If you login to LinkedIn, or any social network for that matter, you’ll probably come across at least three pieces of self-help advice in the first minute or so. I haven’t done the math, but I’d say that’s a fair guess. In the end, it all boils down to a vague and often narcissistic soup of positive thinking, perseverance, and confidence. Does this advice really help anyone? How do you know that claims of success derived from these simple motivational memes aren’t themselves just a matter of positive (or simply wishful) thinking? In order to really understand the impact of self-esteem, we have to look at a related, and often equally ill-defined concept: engagement.
We typically think of our self-esteem as deeply personal and internal, but if we only define it in this way, how can we ever really quantify it? While it’s much easier to elevate self-esteem to a personal or spiritual plane, most of us develop our self-esteem from our relationships and interactions with other people. This is the area in which we can give and receive feedback. When we talk about engagement, we are also talking about relationships, and each person’s sense of self-esteem within these relationships. Engagement is when people put their self-esteem into action.
Enna’s Jun Nakamuro wrote an interesting article about how some very successful Japanese companies go about developing workers’ self-esteem to create an active and engaged workplace culture. The article provides a unique cultural perspective that is more focused on the self-esteem of individuals within groups, rather than individuals on their own. In many cultures, especially in North America, we tend to think that we can define our own sense of self-worth outside of the groups we belong to. That can be valuable in some ways, but it is worth having a look at the other perspective, especially for anyone working on a team or within a large organization. As Jun puts it “Whether at work or at home, feeling helpful and needed is a determining factor for your self-esteem. It’s not just about you; it’s about the people who need your work to better their lives.”
This is the type of cultural perspective that you can’t get just by reading and analyzing management tools. You need to break away from familiar thought patterns. This is exactly what we at Enna provide through our Lean Study Missions to Japan. Our next Japan trip is coming up in October and we’re excited to provide yet another bright group of people with a fresh perspective on work and life.