Watch Season 2 Episode 5 of Conscious Business Leaders TV featuring guest Catherine Bell as she speaks on “Awakening Organizations: The Time is Now for Something New.”
Connect with Catherine further and find her highly reviewed book “The Awakened Company” at:
Excerpt from Awakening Organizations Interview
Indigo: I’ll say it again, I have really really loved your book [The Awakened Company], and I know Tony Robbins also gave you a glowing endorsement this past week, which must just have you on cloud nine.
Catherine: Tony’s been supportive. He’s been very supportive. It’s wonderful…. And people like Tony Hsieh of Zappos… you know the support that’s gotten behind the book is just incredible. In fact, today Seth Godin provided me something for our blog coming up.
So please, everyone look to the upcoming blog. It’s just so exciting. The community is rising, Indigo. It is awesome.
Indigo: I think one of the reasons… you know, it’s not the first book anywhere near this topic to come out, but in my experience it is the first one that takes things all the way. It’s like it says, “I’m not holding anything back. This is the world we’re really trying to create, let’s stop playing games. Let’s look at what it takes.”
Indigo: So tell me, when you came up with the term “Awakened Company” or “awakened organization,” what was the thought in your mind that would characterize such an organization?
Catherine: Let me set the stage for where the name came to me. I was in NY at a small dimly lit cafe. I was really wrestling with some of the business struggles that I was seeing day in day out. And in a way I just wanted the lights on. And then the name just hit; it’s the awakened company, and it’s about us all rising together, the dismantling of the traditional system. Because ultimately we’re all leaders.
Indigo: Yeah. Even if no one directly reports to you, you’re a type of leader within how you’re showing up. Is that what you mean?
Catherine: That’s exactly what I mean. Everybody is responsible for their own behavior, their own being, the quality of experience that they bring to everything that they touch, everything that they do, and everything that they are.
I just want to appreciate that here we are speaking to each other on something called Blab. Just taking a moment to recognize the amazingness that you and I are having this conversation. There’s these amazing people who’ve been on the line, and we’re all in this together. It’s pretty incredible.
[laughter from both]
Indigo: Yeah, it is….For the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to try to make a clear distinction between when we’re talking about leadership from the perspective of someone who is responsible for managing others versus someone who is only responsible for self-managing, because I think it’s a little different. And I think it’s useful to help people coming from both perspectives, to show them what’s the best that they can make out of the situation that they are in. Does that make sense?
Catherine: Mmmhmm. It makes sense. When you look at the information… ‘cause it’s important for us to consider data… and the majority of people at work are disengaged. And then you couple that with that the majority of people would rank taking out the trash and doing household chores as more enjoyable than spending time with their boss.
And then a whole other layer, is that the majority of business, over 80% of businesses, fail within the first decade. So from both the perspectives of the leader and the person who is kind of leading upwards, we can do better.
Indigo: Yeah. One of the things I found most unusual and valuable in your book is how it does look at that personal aspect of what I do within myself that has a transformative effect. Even though this is a show about leadership that’s largely talking about how people in positions of authority over others use that wisely, I’d like to first address things from the point of view of “leading up” as you called it.
So let’s take a scenario: You are in a meeting… actually, let’s take the scenario Alimon has over here in the [comments] on the left. He says, “Running an organization, you have to make decisions about contracts, etc. and issues of poor performance. So how do you deal with being awake and operating at a level that’s higher than normal in interacting with other employees?
Catherine: Very good question. And that’s exactly how you operate, from an awakened perspective. From the sense that your inner purpose is aligned with your outer purpose. And you can very much sense the relatedness when someone is having performance issues.
And let’s talk about this for a minute, because it’s very interesting. We look at the data, Indigo, and we know that the majority of people are disengaged at work. And the most disengaged group are those who are never noticed by the people who are reporting to them. Even by giving negative reinforcement the level of disengagement goes down by 22%. However, if we mirror back the amazingness that we see in the other person, the likelihood of that person being disengaged goes down to below 1%.
So even just knowing that to increase engagement, to increase performance, is by catching people in the act of doing things well.. and reinforcing that.
Indigo: But how much time do you give someone to get their performance up to a level where the other people on their team aren’t having to pick up the slack for them?
Catherine: Well for me something really important and that goes to the root of this issue, is actually hiring really well. Because when you hire really well, the likelihood of getting that incorrect fit goes down. A key thing is self-awareness.
So with that, going back directly to the question, with that performance issue, it has to do with self-awareness. The majority of people don’t even know, or aren’t willing to admit what their blindspots are.
I interviewed thousands of people and asked, “What are your greatest gifts?” And people could clearly explain what their greatest gifts were. And when I asked, “What are your ‘work-ons?’ or “Why wouldn’t you be a fit for this role?” The majority of people say, “Well there’s no reason.”
So there’s a self-awareness gap that we really need to be real with when talking about performance, when talking about hiring. And to kind of lean into the discomfort of knowing that we all have things to work on. And that’s part of being human.
Indigo: And in the book I think you refer to that as the ‘shadow aspect.’ Can you elablorate more on what you mean by that for people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the concept of how we work with our shadow material?
Catherine: Sure. I often think of it as light and dark shadow, Indigo. It’s all not necessarily our inner awakened space. Our inner awakened space is very clear, and everybody has that space. This isn’t just for leaders, it’s for everybody, this space of stillness. So getting really real with what are our greatest gifts, and let’s shine those on the world and bring those to the world.
And then let’s get familiar with our shadow material. For example, I’ll use myself as a personal example, I am better with big bold brush strokes, and the fine details of a painting, that is something I need to work on. So I’m continually working on how do I ‘follow the yellow brick road’ in terms of details.
So getting really real, and using things like personal journals — that’s one thing I suggest that everybody start doing. To every day have a practice to say, “What are some things that I’m not so proud of and that if I could ask for a redo, I would redo again?” And then having honest discussions. And it requires such a vulnerability to do that.
Indigo: And safety, because there can’t be vulnerability if you think that any admission of weakness means you won’t get the job, if it’s at an interview… or in a meeting, it means that people won’t take you seriously after that, because you’ve admitted you don’t always know what you’re talking about — though no one always knows what they’re talking about, but everybody else is pretending they do.
Catherine: So let’s all get real, because we know that it’s not true. And then we look at organizations, and we know that the more self-aware a person is, the higher performing they are. So bringing that wisdom…
And I often use in interviews, when people say they don’t have anything to work on, I say, “Well I have pages and pages of weaknesses that I need to work on. And there’s a direct correlation between self-awareness and performance, so what’s going on here?”
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