L. Tim Gallwey's "Executive Friend"
In his book The Inner Game of Work, Gallwey does not identify his "Executive Friend" undoubtedly to avoid public ridicule but there is no doubt it is Prem Rawat who prefers to be called Maharaji, the Ultimate Ruler who formerly called himself Guru Maharaj Ji, the Lord of the Universe. Even after nearly 40 years of experience it still takes Gallwey some time to be able to make a coherent intelligent story out of Rawat's ignorant, simplistic statements. Only those people with an understanding of Rawat's career can appreciate the creativity that went into this chapter of Gallwey's book. The thought of Rawat, the flabby, jowly, cigarette smoking Master who tried exercise only once in his life playing a strenuous hour of tennis is ridiculous. On the other hand Rawat does have a tennis court. This is an excerpt from from Gallwey's book the Inner Game Of Work
118 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
EF-An Executive Friend
Over the past twenty years, I have engaged in ongoing conversations with many executives on the subject of optimal performance and developing people's capabilities in the workplace. Of all of these, there is one series of conversations that stands out as unique. The conversations were with a person I will simply refer to as "my executive friend." He is perhaps the most successful executive I know, not because of the position he holds, but because of his remarkable ability to execute his goals and dreams. In the course of many conversations with him, I learned a great deal regarding the growth and development of people at work. Over twenty-plus years, he has become a valued and most respected friend. Out of my respect for his privacy and the informal nature of our conversations, I will refer to him hereafter as EF.
Many of my conversations with EF took place while we played tennis. Without playing for points, we would hit balls back and forth, talking as we did so. Whenever the conversation re-
120 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
quired more focus, we would take a breather and finish the dialogue standing at the net. EF's declared motivation for playing tennis was the benefit of physical exercise, while mine was the extraordinary learning that took place from our interaction.
It is difficult to describe the impact these conversations have had on me. EF's remarks were full of common sense. They were simple and profound at the same time. Sometimes they were so simple that it was only out of my respect for his remarkable personal and professional success that I would take them to heart. I would go home after playing tennis and think about what he said. Sometimes it would be quite a while before I saw both philosophical and practical significance in what he said. EF does not consider himself a philosopher. As a practical man, he is interested in theoretical ideas insofar as they might help him accomplish his goals.
EF travels a great deal and his perspectives are drawn from a wide range of international experiences that encompass many cultures, yet seem to transcend them all. He is always more interested in what human beings have in common than in how they differ.
We spoke about the management styles of the West and the East, their mutual strengths and weaknesses, and about learning and communication within organizations. We spoke about the importance of individuals thinking for themselves and about how easily the integrity of the individual can be compromised by pressure from the agendas of the group or society that that individual is a part of. And in nearly all of our conversations, we discussed what it meant to succeed as a human being.
One day, after a particularly strenuous hour of tennis with relatively little talk, EF handed me a single sheet of paper he had printed from his PC, saying, "Here's a breakthrough in what we've been talking about. I'll be interested in what you think about it." I took the page home with great anticipation.
"Mobility"-The page had a one-word title: Mobility. It contained only a few hundred words of text with a simple graphic-a picture
From Conformity to Mobility 121
of the da Vinci universal man, legs and arms outstretched, with arrows indicating the capacity to move in all directions.
Like da Vinci, Prem Rawat aka Maharaji is a genius
- W. Timothy Gallwey
He is A Poet:
My lips have smiled, my thoughts felt still
I've experienced the joy; my heart is filled.
Myself I feel content and open as a pod
For you see my friend, I've been close to God
He is the world's Greatest Magician
Like da Vinci, my executive friend is a genius in his field as well as a versatile learner in many others. Both give evidence of thinking that appreciates the appearances of things, but finds greater fascination with their deep underlying structures.
EF's text started with a simple introduction:
Here are some of the factors that can move people toward their desired goals or stop them from ever reaching them.
Next, there was a definition:
Mobility. The capability to move or be moved.
Then an elaboration on the definition:
Applied to us, it means the ability to move or adapt, change or be changed. It also means the ability to reach one's objectives in a fulfilling manner- to reach goals at the right time and in a way we feel good about. Therefore, mobility is not only change but fulfillment and harmony with one's progress.
