Losing My Religion – February 8, 2010

Losing My Religion – Issue 47

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion

Some of you may be old enough to recognise this as a part of the second verse of the song; ‘Losing my religion’ by the American alternative rock band REM, it was quite popular back when I was a girl in 1991, you may have heard your parents listening to it while you were sitting in front of the telly eating Weet-Bix and watching Bananas in Pyjamas.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about losing religion, not participation in organised religion, gad zooks do you think I am dumb enough to get into that topic! No, I am talking about losing touch with the system of human thought, beliefs and practices that we personally buy into which give our lives meaning. These beliefs and rituals connect us and serve as a reminder that we are part of something else,
they provide meaning and purpose and help us to stay motivated.

Whether it is a steadfast belief ina doctrine, or faithfully watching every episode of Masterchef, we become a part of a group of followers
and this provides a necessary sense of belonging. If you close your eyes and allow yourself to think laterally, you can draw the same analogies for work.

We join a company, drink the Kool-Aid and from there on in believe
what we are doing is the right thing, the most noble thing and in
our minds we are convinced that the goods and services we deliver
are better than anyone else’s. We love what we do, think our boss and clients are the best and every day when we go to work we are
filled with a satisfying sense of purpose.

You might not subscribe to this, but some believe that each
individual is born with a reason for being and that life is a journey of discovering your unique purpose.These days it seems there are a lot of people who have lost their sense of purpose or motivation – they
have lost their religion. You hear the not so subtle phrase “I’m over it” quite often now; good indications that for a lot of people the honeymoon with theirprofessional lives may have come to an end. Of
course it could be the opposite and be a good sign, particularly if their focus has moved to something else that brings them joy: partners, health, children or community.

Unfortunately, for many this shift is not positive, but an indication that they no longer have faith in their employer or profession.
Recently I was exposed to a person who was new to their job. I observed first hand a negative shift from seeing them over the top enthused: believing in the company, what it stood for, the vision of its leaders,
to being utterly disillusioned at the gap they saw between what their employers said they would do and what they were actually doing. You can read the disappointment on their face; it’s similar to a kid who
has just discovered that Santa Claus is not real.

The feelings go deeper than simple disappointment, this person is angry as hell. They think they have been lied to, they think the CEO lacks integrity and they believe the direction the company is headed is different to the one they signed on for. It isn’t surprising that people feel disillusioned today; there are many companies and entire countries
for that matter that are cutting back.

As a result of practicing a sink or swim method of survival,they find themselves in the position of needing to behave contrary to their values just to survive. As an example, a year and a half ago companies we
worked with were concerned about the environment, corporate social responsibility and value for money.

Now many live in a perpetual dog eat dog state of existence, they have abandoned the warm fuzzy feelings for the environment, reputation and people and are simply focusing on getting what they can as
cheap and as fast as possible. For the design profession it has been particularly challenging time, trying to sell high value design at a
reasonable and fair price today is like selling ice to

I can’t say this surprises me; companies are not in business to make people feel good, unless those people happen to be their shareholders. It is only natural that organisations will readjust their sites
in times like these, but what does that mean to the people who work for the company, those who have bought into the company doctrine?

There are a lot of people who will blindly follow the new order laid down by leadership, they will adjust their stories and an expectation to believe what they are doing is necessary for today’s conditions. Some
people find it easy to go with the flow. For others, the new stories will be unacceptable and will represent too large a departure between what they thought they were getting and what they actually got. For them,
the new story will be an enormous let down and may leave them searching for clues as to how they fit into the company they work for.

In extreme cases it may leave them searching for a new job. If the results of the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer are any indication, Australian businesses are not fooling anyone, especially their employees.
The Trust Barometer surveys 4500 high-income, tertiary-educated people in 20 countries. This year the Barometer found three quarters of Australians surveyed trust companies less today than they did a
year ago and only 43% trust companies to do what is right. Interestingly, we trust the government more –56%. This gap between trust in government and trust in business was the highest in the developed world!

When it comes to faith in CEOs Australians have even less of it. Only 19% of those surveyed had faith in CEO’s of our major companies and 81% want the government to intervene to regulate industry or nationalise companies to restore public trust. In some industries the numbers are even higher; not surprising, 84% favor stricter regulations and limits
on the finance and banking sector.

So what is a person or business to do when they have lost their religion, how can trust be rebuilt and for business, how do you
manage a future where there will be increased scrutiny from the government, stakeholders and the public?

