Survival Skills for Thriving in the E-Merging Workplace

The last issue addressed the need to develop ‘self-mastery’ based on poet David Whyte’s quote: ‘The ego’s goal is to have power OVER life’s experiences.  The soul’s goal is to have power THROUGH life’s experiences, regardless of what they may be.’ In this issue, John describes ten self-mastery/survival skills needed in today’s constantly-changing workplace.

From the last issue, you might remember that there are ‘Three Folders of Life’ where we human beings ‘file’ things: 

  • Things I CAN Control 
  • Things I CANNOT Control
  • Things I Might Be Able to INFLUENCE

The only things that belong in the Things I CAN Control folder are what you SAY, what you DO, and what you INTEND. The most powerful of those in any situation is what you intend, because that drives what you say and what you do

In that spirit, then, here are 10 intentions you should begin to practice that will put you on the path of self-mastery to assist you in having power through your changing workplace experiences. I call them ‘survival skills for the e-merging workplace. . .’ 

Survival Skill #1: Wake up and manage your own morale, career, and life.

No one can do that for you anymore. The old promise made by a company to its people went like this: ‘If you work hard, keep your nose clean, and don’t mess up, we’ll take care of you for the rest of your life.’ That is a promise that simply cannot honestly be made or kept in today’s business environment. The new—and more real—promise goes more like this: ‘Work hard, keep your nose clean, continue learning and developing, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you are in the best led, best managed, and best motivated workforce possible. When it no longer makes good business sense for you to be here, we will do everything we can to help you find and start the next chapter in your career and life.’ That’s scary, but it’s your new reality. 

Survival Skill #2: Become multi-talented – and more resilient.

The day of the super-star ‘one-trick pony’ is over. If you can do only one thing, no matter how well you do it, chances are you will sooner or later lose out to someone who can do what you can do – plus a few other things. And while you are developing those other skills, you also need to reach down deep inside for the ability to ride out the conflicts and stresses of life.

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Survival Skill #3: Be willing—even eager—to learn. 

You need to be willing to ‘go back to zero’ and learn. As Alvin Toffler, the American futurist said, ‘The future belongs, not to the knowers, but to the learners’. The way the world is changing, what you know today is no longer the way it will be tomorrow. To quote the folk philosopher, Josh Billings, ‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble; it’s what you know that ain’t so no more’. Be a life-long learner.

Survival Skill #4: Be proactive. Step out and take a risk before is 100% safe.

Reacting, no matter how fast you are, is not enough anymore. You need to develop your capacity to anticipate, to go somewhere first. I used to tell my staff that I wanted them to make a mistake every now and then, because if they weren’t, we weren’t taking enough risks. Go ahead. Jump. You might discover you can fly. . .

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Survival Skill #5: Master the Inner Game of work as well as the Outer Game.

Gallwey’s ground-breaking book, ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’, showed us that somewhere inside we knew how to make the winning shot, but that our mind often gets so tangled up in analyzing things that we miss-hit the ball. Instead of always applying what he called ‘The Outer Game’, he reminded us that sometimes it is necessary to apply a principle from the Inner Game. BOTH are essential. This is my list as an illustration:

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Survival Skill #6: Find new ways to add value—don’t count on your past.

It’s not What you did for us that matters, but What you will do for us in the near term future? It used to be that seniority meant something, that experience is what got rewarded and recognized. It may still be valuable in many situations. But the speed of change today means that, regardless of how wonderful you were a few years ago, or that great project you brought in on time and on budget a while back, you need to be seen as being capable of adding the same or greater value down the road. Sad but true. Nowadays, even old dogs need to learn new tricks. . .

Survival Skill #7: Face your ‘tigers’. 

In the jungle, if a tiger comes on you suddenly and you try to run away, you are guaranteed to be ‘lunch’. People who live where tigers hang out know that running away = death. They also know that if you turn and face the tiger he may still eat you, but he will first stop and think about it. ☺ So the simple act of facing a tiger creates not a guarantee, but a chance, a possibility, for a different outcome. Find the courage to face your tigers in life. You know what I mean: have that difficult conversation, or make that difficult decision, today. By not facing it, don’t think you’re getting away with anything, because if you’re not facing your tiger, it’s already eating you!

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Survival Skill #8: Get with change – fast. 

The human instinct when facing a major change, like a merger or an organizational re-design, is to ‘hunker down’ and try to hold on to the way things are— and the way they used to be. This way of operating is going to be increasingly painful in the e-merging workplace, because the new reality is constant change and regular disruption of the way things are. Embracing change is going to be one of the most crucial survival skills you can develop. Don’t let fear control you. Let go and move on, trusting the process of Life. There WILL be another ‘chapter’, with you in it.

Survival Skill #9: Master cross-functional teamwork. 

Today’s workplace creates this fascinating dilemma: ‘On the one hand I need to become this all-around, multi-skilled super-star who is in responsibility for my own future and career—but now you are telling me that I also need to also be a great team player?!’ That’s a tough one. . . It used to be enough to be a great individual performer—and every organization will need a few in selected positions. But TEAMS are the way of the future. Cross-functional, even multi-level, temporary teams of people coming together to address an issue and then disbanding will increasingly be the way problems get solved and performance-improvement ideas get created and put into action. What skills do you need to develop to become a better contributor in the teams that will be a key part of your role in the e-merging workplace?

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Survival Skill #10: Quit your job and find your work

The word ‘job’ comes from the Old English word gobbe, which meant ‘lump’. You used to get paid for the lumps of stuff (coal, grain, dirt, etc) you moved from point A to point B. Who wants to have a life moving lumps?! Instead of having a job, you need to find your ‘WORK’, which comes from the Old German word werk, which in turn, comes from the Greek word erg, a measure in physics to describe how much energy it takes to move 1 gram 1 centimeter. WORK, then, is energy spent with a purpose and a direction. So quit your job and find your work—that which makes your heart sing, makes a difference, and contributes to Life.

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