Tackling the global epidemic of workplace unhappiness | Oberdan Marianetti | TEDxNTU

Tackling the global epidemic of workplace unhappiness | Oberdan Marianetti | TEDxNTU


Translator: Dorota Stawowska
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven How many of you have ever heard
a friend or a colleague saying that they go to work
because it pays the bills? Raise your hand. Okay, thank you. How many of you have heard
a friend or a colleague say that they would like
to do something different but they got somewhat stuck with life
and they have commitments and they can’t really do any different
from where they are now? Raise your hands. Okay, quite a few hands once again –
in fact, the majority. Well, it might not surprise you to realize
that that friend and that colleague is actually you. (Laughter) There is data that suggests that about 80% of people in the workplace are having a somewhat
negative experience of work. Let me share some data with you. There’s an organization called Gallup that every year measures
how people are at work, what kind of experience they’re having. And they usually break down
their information in three categories. And they talk about employees
who are “checked out,” they talk about those
who are working with passion, and then finally, they talk about those
who are acting out their unhappiness; these are the saboteurs. Now, if you look
at the size of those boxes, that’s the actual percentage split
of the population in the USA in the year 2014. When we put that in a visual term, that’s a hell of a lot of unhappy faces. And if we look at the Gallup information
for 2013 at a global level, the picture only gets worse. And I’m afraid even worse in Singapore. (Laughter) (Applause) So, really not that surprising
to see all those hands standing earlier. Now think about the amount of time
we spend at work. Some estimates suggest that we spend 220 days
every year in the workplace – that’s working days. So if you put that into context and think about the amount of time
we’re spending at work and realize that 80% of us, on average,
are having a miserable experience of it, Is it possible that that negative work
experience is also impacting our lives? So, I imagine that you could be forgiven if you were secretly hatching
a plan to escape your work cubicle. And if you weren’t yet working, because you’re a student
or you’re about to enter your first work, then I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re fretting at the idea
that you might fall into that 80%. So, how did we get ourselves
into this space? How did we get to the place where 80% of us are having
an experience of work that is dissatisfying
if not downright miserable? Well, I believe it is
because they beat it out of us – from birth. When you’re born, you have all the ingredients
to be an inspirational human being. You have all the ingredients to be the absolute best version
of what you were born with. But as you come to life
as that defenseless little being, your parents, my parents, our parents
do their best to raise us and project their fears,
their expectations, limited by their knowledge,
limited by their experiences, onto us – with the best intention. But nevertheless, they begin a journey
where our essence, in its full beauty, begins to get shaped
by other people’s expectations. Then you become a social being; you go out there
and play with other children, and you get exposed to peer pressure. And it’s not easy to just stay
congruent with yourself – that’s why we call it
peer pressure, I guess. And then, of course, we go to school. Education all over the world
is designed as a batch process that takes students through a standard
set of curricula to go from A to B. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that,
and there’s an almost value in it. The problem is that B
is often a limited set of topics that don’t necessarily cater
for the full spectrum of human capability with which little child Peg came to life. And then you go to work. You’ve studied hard, you’ve succeeded, you’ve achieved those standards
that society has set for you, and it starts all over again. Mr. Peg, here are your objectives. This is what we expect you
to deliver by the end of the year. Here is a set of behaviors that we would like you to illustrate
and demonstrate as you operate. And here are some values that we would like you to embody
so that you can fit in our culture. You succeed in all of that and we will look after you. You fail, there’ll be consequences. So is it really any surprise that we have somewhat
of a miserable experience in the workplace when we’ve spent
every single day from birth being told to be something that is not necessarily
congruent and aligned to who we are? And it makes me wonder: but what about those twenty percent who have the green, happy face
in their survey? Well, those are the people
who I call leaders. And I’m not calling them leaders because they have
a rank on their shoulders or because they’ve become CEO or head of department
or whatever the case; they are leaders for a whole set
of different reasons. And as a matter of fact,
I call them essence leaders. So let me define first
what I mean by “essence.” In our being – our spirit, our mind,
our body, our emotions – we have already a unique makeup, and when this comes together, it makes up for a
concoction of ingredients that is ultimately unique to us. That’s what I call essence. That’s the place that, if you wish,
is the core of the planet, where the energy burns
and life becomes real. And I would suggest that when we are in
congruence with that essence, where we are connected with it, it is the place from which our dreams,
our aspirations, our purpose come to life. And I’m sure you’ve seen people like that; I’m sure you’ve been in the presence
of someone who shines their own light, who when they speak, you want to listen. When they want to do something, it makes you want to follow through
with them on that journey. But unfortunately,
the reality in the workplace, of what we get told about leadership
and what it means to be a leader, is very, very different. So if you look at some of the research
out there on leadership and you look at the paper articles that have been published
on very reputable platforms – McKinsey, Gallup
and Harvard Business School – and you look at some
of the titles of these papers – “What really matters?” “What leaders really do?” and so on and so forth – when you read the papers, you are told in no half terms: “You do these five things;
