Work Engagement: How to Overcome Resource Myopia and Feel Like a Million Bucks

The ability to marshall our resources for work has a huge impact on work engagement and managing stress. Yet many of us struggle to mobilize the wide variety of resources we have available to us.

Buckets of Pearls

For twenty years, I was a practicing counselling psychologist. My clients taught me much about navigating through their challenges but one thing that stood out for me during those years was how many clients suffered from, what I called, resource myopia.

Visual myopia is a type of near-sightedness where you have difficulty reading road signs and seeing distant objects clearly. Resource myopia is the failure to see personal, social, organizational, and structural resources available to you that seem distant in time, place or memory.

Clients would enter counselling with a problem or concern and fail to see the people, actions, attitudes, knowledge, and other resources that could help them endure, manage, master, or transform what brought them to counselling.

Many clients had used these resources in the past but were now failing to use them and even failing to see that they were even possibilities. My job was less about offering advice or solutions and more about helping them to see and use the resources they already had or could draw upon to deal with the current situation.

It seemed to me that resource myopia was similar to being unaware of our breathing. We are always breathing – it keeps us alive! Yet many of us just take it for granted. Meditators and mindfulness practitioners know the power of breathing to bring us into the moment and to contribute to our over all well-being. Yet many of us fail to see this resource – the ability to take a breather from work – that is literally right under our noses.

A game show example of resource myopia would be a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” experiencing the demands of a question they don’t have the answer for yet they fail to reach out for a lifeline by asking the audience, getting half the wrong answers eliminated, or phoning a friend.

I am 64 years of age but that does not stop me from being a fanboy of the Job Demand Resource (JD-R) model of work engagement.  I appreciate the rigour, the research, and the immediate relevancy of this approach advanced by a number of academics around the globe including Arnold Bakker and Wilmar Schaufeli.

Here is a brief explanation of the JD-R model from an interview I conducted with Arnold Bakker in 2016:

The JD–R model is a scientific model that can be used to predict employee well-being, including burnout and work engagement. Accordingly, although every job is different, each job has certain characteristics that can be categorized as job demands or job resources. Job demands (e.g., workload, emotional demands) are the drivers of a stress process undermining employee health, whereas job resources (e.g., autonomy, feedback, opportunities for growth) are the drivers of a motivational process in the workplace.

This brings us back to resource myopia. I believe many employees are myopic to the resources they have available to meet the demands, hassles, threats, and conflicts embedded in work. Perhaps they have forgotten about a powerful tool they could use, a co-worker who could help them, or the possibility to lessen the demands through conversation with their supervisor.

To overcome resource myopia get your “I-checked” with a reflective pause or a work based fine tuning that corrects your murky vision of the resources available to you for the work you do.

Remember job resources can be physical, psychological, social, or organizational factors that help you meet the demands of work, achieve goals, and reduce stress. For example, exercising autonomy, building strong work relationships, seeking opportunities for advancement, utilizing coaching, and learning are just some examples of job resources.

So here is my encouragement to you. To foster work engagement and lessen work stress, the next time you are experiencing work demands that you feel challenged to meet or are causing undue stress, pause and take time to identify, determine, gather, and utilize the resources you already have but are failing to see.

You just might feel like a million bucks after advocating to get your unrealistic work demands cut in half, spending some time on the phone with a friend for emotional support and practical advice, and tapping into the extensive social networks that can offer you the working wisdom of crowds. So what are you waiting for……go phone a friend.

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Being Human

Being human is our birthright not a skill.

My largest response over the summer from my writing was the following brief LinkedIn post with over 6,571 views of the  post 

My name is David Zinger, I am human.

The elephant in the room is that we are already human.

Imagine my confusion when I received an email from the Harvard Business Review with the title: “How to be Human at Work.” I did not think I needed how-to instructions on something I already am! 

The Economist 1843 had an article on how to edit a human. Do I now have to be wary of a biological misplaced comma?

I scanned an article on the 6 traits of human beings that began, “One of the most important – but often forgotten – elements of customer experience is that it’s all about human beings. Customers are human beings, employees are human beings, and executives are human beings.” Really? We have forgotten that we are human, this is sure news to me!

You see — I am human. I feel. I bleed. I blunder. I blush. I smile. I work. I play. I talk. I listen. I love. I laugh. I have not forgotten I am human. I do not need editing. Don’t you dare sell me manuals on how to be what I already am, a human.

