create workplaces where more voices matter, people thrive & find meaning, and change & innovation happen naturally?
Let’s look at the workplace and figure out why that’s not happening because I think when we are at our most centered self—emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthiest—those things do happen.
I studied spiritual psychology, and what we do when we find things aren’t working the way we want it to, we look into the reason why and take that out. I think our nature is to be like that. To me, evolution is getting rid all the things in the way of our most conscious and our being the healthiest we can be.
Q2: What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
I teach leadership and I don’t think we can get an engaged performing employee unless we as leaders show up like that as well. I’ll give you a real life example. I was facilitating a strategic retreat with a CEO’s executive team. During the first hour of the retreat, they shared their company information and values with me. One of their values was Tight. I asked the CEO, “What do you mean by Tight?” He said, “That means everybody shows up engaged, proactive, on-time, everybody’s got their work ready. So we’re Tight. We run a Tight organization.”
I said, “Oh really, are you Tight?” He said, “Heck yeah I’m Tight.” I said, “Are you really? You blew off two conference calls with me and the latest one you were late to arrive. Is that true, are you Tight? He gasped, “Ah no, but I want everybody else to be!”
If you’re asking people to do things that you’re not showing up and doing, I don’t think you can ever have engaged employees and workforce. We talk about leading by example and we also talk about how low engagement is the workplace. Worldwide it’s 13% and 32% in the US. The way you get engagement is to show up the way you want your employees to show up. That doesn’t mean you have to go down to the warehouse and ship boxes. Your people want you to be the leader and be honest and transparent with them.
For example, I caught myself when I was a boss when we did quarterly reviews with our employees. We had a habit when things came up with customers of putting off reviews for sometimes one, two, three or more weeks. I didn’t realize it, but the employees put so much weight and faith into the reviews because this is when they really get to connect and get specific feedback from their boss and management. This was really important to them. I was really showing them that they’re not a priority in my life and I’m taking them for granted. So that’s one of the things I changed about my behaviors. So if I’m an employee and my boss keeps changing my review, and he doesn’t even have enough time to sit down with me and go through how I can do better, then how am I going to be engaged.
Q3: What do people really lack and long for at work?
I like the book Drive by Daniel Pink. Pink breaks it down into the idea that people want three things; purpose, mastery, and autonomy. Purpose is the ability to make a difference, so it’s up to us as leaders to give them that facility to make a difference.
With autonomy, they want to be able to work on their own without someone micro-managing them. Mastery comes through things like training and mentoring, so they are getting the tools to do their job well. Again, it’s our job to make sure we give them all these pieces.
They want to see a direct loop between what they do personally and how it affects their customers or society or community at large. A leader in a transformational workplace gives people that. It’s one of these things that’s sometimes hard to measure in terms of the productivity or heart people put into it. You oftentimes have to look past the quantitative numbers to get these concepts that the things that truly make the difference in organizations.
Q4: What is the most important question management should be asking employees?
It’s a simple a question as, “What can we do better?,” but you have to truly listen to the response. It’s a simple question but oftentimes people go into it and think they know the answer, so they don’t really listen to it. Or they don’t create a safe container for people to give honest and open feedback.
The people closest to the customer are oftentimes the least paid or least listened to, yet they are often the people who have the true answers. A lot of times, the solutions they have can be as simple as switching around a simple process, but they cost nothing and can have great effect.
I also found that sometimes someone has an idea but for whatever reasons—financial, structural, or political reasons—you can’t do that. Even if you say you know what, I like that idea and we can’t do that at this time and here’s why, at least they feel heard. You don’t have to take all the advice if you truly do listen. It shows a tremendous amount of respect. When people are respected, they’re going to have loyalty and stay engaged.
Q5: What’s the most important question employees should be asking management?
My response isn’t a question, but I like the dialogue of, “Here is how I like to be managed. What do you want from me as your subordinate?”
As a follower, I respect hierarchy because I want to know what I’m here for and what I’m doing. If I’m there for us to get a job done, then lead me! When I have a boss or someone I report to, I want to know how I can show up and be the best employee I can for him. I want him to know how I like to be managed and led.
For example, I’ve worked with some programmers who if they never had a face to face conversation they’d be so happy because they’re just uncomfortable in that. I want to respect that. I have other people who crave the face-to-face conversations; if you send them a text message they’re like, “Oh my God, why can’t we…”.
It’s a two-way street. It depends on how much you have to scale. Sometimes there’s a lot of things to that. If we just ask these simple questions, then sometimes those are the true questions that are wrapped up in a lot of other questions, but it can really get to the heart of the issue quickly.
Q6: What is the most important question we can ask ourselves?
That’s a great question. Give me a moment to really feel into it. I’d say, “What’s truly going on with myself right now?”
If I am in a situation where there’s some anxiety, uncomfortableness, discontent, etc. around it, then it’s really a time to go inside and ask ourselves what’s going on within us. When we don’t do this, we often project our fears or uncertainties on to somebody us. We can become very reactive. We don’t take ownership for how we show up. If and when we can really just be quiet and go inside, then we can get true answers and discover our true issue. Then we can change our conversation with whoever else is involved and really make a lot of changes quickly.
Q7: How does your new book Soul-Centered Leadership relate to our conversation here today?
I’d encourage all leaders to embrace their humanness. Being a leader, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a business leader or if you get promoted, by definition all of a sudden you probably have more responsibility than you’ve had in your life before.
When we’re discussing forward-thinking workplaces and leadership specifically, that means there’s a lot of uncertainty and with that comes a lot of fear because we’re stepping into new places.
Many times I’ve seen people get promoted and the person who has promoted them says, “We’ll go out for lunch next week and but come to me if you have any problems.” Then they end up canceling the lunch and all of a sudden this person is scared to go to them when things come up.
I want to encourage all organizations if they want to be forward-thinking to really nurture their leaders because if you have a high-performing star and you put them in a leader role and it doesn’t go well, all of a sudden they’re not this superstar anymore. Their confidence goes down then they sour on the whole company and leave. The last thing you want to do is take a superstar and basically help them leave the company. That’s absolutely the worst thing you can ever do for an organization. You want to make sure you give them all the tools to succeed, which takes time and energy.
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