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Posts tagged: surrender to win

Organizational Rehab: A 12-Step Program for Dysfunctional Companies

Many people have emailed me about a blog entry I posted back in December, 2010. It seems that the insight I shared, describing many organizations I’ve worked with (and for) as being “addicted” – hooked on self-centered policies and practices that mirror an active drug addict’s destructive behaviors; really resonated with a lot of people.

One on hand, I feel a sense of humility and deep gratitude for the positive feedback I’ve received on this topic. Equally profound (and surprising, even to me) is the enormous number of emails, phone calls, Facebook posts and Twitter DM’s I’ve received over the last three months from employees around the world. Messages from many, many people whose personal and professional lives have become unmanageable as they struggle to cope with life inside an addictive organization.

To those readers, and to you as first-time visitors to the Live the 8 Blog, I offer you hope in the steps that follow. Because there is hope for you and the organization you work for, just as the possibility exists everyday for the thousands of addicts that will find a new way to live a happy, healthy and productive life free from their drugs/behaviors of choice.

Here are my 12 Steps to Organizational Recovery.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our dysfunctional behaviors, and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that only WE could restore our organization and our people to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to stop doing things just because we’ve always done them that way.
  4. We made a searching and fearless assessment of all of the policies and practices we did well, and the things we needed to improve.
  5. We admitted to ourselves, and to each other, the destructive behaviors that we had to surrender.
  6. We prepared our organization for how tough it was going to be to stop destroying our company, and the employees and customers we said we loved.
  7. We asked every one of our employees for forgiveness.
  8. We made a list of all of our team members, and made amends to them by getting to know them individually, and learning about their strengths.
  9. We redefined people’s roles and responsibilities around their unique talents.
  10. We continued to take an organizational inventory every quarter, and where we had relapsed into dysfunctional behavior, we promptly admitted it.
  11. We established new processes to continually measure success, and recognized those team members that were exceeding the company’s expectations.
  12. Having had an awakening as a result of this cultural transformation, we tried to live our new healthy, happy, productive behaviors daily, and to practice our guiding principles in all that we did.

To continue to do my part, I’ll revisit this topic often throughout 2011. In the meantime, share your story with me at david@livethe8.com. Whether it’s passing along your own experience (in organizational addiction or recovery) or posing questions related to this topic, I’m obligated to be of service to you and always happy to help.

Oh…and FYI:

This version of the twelve steps is an adaptation of the original twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous which can be found here.

Surrender To Win

Back in “the day” – when I was a full-time addiction therapist – we used to talk with the patients all the time about turning it over. All of the clients on my caseload were actively working the 12 Steps of some recovery program (e.g: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous, etc.) and this topic of discussion in my group therapies and individual sessions was a direct reference to Step 3 in that recovery process: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”. It is as difficult a Step as any for people in recovery to get their heads and hearts around. It means giving up. It means giving over control. It means recognizing that you can’t make most changes in your life on your own (not most of the healthy ones, anyway). It means that your best plotting and planning likely got you here (wherever that “place” is for you – physically, mentally or even emotionally) and you may want to consider connecting with a “higher power”. It means…you must surrender to win.

Here’s the thing. This concept – the idea that one can find hope, strength, comfort, relief, even joy in surrender – doesn’t only apply to people in recovery from addiction. The idea can (for those of us that choose to accept it) be a freeing experience for the rest of us, too. And it doesn’t have to be a “religious” or “spiritual” act. For me, to “turn it over” means to ask for help with something. I’m not saying that’s how you might define it, or that it directly mirrors any Step in the recovery process. It’s just my way. It means reaching out to a power greater than me for hope, for guidance, for clarity and for peace. Sometimes tapping into that “power” is a spiritual experience for me, and other times – most times, in fact – it’s less abstract and easier to measure. It’s a conversation with my wife. It’s asking for help from a colleague. It’s reaching out to my children and Generic Viagra asking for a hug. There’s no greater release from my bondage of self than an embrace from my two children.

Now, I like things that are predictable and easy to measure. I look for things that fit those two criteria everyday. That’s also why I have to surrender, and turn things over, about twenty times a day though; because I’ve learned that life is full of people, places and things that constantly force me to confront my unrealistic expectations of concrete predictability. Very few things in life – at work, at home, with family, with friends – are “predictable” or “easy to measure”. Not sure if that’s true for you? Get out a piece of paper right now and write down all of the things that are true about your life today and are EXACTLY as you predicted they’d be five years ago. Even a year ago. Heck, even a month ago. And try to “measure” that relationship with a challenging colleague or a micromanaging boss. Not so easy, right? It might be time to turn some things over and ask for guidance. It might be time to let go. It just might be time to surrender. If you’re like me, surrendering to what you can’t control yourself and what you should no longer allow to rent space in your head and your heart, can be a big life-changer.

If you choose to “give up” (contrary to what my baseball and soccer coaches told me, and opposite of what cultural ideas have been drilled into me as a man in this world) you may just find some peace. Turn your problems over to a friend who can help you and whom you trust completely. Pray if that’s what works for you – and give it up to the higher power of your understanding. Write your problems on a piece of paper, stuff it inside a balloon, put some helium in it and let it fly away.

Whatever it takes, just remember that you don’t have to go it alone and that surrender doesn’t always mean defeat.