Sitting at home, I wondered, "What did EF really mean by mobility?" At first, I took it simply to mean flexibility and timeliness in the accomplishment of one's goals. But "to reach desired objectives in a fulfilling manner" meant that both work objectives and personal objectives were to be met at the same time. This was a simple notion, but one with significant and profound implications. Clearly, EF saw that personal fulfillment was possible at work, but also understood that it was quite rare. The more common notion is that individual fulfillment is a consequence of the accomplishment of objectives. Mobility, in this new definition, means that both the destination and the journey can and should be fulfilling.
EF's next paragraph was about change and awareness. These
122 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
were subjects we had often discussed in relation to personal changes as well as to macro changes at the organizational level. EF was most interested in those insights that held true at all levels:
Moving in such a fashion brings about better awareness and the ability to make subtle changes when necessary. Being able to make changes within changes can make the difference between success and failure.
This is clearly what I had seen in the Inner Game process of coaching both sports and work. When the tennis player or worker became more aware of what was happening, inside and out, change would take place in an organic way. The process of learning in the awareness mode is subtle but effective. It is far less mechanistic and coercive than the command-and-control method. Harmony with Self 2 in the process of change allows for greater awareness, which in turn allows for the subtle changes to take place.
EF went on to describe one of the greatest difficulties faced by individuals and organizations in times of change-making changes for the sake of change:
When people feel certain frustrations, they tend to think that merely making changes will fix everything. But random changes produce random results.
If companies understood that last sentence, they would save billions of dollars and countless work hours that are wasted in inappropriate efforts to change. One of the things I learned in both sports and work was that I should not try to change everything that
I thought should change. If the needed changes were attended to with nonjudgmental awareness, many of the other problems would correct themselves.
EF's next paragraph was difficult for me to grasp at first:
Changes are only of value when they are synchronized with all other elements and take place in correct proportion. Mobility gives us the ability to
From Conformity to Mobility 123
move, but not the reason. The ability to change does not guarantee that the changes made will lead toward success. Therefore, mobility must be closely tied to direction. Once one is removed from the other, both are rendered useless. Without direction, no successful change can take place.
I realized EF was talking about something akin to systems thinking. Nature is full of examples of systems that work only when all the necessary elements are present and functioning in sync with the other elements. If you make a change in one part of the system, you are liable to make an unintended change in another part and thus in the entire system. A chemical intended to clean a body of water may end up killing the algae that feed the fish that in turn help keep the water clean.
This phenomenon also exists in family systems, particularly those dealing with problems of addiction. When only the addicted family member receives treatment, the roles of the other family members who have been coping with the addiction are thrown out of balance. Sometimes there is so much disruption that it provides more pressure for the person to return to the addiction.
In business, there are countless examples of random changes that do not benefit the enterprise as a whole. A change designed to fix one problem causes ten others. Solutions in one department end up having a negative impact on another department, which finally comes back in the form of a much more serious problem.
To make specific changes that are in line with overall purpose and at the same time in sync with other changes being made requires an expanded level of awareness of all the important elements of a system. Initiating specific changes to solve specific problems without seeing their impact on the other components of the system can and usually does result in a short-term victory while contributing to failure of the system as a whole.
EF's page ended with a list of the five elements of mobility:
1. Grant yourself mobility, because you have it.
2. Have the clearest possible picture of where you want to go.
124 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
3. Be willing to make changes within your change.
4. Keep your purpose clear.
5. Keep your movement and direction synchronized.
That Is the Ultimate Mobility - The primary meaning I gathered from this page was that it was about attaining freedom of movement to fulfill internal and external goals. I also saw that it would require breaking the bonds to unnecessary external conformity and replacing them with a higher level of awareness and conscious thought. In some ways, this fit into what I had already come to understand about the importance of allowing Self 2 to have a greater chance to express itself. It was certainly in keeping with the work triangle and the need to meet learning and enjoyment goals as well as performance goals. It also valued awareness, choice, and trust. Mobility was the essence of what I had been learning about the Inner Game of working. Yet there was something more to this notion of mobility than I had yet understood, and I felt eager to learn.
