Are You Living Your Myth, or Your Reality?
by Jeff Burrows

Does your work serve your life? It's an interesting question. One that encourages people to look beyond work/life balance issues. One that challenges people to explore their personal vision for their work and life. One that helps people determine if they are living their myth or their reality.

It's a question that business leaders and HR professionals should be exploring every day --- not only for themselves, but for the employees of their organization. It's a question that forces business leaders to respect that employees have visions for their lives too.

We all have a vision for how we want to lead our lives. The lessons learned over the past few years have certainly changed how people are looking at the way they chart their career and life courses. HR professionals need to embrace this change, and use it as an opportunity to shift the way they approach "people issues" as well.

There is no point in trying to change people. However, there is a point in changing your thoughts about "people issues" the origin of which is trying to get people to do things they don't want to do in the first place. But the truth is you can't! You can't get people to do anything they don't want to do.

You can however change the environment in which "doing it" is more important than not doing it. An environment where people feel valued for who they are and what they do. An environment where people care so much about what they do and how they do it, that nothing will stand in their way.

To do this, you should follow some basic systems that lay the fundamental foundation for creating an environment where people are self motivated to be their very best all the time. The following lessons offer insights into how such a world is constructed, how it works, and the rules of the game.

First, remember that the leaders set the tone for the business. The business reflects their actions and attitudes --- their vision. In order to construct a strong foundation for success and for the development of your own potential, you must commit yourself to a system of procedures, practices, and processes (that we call Reality), which are proven to be effective in the implementation of your vision.

These systems are the foundation of the future and will make your environment work effectively, efficiently, and consistently. Begin by documenting your vision in clear concise unmistakable language so members of your work team will be able to focus on giving clients, customers, and vendors the very best products and services.

Second, respect your employees and maintain your differences. Offer leadership, not management by organizing your division or department around your vision. Create an environment that encourages each team member to synchronize with the meaning and substance of your vision. Encourage people to find more effective ways to deliver on the promise of the vision and to succeed at work accountabilities. No one knows how to improve a procedure or process more than the person doing the work.

Third, seek the creative diversity of your people and empower them to make suggestions and innovations that improve the business process, products, and services you offer. Inspire them. Energize them to be imaginative and creative, and to become a part of the solution to the challenge of making the company a great place to work. Expect a high level of commitment and participation.

A Production Manager of a large printing facility in Kansas realized that there had been no effective method to access the ideas of employees and implement them. Like most companies, they placed a suggestion box at various parts of the plant. But the suggestion process just didn't work. Periodically, someone (no one was ever quite sure who) would empty the box and give the ideas to the department managers who would be most interested in the idea. On a business trip, this manager purchased a curio with two Orca whales. As he looked at the curio an idea came to him: O-R-C-A could become an acronym for Operational Cost Reduction Assurance.

Upon his return to the office, he offered the front line manager a new position --- to elicit ideas from the employees, and if the cost could be justified, get the necessary approval for the ideas and implement them. Upon implementation of the idea, the suggesting employee was awarded with the ORCA whale trophy at the department meeting. Congratulations and appreciation letters signed by the Senior Vice President of Manufacturing were also sent to the employee's home.

Even ideas that did not work were appreciated. The suggesting employee was presented with a letter explaining in detail the decision and a note documenting the employee's positive effort to improve the process was put in the employee file.

The program was so successful that $1,000,000 of cost saving ideas were implemented in the first year. All of these ideas returned their investment within the guidelines of 18 months. And the employees were really excited about the process and how the company held in high esteem people who came up with workable ideas.

Last, it is critical to develop trust with the employees. As the leader, create a climate in which the truth can be heard. Always be ready to listen. Help each person to see how his or her goals fit with your vision. Treat your people well. Respect that they too have visions for their lives. They have honored yours, the leader/manager by choosing to align their dreams with your vision. Reciprocate by respecting and maintaining the differences. It is your adventure, so be true to it. Be inspirational. Always be moving toward your vision. Living is a sacred art, a path on which each step bears wisdom. Commit to learning what it is you don't know to get what you want. Understand the spirit of your adventure.

The magic of these lessons is that they fit any context. From the boardroom to the back door, from the executive suite to the front line, these lessons have universal appeal because they influence emotional intelligence, trust and competence. When these qualities are unearthed, business leaders and employees alike are freed to live a full measure of their capacity, to celebrate their achievements, and to realize his or her dreams. In other words, they are free to transform their work to serve their life.

Jeff Burrows is the co-author of Myth to Reality, The Spirit of the Entrepreneurial Adventure. He is founder of Thunderlight Resources ( and communicates with a passion for life and business that is truly distinct. Using practical wisdom, real life business stories, and amazing humor, Jeff teaches you the most powerful form of leverage in the world - your mind - has the power to free you from the chaos of your business. Jeff's spirit of coaching has produced measurable tangible results for business owners, CEO's, and Presidents who want to align the vision of their business with their life purpose. The Thunderlight Experience is the integration of his Native American teachings (lessons) with a proven worldwide business development system.

Thunderlight Resources offers the business owner, entrepreneur, manager, and employee educational products and coaching on the strategy, the art, and the science necessary to achieve one's vision in business and life - a pathway for making sense of transformation and providing programs for the successful implementation of change.

Myth to Reality:
The Spirit of the Entrepreneurial Adventure

by John McAlister and Jeff Burrows
Bridgewood Pr
August 2003

Many more articles in Creative Leadership I and Creative Leadership II
in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2003 by Jeff Burrows. All rights reserved.

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