What You Need To Know About The Box

Are we in or out?
A poll of 160 senior executives revealed “68% [of the respondents] don’t have enough time with their families and loved ones, and when they’re with them, they’re not always really [italics added] with them” (Schwartz, 2012). In short, these espoused leaders (influencers) are setting an example that the process of work is more important than the process of people. And yet, as is often the case, the blame for failure in the home and workplace is shifted from the source (the disconnected influencer) to the process of work (de-humanization), which is the antitheses of the process of people (humanization). Consequently, an increased emphasis is placed on improving the process of work, while continuing to be blinded to the reality that the real problems lay in the process of people, which has been ignored; self-deception. When we as influencers (in business, church, and families) focus our energies on the work process, we deceive ourselves; we are blinded, and fail to see that we are the problem. We are, as presented by the Arbinger Institute (2002), in the box.
Conversely, when we focus our energies on the people process, we are demonstrating humanness as influencers, and we learn to acknowledge that we are the problem; we are out of the box.
Not until we achieve the realization that the change must begin with self, are we able to begin the process of shoring up and supporting the growth of those around us.
With such a significant percentage (68%), Schwartz (2012) of senior executives in the box, then mathematically speaking, only 32% of senior executives are out of the box. Based on this assessment (understanding there are many more senior executives who were not in the poll), one might question, “Are the systems created for work designed to maximize productivity and profit, or human well-being?” (Altman, 2012).
In an effort to address the above question, consider in partial answer, the following:

…executives [who] build golden parachutes and steal from tomorrow to make today look good; …professors [who] forget the students in their march toward self-promotion and prominence in their filed; …ministers [who’s} name appears above the savior’s; …charities that put growth and recognition ahead of the needs of the suffering; [and] …politicians [who] promote themselves over the needs of their constituents. (Lichtenwalner, 2012)

Selfishness and a lack of self-awareness are examples of influencing from inside the box, and we cannot see how our behaviors influence our relationships with others. From within the box, we tend to “obtain success in the short-term, often resulting in low morale, high turnover, and limited sustainability” (Lichtenwalner, 2012). When we are in the box, we always see others as being the problem. When we are in the box, we treat others as objects or inconveniences (de-humanization). We tend to lose our perspective of what really matters. We forget that people have needs, wants, and desires (humanization); people deserve to be treated as people. In order to get out of the box, and stay out of the box, we as influencers must remember that we are in the people business, and relationship building should be our primary goal.
Disrupting the box


I recently read an article posted in my favorite news letter, Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge. In the article, the author tells of an account in which an individual had commented about the fruitlessness of living a values-driven life, and his decision against having religion in his life (he had lost his way in this world), and ‘didn’t see the long-term benefits of sticking to principles every day, considering all the hard work involved’, …it had ‘a negative net present value’ (Nobel, 2012).
In likening this commentary to self-deception, being in or out of the box, it is quite apparent that the individual, who failed to see the long-tem benefits of living a values-driven life, is in the box (self-deceived). Dr. Clayton Christensen, a management professor at Harvard Business School, and an authority on disruptive innovation responded to the commentary as follows:

You know, it’s a travesty that somehow our society has gotten to a point where people have the view that science and academia are inconsistent with a spiritual life, and the belief that we’ve been put here for a purpose. The reality is that the only reason you’re interested in either of these things is that you’re interested in finding the truth. We spend most of our waking hours in our professions, but if we can’t allow success in our professions to benefit from truth that we have learned in the other parts of our lives, we just deprive ourselves of a very important input. (Nobel, 2012)

Dr. Christensen’s research tends to disrupt the typical MBA mindset, which espouses short-termism and Wall Streetism as the means by which businesses succeed. I sustain the disrupted view, and that the humanistic approach to leading an organization has far-reaching, long-term implications toward organizational success. However, the path of disruption has no shortcuts. Disruption requires one to be out of the box, to abscond the status quo, and to accept that the eternal truths gained through living a spiritual life are not only important in our homes and religious institutions, but are essential in our professions as well.
Mackay (2012) reported in The Arizona Republic, citing a book by Manby (2012), Love works: Seven timeless principles for effective leaders, that love is not only acceptable in the workplace, but encouraged. “We actually use love to define our leadership culture…. Not love the emotion, but love the verb…if [leaders] create enthusiasm with their employees, the employees will in turn create an enthusiastic guest experience (Manby, 2012).
Further clarity of spirituality in the workplace can be found through reading for understanding rather than passive peruse of Maslow (1965) Eupsychian Management. Maslow’s view of self-actualization is not an endpoint (as presented in mainstream management literature),

but rather an ongoing process that involves dozens of little growth choices that entail risk and require courage. …a difficult path to take and often puts us at odds with surrounding people and norms. …that self-actualizing people were deeply committed in action to core values that look very similar to those put forward in all major religious traditions. These ‘being-values’ are simple yet difficult to fully embody in everyday challenges of life… (O’Connor & Yballe, 2007, p.742)

Leaders, managers, and influencers, regardless of their station within society (the workplace, church, or the home), have the ability to bring about positive outcomes by staying out of the box. The self-actualizing behaviors envisioned by Maslow (1965), are a reality, and are within our grasp today. When we make a conscious choice to act in harmony with what we say and believe to be truth, we can bring about the desired change we wish to see in those within our circles of influence. Only when we stand firm and refuse to compromise our standards (Christensen, 2012), and understand the significance of how our personal examples influence the perceptions of trust by others, will we be able to advance society closer toward a state of Gemeinschaftsgefühl; a more humanistic state of being (Martin, 2011).

What are your thoughts on being in or out of the box? What is your take on spirituality in the workplace? Please let me know your thoughts and/or opinions of this posting. I welcome your comments please.


Altman, L. (2012). Humanizing workplace relationships: People aren’t tasks [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://intentionalworkplace.com/2012/06/14/humanizing-workplace-relationships-people-arent-tasks/

Arbinger Institute. (2002). Leadership and self-deception: Getting out of the box (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Conley, C. (2010, February). Measuring what makes life worthwhile. TED. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/chip_conley_measuring_what_makes_life_worthwhile.html

Covey, S. R. (1990). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Christensen, C. M., Allworth, J., & Dillon, K. (2012). How will you measure your life? New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Lichtenwalner, B. (2012, June). Servant leadership manifesto [Web log post]. Retrieved June 28, 2012 from http://modernservantleader.com/servant-leadership/servant-leadership-manifesto/

Mackay, H. (2012, June, 25). To lead well, learn to treat others with love. The Arizona Republic, pp. B5

Manby, J. (2012). Love works: Seven timeless principles for effective leaders. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan

Maslow, A. H. (1965). Eupsychian management: A journal. Homewood, IL: Dorsey.

Nobel, C. (2012, June, 4). The business of life. Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6991.html

O’Connor, D. & Yballe, L. (2007, October). Maslow revisited: Constructing a road map of human nature. Journal of Management Education, 31, 738-756. doi:10.1177/1052562907307639

Schwartz, T. (2012). Share this with your CEO [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2012/06/share-this-with-your-ceo.html

2 thoughts on “What You Need To Know About The Box

  1. Excellent post! I think you bring up a lot of important issues that our society faces today, but none more poignant than the idea that selfishness often guides our actions far more than altruism. I will definitely be back to read more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s