How could I apply mobility to my own work life? Could I really find the process of working as fulfilling as the resulting achievements? What would it really mean to be satisfied with one's progress both internally and externally? Could I achieve mobility and then help my clients achieve it, too?
Taking the Steps-Let's take a closer look at what each of EF's instructions means in terms of your mobility and what you can do to remove obstacles.
1. Grant Yourself Mobility, Because You Have It-Think of an aspect of your work that you consider less than satisfying. Rate your satisfaction on a scale of one to ten (ten being the highest degree of satisfaction and one the lowest). Consider the three dimensions- of mobility: (1) the contribution to the attainment of your external goals; (2) the contribution to your internal satisfaction; (3) how you feel about the amount of time given to this work to accomplish the above.
From Conformity to Mobility 125
Let's say you rate your overall satisfaction as a 4-5, and let's assume you've been stuck at this level for some time. Mobility means that you can increase that level of satisfaction in all three dimensions. Mobility does not mean you know right now how to move from a 4-5 to an 8; it just means you acknowledge you can find out how to do it if you so choose.
Granting yourself this mobility so that you truly believe you can move toward greater work satisfaction is not always easy. Presumably, there are obstacles to your satisfaction or you would not be dissatisfied. But beneath all those obstacles, inner and outer, there lies a desire, a hope, and the ability to move toward your desired goals. To grant yourself mobility you may have to acknowledge both sides of the equation.
The inner conversation may be like this: "Yes, I believe I can move toward greater satisfaction in this aspect of my work, but …" It can help to acknowledge both the voice of optimism and the voice of doubt by writing them down. If the obstacles are in the forefront of your mind, then write them all down until you can't think of any more. Note which of these obstacles are external and which are internal. Then start acknowledging your inner resources. You have used these resources to get unstuck before. You have achieved certain goals before. And finally, remember that the essence of your ability to move toward your desired goals exists because you do-because you are a human being-and for no other reason. Acknowledging your inherent mobility can help you find your way around, through, and over your obstacles, both real and imagined. It is your first and most critical step.
The most common block to acknowledging mobility is thinking that your circumstances make mobility impossible. Granted, there are always some things that are beyond your control. But they can't stop your inherent mobility. Mobility is independent of circumstances. It is independent of the past. It is even independent of whether you think you have it or not. Mobility doesn't focus on what it can't control, but moves by making changes in what it can control. My own experience is that even in moments of great
126 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
hopelessness, the mobility is still there waiting to be acknowledged in order to become activated.
The easiest way to convince yourself that you don't have mobility is to form ironclad concepts of yourself and how you do things: "This is the way I am and this is the way I do things." Freedom is about realizing that you always have the choice to start moving in any desired direction regardless of your past. This is the essence of the first step. You have mobility and always have had. You just may need to remind yourself of the fact from time to time.
There is a well-known quotation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the eighteenth-century German poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher, that addresses the great power available to those who have the courage to grant themselves mobility. "Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now"
2. Have the Clearest Possible Picture of Where You Want to Go-Once you have acknowledged that you have the ability to move in any desired direction, the next step is to get the clearest possible picture of your desired destination. I believe EF picked the word "picture" intentionally, because in goal setting, pictures are definitely worth a thousand words.
From Conformity to Mobility 127
It is more effective for a golfer to "see" the trajectory of his golf ball rising into an arc against the sky, then falling onto the green and rolling into the hole, than it is to say to himself, "I want to hole this shot." Likewise, if your goal is better teamwork with your colleagues, it contributes to mobility to envision what that might look and sound like. When you use pictures, sounds, and words to project a desired future state, more parts of the brain are involved in the goal setting. This increases the likelihood that more of your brain will be used in the process of fulfilling the goal.
I once did a goal-setting exercise with the senior managers of a large company in the midst of a major transition. Their written goals were vague and divergent. But when they were each given crayons and paper and asked to draw pictures of both their present situation and their future state, there was an astounding similarity in the resulting pictures. Six of the ten drawings contained an image of a brick wall that had been broken through. Until then, there had been little or no acknowledgement that major obstacles existed. Furthermore, there was common agreement about the nature of the obstacles represented by the brick walls. Thus, important information that already exists within us can sometimes be more easily accessed by images than by words.
