Last week on Grey’s Anatomy, a sanitation worker comes in to the ER with half his right hand smashed into too many pieces to save. Callie, the orthopedic specialist, takes one look and says, “That hand’s gotta come off!” But as the patient is being prepped for surgery, Callie discovers that he is a skilled and inspired woodprint artist and that his art is his joy in life. She considers herself something of an artist, too. She sees clearly that saving his hand is a way of saving his life — and preserving something positive in the world. She changes her planned course of action and decides to rebuild the hand.
Watching this, it struck me that I know someone in a similar situation: Daryl is leading a division in a large medical technology products business. The conservative parent company has cut his budgets and staff and is declining his requests for resources needed to grow the business. Daryl’s response has been to do his best to put out his biggest fires and put his focus on polishing his résumé.
Do you see the similarity? Daryl thinks the hand can’t be saved. He’s given up.
What’s different between the two situations is that Daryl doesn’t have a reason to push through this first assessment. At least,not yet.
What if he did? What if Daryl saw that the purpose his organization could serve in the world is bigger than him? Bigger than his fears of failure or rocking the corporate boat or being disappointed or not being up to the task? What if he believed as deeply as it is possible to believe anything that he could make a real difference in the lives of many people by overcoming his fears and going for the change he knows his company needs? What if he got that giving up on the company would equal giving up on himself?
Do you think that might get him to let go of the idea that his situation is hopeless? Do you think that could engage him in some creative problem solving and possibly some strategic risk taking with the parent org to get something different and better happening?
What we’re talking about here is engagement. Full engagement…you might also call it ownership…inspired by a sense of bigger purpose. When companies have this they perform miracles. This isn’t just in the movies. It happens in business all the time. Only not as often as it doesn’t happen!
So where in your work (or life) are you less than fully engaged? What goals have you given up on that were once energizing and exciting, that held true potential for you or your business? What are you ready to amputate that isn’t truly done for?
What would happen if you took another look on a deeper level and saw what was really at stake? What if you took full ownership? What would it be like to take full responsibility for the consequences and costs of giving up — and allowed yourself to reconnect with the potential benefits and gains of taking a fresh look and really putting yourself on the line?
What would happen if you fully engaged as if someone’s life depended on it?
Maybe someone’s life does. Maybe it’s yours.