George Kemish LLM MCMI MIC Director and Principal Consultant – HR Strategy & Workforce Planning – Adding Value Through Pro-Active Business Planning

I am not sure that it is a case of whether or not we are human.  When looking at areas such as Customer Service, the customer seems to have been left out of the loop on many occasions and yet it is the customer that is going to have the biggest effect on the ‘bottom line’ and on the return to investors. Everything that HR does, from workforce planning to attracting and retaining talent, should be undertaken to support the Value Chain and in determining the value chain you need to work from the customer back through the organization.  Unfortunately this has rarely been the case – hence the poor customer service that we experience in the UK.  One advert on television just about sums this up: ‘UK Car Hire with American Customer Service’

George Kemish LLM MCMI MIC Director and Principal Consultant – HR Strategy & Workforce Planning – Adding Value Through Pro-Active Business Planning

David Zinger.  You are correct.  However, it is the value chain that they should be supporting.  If they do not there will be no bottom line or ROI.  Nuria Rojo.  If poor customer service is a worldwide ‘accepted’ sickness, and a UK company feels that American Customer Service is better than that provided by most UK organizations, then I can only presume that customer service in the UK has reached rock bottom.  Sofia Reis.  I totally agree – organizational behaviour is nothing new – have we lost the ability to manage this important aspect?

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. CPF, CPT Designer of tools for teambuilding and performance improvement, including Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

These days, I am thinking I would prefer a robot that is mildly intelligent. I literally have spent THREE YEARS trying to get information about my Mom’s Life Insurance policy from AIG. Mom still lives and is still paying away and they keep changing the demanded payment and, until maybe a month ago, would not ever explain why.  Calls now got to voicemail, always, because they do not want to talk with me. Not even the NJ Insurance Commission can get any reasonable response on all this. A robot would probably just give me the information.

Trevor Hubert Director, Talent & Organizational Development at Investors Group

Nice post David. You are one of my favorite humans. Love your posts and thought leadership.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

Thank you Trevor. You have seen my fallible humanity and also trying to do the best I can. Nice to have you work up the street.

Ihsan Mert Employer Brander | Keynote Speaker | Award Winning Talent Recruiter | Digital HR Innovator | A Canadian in Istanbul

You are one of the best human beings David.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

Ihsan, it would take one to know one!

Jordan Mulholland Senior Relationship Manager at Farm Credit Canada / Financement agricole Canada

You know, I couldn’t agree more. I to feel that there is a tendency to ‘dehumanize’ people in society and even in the work force. In the work force this leads to low morale, poor culture and constant churn of employees. At the risk of sounding old fashioned, can we not just treat others (coworkers, customers, executives) the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes? Perhaps it is idealistic of me. It would create stronger companies and relationships. 

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

I like the sound of “old fashioned.

Johanna Nelson Associate Director, Communications at Punter Southall Aspire

Hahahah and there we all were sat thinking we were aliens! Thank goodness for some clarity on the matter! 

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

I was torn between alien, robot, or perhaps I might awake as a Dung Beetle as salesman, Gregor Samsa, did in Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis. 

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. CPF, CPT Designer of tools for teambuilding and performance improvement, including Square Wheels and Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Let’s see the results of your Turing Test, David.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

I guess I better get into a room and you fire questions. As a counselling psychologist I always liked the early computer counsellor ELIZA who did a good job of keeping clients going for a while.

Claude Silver Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia.

Mic drop! David I don’t know you but I want to. 

Kerry Brown VP User Adoption | Speaker, Thought Leader and Strategist passionate about making employees successful at their jobs

Ditto and well said.

Aga Bajer Culture Strategist • Author • #CultureLab Host • I help companies cultivate a culture that brings their vision to life

Brilliant, funny, a bit sad, very true! Thanks for sharing your human thoughts!

Faran Johnson Making Britain a great place to work.

David. Would love to chat with you! Have sent a LinkedIn request.

Mike (MJ) Vacanti • FollowingCxO Adviser. Team Performance. Leadership & Culture Transformation. Growth Catalyst. #HumansFirstClub. Speaker. Author.

David Zinger, you have a wonderful body of work helping people.

David Zinger Employee Experience & Engagement Educator, Speaker, Consultant

Thank you Mike, you are very kind. 

Lee Lester, Video Producer and Mindfulness AdvocateFacilitating positive communication through meditation, mindfulness and moving image.

Surely the point of all this is not to remind the customers, employees and executives that they are human – they’re often only too aware that their needs are not being met. It’s for those business leaders who choose or are pressured into forgetting that profit is driven by happy, imperfect humans, not just efficient ones? 