It is commonly said about goal setting that all goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic. Though I have achieved many such goals, I do not like to limit the envisioning process to these criteria. My most important goals have started out rather vague, quite impossible to measure, and would have definitely seemed unrealistic at the time. I try to keep my promises specific and realistic, but aspirations should know no bounds. The important thing about goals is that they come from desire.
When, as a coach, I ask tennis players what they would like to improve in their game, they might say, "I would like to get more shots over the net and into the court." When I then ask how many more shots they would like to get in, they might say 50 percent or 70 percent. "Don't you really want all your shots to go in?" I reply.
128 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
The answer is always, "Yes, but I don't think that is a realistic expectation." This is true, it is not a realistic expectation, but it is a realistic desire. You don't hit a shot because you want to miss it.You want every shot to go in.You may also want each shot to be graceful and enjoyable. It's okay to keep expectations realistic, but desire is a different thing.
Desire wants what it wants. Desire is a feeling that can produce a picture or a vision of what it wants. It may or may not be similar to what other people want, but true desire is never borrowed from anyone else. So the hardest thing about getting a clear picture of your direction is to be able to distinguish your picture from that of the many pictures that are painted by other people.
Performance goals may be more easily measured than your learning or experience goals, but that doesn't make them more important. I am reminded of an interview with Michelle Kwan, the Olympic figure skater, after she had failed to win the gold medal in the 1996 Winter Olympics. She was asked by the reporter to describe how disappointed she had been. She said that her real goal had been to skate her best in the games. "And I believe I did," she said. "I skated my heart out, and I brought home the silver. And I feel very good about it." Clearly she had two goals-one to win the gold, the other to skate her heart out. One was specific and measurable, but I got the distinct feeling that the other was more important for her. I remember feeling proud that she didn't buckle to the pressure from the reporter to make her feel she had failed.
When it comes to setting goals, some people say, "You can have anything you set your mind to. You can have whatever you can imagine you can have." I am very cautious about statements like that. When I look back on my life and consider the events, the people, even the circumstances, that I value the most, very few of them are things that I could ever have imagined. I have a good imagination, but I don't want to settle for what can be imagined by me or anyone else. I want to live beyond the limits of my imagination as much as possible.
In getting a clear picture of one's desired destination, it is im-
From Conformity to Mobility 129
portant to make a distinction between means and ends. Often people won't let themselves get in touch with what they truly want if they don't see the means of getting it. This is why some people find it impossible to figure out what they want. As soon as the desire emerges into consciousness, a doubt intrudes saying, "Forget it, there's no way." So most people forget it. But desire and means often arise independently. If I can have the courage to acknowledge my desire as it exists, without necessarily knowing how to fulfill it, mobility can start. Maybe all I can see is a first step toward a seemingly impossible goal. But when that step is taken, another step that I couldn't see before becomes apparent. And after a few more steps I may get an even clearer picture of where it is I really want to go. "Where there is a will, there is a way" is the mantra of people who have realized that they have mobility.
So before thinking about the means to the end, simply picture the desired end. Get a clear picture of what it would look like and what it would feel like.
For example, I might picture myself working free of stress and pressure. I am accepting the difficulties of my work with an appetite for challenge knowing that I can enjoy them all and see opportunities for learning in them all. I might envision myself in a totally different work situation and in a position to do much more volunteer work than I am currently able to do. I can envision working confidently and with a sense of purpose that gives sufficient meaning to my efforts. I can also envision better financial returns and different creative accomplishments, knowing that what I am doing is truly making a difference. Getting a clear picture is critical to mobility. The picture can always be changed as you go, but holding the picture is indispensable not only in keeping the desire alive but in providing clarity in steering one's course.
An aphorism that I often heard growing up and that still rings true is "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." If you have a clear vision of where you want to go, you are not as easily distracted by the many possibilities and agendas that could otherwise divert you.
