April 2006 - Leading A Business & Losing Some Weight
Leading A Business & Losing Some Weight: 6 Surprising Similarities
By Kenny Moore
If you can lose weight, you can lead an organization. The weight loss industry has given us a personal self-help model, and a business model as well. If you’re one of the millions of folks attending these programs, you have readily transferable leadership skills for today’s marketplace.
Just follow these six simple steps and you too can be attractive, successful and the envy of your corporate colleagues.
Overeating is a long-standing problem for the weight conscious. So is the insidious danger of eating alone. Food consequently becomes a personal temptation rather than a communal event. This solipsistic tendency has also leached its way into our business life. In our attempts to compete in the global economy, it seems we’ve arrived at a place where we eat lunch at our desks and often by ourselves. Increasingly, this mid-day repast is abandoned altogether.
We no longer have time to fraternize with coworkers and have quarantined ourselves to the confines of our offices and cubicles. Coming from a place of isolation, we’re surprised when fellow workers don’t return calls, reply with curt e-mails or become disinclined to help us navigate the bureaucratic maze of business life.
This is to be expected when coworkers don’t know us, haven’t spent time with us and have never been invited to join us for a meal. As every newly minted MBA graduate knows: business is all about relationships.
If I don’t know you, don’t like you or have no personal contact with you — I have no incentive to go out of my way to try and help. By not sharing meals with colleagues, we have fostered a type of corporate anorexia. We’re starving ourselves to death for want of social contact.
The business suffers. Productivity plummets. Our career languishes. And, not surprisingly, we’re no longer fun to work with.
Things would improve if we regularly resisted the temptation to eat alone and joined coworkers for lunch. Fast food restaurants should be shunned. Salads (with low-fat dressing on the side) are encouraged.
Whining about senior management is injurious to your heart and to be avoided. A conversation focused on people’s talents increases circulation and reduces harmful saturated fats within the organization.
Research indicates that most of us are walking around the workplace severely dehydrated, so we need to bulk up on our fluid intake. Water is the preferred drink — since coffee, tea and soda further deplete one’s hydration. It’s also a lot cheaper, provided you get it from the tap and not the vending machine.
Imbibing vast quantities of water also has the unintended benefit of strategically positioning you before two epicenters of employee engagement: the bathroom and the water cooler. Both locations seem to be the last vestiges where workers feel free to talk openly and engage in the ancient rite of truth-telling. Frequenting both places provides productive opportunities to stay connected to the rumor mill and ascertain how employees are really feeling.
These activities also have a cost-cutting benefit. You’ll no longer need to conduct another Employee Survey or host further Focus Groups to find out the concerns of workers: a savings of both time and money. Merely show up and shut up. Listening to coworkers’ gripes gives you valuable information for taking corrective action and remedying misunderstandings.
It also offers a jumpstart for offsetting corporate misinformation and destructive rumor mongering.
Buy a pedometer, clip it to your waist and begin walking around the workplace. As you increase your mileage, your soft body will be better toned and your business mind will be better informed.
Pay close attention to what’s working well throughout the organization and compliment people on their good efforts. Make special attempts to visit with staff who consistently perform excellent work but get little recognition. Extend your heartfelt thanks and remind them that their contributions don’t go unnoticed. Bring along a box of low-fat cookies to wantonly distribute.
Consider making more extended journeys to off-site locations and even dropping in on some key customers, internal and external. Ask them if they’re pleased with your services and elicit advice for improving customer satisfaction.
If you notice someone who’s recently lost weight and looks better than you, temper your personal jealousy and extend a kindly word of congratulations. At all cost, resist the temptation to once again beat yourself up for being lazy, undisciplined or neglectful of your diet. In emergency situations, repeat the mantra: "Oprah would never condone self-flagellation."
The Spanish have a saying: Habits are first cobwebs, then cables. So monitor closely what you do, where you go and with whom you get involved. Temptations abound in both the fights to trim the waistline and lead the organization.
Personal danger spots to be avoided include anything that’s sweet (products or people), gourmet meals, and everything dipped in chocolate (products or people). While they appear momentarily pleasing, lurking just below the surface is subtle peril.
Corporate danger spots include the executive floor, company cafeterias and any business initiative preceded by the term "cutting edge."
Recent data suggests that outsourcing excess body weight is more enjoyable than doing it to your company’s Call Center. Sadly, there still remains no practical business process in place that allows you to consume a whole lemon meringue pie at your desk but have the calories off-shored to some hungry, low-paid professional in India.
I understand that Tom Friedman’s next book, The World is Flat … but My Belly Isn’t, will address this predicament.
