Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

The Mental State of “Earning”

One business book that I have always held in high regard is titled “Danger in the Comfort Zone” by Judith Bardwick.  It was published over 20 years ago and describes the three psychological states and organization can be in:

1.) Entitlement – People are complacent: they get raises, bonuses, and benefits pretty much as a matter of course, so there is no incentive to work hard.

2.) Fear – People are paralyzed; the threat of layoffs or reorganizations or bad bosses makes them focus on protecting their jobs rather than doing them.

3.) Earning – People are energized by challenge; they know their work will be judged and that rewards will be based on accomplishments.

Naturally, strong leaders are working hard continuously to make sure their people and organizations are in the mental state of Earning.  An Earning environment requires realistic opportunities to achieve and realistic requirements to do so.  It requires parameters of achievement so there’s pressure to perform and some certainly when you have performed.  It requires accurate matching of requirements to ability so that you’re right more often than you are wrong.

People and organizations in the mental state of Earning know they are winners, but they also know they are being judged.  Although past achievements get you into today’s game, only today’s achievements will get you into tomorrow’s game.  Earning is the continuous tension in which people and organizations are under pressure to perform, but they have the means to reduce the pressure through achievement.

There are three key conditions that a leaders must create to move an organization into the Earning state:

1.) Challenge – To get commitment and high performance, organizations must make sure employees have the chance to tackle challenging experiences in which they stretch, learn, risk – and succeed.

2.) Empowerment – When people are given opportunities to organize and make decisions appropriate to their knowledge and experience, they usually move up to the opportunity.  They think for themselves, sharpen their skills, focus their efforts, and display grit and self-control.

3.) Significance – Most people want their work to be significant.  They are asking that their work contribute to something they feel is important.

Stepping back, it is really fun and very rewarding to be part of an Earning organization!  Creating such an environment should be the goal of all leaders.


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