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Career Zingers #30: Your Career is Never a Solo Endeavour

Picturing Your Career – The Double Ensō and The Venn Diagram

I don’t believe that life is linear. I think of it as circles – concentric circles that connect. ~ Michelle Williams

While working at my desk today my ice water glass created a double ensō as it rested upon a piece of paper beside my computer. Ensō means circular form and may symbolize elegance and strength as well as the void. Rather than career as a linear progression or feeling we are “going around in hopeless circles at work” we can embrace the circular nature of our career.

If you have a mathematical mind you might see the same image as a Venn diagram, named after John Venn, with two overlapping circles indicating where items share something in common.

To be successful, view your career as circles of relationship. How well do you overlap what you love to do with what you need to do? How successful are you in joining your work contribution with what your organization or client needs? How united are you with others at work? And what other circles do you need to join to be successful at work?

When two circles merge into one we experience perfect engagement. This may be a fleeting career ideal but it can draw us forward to a greater feeling of belonging at work.


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Career Zingers #29: Are You Washed Up?

We often upgrade equipment and tools quicker than we “update” ourselves.

When is the last time you changed your mind?

How long since you established a new meaningful relationship?

What’s the last non fiction book you read?

Make today a day for a clean start because it is no fun being wrung out in a wringer washer or a dead end career.

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Rules for Long-Distance Leadership: An Interview with Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel and Kevin Eikenberry wrote a new book, The Long-Distance Leader, with 19 rules for remarkable remote leadership. This interview focuses on the connections between long-distance leadership and employee experience & engagement based on the book. It is a cool book that will really help you bear the demands of leadership from a distance.

After all the research and writing that went into your new book, what most stands out for you?

I think there are two things that standout. First, only 28% of managers are worried that people are actually “working,” when they’re at home. The fear that people don’t work hard without their manager standing over them isn’t well founded and most people are coming to accept that.

The second thing is that most of the concerns managers have is about their own effectiveness. “Am I doing everything I should? Am I giving and getting the appropriate feedback when I’m not bumping into people in the break room or seeing them at meetings?” The amount of self-doubt and second-guessing that goes on is surprising and causes a lot of stress for people who are already under enough pressure.

What role do you see remote leaders playing in employee’s experience and engagement at work?

One of the themes of the book is that leading remotely isn’t THAT different from leading a traditional team. Managers must engage employees and create good working relationships. The challenge is that we must be more intentional about it. We can’t walk past someone’s cubicle and see them banging their heads on the monitor so we can ask, “is everything okay?”

As leaders, we must make sure we’re really getting a good sense of how engaged people are, both with their work and with their teammates. Whenever you have a coaching conversation (okay, first you have to HAVE coaching conversations) are you asking open-ended questions that allow you to get a sense of how people are feeling about their work, or are you simply focusing on task completion?

“How’s it going?” will just get you a one-word answer that may or may not tell you something useful. Asking, “what would make things better for you?” or “how can I (we) support you?” will help raise issues that can be addressed early.

What are the challenges of the remote leader to engage employees?

There are several, but when it comes to employee engagement, the number one factor is the nature of remote work itself. Many people like working at home, or at least away from the office, because they can “get more done.” In one sense, that’s true—studies show that people who work remotely are more productive. But what they’re working on is THEIR work and tasks. Collaboration, brain-storming and team commitments take a back seat. People control what they can control, which is themselves and their work.

One of the biggest challenges for Long-Distance Leaders is ensuring that employees understand the big picture; how their work impacts the company’s vision and that of their teammates. Then they should help create an environment where people are aware of what’s happening outside their own little bubble. What’s everyone working on? Where do their teammates need help and what resources can you offer the individual that will make it worth reaching out and building good relationships between them and the others on the team?

This stuff is critical, but rarely happens organically. It requires some structure (team building exercises, sharing information equally) to succeed.

Rule 11 in the book states “building trust at a distance does not happen by accident.” How do leaders build trust strategically at a distance?

Trust is built on three things over time:  Proof that we share a common purpose or goal, proof of competence on both sides, and proof of positive intentions and motives. So much of what good leaders do happens by instinct and is based on subtle visual cues. We see someone in a meeting and say, “Oh, Sharon, nice work on that Jackson account.” We see them show up early or leave late, we can see them interacting with their co-workers.

When we work remotely, there is less visible interaction. Leaders need to create opportunities for the team to gather the supporting evidence that underlies trust. How do they know that Sharon is really good at her job? If Bob never contributes on team calls, how is anyone supposed to know that he’s really a subject matter expert on X?

