I wrote "SHINE" with the zeal of a doctor who’s identified a disease he knows the cure for. This disease is not medical in origin but psychological and social. It is the disease of underachievement, of job dissatisfaction, of resignation, of failure to thrive at work.
After studying its causes and remedies for decades, I put together SHINE, a treatment manual if you will, on how to make the most out of your human potential at work (the same method applies to your personal life, but that’s another story, another book).
It all begins with proper selection. Do you know how many people will never find work fulfilling, not because of lack of talent but simply because they have chosen the wrong line of work? Many millions. Choosing a career because it offered the path of least resistance, or the highest salary, or the most prestige, or because it was what parents wanted, or because it posed the stiffest challenge or the highest adventure – these are the common pitfalls of poor selection.
What makes for best selection? A person ought to work at the intersection of three spheres. First, what he or she likes to do. Second, what he or she is really good at doing. And third, what someone will else will pay that person to do. The intersection of those three spheres defines best selection of a career. Once you have selected well, you stand a chance of reaching your peak. It will take work and time, but at least you stand a chance. With wrong selection, you stand no chance. Many people waste an entire professional life trying to get good at what they’re bad at instead of doing what they’re good at.
The next step is to create the right environment in which to work. Emotion is the on/off switch for peak performance. The people who fly high, who excel, who sustain excellence over time love their work. And a prime reason they love their work is that they work in what I call a positively connected environment, an environment that is high on trust and low on fear, high on encouragement and low on put-downs, high on challenge but also high on support. The single greatest cause of job dissatisfaction and impaired performance is a disconnected workplace, a workplace that shuts down high level thinking and creativity and treats individuals as interchangeable mechanical parts.
The third step on the path to shining is play. By play I do not mean trivial games and wasting time. By play I refer to any task in which your imagination gets involved. The opposite of play is robotic behavior, doing exactly what you’re told. In play, your brain lights up, you contribute spontaneously, you revise on the run, you can be flexible and adapt, even implement new solutions as they come to you. In play, the brain is operating at its highest level. It is doing what we humans are uniquely qualified to do. Old-school Neanderthal management techniques aimed to squelch play in the name of predictability and consistency. But, as Emerson reminds us, “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” I would add little managers to that list. Play releases the full power of the human mind to work its unique magic even it does not understand.
Step four is to grapple and grow. In other words, work. But when this step emerges from the previous three – select, connect, and play – the individual wants to work hard. Look at people who work hard, day after day, year after year. Why do they do so? Because they are morally superior, possessed of a strong “work ethic”? No! They work hard because they want to. And the chief reason they want to is because, wittingly or not, they negotiated steps 1 - 3 wisely. Next to true love, a passionate engagement with work may be life’s greatest sustained reward.
It naturally leads to step 5, the culmination of the process, which is to excel, to shine, to be at your best day in and day out.
My belief, and my passion in writing this book, is that every person has it in him or her to shine, to be at their best. I begin the book with the story of Dr. Shine, an elderly man at Logan Airport who has multiple sclerosis but still shows up every day to shine shoes, and more importantly, as he puts it, to “find the spark that everyone has inside of them. I only get as long as a shoeshine to find that spark, but when I get it, I know I’ve done my job.”
Managers – and all of us – would do well to emulate Dr. Shine. The spark that ignites superior performance is in each of us. Let it shine!
About the author of "SHINE: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People": Edward M. Hallowell M.D. is a psychiatrist, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, which serves individuals with emotional and learning problems. He was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for 20 years. He has written two popular Harvard Business Review articles and authored 13 books, including the national bestseller Driven to Distraction. To learn more, visit the author's web site.
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