Drive Cutting-Edge Progress by Improving Inner Engagement
Chapter Five: General Four-Step Approach to Accomplishment, Creativity, and Change
With our projects, is there a general approach that can we use to accomplish our conventional goals at the same time we accomplish our experiential goals and improve our health and well-being?
1. Determine the objects of the personal and organizational games you want to play.
Identify and prioritize your personal conventional and experiential goals using conventional time management practices. (For example, see http://www.manage-time.com/103Frames.html on the Results in No Time website.) Of the two types of goals, it is usually experiential goals that are neglected, although these are usually the ones that are most important for our happiness.
A personal conventional goal might be to lift weights three times per week. An experiential goal might be to minimize negative emotional responses (ERs) to callers to 2 / day over the next month. Another personal experiential or learning goal might be to learn how to back up one’s enter PC.
Organizational goal-setting may be done privately by management, or more publicly with participation by other employees. The organization must at the very least, somehow clarify and periodically update its goals and mission, and pass this direction on to all employees. In a call center, as we saw in Chapter Three, a conventional goal for a customer service representative might be to deliver good customer service phone responses (GCSRs) to 30 callers / day over each month. These goals then are up for adoption by every individual employee--and it's still up to the individual to decide whether to adopt them. Some individuals may have personal ethical or moral objections.
2. Build a playing field scoreboard.
Keep score somehow. When playing a game, it can be more invigorating and enjoyable to keep score, whether you're playing against yourself or against others. Furthermore, it's often said that "What we can measure, we can manage." In our approach we modify this slightly: "What we can be aware of by means of measuring, we can change." (ABC: Awareness Brings Change.) So we need to consider ways to measure our conventional and experiential goals:
a. For each objective or goal you determined in step 1, define specific performance variables with a set of values that each variable can take on.
For example, for the conventional GCSR goal above, you can simply tally how many good customer service responses are delivered through the day, aiming for at least 30 / day. For the emotional response (ER) goal above, it will probably be necessary to define a set of possible experiences (performance values) for any given caller. Here is one possible set: equanimity (emotional balance), excitement / frustration, emotional undercurrent, anxiety, emotional spike, emotional current, emotion out of control.
Whatever performance values you choose, they can be recorded on a chart whenever they occur during the day. Or you can decide to take readings of all performance variables at regular intervals--every hour, for example. A chart for the ER goal could include hours of the day labelled at the top, and possible ER scores (values) on the lefthand side, with a clean chart used for each day's scoring. (See the chart in Chapter Three.) As you chart you may find it insightful to make accompanying notes underneath your chart.
b. Ensure that some performance values approach the ‘zone’.
If one end of the spectrum of these values does not extend close to the zone of peak performance, we recommend that a general 'involvement'/'engagement' experiential variable E also be defined. (In our example above, equanimity is ‘near’ the zone.) E is intended to implement a self-actualization drive that simultaneously promotes a person's health, well-being, work capacity, creativity, quality, and productivity. (See Chapter One.) In case you have many conventional goals this can be particularly useful to ensure some emphasis on learning and improving health and well-being rather than fostering burnout. This should help relieve the dissatisfaction now experienced by so many people: “If we pay attention only to material progress, without also developing an inner focus, it will inevitably lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.” (Harary, p. 68.)
There are many ways to define a self-actualizing experiential variable—your choices will probably depend in part on your own personality, goals, and religious or spiritual discipline. Consider the core values that, for you or your organization, will guide and shape the way you fulfill your purpose. Whatever your selection, how you define engagement or involvement will determine what your suggestions are for improving them.
The transformational efficacy of a set of values also depends on the individual's level of development. What's good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Because the spectrum of possible values is broad, this approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational and practical purposes. An individual should be free to reject an organizational value, for example, if it conflicts with the individual's values.
This advice serves both management and the individual employee. Rather than management imposing its values on others, all management has to do is to clarify what values are already 'in use' within each person, to point out how they can serve as the basis and 'starter set' for this approach, and to trust and support everyone's progress. Then this approach should serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and organizational results, and has real potential for breaking through the common employee distrust of management’s motives.
c. Examples of self-actualizing performance values
Of course, possible performance values for the E (experience, or involvement, or engagement) variable should also be specified. One simple starter set could be: denial, resignation, holding back, initiating, getting into it, involvement, absorption, being engrossed, and peak experience. (These are conditions in the engagement spectrum discussed in Chapter 10 of my book Flow, Glow, and Zero: Discovering the Zone of Peak Performance.) Then at work you can periodically recall your recent experience as if you were viewing a videotape replay, determine which of these seven performance values best fits your experience, and then look for ways to improve.
For more precision, you can estimate your engagement or involvement on a scale from 0-100, where 100 represents complete absorption in whatever's at hand. The E variable can be charted separately, or on a document with other experiential variables being measured.
