CANCUN SPEECH TO LATIN AMERICAN DEALERS MEETING
March 29, 2011
Good Morning! What is the greatest resource on Planet Earth? Oil? Gold? Coal? Gas? What is the greatest resource at Interface? Yarn? Nylon? Machinery?
People are the greatest resource on this planet. At Interface, we are building a Strengths-Based Culture through our people and for our people. We follow a formula: TALENT (which is your life-long pattern of thoughts-feelings-behavior that can be productively applied) multiplied by RELATIONSHIPS (your friendships) and RECOGNITION (attention paid to what you do that is good) coupled with EXPECTATIONS (clearly set and positively designed in accord with your talents)….all of those factors will equal positive employee ENGAGEMENT. Employees who are engaged, working at what they do best will bring about engaged customers and engaged customers bring bottom line profit.
Donald O. Clifton was the CEO of the Gallup Organization and in his earlier years he was a colleague of my husband. I learned from him this approach to human development. Don said many times, Isn’t It Strange how Kings and Queens and Clowns that caper in sawdust rings….and Common People like you and me…are builders for eternity. To each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass, a book of rules, and each will build, ere time has flown, a stumbling block or a stepping stone.
We want to be stepping stones to all our employees. What would happen when we shine our light of our attention on what people do that is right instead of catching them when they are wrong?
To define these terms: What do we mean when we say you have Strengths? We mean that you have the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in any given activity. TALENTS are those recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that can be productively applied. Adding skills and knowledge to talents brings you to your developing strengths. SKILLS are the capacity to perform the fundamental steps of an activity. Knowledge is what we know, either factually or gained by experience. We have now reached almost all Interface employees with the Clifton Strengthsfinder, assessing what their top five signature themes are. A SIGNATURE THEME is simply what we refer to as strengths. Each employee knows what their “top five” are. How many of you know your top five themes?
Since Relationships and Recognition are so important, I want you to think about the best recognition you ever received. Turn to your neighbor and share that honor.
You are very different. You are a unique, never before born, individual with talents that are yours only. No one else is like you. Turn to your neighbor and tell each other, “I am different.. You are different.” “I am unique and you are unique.” “I am significant and you are significant.”
What you believe about yourself, others, and the world is unique to you. Beliefs are those things that we are certain about. I tend to want to examine my beliefs constantly. I think that when we settle into certainty we have stopped being curious and likely have stopped our growth. I trust more a questioning and curious mind. So Beliefs can change and beliefs can be examined. Beliefs lead to the way we think, which is just the words and pictures in our minds. Thoughts that we think a lot become our beliefs.
Feelings are our energy in motion—emotion. I now have reached a new concept or belief. That new concept is that feelings are a guidance system. When they are positive, we are on our Strengths Path; when they are negative, we are being signaled that we are “off path” or off track. So feelings are much more than our energy in motion, they serve as a guide much like an EGS in our car. Am I saying that we can all have positive feelings? Yes. In fact, I have been studying Happiness for five years now. Everything I have read and my own life experience tells me that Happiness is a choice. JOY is our birthright! Therefore, when I am experiencing negative emotion, I am not in my path of Joy, which is the path of Strengths in action.
AND, the good news is that this clock of awareness I am showing you with Beliefs at twelve oclock, thoughts at three, feelings at six oclock and behavior at nine—is a simple metaphor for our entire talent bank. This clock represents the patterns of our lives—our beliefs-thoughts-feelings-behavior will show up again and again in fractile waves that seem to us to be unavoidable. Yet, I am here to tell you both the good news and the bad: You are the owner of and responsible for each of these four constructs. You and you alone own your beliefs-thoughts-feelings-behavior. In childhood, you were dependent and may not have had choices because you needed to survive. But here today, in this moment in time, the greatest news of your life is that you can take charge of this clock of awareness.
Your talents, your strengths are real. They can be developed further and higher through skills and knowledge. Each year, I pick one of my top five themes to emphasize and expand. It is our nature to expand and grow. The great truth is that what we focus on becomes reality. What we think about will expand. What we pay attention to will show up in our life. Basically this means that our relationships are the guiding force for our positive growth and expansion. I tell people that I have been married to the same man for the last 47 years. Yet, every morning when I wake up, I have a new husband. (Someone said, “You go, girl!”) True, he is the same person in body-mind-spirit. I have the choice of seeing him through fresh eyes. When I see through renewed eyes, I see his worth; I focus on his goodness; and I am therefore in a happy state. There were days, months, even years when I focused on his mistakes and his flaws, thinking that he would improve if I just nagged long enough. The greatest discovery I ever made was that whatever I focused on in him seemed to get bigger instead of diminishing. So, I now shine my light of awareness and recognition on what is good about him and — that’s how I have a wonderful new man in my life every day.
