You may have noticed that we spell Glowe with an ‘e’ at the end. This is purposeful. Businesses require humans in order to exist and function. Humans are made of energy, and energy is often defined as “the capacity to do work” – the critical component and natural resource of any business. We can’t do business well unless we honor the humans.
This is the foundational belief of Glowe. We exist to make it easier for leaders like you to do your best work. We want to help you ‘glowe’ because your company is needed in the world. However, in the course of our work we see that energy blocks are all too common in most businesses. These blocks get in the way of you and your team finding alignment and unleashing your full potential.
Business as usual is broken
Back in 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that due to so much technological growth in the nineteenth century, in the following decades (i.e. by now), this new level of productivity would enable us to reach a 15-hour work week. The rest of the time, we could focus on leisure and other meaningful pursuits.
Sadly, we’ve taken a less-evolved route. Instead, we’ve seen our society demand even more of people, treating us like robots – or in some cases, replacing us with actual ones. Hustle and grind culture prevails, with people often claiming they feel overworked and underpaid or having to work multiple jobs to achieve the same quality of life as their parents. Research from Gallup shows that U.S. employee engagement has hovered between 26-36% since 2000.
This means that the vast majority of working Americans – around 70% – have been feeling disconnected from or unenthusiastic about their work for decades now. It’s no surprise we’re in the midst of a mental health crisis. This is a huge tragedy and a missed opportunity.
What’s broken about business?
There are likely many reasons why business has traditionally fallen into bad habits, but a few stand out to me.
First, companies have focused on numeric results above all else. For a long time, the mantra has been to “maximize shareholder value.” Leaders feel pressure to post positive, upward trending numbers every quarter. They want to manage the quantitative things – sales made, hours worked, expenses incurred, etc. What they fail to consider is that getting to those results requires an appreciation of the humans driving those results. Are their employees happy? Are they leveraging their super powers? Do they like who they work with? Do they feel aligned with and connected to the vision and purpose?
Second, and related to the above, businesses fall back on old processes that were designed decades ago, often from a place of mistrust. For example, when so much emphasis is put on how many hours an employee clocks, what’s being incentivized? Is the amount of time at work more important than the quality of work produced? If an employee works too few hours, the assumption is that they’re lazy or need more work to do. If they work too many hours, perhaps they’re inefficient at the job – or in many cases, they’re celebrated for overworking. Either way, policies of micromanagement inevitably create an environment of misunderstanding, suspicion, and burnout that makes it hard for anyone to thrive.
Lastly, leaders often promote their high-performing employees to ‘manager’ without the appropriate upskilling or true understanding of that important responsibility. Typically, there is no consideration of whether or not this person is actually a good people manager, or if they even want to be one. I’ve heard more than one executive say, “This business would be easy if it weren’t for the people.”
But that’s the point – humans are beautifully complex. They bring their high and low life experiences into the workplace, from what’s going on with their families to past traumas and the current state of their mental health. It’s complicated and makes many managers feel uncomfortable when they have to ‘deal with’ often unpredictable people.
Business only happens because of humans, but somewhere along the way we learned to associate business with dehumanized things like products and services, profit margin, and stock prices. A great manager knows how to understand and unlock their teammates’ superpowers. When done right, and combined with clear expectations, results come naturally.
Replace fear with trust
A lot of these old ways of working boil down to fear. Fear is a driver that makes us run toward safety. We revert to what we think we know, which are often the textbook ‘best practices,’ many of which are now out of date. What if leaders got curious about understanding the human dynamics that are really at play? What if they started from a place of trusting and investing in their people?
Luckily, there are great leaders out there who are listening and making necessary changes, especially when more and more Millennials and Gen Zers are demanding they do better. These generations want to feel a deeper sense of purpose and connection to their work. Recent research from Oxford found that workers are 13% more productive when happy.
This makes sense intuitively, even on the customer experience side. Think about when you have a really positive interaction with your local coffee shop barista or bank teller. Their genuine happiness and investment in your experience motivates you to want to give that company more of your money.
Even though it’s hard to unwind decades of assumptions about how a system should work, all of us leaders should see this as a welcome wakeup call to make a genuinely positive impact on the future of the workplace for all people.
Energize your people with clarity
So, what does it take to build a better business? Your people need to see the alignment between their individual superpowers, their role, and the purpose and vision of the company. This goes beyond figuring out things that people “can” do – a job description is often a list of tasks an employee is technically capable of doing. Instead, what we’re trying to uncover are answers to the following: What comes effortlessly to you? What do you do without even trying? What brings you joy? When are you in the zone?
Understanding your employees with this level of clarity helps you to ensure they’re in the right roles for their personal fulfillment and growth. When they’re in the right roles and aligned with the company’s purpose, a productive and innovative culture emerges more naturally. This keeps everyone’s energy flowing and your business gloweing.
What happens when business ‘glowes’?
When people feel valued, supported, and trusted, they show up as their most authentic and productive selves. If every individual experiences this, then the entire team shines.
Think about a neon sign – when you have a few particles of gas trying really hard to make a whole sign glow, it might flicker from the stress and appear dim. If you activate more of those particles, then you remove pressure from any single one and the whole sign lights up. It’s truly a synergistic, “the sum is greater than the parts” situation.
As humans, we crave connection and purpose – these are necessary nutrients for joy and fulfillment. When your employees truly understand their contribution (and receive fair compensation, of course), the research shows they will be happier. Your business will be a joyful place to work. This will influence the businesses you partner with, and eventually the system as a whole.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Consider it this way – what if it’s your responsibility as a leader to contribute to the overall health and wellness of our entire society, by honoring your team? We’re in the midst of a transformative moment. How will future generations look back on the legacy of twenty-first century business? As an important player in this transformation, what do you want your legacy to be?
That’s a big question for any leader. Start by taking stock of your most precious resource – your people. We include the ‘e’ in Glowe because the energy your people infuse into your business is its essential nutrient. What can you do to better nourish each individual? Your company will be healthier as a result.