HeartWorks: Brian Muldoon, Consultant, Whitefish, Montana
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The Human Factor

Why We Do What We Do

Americans work harder than anyone on the planet. We are productive, energetic and creative. There is no challenge we will not face and overcome on the road to success. Bigger, better, faster, stronger.

But competence and efficiency, while important, do not make for an exceptional organization. What might be called an enlightened organization recognizes and values the human factor in everything it does. The difference is palpable, to employees and customers alike.

The human factor is what motivates us to extend ourselves beyond expectations to produce extraordinary outcomes. It’s what makes an organization an exhilarating place to work, able to amicably resolve internal conflicts while delivering superior service to impatient clients. It’s what creates customer loyalty in the face of price competition and design breakthroughs in the face of impossible deadlines. It’s why you trust the surgeon who listens attentively to your concerns and pay a premium to return to a wonderful hotel.

Emotional and social intelligence—the ability to empathize and build resonance with others—are essential proficiencies in almost field of human endeavor. Thanks to recent discoveries in the emerging fields of affective and cognitive neuroscience, we now know that "good people skills" are not limited to people with the right DNA or the right family environment. These skills can be taught. And they are related to sound ethics, a sense of purpose and a life of balance. In short, to being fully human.

The Human Factor In Organizations

The Enlightened Organization

Human beings have always come together for shared enterprise. Indeed, survival depends upon our ability to work together. Tribal hunting on the open savannah gradually evolved into an interdependent web of global organizations that perform unimaginably complex operations. But the basic challenge of shared enterprise remains the same: creating purposeful activity that is rewarding both to the individual and the larger group at the same time.

There is, however, a vast disparity in the ability of organizations to address these two distinct, and sometimes competing, objectives. Some exceptional organizations are truly exhilarating places to work, where employees are inspired to perform at their best; others still operate in the tribal mode, where the voice of the individual is silenced. Most organizations fall somewhere in between.

Competence and efficiency, while important, do not make for an exceptional organization. An organization may be said to be "enlightened" to the extent that it recognizes and values the human factor in its activities. The human factor includes such intangibles as meaning, purpose and a sense that one is uniquely valued. In such organizations, productivity flows naturally and abundantly from a realized sense of personhood.

Emotional and Social Intelligence

Building an organization that transcends the conventional model requires application of the principles of emotional and social intelligence—knowing how to connect with others and how to build resonance throughout the entire organization. These skills are typically underdeveloped in our "left brain" educational system, where cognitive intelligence is the exclusive measure of achievement. The fact is, "people skills" are far more significant to success in life than high SAT scores.


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