This is the same process in every relationship. At work, it is the same — what you notice will get bigger. This is WHY we are building a strengths based culture. The culture is made up of individual people like you and me. We are the stepping stones instead of the stumbling blocks for each other. If we select people for talent and we manage that talent to grow into strengths, then the pathway to profit is assured. For, it is proven, statistically in thousands of organizations that engaged happy employees will foster engaged customers who trust us and want to do business with us. Put that together with quality products and a vision of environmental sustainability that is actually true—we are on the way to zero footprint by the year 2020—it turns out that bottom line profit comes about. There was a question when Ray Anderson, the visionary man who is the founder-leader of Interface, when he had his spear in the chest epiphany and decided to follow his conviction, leading his company into environmental sustainability—he asked “Can we do well by doing good?” Today, that question has earned a yes answer. Interface does very well by doing good.
I offer you a simple way to stay on your Strengths Pathway. These words, LIVE-LAUGH-LOVE; LOOK-LISTEN-LEARN; LIBERATE YOUR TALENTS; AND LEAVE A LEGACY are a quick reminder of how to live your Strengths every day. So, when I wake up in the morning, I am aware of being alive, of existence itself and I am grateful for the opportunity to have another day on this wonderful Planet Earth. I have learned the value of laughter. When we did Yoga Laughter, you had the equivalent of a short cardio workout, and we relieve ourself of the dangers of stress when we lighten up and laugh a lot. Love has four rungs on a ladder—Eros keeps our species alive; Agape means we can actually choose to be friends with former enemies; Philea means family love; and Caritas is the ultimate unconditional love—charity. So, each day I have a chance to practice love on all four levels. To observe in a benign, non-judgmental way means, for me, that I choose to look at my life and my world; to listen accurately and not take personally what is said. This is my way of remaining helpful; and learning is one of my top five strengths so I feed that hunger every time I learn. I believe that learning comes best through experience. Liberating our talents is the goal of management in the Strengths-based culture. To liberate one’s own talent and be free to be transparent, to be engaged, to be happy, to be one’s true self is the ultimate freedom. We will do a legacy project today and you will give in that caritas type of love. Leaving our legacy is our best gift to the generations to come.
Consciousness can expand. Your spiral of growth means that from a state of automatic reaction to the outside world, you can become aware of yourself in the world, which leads to your awareness of your world. Awareness is the door to growth and leads to awakening to life—to your true worth, your strengths path, and to the path of joy that is your birthright—feeling truly ALIVE is the best of every day. Breathing in and breathing out, we feel our aliveness and become fully present in the now moment. It is through this spiraling consciousness that we can begin to recognize that we are ATTRACTING what we experience; we ALLOW or accept what we have attracted and eventually we reach that ultimate expression of who we are—our AUTHENTICITY.
I want to tell you about one of my daily practices, which I do as part of my own Strengths Pathway. Growth for all of us is an ongoing possibility. We are not done yet. We are not finished in our development. You can continually expand your Strengths by adding more skills and more knowledge. This practice I tell you about is one of the ways I stay in the mode of Strengths development. It keeps me positive and it awakens my creativity. Every one of my “top five” Strengths are part of my consciousness expansion and my body-mind-spirit development of this one individual. You will enhance your own Strengths development and contribute to the Strengths-based culture through daily practices that focus on yourself and your evolutionary growth.
Early mornings at our home, we read, we journal, we meditate, and we do Qi Gong. In that exercise, we face the eight directions and my own thoughts go to these ideas: In the Southeast, I know I exist and I SHOW UP; in the northwest, I know I am a woman who has compassion and caring therefore I LISTEN UP; in the southwest, I remember that I am creative and I OPEN UP; in the northwest, I think about our evolutionary journey as humans and I GROW UP; in the west, I think how life doesn’t need to be tragic, so I determine to have fun, laugh, and LIGHTEN UP; turning to the east, I am reminded of my love of learning and I think how I can WISE UP; to the north I remember my mission is to love and I know that I can LINK UP; to the South I review my work and I OFFER UP my contribution to the day.
I would remind you of your life and your meaning in this world at this present time. I encourage you to continue your development and help your friends and family to follow the Strengths Path. Positive Action and Awareness Transforming Humanity!
My teacher, Dr. Jean Houston, wrote a lovely poem with which I will end this speech:
You are More You Are More
You are more than you pretend to be
You are more than what most eyes can see
You are more than all your history
Look inside and you will find
There’s glory in your mind
Come be the kind of person you would be….
You are more than what your parents bred
You are more than what your teachers said
You are more than what’s inside your head
You are more than what your leaders say
You are more than how you earn your pay
You are more than what you seem today
So drop that loser’s mask
You’re equal to the task
The question you should ask is who you are…..
You are more than what the preachers shout
You are more, come let your spirit out
You are more, your soul should have no doubt
Arise, become awake
With every breath you take
The person that is YOU within, will ache to be….
You are more than cell and blood and bone
You are more than just your name along
You are more than all that you may own
Look around you everywhere……There’s something that we share
The magic in the air…is you!
You are more than some statistic chart
You are more than the sum of all your parts
You are more inside your heart of hearts
You know that it is true
This being that is you
Has miracles to do Believe!
Take someone’s hand— and say with me,
WE ARE MORE THAN WE PRETEND TO BE……
We are more than what most eyes can see……
we are more than all our history…..
We WILL be the kind of people we can be!