Here's a third way to track engagement: define it as a combined measure of three dimensions, awareness (A), concentration (C), and energy (E) (See Tulku, 1994, pp. 120-129). You can assign numbers from 0% to 100% for each of the three dimensions, and use the average of the three values for the combined engagement variable.
Fourth, you could estimate involvement as a combined measure of three dimensions of glow or integration, flow or energy, and zero or spaciousness (see Chapter Six). A high degree of involvement can indicate an experiential melding of objects and individuals, an effortless yet powerful flow of events, and a sense of openness pervading the entire work scenario. A low degree of involvement can mean that individuals and objects were strongly felt to be separate, intense effort was required to get small things done, or the work scenario had a heavy or inert feeling.
(Continued in the next column)
Table of Contents
Click on a heading to go to that part of the book.
Introduction: Definitions and Principles
Chapter 1: The Peak Performance Principle
Chapter 2: Case History--Monitoring a Transformational Variable
Chapter 3: A lab exercise--Sorting Cards into Books for Time
Chapter 4: Case History--Monitoring an Emotional Intelligence Variable
Chapter 5: General Four-step Approach to Accomplishment, Creativity, and Change
Chapter 6: What’s the Zone of Peak Experience and Performance?
Chapter 7: Building An Engagement Playing Field
Chapter 8: The Full Range of Our Engagement, or, "Who Are We, Anyway?"
Bibliography and References
(Continued from the previous column)
d. Questions to help determine your performance level
However you define your engagement system, it would probably be helpful to compose some questions to help determine your current performance level and the direction for progress.
For example, for a 'time' variable whose performance values are listed here from the zone-end of the spectrum toward the 'normal' end of the spectrum:
timelessness, flow, absorbed, engrossed, 'into it', fluid, normal linear time-flow, anxiety about time, hurried, pressured, time poverty, racing vs. time, deadline pressure, overwhelmed, panicked
Here are two questions that might be used:
e. Refine the performance values as you play the game
Although this second step may be the most complicated part of the 'game', we suggest just taking a 'first cut' at defining the performance variables and values and get started. Unlike many other games, in this kind of game only you make the rules. Rather than trying to get it 'right' the first time, as you play you can refine the playing field and the scoreboard and determine more precisely what you're interested in, how to measure it, and in general, how you can best get your results.
3. Play and keep score over the time period chosen.
View your experience as a kind of playing field where you are the only player. As you act to accomplish your goals, periodically (at whatever times you chose in step 2) measure and chart the performance variables as a way to evaluate how you're doing in real time, and to drive your long-term progress. And it can be very helpful to make notes in a 'running journal' at the bottom of your chart.
"Practicing focus means being fully aware and present to the variables that matter. As you notice what distracts you, your priorities become clarified and focus is strengthened. This is the heart of practicing the Inner Game in any activity. As focus [or awareness] increases, self-interference decreases, and performance inevitably improves."
Whenever possible, move toward your goals and toward complete engagement (E) as you defined it, dissolving (using any methods you know) whatever obstacles prevent improving performance. For most of us there seem to be countless opportunities to improve. As we deal with those that are obvious to us, before long it seems we are naturally presented with possible transition points that are more subtle.
Keep your scoreboard “at the back of your mind.” Rather than being obsessed with results, focus mostly on your experiential field. We do our work while being aware moment-by-moment (if our values are sufficiently ‘granular’) of our chosen performance values, our inner felt experiences.
Again, don't be preoccupied with the scoreboard. In Managing by Values, Ken Blanchard's character Jack Cunningham asked "what kind of performance we thought tennis players would have if instead of keeping both eyes on the ball, they always had an eye on the scoreboard. . . . The harder athletes try to win, the less likely they are to find their zone. When people are in the zone, all of their attention is on what they're doing, not on what they're accomplishing. The results just seem to flow from this focus of energy and competence. Lots of companies seem to watch only their scoreboard—the bottom line. In doing so, they take their eyes off the ball . . . . That gets them out of the zone and invites long-term disaster. . . . I've gained both increasing confidence in and, yes, genuine commitment to the priority of our values . . . . When we keep our eyes on consistently operating our business by aligning with our core values, the scoreboard does in fact take care of itself!" (p. 49)
4. When the time period for the game is over, determine whether you won and review what you learned in the process.
Then you can revise your goals and performance variables / values as desirable, and play again and see whether you can improve. The general 'involvement'/'engagement' experiential variable -- and possibly other experiential variables you've defined as well-- should serve as a persistently motivating means of self-actualization. Eventually you should be able to clear away all obstacles while steadily realizing your goals. And if you don't get the results you want, you can change the rules, or even change the whole game!