What do you need to subtract to increase full employee engagement?
Subtraction is one of the four basic arithmetic operations; it is the inverse of addition, meaning that if we start with any number and add any number and then subtract the same number we added, we return to the number we started with. Subtraction is denoted by a minus sign in infix notation.
Subtract – To remove or reduce; especially to reduce a quantity or number.
Bringing Mindfulness to Minus: What is your relationship with subtraction at work?
The answer isn’t here. You won’t find a ready made solution in this post. I don’t think you’ll find an answer here and you may even puzzle over the question. I didn’t set out with a specific idea and the intention to craft it into powerful prose rather I began, and I suppose I will finish this post, in puzzlement. Yet I also have some belief that there is a great deal that comes from sitting with a question, to subtract a bit of busyness or business for a few moments to uncover or discover our relationship to a question.
A shared question. The question has mulled around my mind and seeped through my conversations with both Jean-Francois Hivon and Gail Pishack from Shared Visions. We have talked about capacity for ourselves and the organization. We have talked about the challenges organizations have in sustaining learning and development and the challenges between intention and execution. One of the themes that has emerged for me from our conversations is how difficult it is to drop something, to let go of something, and not to be caught up in the ceaseless adding of another and another initiative, project, and program. I am speaking for both myself personally and the many organizations I have worked with.
An ironic loss. An ironic twist just occurred while I was writing this on a cold and snowy Friday morning in Winnipeg. I created what I thought was an insightful paragraph and decided to move it by cutting and pasting except I hit the wrong key, deleted the 4 sentences and could not get them back. You would think if I truly praised subtraction that I would celebrate or be pleased by this yet I was frustrated and irritated. I wondered, does minus provoke such a flood of emotions that it challenge us to experience it fully? I know we are challenged by loss and I wonder how tightly we have connected subtraction and loss together to the point where many of us and our organizations can’t bear to let go of anything even when this includes outdated processes, ill-conceived projects, and unhelpful mindsets about work.
Subtraction was elementary. I learned subtraction right after learning addition in elementary school yet it seems addition has stuck while subtraction seems to have done just what it was supposed to do and gone missing.
Gaining traction with subtraction. Have you lost your focus or ability to meditate on minus or subtraction? I said at the start of this post that I didn’t have any answers but I invite you to reflect on the following questions. Before you read the questions below, I ask you not to add this list of questions as something you need to do, rather let go, loosen up, and invite these questions into your thoughts. Your mindfulness of minus may help you make a shift in how you manage:
- What is my ratio of adding to subtracting at work and at home?
- What emotions swirl around minus and subtraction for me?
- What do I most need to subtract and what are my challenges in doing this?
- What is the last thing I have taken away from my work?
- How often do I give direction to my reports to no longer do something?
- Every time I add a new request or project do I also fully consider removing one?
- What is it that I believe I cannot subtract or remove from my work or my life?
- What can I subtract right now to help me manage my professional or personal life in a powerful, authentic, and fully engaged way?
Ready, Willing, Able? Are you ready, willing, and able to manage yourself and others with the the moxie of the minus sign?
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David Zinger is being more mindful of minus in 2011. He works with organizations and individuals to improve employee engagement. His speaking, writing, coaching, and consulting focus on helping organizations and individuals increase employee engagement by 20%. David founded the 3400 member Employee Engagement Network. The network is striving to increase employee engagement 20% by 2020.
Contact David today to increase engagement where you work. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Phone 204 254 2130 / Website: www.davidzinger.com)
The original of this post first appeared in November at Shared Visions Website