One of my goals this summer was to attend the Omega Institute in Rhinecliff, New York. So I selected the weekend that worked best in my schedule which was a weekend with Pema Chodran teaching us about Tonglen Meditation. The workshop on compassion and loving kindness. What I did not realize before I got there was that to the 550 participants (and the 200 who could not get into the workshop) Pema Chodran was a high spiritual being. I went off on this adventure by myself and I realized I was lucky to have been there!
In a way, I felt as if I were at a Grateful Dead concert. Even though I have not been to one, the stories of "dead heads" who follow the band around are well known. They camp out and follow them on their tours from city to city. This event had a similar feel in the sense that the workshop coordinator reminded people to not camp and stake out territory, but to remove all belongings after each session so that others might be able to move closer to the front of the hall.
Each time when Pema entered the room, there was complete silence and everyone stood until she sat down. Then we all sat down. This was a spiritual event where everyone was respectful. The dynamics were so different from any professional workshop or conference I have attended in the past. In fact, for almost three days, I only heard one cell phone ring and only saw a handful of people on their phones in private places.
It was an experience that I am still processing and I will continue to share my insights. It was a sacred weekend where I learned a lot about myself.
Question:What do Enron, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, AIG, General Motors, and Chrysler have in common? Answer:The CEOS each received huge compensation packages as they led their respective companies to their demise.How do we explain the disastrous decisions that caused these iconic companies to collapse while being led by experienced, well educated people who had been entrusted by their shareholders and directors with the well being of these companies?
The best place to start is with the reward system.Since behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated, it is essential to examine the behaviors being rewarded that ultimately are embedded into the organizational culture. An Academy of Management Classic , “On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B” by Steven Kerr was published more than twenty years ago and it is more relevant than ever today:
We hope for …But we reward …
* Teamwork and collaborationThe best team members (MVPs)
* Innovative thinking and risk takingProven methods and not making mistakes
* Development of people skillsTechnical achievements and accomplishments
* Employee empowermentTight control over operations and resources
A more recent article, “Be Careful What You Reward—You Might Get it” in the journal Leader to Leaderby Bob Nelson and Dean Spitzer,reinforced how leaders are still recognizing and rewarding the wrong things.Leaders want high-performance, but they tend to reward seniority.Leaders want high profits, but they reward any sales revenue, even when it might reduce long term profits.Leaders want employees to be problem solvers, but encourage problem hiding.Leaders want outstanding customer service, but they cut customer service budgets to save costs.
Even in higher education, we expect outstanding teaching.But unless it is a teaching institution such as Central College, research tends to be rewarded.In healthcare, we want wellness, but the reward system is based on profits which means many people are often denied treatment or medicine.This carries over into the workplace.Some organizations have a limited number of “sick days.”Why don’t we allow “well days” for those people who do not miss work because of illness?
The pressure to deliver short term profits and financial rewards clouded their vision to the point that these CEOS could not see or ignored the peril to the very survival of their institutions.Kerr maintains that reward systems continue to be dysfunctional for three main reasons:
* Our lack of a holistic perspective of performance factors and outcomes.
* Our focus on short-term results by management and shareholders.
As the saying goes, “You get what you reward.” So the question should be, “What behaviors do we want?”By asking this question, leaders can make sure that beneficial behaviors are rewarded and eliminate or penalize behaviors that can threaten an organization’s survival.
This is the bottom line:If we want ethical behavior, we need to recognize and reward it.If we want high performance, distinguish between long term success and short term profits.If we want creativity, reward creative ideas and solutions.Now more than ever, we need innovation and long term growth.
Look at how people are behaving.Then you will know what is being recognized and rewarded.
A highlight for this summer was my weekend at the Omega Institute in Rhinecliff, New York. This is a center for holistic wellness and personal growth. Their tag line is: Awakening the best in the human spirit. I selected a weekend with Pema Chodran, Buddhist nun, who taught us more about the value of meditation and "taming the mind." I will be blogging more about my experience with Pema as I share my insights and observations.
But getting to Omega was not easy. I was reminded of the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" because I flew direct to NYC. Then had to take a shuttle bus to a place to change to a van which then took me to the train station. Upon arriving in Rhinecliff, there was a shuttle van to take me and others to Omega. It was a full day of travel, but worth it.
Omega is an old summer camp that has been converted into this holistic center where the food is mostly grown on the grounds and the menu is the best vegetarian food I have ever eaten. In fact, I wrote down several recipes for later. It is an organized system that incorporates yoga if desired and the camp is surrounded by walking trails for hiking.
In every way they live their mission: Through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit, Omega provides hope and healing for individuals and society.
And their values were clearly apparent:
It was a wonderful weekend. I am still processing the experience after which I will be sharing more. Stay tuned.
With everything I read, hear, and watch, I am looking for aspects of leading and sage-ing or of becoming one's best person. Whenever I hear the song, All We Are by Matt Nathanson, I am reminded that all we have is OURSELF and NOW. Listen to the lyrics and be glad to be alive.