By Fred Kofman
Philosopher and Vice President at Linkedin
If management views workers not as valuable, unique individuals but as tools to be discarded when no longer needed, then employees will also regard the firm as nothing more than a machine for issuing paychecks, with no other value or meaning. Under such conditions it is difficult to do a good job, let alone to enjoy one’s work.” Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi
You can see professional life in three dimensions: the impersonal task, or “It;” the interpersonal relationship, or “We;” and the self-awareness, or “I.” Each one of these dimensions can be an aspect of the gap the we discussed in the previous post.
The impersonal dimension includes items such as effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy. The interpersonal dimension, includes items such as cooperation, trust, and mutual respect. And the personal dimension, includes items such as health, happiness, and need for meaning. Just as material objects exist in three-dimensional physical space, business objects exist in three-dimensional economic space. Every object has length, width, and depth; every business has It, We, and I.
When you look at your business from the “It” perspective, you consider your ability to achieve your goals and fulfill your professional mission profitably and sustainably; that is to say, in a way that enhances your capacity to continue to do so in the future.
In the impersonal realm, the goals of a business organization include making money today and in the future, increasing shareholder value, and gaining market share. (The goal of a nonprofit could be to care for the sick, feed the hungry, or educate children.) In this dimension the concern is for economic efficiency, attaining the maximum output with the minimum consumption of resources.
Impersonal success is essential. Without it, the survival of an organization is at risk. If it does not fulfill its reason for being, it will be unable to draw energy and resources, and it will collapse.
Instead of looking at the business world as a three-dimensional space, most managers — and investors — focus only on the “It.” It is as though they wore polarized lenses that filter out the We and the I. Stripped of the human dimensions of “We” and “I”, business appears to be an unconscious activity in which success and failure depend exclusively on the management of mindless things. However, business success essentially depends on the effort of conscious beings.
When we look at an organization from the interpersonal We perspective, we examine its ability to create a community that works with solidarity, trust, and mutual respect. In the interpersonal realm, the goal is to build a network of collaborative relationships. A community in which people feel included, respected, and enabled to contribute their best.
Interpersonal success is also indispensable to survival. Human beings are social beings. In order to offer their full engagement to the organization, people demand to feel accepted, respected, supported, acknowledged, and challenged. Monetary compensation alone cannot accomplish this. This is why solidarity is so fundamental to long-term business success. If people do not cooperate and respect each other, the organization will fail.
When we look at an organization from the personal perspective, we focus on its ability to foster well-being, meaning, and happiness in each one of its stakeholders. In the personal realm, the goal is to cultivate psychophysical health and a high quality of life. Every person wants to feel whole in body and mind, to know that her life is meaningful, to be happy. A conscious organization’s goal in the personal realm is to promote the self-actualization and self-transcendence of everyone it touches.
Finally, personal success is also critical. Without it, no organization can last. Happy people are much more productive and able to cooperate with others. They are resilient when suffering setbacks and enthusiastic when facing opportunities. They trust themselves to respond appropriately to life circumstances, to connect with others, and to deliver exceptional results. If people are not happy in their jobs, they will not remain engaged; they will not last as productive employees. They may not quit formally, but they will quit emotionally. In order to obtain energy from its employees, the organization needs to provide them with opportunities for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. If an organization’s people do not experience this well-being, it will fail.
Over the long term, the It, We, and I aspects of this system must operate in concert. Although it is possible to achieve good financial results in the short term with unhappy people, cold relationships, or wasteful processes, the gains will not endure. Strong profits will not be sustainable without equally strong interpersonal solidarity and personal well-being.
In this video you will understand business space as multi-dimensional and how to chart your course towards success in 3-D.
Find more exercises related to mindfulness at work here.