Good and bad go together. When the ship was invented, so was the shipwreck. When we learned to ride a bicycle, we also learned how to fall off of it. Failure and success come as a package.

One of my favorite movies is Joe vs. Volcano. Joe is completely lost when he discovers that he has a fatal disease. This sets him off on an adventure where he meets Patricia, who is on her own adventure as a free spirit still entrapped by a controlling father. Talking to Joe, Patricia talks about her father.

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.

I think of this quote a lot when I interact with people in their work environments. Many people are simply going through the motions. They do their job and go home. They aren’t really all in and they feel like it is their employer’s responsibility to make them successful. Gallup tells us that 51% of the workforce in the US fall into this category of being “disengaged”.

Every so often, one of these employees “wake up” and realize that they want more. They get tired of just going through the motions or they get excited about something they see at work. They start to plug in and find ways to apply their own unique strengths and experiences to the job. They start to become passionate about their job.

This is good, but as we already know, with good comes potential bad.

As a person becomes empowered in their work, they can go one of two directions. If their passions align with the company and the people they work with, the result is a highly engaged employee. Highly engaged employees make up 33% of the workforce and they are extremely powerful. The companies they work in make more money and the engaged employees are happier. Furthermore, highly engaged employees tend to create other engaged employees multiplying their impact on a company.

Now for the potential bad side. If the passionate employee does NOT align the company or the people they work with, the person becomes toxic. They passionately start to fight against the company. They use what power they have to try to convince people around them that their direction is the right direction. Note that I’m not commenting on who is right or wrong; it’s usually a little of both. It’s all about misalignment. Toxic employees make up 16% of the workforce in the US and they are also extremely powerful. The companies they work in experience much higher turnover and decreased productivity. Furthermore, toxic employees tend to create other toxic employees multiplying their impact on a company.

So what happens when an employee “wakes up”?

It’s all about empowerment. There are actually 2 definitions of empowerment. The first definition, and most commonly thought about, is when someone gives power to another person. In this paradigm, it is up to the employer to empower the employee. If you work within a job and your employer doesn’t care about what you think or what you can do, then the employee has no power. This is the paradigm that organizations have been in for a long time.

People Centric is changing that paradigm.

The second definition is much more powerful. When a person discovers that they have power to control their own lives, the possibilities are endless. An empowered employee who works for a non-empowering employer knows what to do. They leave or they find places inside the company where they can still apply their strengths. In other words, the first definition of empowerment only applies when a person gives up control over their own lives to someone else.

There are 2 lessons here:

  1. LESSON FOR THE EMPLOYEE – You have control over your life, but not control over your environment. Finding your most effective self requires a life-long journey of discovery about your own strengths, your emotional intelligence, and how you work with others. It’s not up to your employer to provide these things for you, but you should look for partners who support and even supplement your journey. This means finding the right employer and even the right friends.
  2. LESSON FOR THE EMPLOYER – When half of your people are “asleep”, think about all of the lost potential inside your organization. What if you put people at the center of your organization. What if you created an environment where people can “wake up” and start to feel empowered? What if you nurtured people on their own journey by giving them opportunities to make a positive difference in your organization? Organizations with engaged employees massively outperform other organizations. It’s profitable to become People Centric.

But remember, with all things, there is a risk…

Anyone who dares to do more also risks to do less. A company who empowers their people but fails to keep them aligned and accountable will open up a hornets nest of toxicity. The employee who decides to care might start to hate a job they used to just not care about. This is why becoming People Centric is a choice that shouldn’t be taken lightly, because you can fail.

So the choice is up to you.

Your choice is extremely personal and should require a lot of soul searching, but I do want to point out something. Think about the most successful people you know. I’m not talking about the people who are making the most money or who have the biggest houses. I’m talking about the people you know who seem to be the happiest or most fulfilled. Didn’t they take the risk?

Now think about the best companies you know. Not the biggest companies with the best Super Bowl ads, but the companies that do it well and have people who are passionate. Didn’t they take the risk?

Becoming People Centric is not easy and you might fail. The question is, do you give in to fear and ego or do you take the risk?

It’s a choice that we all must make, but I do want to point out, that we were hardwired to sail. We are hardwired to feel fulfilled when we expand our horizons. We are hardwired to feel passionate and use that passion to accomplish extraordinary things. We are hardwired with a set of unique strengths to accomplish something amazing with other people who share our passions.

We are hardwired to be People Centric.