But what about the strength of the desire upon which the pic-
130 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
ture is based? If mobility is fueled by a mere wish or a "good intention," it has less likelihood of being fulfilled than one based on passion.You can measure the strength of a desire by the obstacles it is capable of overcoming. I once asked a group of participants in a seminar to set goals as if whatever they wished for would be granted. The only condition was that they had to state how much time and effort they would commit in order to make that wish come true. I remember two wishes to this day. The first one was, "I want to be the Southern California karate champion in my weight division. To achieve this, I would be willing to put in six hours of practice a day, five days a week, for the next two years:' The next wish was, "I want to live free of stress. I would be willing to put in twenty minutes a day practicing meditation." Some goals are easier to attain than others and thus require less commitment. But you can bet that someone with the passion to dedicate six hours a day to his goal has a great reservoir of fuel for that mobility.
Once you have a clear picture of where you want to go, you can expect things to look different to you in two ways. First, you will be apt to see more opportunities to move in your desired direction; at the same time you are likely to be confronted with more obstacles, both inner and outer.
Both are signs that you have begun to move. When you are not moving, you encounter fewer obstacles. When you are moving, the obstacles are visible precisely because you have accepted a goal. In addition, having made the choice to move, you become more alert. The obstacles are more obvious because you are more conscious. If you are too goal oriented, these obstacles can be a source of discouragement and frustration. But you should be happy to see the obstacles because it means you can now find a way to circumvent them and move toward your goal.
EF taught me a very interesting thing about obstacles. He said there were three kinds of people when it comes to facing obstacles. "The first kind of person comes to an obstacle, looks at it, gets discouraged, says, 'That's too much for me,' and gives up. The second kind of person sees an obstacle and says, 'Whatever it takes,
From Conformity to Mobility 131
I'll get over it, under it, around it, through it. If I can't do it myself, I'll get tools, help from others, whatever it takes.' " I thought, "Well, that's the type I want to be." EF continued, "The third type of person comes to an obstacle and says, 'Before I try to get beyond this thing, I'm going to try to find a vantage point where I can see what's on the other side. Then if what I see is worth it, I'll do whatever it takes to get over or around the obstacle.' " I realized how often, like Don Quixote, I had done battle with inner and outer obstacles that I didn't really need to fight, but did so just because they were there.
As I move in the desired direction, I am apt to see better ways of moving toward my goal than I could see when I initially started out. This does not mean the steps I took at first were wrong or bad-they may have been the best I could see from that vantage point. If I am not too wedded to my original plan of movement, I may now be able to see better changes to make to get to my destination. I can make changes within my change.
What I can count on is that whatever path I've charted, changes will be needed. This is especially true in today's dynamic work environment. Refraining from planning does not make sense, but being unwilling to make changes in one's plan can be equally disastrous. One of the hardest things about making changes is that you may have been the one who argued so vehemently for the original course. You may have mustered great logic and evidence for its validity. You may have fought a hard battle against others who were proposing a different course. So when the time comes to make a change, it can seem as if you have to admit that you were wrong in the past in order to be correct in the present. Consequently, many companies can't handle major changes without letting go of the leaders who charted the original course. For the same reason, many politicians refuse to make changes in their positions long after those positions are no longer valid. It is not that the original position was wrong at the time, but that it was taken without the benefit of subsequent developments 'and insights.
I noticed that EF did not have to disparage the past and criti-
132 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
cize his original course of action to justify new changes. He simply emphasized the need to make these changes to overcome obstacles and seize new opportunities. I was amazed; it was ingrained in my thinking that the way to motivate change was to criticize the past. Of course, EF was simply practicing the kind of nonjudgmental awareness that I had come to see was so effective in sports.
Change does not have to be viewed as a dialectic between opposing forces out of which some synthesis is hammered. Organic change occurs differently. Crawling is not the wrong way for a child to start moving about. In fact, when the crawling stage is skipped in a rush to start walking, some important developmental changes in the brain are missed. Organic change follows Self 2's natural urges, which may result in movement that meanders like a river, yet somehow finds the path of least resistance to the ocean.
Over the years, I have witnessed many discussions about corporate change. Often they take place in a "black or white, all or nothing" context. Someone proposes a new direction but at the first appearance of difficulty, they are challenged and usually begin to doubt the validity of the whole proposal.
