It was interesting to read Arianna Huffington’s post,  “Welcome to Thrive Global.” As I read her thoughts, I could not help thinking of what we are trying to accomplish with The Square Wheels Project.

She writes, “Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other. So there’s nothing to balance — increasing well-being and the productivity that goes along with it is a win-win, for work and life.”

Agreed. So. let me start with my model of how things really work in most organizations and the question I always ask to gain insights into perceived issues and beliefs:

Square Wheels - how things really work

I feel very strongly that there are parallel paths between thriving and involving / engaging others in a way that has so many positive impacts on life balance. Her ideas focus on all the negative impacts of burnout, including her own, on people and she does a series of biopic stories about perceived issues and the reality that things must change. Her audience seems to be entrepreneurs and senior executives.

My audience are supervisors and workers, the front-line managers who are focused on the performance and productivity issues and the workers who feel the often unnecessary stresses brought down on them by managements. The Square Wheels Project wants to improve the quality and effectiveness of those interactions by improving simple communications and facilitation skills. We want the front-line workers everywhere to have more of a sense of ownership involvement in what they do, more pride in their work and their contributions to their teams.

The Square Wheels Project and Thrive

So much research shows that people do not need to be bossed to produce excellent results. W. Edwards Deming wrote about these factors from the perspective of improving quality and innovation. His works then tended to be interpreted to focus on quality, and to measure it to death with initiatives like ISO 9000 and its successors that demand tight standards of production consistency but not so much involvement of the creativity and motivation of people in that quest for perfection (or at least standardized results!). Those initiatives are not about innovation,

Huffington’s models are successful top people: “… we need new role models, and The Thrive Journal will bring you examples of leaders in business, sports, media, entertainment, and technology who are proving that taking care of ourselves, far from detracting from success, enhances productivity and creativity.” (She lists Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, JPMorgan CEO Kelly Coffey, etc.).

As she writes, some of the issues are around training, but my guess is that little of that training will affect the people at the front lines and, like Senge’s “Learning Organization” approach to improvement, it will focus mostly on the middle and top managers with the hope that it trickles down to the workers.

As she says, “The science is clear and conclusive: when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board. And one of the goals of The Thrive Journal is to bring you the latest science from leading experts around the world….”

Excellent! But how much will impact the broader numbers of supervisors in the world and when might we expect that to occur. Like economic trickle down, the answer is, “most likely never.” Will workers ever see any impacts from those efforts?

She wants a focus on “…changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, Well-Being, and Productivity.”

Wouldn’t it be great for workers and supervisors to have some of those same pathways available to them, to have more choice in self-direction and active workplace involvement and to be able to feel better about their contributions to work and to each other?

Our audience is the one that feels much of the pressures from those above them and if those people are stressed, our people are even more stressed because their interests are at the bottom of  Maslow’s Hierarchy of five basic needs and not at the top, like hers but at the bottom, where there is almost a struggle for survival felt by many.

So, I cheer her work but focus on impacts from The Square Wheels Project for having a potentially broader impact. If supervisors of the world can improve the interaction with their people, if they can get them more aligned, involved, engaged and motivated to make real changes in their own workplaces, much of the stress of managing people should be reduced. There is a lot of research that supports this; our goal is to change some behavior.

In fact, wouldn’t it be neat if some of these wagon pullers at the top could actually connect with those people at the bottom to have real talks about issues and opportunities as they affect that front-line worker. Would it not be really great if those people at the top understood that those wagon pushers are the ones who produce all the work of the organization and who need their support?

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For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
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