everyone will follow you,” You embody these three values;
you would be inspirational to the world.” And it doesn’t end there;
this is just the papers. If you review the book literature, there’s a whole plethora of books that give you, as the one
on the top left suggest, “Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” Just do it; it will be all right. And also listen to what some
of the leadership gurus have to say. (Video) Roselinde Torres:
Leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced
by three questions. Where are you looking to anticipate
the next change? The second question is,
What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional
stakeholder network? Third question: Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you
successful in the past? Marshall Goldsmith: Every day
I tell myself leadership is not about me; leadership is about them. Steward Friedman:
… is three key principles that we discovered
from our research in the real world about how people lead from the point
of view of the whole person, and these three principles are to be real, to be whole and then to be innovative. Giampiero Petriglieri: One of the marks of good leadership
is the ability to hold the tension between pursuing a consistent direction
and also being able to question it. Daniel Goleman: But the really excellent,
the outstanding leaders, we find, are people who first listen and then to put that all together
for a higher order integration. That’s real leadership. Oberdan Marianetti: So we’ve heard
four or five thought leaders who can’t agree with each other
as to what leadership means. (Laughter) If they can’t agree, how can we
“normal” mortals in the workplace understand what leadership is? (Laughter) (Applause) And you know, there’s a lot of research
in positive psychology that suggests that people who live
in congruence with themselves, with what I call essence, have a higher chance of living
a fulfilling and satisfying life. So, with the picture and the context
we just explored together, the question is, How do we redefine leadership
in a way that is all encompassing? In a way that is applicable
to every single one of you in this room? In a way that takes account
of our own essence while being applicable to whatever
context out there in the world? And I think it’s very, very simple. The conditions for leadership
are just three, in my opinion. It begins with you, an individual with the desire to bring
something to life or create something new. Alongside it is an audience. It’s someone who has
the desire and the potential to come on that journey with you. And third, of course, we need the tools and the skills
for you and your audience to interact so that you can work together
and bring things to life. Now, very briefly, if we take
any of those variables out, leadership doesn’t exist. So, if I have no individual leader with
the desire to bring something to life, well, there are no conditions
for leadership. In the same way,
if I take the audience out, I might have the best idea in the world and all the energy
and the skills to bring it to life, but there’s no one out there
who can become my “follower.” And then, of course, finally,
if I remove the interactions, the skills and the tools to communicate
meaningfully with my audience, yet again, there cannot be leadership. And so, you see,
leadership is very simple, and most importantly, it begins with you. Let me give you a couple
of examples as we close. The late Lee Kuan Yew, he had an absolute, utter conviction in his desire to transform Singapore into
an independent and successful country. And he spent his entire life – in fact, in one of his famous quotes,
he says he gave his life to that mission. And here we are, 50 years later,
celebrating SG50. But I don’t want to give you
an impression with this example that leadership is only
about the greats of history or people who have high ranks
in companies and other institutions. Leadership, as an essence leader,
is for everybody. Let me give you another example. (Video) Voice-over: If you’ve learned a lot about leadership
and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement happen –
start to finish in under three minutes – and dissect some lessons. First, of course, a leader needs the guts
to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple,
it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow. Now, here comes the first follower
with a crucial role. He publicly shows
everyone else how to follow. Notice how the leader
embraces him as an equal. So it’s not about the leader anymore;
it’s about them, plural. Notice how he’s calling
to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower. You stand out;
you brave ridicule yourself. Being a first follower is
an underappreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms
a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark
that really makes the fire. Now here’s the second follower.
This is a turning point. It’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut
and it’s not two nuts; three is a crowd and a crowd is news. A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders
see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers because new followers emulate
followers, not the leader. Now, here come two more people,
then three more, immediately. Now we’ve got momentum! This is the tipping point,
and now we have a movement. As more people jump in,
it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before,
there’s no reason not to join in now. They won’t stand out,
they won’t be ridiculed, and they will be part
of the in-crowd if they hurry. And over the next minute, you’ll see the rest who preferred
to stay part of the crowd, because eventually,
they’d be ridiculed for not joining. And ladies and gentlemen,
that is how a movement is made. (Applause) OM: I do believe there is an epidemic
of unhappiness in the workplace, and if the statistics I shared
with you earlier are to be believed, that’s kind of confirming it is the case. I equally believe it is our right
to have a fulfilling and satisfying life, and the message here is
that by being an essence leader, you are taking the reins
of your horse in your hands and creating the life that works for you. And so, if you want to break out
of the work cubical, reconnect with your essence
and learn to live your own life. Thank you. (Applause)

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