But changes are always required whenever a new direction is taken. No matter how well thought out a major course change may be, it can't anticipate everything. So at the outset of a new change, when uncertainty and risk are at their height, EF would counsel taking steps that are reversible. Then, as confidence grows in the validity of the direction, it is easier to feel confident in making changes within changes without abandoning the direction.
The rewards of being willing to make changes in your changes are great. Some the most successful companies became so only after making radical changes in their products, their means of delivery, their views of their customers and markets, or their own internal organizations and cultures. The hardest yet most powerful changes a company can make are to their "sacred cows"-those people or assumptions that are considered by the culture to be immune from questioning. In his last years as chairman of Coca- Cola, Roberto Goizueta made some of his greatest contributions
From Conformity to Mobility 133
by trying systematically to identify and challenge all the sacred cows in the company's culture and practices.
The same holds true for individuals. Changes in those assumptions that we didn't even realize were assumptions often lead to the biggest opportunities. For example, for years it had not occurred to me that I had a definition of work that was subject to change. I had also assumed that to be an educator I needed to be connected with an educational institution. Getting rid of that assumption revealed rich opportunities that I couldn't have otherwise foreseen. Sometimes it's as simple as changing my definition of what I think my job is, or who I work for, or what my real contribution is, that makes the difference.
Ironically, change itself can become a sacred cow. I have seen some leaders and managers assume that if others are making a certain type of change, then they should. The assumption is that if it's a change, it's good. As EF says, "Random change produces random results." Random changes may not contribute to your mobility. They distract you from movement toward your goals and waste precious time, energy, and resources.
3. Be Willing to Make Changes within Your Change-The key here is flexibility. Imagine a tree firmly rooted in the ground that remains pliant enough to bend with the wind without losing its inherent stability. It is the most human of qualities to be firmly committed to what is real and true (the fire within) while remaining unattached to the particular changes that come and go. It is only to the extent that we can grow roots into that part of ourselves that does not change that we are able to be truly flexible and still maintain a true direction.
4. Keep Your Purpose Clear-I couldn't believe this step was on EF's list. "Keep your purpose clear"? Just when I'm ready to approach the conclusion, I'm asked to go back to the beginning? But then I realized that in the midst of the actions and reactions that comprise most work, we lose sight of what we are doing it for in the first place. Not only is it difficult to remember the purpose behind our work in general, but even while involved in the details of a
134 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
particular task, it is easy to lose sight of why the task at hand was originally undertaken.
When I was playing tennis competitively in state and national tournaments, my coach used to tell me the goal of tennis was simple: "Just win the last point." But that's absurd. If that was really the point of playing the game, all you would have to do is to choose an opponent who was nowhere near as good as you. This would ensure your success every time you played. But that's not the point! Most people choose opponents who are equal to them or better than they are. This is not a good strategy if you want to win the last point, but it is an excellent strategy if you want to have fun and if you want to learn. So we recognize that winning is not the only important thing. But once we're out on the court, in the midst of the match, that understanding can be hard to remember.
The purpose of playing the game and the goal of the game are two different things. When the goal of winning gets confused with the reason for playing-to learn, to enjoy the challenge- then mobility is apt to be compromised. For this reason, the best leaders constantly remind everyone of their primary purpose, even in the midst of the chaos of all the current "emergencies." The wise individual who wants to keep mobile remembers the purpose behind whatever changes he decided to make.
Take any specific action you do at work and ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" Trace the first reason that comes to mind back to the original purpose. How easy is it for you to do this? How clear is the connection? What are the probable consequences of forgetting purpose in the midst of attaining subgoals?
I tried this experiment once with a group of employees at AT&T. Although "customer satisfaction" was expected to be the focus for every single employee, most people couldn't tell me specifically how the work they were doing contributed to this mission. For some hourly employees it was easier because they were directly relating to customers on a daily basis. Some managers found that there were ten to fifteen intermediaries between them and the customer. They were serving people, who served
From Conformity to Mobility 135
people who eventually "satisfied the customer." It was easy to forget the customer while they simply did their jobs. Or, in other words, they lost sight of the purpose while focused on the sub- goals.
