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I Think, Therefore I am.....

by Mark Deavall - June 2011  

For over twenty years now, I have been working with managers, helping them to improve their management skills. The area that we have focused on, and what managers get paid their salaries for, is the ability to extract the required productivity from their workers. 

Many people and consulting companies are involved in this area, and have come up with diverse processes from Neuro Linguistic Programming, through Performance Management Processes to Balanced Scorecard. All appear to be great in their own right, but if so, why are we as a management team, still struggling with productivity issues in the workplace? Seems weird, when we have access to all the great thinkers and managers in the world, and we are able to learn from their lives. 

John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, talks about the Law of the Lid. This law says that the effectiveness of one’s business will never rise above the effectiveness of one’s leadership ability. He’s right. Effective business stands or falls on effective leadership. We all know that to be true, and so we add Leadership Training to the mix together with NLP, Balanced Scorecard and so on. 

But I would like to throw another thought out for your consideration. In the 17th century the French philosopher, René Descartes, came up with “the explanation for it all” - “I Think, Therefore I Am”. This statement has been the source of fierce debate for centuries. It’s the old “which came first” story – the chicken or the egg. 

I however would like to offer an interpretation that I believe fits our conundrum regarding extracting productivity from our employees. I feel that this statement is a “fill in the blanks” kind of statement. “I think……, therefore I am……”. Let’s try this – I think I’m tired, therefore I am tired. I think I’m stressed, therefore I am stressed. I think I’m overworked therefore I am overworked. I think people don’t like me therefore I’m not liked. The list goes on and on. 

Maybe I’m taking some sort of literary license here, but the message that I want to get across is this. It doesn’t matter what training we do, and what systems we put into place, a person’s productivity will never rise above the level of their thoughts. Therefore, in order to bring about changes in productivity, we need to bring about changes in the thoughts of the people that work for us. 

We see this concept at play every day. It’s what the unions and interested politicians use to justify their existence. They convince workers that they are hard done by and as a result have to strike so that they can get more money, better benefits and so on. So the thought is, “I think my employer is treating me unfairly, therefore I am unfairly treated”. It all starts with a thought. “I think……, therefore I am……..”. 

Just look at what has been happening with the Walmart purchase of majority shares in Massmart. Before that deal even got off the ground, the union and political machinery to control the workers minds, kicked into gear. Every possible negative thing about Walmart’s treatment of its workforce was brought into the open and negatively publicised. The truth is that Walmart does a lot of good things for their workers too. But that was conveniently hidden. And not even Walmart did anything to dispel the myths being propagated. All they did was to say that if the purchase becomes too onerous, they will withdraw. How encouraging to an already disbelieving and hostile workforce! 

In this country right now, we as business are in a battle for the “thoughts” of our workers. We are battling against a sense of entitlement, unions with a vested interest in keeping people in a poverty cycle and a government that makes politically expedient promises rather than doing anything meaningful. If we are to increase the productivity of the individual, we need to be a bigger influence on their thoughts than what the outside influences are. 

Only by changing and increasing the level of thinking in the individual, will we be able to increase the level of individual productivity. 

But this is easier said than done. Or, as it is so often said, talk is cheap. So how do we win the thoughts of the workforce? I think that in order to find the answer to that question we need to examine just what it is that the unions and government are doing in this regard. 

In the mid 1990’s South Africa developed a “Bill of Rights”, and together with that the government and the unions went on a campaign to get people to demand their rights regardless. They convinced the worker’s that they were hard done by and that business was bent on denying them their rights.  

So inspirational (firebrand) “leaders” went out there and promoted this message. And they did it really well! But in the meantime, where was business? I have not seen, nor heard, of one inspirational business leader standing up publicly and proclaiming that the worker does not need to be afraid of having his or her rights infringed - “We as business will see to it that you enjoy all your rights! We make it our responsibility.” Sadly, no-one has come forward to do just this. 

So where are these inspirational business leaders? 

The point is that once we as business neutralise the fear that government and the unions propagate, of rights being trampled on, we will be able to show our workers how every right has a responsibility attached to it, and only by delivering on their responsibilities, are the rights of the worker realised. 

We need to be showing our workforce that their rights are but the beginning of their economic independence. We as business need to start proving to the workforce that their rights are not under threat, but are rather the priority of business. Remove the fear and you have a very cooperative worker. Productivity becomes a way of life because it is positioned as a means of moving beyond the basic insistence on rights. 

We are in a war for the thoughts of our workforce. Let’s start to at least participate in that war instead of standing around lamenting what’s going on. 

“I think, therefore I am”. Who controls that thought and reality is in our hands.

I trust that you have found benefit in this article. If you would like to contact me or have me talk to the people in your company, please call me on 27 11 609-1264, or e-mail me

For more articles, go to Mark’s blogs http://mark-deavall.blogspot.com and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MarkDeavall  

This article is protected by international copyright law. If you would like to copy this article for any reason, please be sure to copy the entire article including this line.

 

 
 
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