All I Need to Know about Business I Learned from a Duck

Archive for June, 2012

“People Are Like Ducks … Calm and Unruffled on the Surface but Paddling Like the Devil Underneath”

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Author’s Note: Gerald Zaltman who wrote the book How Consumers Think said, “Metaphors, the representation of one thing in terms of another, often help us express the way we feel about or view a particular aspect of our lives.” So I thought in addition to the headline of this article, providing you with a short video might help provide you with further understanding of my view of how paddling like the devil (low self-esteem) is affecting the workplace.

My interpretation of American author Jacob Braude’s (1896-1970) quote is that on the surface many people may appear to be confident and even courageous, but deep down most individuals in our society are unsure of themselves to the point where they suffer low self-esteem.

Because this issue is one of those “touchy-feely” aspects of running a business, most managers (men in particular) aren’t comfortable dealing with it. Therefore, a majority of business leaders are not fully conscious of its wide-ranging impact upon their companies.

According to some experts, low self-esteem is rampant today. Sushma Sharma who runs a counseling center said, “If I ask my clients to name 10 positive things about themselves they find it difficult to do so, but they have no problem identifying 10 negative things about themselves.” Many psychologists agree with Sharma claiming that we are witnessing a crisis of low self-esteem.

So how do psychologists define self-esteem? Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem offers this: “Self-esteem is the disposition of experiencing oneself as competent in coping with the basic challenges of life and as being worthy of happiness.”

Says Branden: “Healthy self-esteem correlates with rationality, realism, intuitiveness, creativity, independence, flexibility, ability to manage change, willingness to admit (and correct) mistakes, benevolence and cooperation. Poor self-esteem correlates with irrationality, blindness to reality, rigidity, fear of the new and unfamiliar, inappropriate conformity or inappropriate rebelliousness, defensiveness, an overly compliant or controlling behavior, and fear or hostility towards others.”

How can you build self-esteem in your workplace?

Provide Key Employees with a Mentor – Formal mentoring programs help to improve employee’s personal and professional development which of course improves self-esteem. Mentoring also improves retention because employees feel nurtured by the organization. Done right, mentoring motivates and engages employees and improves self-awareness, leadership skills and teamwork.

Help Employees Understand Their Skills Set – Does an employee have the necessary skills to complete a given task or position description? Obviously, if they do not, they will feel incompetent and hence their self-esteem will take a beating. Once they understand their own skills set, they and their manager (or mentor) can begin to take the necessary steps to fill the gaps.

Help Employees Find Meaning in the Goals They are Working on and How it will Benefit Them as a Person – A survey conducted by Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman (authors of The M-Factor) found that meaning in the workplace is beyond important for most of us; it is the most important aspect of work. More than money or benefits, making a difference is fundamental.

Freedom to Fail – Allow your report the freedom to fail. No one great achiever has been successful one hundred percent of the time in all their endeavors. Failure allows people to learn where they went wrong. It is an opportunity for them to be better at what they do.