But was customer satisfaction really the purpose driving individuals to come work at AT&T? What was on the employees' minds, satisfying the customer or satisfying their immediate supervisors? Neither. None of them had come to work to satisfy either the customers or their supervisors. They had come to work for reasons of self and family-reasons also too often forgotten, and with them the ultimate sense of purpose behind all their hard work.
Why is it so important to remember the primary purpose while accomplishing the subgoals? After all, the "job" can get done whether or not the purpose is kept in mind. So what difference does it really make?
Using the work-equals-performance-minus-interference definition of work, perhaps it doesn't make that much difference. But in terms of mobility, it makes all the difference. Purpose provides both direction and fulfillment. It also provides the foundation for the most important learning.
The answer to this question takes us back to the original concept of mobility. Where do you really want to go? Perhaps you are simply driving your vehicle from paycheck to paycheck. Ask yourself, what are these checks for? Perhaps you will say they are for the quality of life of you and your family. Isn't that closer to your real purpose for working? And if quality of life is the real purpose for working, then wouldn't you want that while you were working as well? Wouldn't it make sense to remember that that is what you want while you are pursuing whatever subgoals are involved in your work? And if you didn't remember, how easy would it be to have a rather miserable quality of life while working all for the sake of your quality of life during the short time when you are not working?
It is natural for organizations to want all their employees
136 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
aligned behind their organizational goals. Toward this end they articulate mission statements, develop strategies to serve those missions, devise corporate objectives to serve the strategies, and implement projects to fulfill the objectives. There are goals within goals within goals within goals. And keeping the relative priorities of these goals clear is one of the most critical challenges of organizational leadership.
With all the effort that goes into keeping employees focused on the correct priorities, how easy is it for the employees to remember their own individual priorities-not just their part in the organizational work, but why they are doing that work in the first place? Who is going to remind them of that? Only the rare manager or leader sees the advantage of doing so. Almost always the individual worker must remind himself.
There is a critical distinction between the individual's purpose on one side of the equation and the organization's "corporate" mission, strategy, tactics, and goals on the other side. Different individuals can be doing very similar work for very different reasons without there being any conflict in working together. But their primary purposes will eventually take them in different directions: the directions of their individual mobility. The person who works out of fear will move toward fear. The person who works out of responsibility to his family will move toward family. The person who wants to enjoy his life while working will move in the direction of enjoyment.
Finding a Dream House-My sister told me a great story about forgetting purpose in the midst of pursuing goals. She and her husband were trying to buy their first house to accommodate their growing family. Each had his or her own "dream house" in mind. Their search was very frustrating as they went from house to house finding little agreement on what they liked. They looked, discussed, and argued, but could not agree. After several fruitless weeks, my sister said she realized that this was not just a matter of difference of opinion and refusal to compromise, but a matter of not being clear about her purpose. "Why are we looking for a
From Conformity to Mobility 137
house in the first place?" she asked herself. The answer was obvious. "We are looking for a place where we can live together as a 'happy family.' But we are not moving toward the goal of 'happy family.' If we proceed in this direction, we will be divorced before we find the place to be happy!"
She told her husband that she wanted to stop the search because their relationship meant more to her than the house. This woke her husband up to the irony of the situation, and they both agreed to stop house shopping. A week later, their real estate agent called with "the perfect house." They saw it, both liked it, and bought it without any complications. What had looked impossible when purpose was not clear became relatively effortless once it was.
5. Keep Your Movement and Direction Synchronized-Our actions and goals should be consistent with our purpose at all times. But they must not be confused with or allowed to distract from purpose.
This means that if I have made a commitment to my own learning and development as part of my definition of work, then my actions and goals should be in sync with that commitment. I will look for and accept the opportunities that stretch my abilities and understanding. I will continue to make sure that my actions are in line with my performance goals, but I will also set learning goals that are consistent with my desires to develop my capabilities while working. I will learn from experience and not shrink from seeing those mistakes that I can learn from.
The same goes for my commitment to my own enjoyment at work. I have to keep myself from moving in the direction of frustration, pressure, and overload, and move in the direction of satisfaction. Most individuals and companies have a great deal to learn before they can say they have this kind of mobility.
