Seven Reasons Why Every Business Needs a Therapist
It’s probably fair to say that few – other than regular readers of my blog – have ever heard of the term “Organisational Psychotherapy“. And of those who have heard it, there may be many who assume they already know well enough what it means.
This post describes the benefits offered by “organisational therapy”, and invites you to consider to what extent other approaches – such as consulting or coaching – might cover the same ground.
The purpose of the organisational therapist is to improve the well-being of an organisation. As Martin Seligman observes:
“An absence of poor health is not the same as good health.”
~ Prof. Martin Seligman
The proponents of positive psychology say that poor health and good health are not just opposite ends of a spectrum – they are two independent spectra. And although many organisations are undoubtedly in very poor health from a psychological point of view, I believe therapy delivers the greatest benefits when it focuses on improving good health.
Following the idea of Obliquity, popularised by John Kay, the Organisational Therapist is not concerned with the effectiveness of the organisation per se, nor productivity nor bottom-line results. Rather, these desirables follow obliquely as a natural consequence of the increased good health and well-being of the organisation as a whole. Lencioni’s recent book “The Advantage” explores this connection in depth.
Benefits of Therapy
- Increased Positive Emotion
Increasing the positive emotion in an organisation brings higher levels of peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity and love. One of the most common issues for people working in commercial organisations is the lack of “soul” and “humanity”. Many organisations today see emotion as something to be suppressed or avoided – as somehow “unprofessional” and “inappropriate”.
“Research shows us that conscious attempts to suppress or avoid thoughts, feelings, or memories will actually increase their intensity. So if you try to suppress an emotion, memory, or thought that you don’t like, it will just come back to you in spades. It’s another paradox: You can’t control which feelings, thoughts, memories, or sensations show up in the first place, but you can make them much worse by trying to suppress them.”
~ Kirk Stroshal and Patricia Robinson
Organisations that take a more progressive view of positive emotion and its role in the workplace offer a more enjoyable experience for everyone. Life can be less stressful, and work can have more “meaning”. People can embrace their humanity and their engagement with their work. Retaining existing staff and attracting new talent both become easier as the organisation becomes a more attractive place for talent to work. A focus on improving positive emotion can also lead to higher EQ, a key element in handling ongoing change.
- Connection with a Higher Purpose
Living a meaningful life is, in essence, related to attaching oneself to something larger than oneself. Many organisations provide their people with little in the way of a meaningful higher purpose, or ways to connect with it. A shared sense of purpose brings alignment of people, a compelling vision, and general sense of direction and well-being. All these positive attributes in turn contribute to a healthier and more productive business.
Achieving a state of flowor total engagement is quite natural, especially when people are involved in activities they love. And although natural, it’s sadly all to often absent from peoples’ working lives. It’s hard enough to create the conditions for “flow” that many organisations leave it to chance, or ignore it entirely. And then there’s the wider question of folks’ general “engagement” in and commitment to their work. We all know about the epidemic that is the lack of engagement in work. When an organisation attends to engagement (both in the sense of flow, and in the broader sense) people accomplish much more, and feel much happier, too.
- Positive Relationships
For many, work is central to their lives because of the relationships they form and share. Man is a social animal, and work provides an almost universal opportunity for “being social”. All too often though, organisations create situations where relationships degenerate into negativity and alienation. A healthy organisation provides for positive relationships, friendships and fellowship, and reducing unhelpful conflict, stress, and anxiety. This scope for positive relations also extends to customers and clients, helping the business do more business.
Accomplishment helps to build self-esteem and provides a sense of achievement. It also strengthens self-belief. Rightshifting illustrates how under-achieving are most organisations today. There is a virtuous circle of accomplishment and self-belief which can shift organisations to incredible levels of performance. Not only do most organisations fail to realise anything like their potential, this under-achievement means most or all of their people are wasting a great deal of their innate potential, too.
- Culture Management
“The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.”
~ Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., former IBM CEO
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
~ Peter Drucker via Mark Fields, President, Ford Motor Co
More and more business leaders recognise the fundamental roie of culture – or, more accurately, mindset – in the success of their organisations. But how to effect a culture-change? Few have any experience in this, nor many tools to help. This one thing, beyond all the other benefits of therapy, stands out.
- Life Skills for the Individuals
With all this talk about the benefits of therapy for the organisation as a whole, let’s not overlook the benefits of working to achieve improved organisational health for the folks involved. Being involved with therapy, learning and seeing how it works, offers folks a way to acquire and enhance their own life skills, appropriate to all aspects of their lives.
Can we leave a change of thinking to chance? Hope fondly that it will just happen? Expect it to take place as a byproduct of other actions? Appoint a “thought czar” or some other single wringable neck?
“If we want to change what we have been getting, then we will have to change what we have been thinking. Otherwise, nothing will change.”
If we want to see a collective change of thinking in our organisations, therapy offers an effective means to making that happen. Every business, every organisation, needs a therapist.