According to the Edelman data, at the company level a shift in operations and communication will need to occur. This shift must be toward greater public engagement and they suggest public engagement
comes in four ways:
_Business taking responsibility for developing
solutions to global problems
_Companies integrating products and services into
societal problems such as climate change
_Sharing sacrifice such as voluntary executive pay
_Delivering fast accountable communication

It is interesting to note that 60% of respondents said they need to hear information about a company three to five times before they will believe it, and fewer than one in ten Australians trust corporate advertising.
What they do believe is company information that comes from someone who works for the company, which is all the more reason it is so damaging to an organisation when people become disengaged.

Going back to the person I know, I can guarantee you she is not sending positive messages about the company she works for, or their product!
So if greater engagement helps a company regain trust, how do individuals do the same? What can we do to get our mojo back?

Richard Leider from The Inventure Group, a Minneapolis based training firm who does coaching and executive programs, suggests you ask yourself
these questions: What do you want? And how will you know when you get it?
He believes that we all have our own solutions; we just don’t know how to discover them or are avoiding that discovery. He goes on to say that to rediscover our power of purpose we must feed our three hungers.

Those hungers are first to connect deeply with the creative spirit of life, second is to know and express your gifts and talents and the third is to know that our lives matter. We can be successful, make money, reach a particular status, but until we feed our three hungers it will be success without fulfillment.

So let’s say you ask yourself those questions and honestly discover your hungers are not being fed? How do you know when it is time to pull the plug? Leider suggest we use the following formula T + P + E x V.
They suggested they would have done something that really gave them purpose or fulfillment, something that contributed to life and adding value to life beyond themselves. They felt that purpose is outside of you, beyond ego or financial self interest.

This is pretty heady advice, for those of us looking more for a quick fix you could try doing what author Beth Lisogorsky does when she loses her motivation. First she looks for assistance from chemical stimuli
like caffeine or Skittles, if that doesn’t work she walks around naked. Unless you are very young and cute this is probably something you should not try in the office, even then it is a risk probably not worth taking.

Perhaps Leider’s formula is a better option. Having personally lost and gained my mojo many times the advice I can offer is that it is really easy to expect others to motivate you, it is equally easy to blame others for a lack of motivation. You can be certain that at any given time, I have blamed each and every one of you for my lack of motivation, even you guys in Singapore who just started at Geyer last
week – it’s your fault.

Unfortunately, I have learned this gets me nowhere, looking outside of oneself isn’t the answer. T stands for talent, know your strengths and
weaknesses. Most people don’t use their talents, they didn’t choose their careers they just happened on them and for this reason they may not be tapping into their real calling. P stands for purpose or passion, talents develop where there is interest. E stands for environment, what suits your style and temperament, can you express who you really are in
your work environment? Last is V, representing vision – how do you see therest of your life and how does your work fit into it?

Finally, Leider also interviewed senior citizens about their working careers; what he learned was that without exception, if they had it all to do over again, they would be more reflective so as not to lose sight
of the meaning of what they were doing. Looking back, they wished they had been able to focus on the big picture and also wished they
had taken more risks, been more courageous. Unfortunately, at the end of their careers they felt they still had something to give that was never called upon.

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a good swift kick in
the arse to gain perspective and realise that we are very fortunate.
You could be a Tamil, now that the war is over they still can’t get back on track. The Tamil people feel insecure, mistreated and alienated. They are under constant suspicion and harassed and that is why guys
like Vilvarajah, a 48 year old Sri Lankan Tamil is going to get on a boat with his wife and three kids and risk all of their lives to try to make it to Christmas Island.

When he gets there here he is really hoping K Rudd will let him in.

So for those of us who are over it, wondering what our purpose is, think about Vilvarajah and feel happy for all of the great things we have, let that be your motivation to get your groove back. Remember that
as human beings we have tremendous resolve, we lick our wounds, pick ourselves up and keep going and whether it is going across an ocean for a betterlife or simply tapping back into what gives us joy, it
can be done.

Going back to REM, I think the song is about – trying again, doing a little bit more even though you think it might not be enough.You give it one more go.

“Losing My Religion”
Life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
Every whisper
Of every waking hour I’m
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

Berglas, Steven; How to Keep A Players Productive; The Harvard
Business Journal

Ellick, Adam B. A Family’s Journey and a Girl’s Dream, The New
York Times, October 11, 2009

Author unknown; Risky Boat Beats Hell on Earth; The Sydney
Morning Herald, October 24, 2009

Lisogorsky, Beth; Keeping Motivated, Fast Company, July 11,

Little, Amanda; Restoring the Faith; The Age, February 24, 2009
Webber, Alan M; Are You Deciding on Purpose, Fast Company


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