While these folks have a necessary place in the world, that place should not be anywhere within a 10-mile radius of you.
Cynics, naysayers and devil’s advocates have something valuable to offer, just let them momentarily offer it to someone else. When trying to make improvements to your own health or the company’s, the task at hand is challenging enough without the voices of doom and gloom constantly echoing in your ear.
The "truth" these refreshing souls have to contribute is best kept for another day.
Instead, create a support group of like-minded people who understand what you’re trying to do and are willing to offer their passion and advice for a successful outcome. Positive energy is an essential part of any change program, physical or fiscal. Spouses and trusted colleagues can be of tremendous value in this regard. Those going through divorce or recently passed-over for promotion, less so. Steer clear of "high potential" employees or extremely thin people.
We are what we eat. But what’s also become clear is that we believe what we read. So stop looking through Cosmopolitan, GQ and all those other glamour magazines. They profile unnatural bodies and unrealistic lifestyles. The adolescent diets they purport are unworkable, overly simplistic and contain more celebrity fluff than substance.
This likewise holds true for the many business journals that are out there flaunting business "Best Practices." This fawning deference to what other companies have already done has become the adolescent bane of corporate life. When we were teenagers, we showed our uniqueness by behaving exactly like all our peers. Best Practices is a throwback to this pubescent model: "You too can be world class by mindlessly mimicking IBM."
What works for General Electric is most likely not going to work for your company. If it were truly that simple, you would have only needed to purchase Jack Welch’s first book. But he’s already out there selling his second, which contains "new and improved" insights for transforming your business. Rumor has it that he’s close to cutting a deal on his third. Even Stephen Covey didn’t stop with his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He’s now touting the 8th one.
Notice a trend here?
One last thing
If you’re looking for a quick answer on how to lose weight or successfully compete in today’s marketplace, Gertrude Stein offers some sobering advice: "There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. There’s the answer!"
As life would have it, we’re all required to work with what we have, play the cards we’ve been dealt and implement change with the flawed humans inhabiting our workplace. Stop looking for answers in the eyes of someone else. Wisdom resides within.
We’re better off implementing a mediocre business process that’s embraced by our employees than a "Best Practice" one sold to us by some outside business guru.
We’re likewise well served befriending the less-than-perfect bodies that the Divine has bestowed on us rather than pining after the ones profiled on late night infomercials.
Besides, if you were truly that firm, tight, and chiseled – people might be drawn to you based on looks alone.
Fortunately, this is something most of us need not worry about.
P.S. If you’re thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation. I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say. Please e-mail me at kennythemonk [at] yahoo.com.
Copyright © 2006 Kenny Moore, all rights reserved to the author.
About the author: Kenny Moore is co-author of The CEO and the Monk: One Company’s Journey to Profit and Purpose (John Wiley and Sons, 2004), rated as one of the top ten best selling business books on Amazon.com. He is Corporate Ombudsman and Human Resources Director at a New York City Fortune 500 company. Reporting to the CEO, he is primarily responsible for awakening joy, meaning and commitment in the workplace. While these efforts have largely been met with skepticism, he remains eternally optimistic of their future viability.
Kenny has more than 20 years experience with managing change, developing leaders and healing the corporate community. He’s been profiled by Charles Osgood on CBS Sunday Morning News and interviewed by Tom Peters, the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company magazine regarding his unique leadership style. Kenny is the recipient of Notre Dame University’s 2006 Hesburg Award for his significant contribution to the field of business ethics.
His business practices are based on those of Louie Armstrong who said: "I am here in the service of Happiness." Louis died a rich and beloved man; his voice still rings in the ears (and hearts) of millions.
Prior to his work in corporate America, Kenny spent 15 years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest. Several years ago, he had the good fortune of being diagnosed with "incurable" cancer, at its most advanced stages. He underwent a year of experimental treatment at the National Cancer Institute and survived. Kenny came away from that experience recalling the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes: "Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us." Kenny’s lifetime goal is to spend more of his time playing his music. Having dealt with both God and death, Kenny now finds himself eminently qualified to work with senior management on corporate change efforts.
Kenny is a watercolor artist, poet and photographer. He is Founding Director of Art for the Anawim, a not-for-profit charity that works with the art community in supporting the needs of terminally ill children and the inner-city poor. His poems have been published in several anthologies; one was selected as a semi-finalist in the North American Open Poetry Contest. Kenny lives in Totowa, New Jersey and is married to the "fair and beautiful" Cynthia. Together, they are fighting a losing battle of maintaining their mental stability while raising two growing boys.
Kenny can be reached at kennythemonk [at] yahoo.com or (973) 956-8210.
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