What is awe and what does it have to do with running your business or attracting and retaining top talent?
The topic of awe was reserved for philosophers, poets, scholars, and scientists for thousands of years, but contemporary studies have discovered some fascinating results. One study found that people who had recently experienced awe were more likely to report feeling a sense of purpose in life. Another study found that awe can increase people’s creativity and innovative thinking. And yet another study found that awe can make people more generous and cooperative.* In summary, awe experiences are what psychologists call self-transcendent: they shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, change our perception of time, and even make us more generous toward others.
Aren’t all the findings on the effects of awe the experiences you want employees to have in the workplace? Don’t you want them to have a sense of purpose in their work and to feel as if they are contributing to something bigger than themselves? Isn’t creativity and innovative thinking what keeps companies more competitive and successful? I believe that employees want to work in a cooperative, collaborative, and caring workplace, don’t you? If so, then awe has a lot to do with running a business and attracting and retaining top talent.
Remember back to when you started your company, or got your first job, or were promoted into a new position? Weren’t you struck with a sense of awe that you were finally getting a chance to do what you had dreamed about? How about when one of your employees or a team has a great success and you are beaming with pride for that individual or team and in awe at their persistence and resolve to do what they did? You may not recognize or name the emotion you experience as awe, but that might just be what it is.
Here are some ways I frequently experience awe in my work with clients and employees.
- When leading training sessions, I will be struck with a sense of amazement and surprise during or at the end of the session because the training took an unplanned turn that enabled the participants to not just understand the material but also immediately to embody this greater level of understanding in their thoughts and actions.
- When coaching clients and employees, there are times when my breath is taken away by the honesty and vulnerability shared with me and the commitment that they have to being their “best selves” in the workplace and in their lives.
- When teaching the Enneagram, I can see when individuals experience what I call “lightbulb moments” in which they suddenly identify themselves as a particular Type and realize the transformative possibilities available by increasing their self-awareness and self-observation and then, in the moment, being able to choose to think or act in a more conscious and intentional way.
- Especially when facilitating strategic planning or business development meetings, I call it “magic” when what emerges are ideas and plans that one would have never thought of alone; rather it was the energy, synergy, and synchronicity of the group working together that brought forth outcomes not anticipated or even imagined.
If you are an employee, how does awe show up in your work? How can you increase your awareness of these powerful moments?
If you are a business owner, executive, department or team leader, where does awe show up in working with clients, your team, employees, or strategic partners? How can you increase your company’s or team’s awareness of these transcendent moments and help them to see their contribution to “something bigger than themselves” or to see how these moments align with their personal purpose or are simply just awesome?
One thing I know for sure is that now that you know about awe, you’ll start seeing, feeling and experiencing it more often – or at least that is my hope!
When you do start seeing it and you’re not sure how to tap into this extraordinary motivator either personally or for your organization, give us a call. We’d love to hear your experiences, and we’re here to help.
PRINCIPAL, TRANSFORM, INC.