I don’t know about you, but I was completely captivated by the rescue of the Chilean miners this week. I watched the drama unfolding live via video stream on my desktop, and got weepy all over again every fifteen minutes as I watched the men once feared lost greet their families, friends, co-workers and rescuers.
It was amazing.
And what struck me most powerfully was the sense of meaning and purpose in every single person involved in the process.
They cared. Deeply.
They worked together. Smoothly.
They put aside bureaucracy and focused on possibility. Refreshingly.
Sitting at my desk, I felt like I was a part of it, too. Mostly as a compassionate witness, but I was completely there emotionally and spiritually. I know that if I’d had the chance, I would have cranked the winch myself to pull one of those guys up. I’ll bet you felt the same way.
How many workplaces do you know that are like that? Where people feel motivated by a shared sense of meaning and purpose? Where they’d jump in to crank the winch themselves?
A big box store opened down the road this week. It’s the place where you don’t buy a can of soup – you buy a case of soup. You don’t buy a Coke – you buy a shrink-wrapped 36-pack. You can’t get one toothbrush – you get eight at a whack.
I had to get a membership card (discounted for the neighborhood – see, already a bargain!), so I stood in line until a delightfully overwhelmed woman behind a computer screen motioned me forward. I answered all of her questions regarding name, address, etc. Then, she said, “Do you want them to have your email address?”
She said, “Them”.
In a flash, I recognized that this darling woman didn’t feel remotely connected to her employer. They were “them”. They are Other. Her work is not something she belongs to.
I sense trouble at the big box.
Trouble that would have doomed the mine rescue.
Look at your own life and work – where do you use “them” and not “us”? Where are you not engaged with meaning? Disengaged from purpose?
If you have a leadership role in your office or in your family or in your community, how can you create a shift from “them” to “us”? Where can you engage people enough to crank the winch?
And if you’re saying right now, “Oh, Michele, I’m no leader”, let me remind you of the men down in that hole. Someone had to stand up and say, “we have to ration our food, we have to exercise, we have to work together.” That guy didn’t have to have a C-level title. He was a supervisor, sure, but he also had the presence of mind and strength to stand up and lead. And every single man down there had to lead his peers – lead by example by not freaking out, by not being a glutton, by listening, by working together – and work with the leader.
They led and they surrendered to leadership in a common cause rife with compelling purpose. And that’s why they’re safe today.
You can do that, too, can’t you?