Compromising the inner goals, enjoyment, and growth, is always easy in a culture that values only performance.
An Image of Mobility-I have one image that helps remind me of the value of mobility as distinct from normal goal setting. Two cars- say, two Volkswagens-are about to leave San Francisco for
138 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
Chicago. Both are given the same amount of time to deliver their passengers to the destination and both arrive at the same time. But the passenger in the first car arrives tired and stressed after a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride, and the vehicle itself is in need of major repairs before it can take another trip. The second car has a very different trip. Not only does the passenger arrive rested, having enjoyed the entire journey, but the vehicle is in better working order than when it departed. It leaves San Francisco as a Volkswagen and arrives in Chicago as a Mercedes. Both cars accomplish their assigned tasks. But one has gained in capacity and comfort while moving. Both have moved, but only one has mobility. Which car would you rather have on your next trip?
To some people, this image seems fanciful. Cars don't change appreciably in their capabilities while they travel. But what about human beings? We are all drivers of vehicles that are capable of growing in their capacities as they go. Growth is not only possible, but important to us. But growth in capacity without purpose is meaningless. Working free means that I am growing in my capacity to fulfill myself. It means that I continuously increase my capacity to enjoy my life both when working and when not working.
Recognizing the Importance of Mobility-Mobility is the pivotal concept in learning to work free. For many years I believed that simply quieting Self 1 and trusting Self 2 to do the best it could and to learn in the process was sufficient to achieve excellence. I had ample evidence that it worked in sports and many enthusiastic reports from professionals that it worked in a corporate environment as well. There were countless stories about playing out of one's mind and working in a "flow state." I still believe in the unconscious wisdom of Self 2 and I still enjoy being in the flow state whenever it happens, but something needs to be added to the equation to make it complete. That something is mobility.
Mobility is about conscious wisdom. It's not just about being in the flow, but about being very clear about where you are, where you are going, and why. In essence, it is about working consciously.
From Conformity to Mobility 139
To know what you are doing and why requires conscious thought and constant remembrance. It requires being fully awake-aware of all that is happening around you that is relevant to where you are going. Working unconsciously is like being driven in a car without being sure of the destination and without making a conscious choice about which way to turn. It is the difference between driving and being driven. A person who recognizes the importance of mobility is not satisfied with being in any flow, it must be in the flow of their choice, heading where they want to go.
Mobility of this kind can move me out of the Skinner boxes of conformity. It moves me from being a trained pigeon responding to the bells and lights of my conditioning to an adult human being who chooses freely every step of the way and can move in any direction. I can work alone or in teams without compromising my integrity or direction. Thus, the core of mobility is the recognition that you are totally and unambiguously in charge of your own actions, values, thinking, and goals-in short, your own life.
It is the acceptance of that freedom of choice and the consequent recognition of our responsibility that is so challenging for most of us. The essence of conformity is to abdicate your responsibility to others-to "society," to "upbringing," to environment, past circumstances or events, to "my leader," to "human nature," and more recently to "my genes." This is like blaming your car, which admittedly may have only six cylinders, a dirty windshield, a dented rear end, and needs an oil change, for where you're driving. I am not saying that the vehicles we drive through our work life are not in need of repair. They often require major repairs and they certainly need constant maintenance. But mobility means that I can't blame my car for where it drives me. When I find myself driving in circles, I have to look at who's driving the car. Am I in the backseat being chauffeured through my work life complaining to everyone else about the scenery? To whom did I abdicate the driving? And why?
So if the first step in the Inner Game is to recognize that the vehicle you are driving is capable of movement, the second is to
140 THE INNER GAME OF WORK
realize that it is yours, and to take firm grasp of the steering wheel and begin driving. Changes in direction can always be made, but there is no way to reach freedom at work without accepting full responsibility for where you are and for choosing where you are going.
That's nothing new. But most of us, including myself, need frequent reminders about our power and the responsibility to exercise our mobility. The next chapter presents a tool that has helped me and many others stay conscious at work and keep our hands on the wheels of our respective vehicles.