By intentionally helping people gain visibility to the larger workings of the team and organization, you can build trust. If someone does a good job, don’t just tell them when you’re one-on-one, share it with the team. If someone asks you a question, direct them to Bob, because he knows more about that topic than anyone else.

What are 3 good questions good leaders can ask themselves to develop their remote leadership?

One of the models we use in the Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership is the “3-O Model,” So let’s take a question from each of the O’s.

Outcomes:  If we start with the desired outcome for the organization there is a simple 2-part question to ask. “What is it that needs to be done, and if distance weren’t an issue, what would be the right way to tackle it?”  Start with first principles. Under perfect circumstances, what would be the right way to address this question or achieve this outcome? From there you can figure how to do it virtually.

Others: What is the appropriate way to communicate with the others involved in achieving this outcome? Often our first choice for a communication tool isn’t the right one. If I need to coach someone, should that be a webcam call or an email? One is easier and less confrontational, but probably isn’t right for that circumstance.

Ourselves: What do I need to do in order to be more effective working at a distance? This one is tricky because we are used to putting ourselves and our needs last for the good of the team. Servant Leadership is honorable, and it can often mean we work hard and not smart. But if I’m not getting enough sleep, or I am intimidated by certain technology (and thus avoid using it… webcams are a good example) am I working with one hand tied behind my back?

In the book, you talk about leadership being a verb or action. Can you recommend 2 actions a leader can take to successfully engage her remote employees?

Only 2, huh?

Create opportunities for the team to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Share the spotlight in meetings, conduct “get to know you” exercises and delegate some of the work so that you create the chance for people to work with, and get to know, each other.

Don’t let work become strictly transactional. Too often we find outselves in a hurry, or not wanting to interrupt their “real work.” As a result, we focus on the task at hand and don’t take the time to get to know people and what’s going on in their world. Remember to take a moment to ask relationship-building questions about their personal lives, their families, and how they feel about their work. Write a note to yourself if  you have to. When you’re eager to get a call done so you can move onto the next one, it’s easy to forget to build bridges.

Can you sum up some final words or encouragement or education to help remote leaders enhance their own engagement while having a positive influence on the engagement of all their remote employees?

Rule #1 for Remarkable Remote Leadership is: Think leadership first, location second.” If you stop and take a breath, your path is pretty clear. Think about WHAT you need to do as a leader, whether you’re in the same place or not. Then, given your circumstances, HOW can you be as effective as possible? The answers will become clear, even if the actions to achieve them aren’t your natural (or even first or second) instinct.

I think the book itself is quite remarkable and helpful for all of us who lead remotely. I highly recommend it and believe it will have a strong positive influence on the future of work as we accelerate into the year 2020. Thanks Wayne.

Thanks, David. Kevin and I are grateful for your support of the book.

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Career Zingers 28: Don’t Lose Your Head

Engage with Equanimity

Equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. Alexander Zverev, a powerful young German tennis player, uses a Head racket and lost his “head” on the court with a smash in tennis that was not pretty, especially for his head and his Head racket. On your career path you will encounter many setbacks. Expect them. Learn from them. Move on from them. Just be careful that you don’t let one setback make you lose your head and compound one setback into multiple setbacks and a major career loss.

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Does the Employee Experience Movement Leave Us Stuck on an Escalator?

Employee experience is the big new shiny HR object to improve work. Some have even proclaimed 2018 as the Year of Employee Experience. Frankly, I think I am more comfortable with 2018 from the Chinese perspective as the Year of the Dog.

There are countless conferences and consultancies extolling the virtues of this new view of employees taken from the work on customer experience. Employee experience is considered to be composed of 3 areas: culture, the technological environment, and the physical environment. Organizations are busy learning lessons in how to improve the experience for employees ——— but what about the employees themselves?

In my 25 years teaching counselling psychology at the University  of Manitoba we categorized experiences as what happens to people. In one of the most popular textbooks in the field, The Skilled Helper, Gerard Egan wrote,

“because experiences often dwell on what other people do or fail to do, experience-focused stories at times smack a bit of passivity. The implication is that others – or the world in general – are to blame for the client’s problems.” (Egan, page 82)

Employees already are in the center of their own experience, we must do a much better job of not only acknowledging this but educating employees to assess, design, manage, and master their experiences at work. Otherwise, you know what happens, as demonstrated by this classic escalator video:

David Zinger is focused on how to successfully weave the employee experience into employee engagement for the benefit of all to achieve results, build relationships, and cultivate wellbeing.

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