This blog is co-authored with Mark Herbert a corporate management and executive coach with more than 30 years experience in helping businesses become leaders in their field.
In my dream the angel shrugged and said, “this time if we fail it will be a failure of imagination,” and then she gently placed the world in the palm of my hand. —Brian Andreas
We wonder if this thought was what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they created the greatest social and political experiment the world has ever known. With the myriad challenges facing our great democracy, perhaps it is time to revisit not the framing concepts, rather their execution. The two most important ideas embedded in their vision were right to personal prosperity and personal competency, combined they represent the ability and responsibility of individuals to participate in shaping their own destiny and success—and that of the country as well.
As we look at our society today, it is clear that we have lost track of these guiding principles as individuals are living unempowered lives in the shadow of government and business bureaucracies. The relationship between employer and employed, citizen and government and customer and merchant have spun out of control as huge monolithic organizations foster compliance and submission to the inertia of organizations focused on profit and power alone.
Most puzzling is the death grip both sides appear to have on maintaining the status quo to the detriment of everyone. A few pertinent facts that paint a very grim picture:
• The US Department of Labor estimates that American businesses lose $5 trillion dollars per year to employee turnover.
• The American Mental Health Association says we are bleeding another $200 billion to presenteeism, employees suffering from stress or simply producing below capacity because of job dissatisfaction.
• Employee engagement, the alignment of employee efforts with organizational goals is at its lowest levels since it began being recorded.
• The U.S economy is spending 12% of GDP on delivering health care and it is expected to rise to 16% by 2020. (Even with trillions of dollars spent on health care, the US level of health is at best, mediocre and without vast systemic change these numbers will continue to grow at a steady pace.)
• Trust in management and leadership in all sectors of the economy is at an all time low.
Creating solutions for these challenges will only come from fundamental change embraced and embodied by individual and organization alike. A few suggestions for such change:
• Creating work environments with high employee engagement. This can increase revenue by 250%, reduce turnover by as much as 40% and positively affect every key performance metric from earnings per share to shareholder return.
• Developing meaningful philanthropic and societal initiatives in every organization: Customers and employees overwhelmingly (87%) have a higher degree of loyalty to organizations associated community engagement activities.
• Shifting the definition of success from economic to happiness and wellness. Studies indicate that more than 60% of health care related costs are lifestyle or behaviorally related rather than organic or hereditary. That means by changing the focus of our lifestyle we can affect health and health care costs in months rather than years!
The ability to start creating these changes is available, assessable and ready to go. As Bill Gates says, the issues facing us are societal and there is a meaningful role for all sectors, industry, government, service, and philanthropic, along with individuals to contribute collaboratively to rebuild our entire cultural infrastructure. Our Founding Fathers never intended a society that reinforced codependency between the citizenry and their government, but neither did they support the kind of industrial complex and corporate personhood we have created that enables business to treat people as human capital rather than simply human.
The issues that face us will not be solved by organizations; they will be addressed by vibrant, engaged people eager to put their talents and skills into practice serving their communities. This social entrepreneurship model allows for the development of shared values and for everyone to enjoy the benefits of a robust economy and entrepreneurial ingenuity. By recommitting to the vision our forefathers created that allowed individuals the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, let us recognize that those rights were intended for all to pursue and for all to enjoy.
As the angel said, “if we fail it will be a failure of imagination”. We believe the imagination exists and the time has come for everyone to take a stand and be as James Secretan describes “a spark, a flame, or a torch.” Large or small, community or neighborhood, loud or quiet—it matters naught. What matters is each person’s choice to move toward their own creative fulfillment through their contribution to the greater good.
Let’s stop looking for that other person to craft the solution . . . and let each one of us starting living it ourselves.