ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - January 2001


Surviving in The New Economy: From virtual workplaces to technology overload, this special feature takes an in-depth look at the changing demands of our workplaces and world.

  In This Issue...

Celebrating the Power of People
Tricks of the Trade—Unique Tranining Ideas
Views For A Change
Pageturners: Flawless Consulting Fieldbook

 One From Column B —
I Will Survive

 Peter Block explains why the new economy is just an economy, and why our relationships and our senses promise survival .

  Surviving In The New   Economy:

Working In A Virtual World
Defining The New Economy
Penny Sanchez-Burruss and Barry Johnson Ph,D

The 24/7 Work Invasion
Info, Info, Everywhere!
Brief Cases
Tips: It's About Time and Finding Time


Return to NFC Index

Celebrating The Power
of People

Susan L. Taylor Helps Us Find
Meaning in All That We Are and
All That We Do

  If you're sitting at your desk pondering your next move, angry at your boss, trying to relate to your coworkers or employees, or searching for meaning in the madness: Stop. Relax. Breathe and keep reading. Susan L. Taylor, publication director of ESSENCE magazine, has some insights to share with you that just might help.

  Taylor's message strikes a chord with all who listen. Her monthly editorial, In The Spirit, is one of the most popular features of ESSENCE magazine, and her books "Lessons in Living" and "In the Spirit" are bestsellers.

  Taylor has guided ESSENCE through phenomenal growth over the past 30 years, making it the largest and most highly regarded magazine for African-American women in the world. Her efforts have been recognized with numerous honors and a monthly readership of more than 7 million, one-third of whom are men.
 Taylor will join keynote speakers Peter Block, Jim Kouzes and Mike Singletary as they unite this March 19-21 in Chicago for AQP's Spring Conference and offer ways to "Maximize Performance and the Leadership Potential of Everyone."

 In a recent interview with News for A Change, Taylor offers hope to those juggling the overwhelming pressures of daily life, and inspires change to create loving and spiritual environments in our hearts, homes, communities and workplaces.

NFC: In your leadership role, you have guided ESSENCE through significant change and growth. What have been some of your greatest challenges along the way?

Taylor: Some of my greatest challenges have been on the advertising end because the black female consumer market, especially in the early days of ESSENCE, wasn't a quantifiable or respected market. Our president and co-founder, Clarence Smith, spearheaded making both of those things a reality. We have never-especially if I go back years ago-gotten the full complement of advertising that's commensurate with the economic output of African-American women. The challenge has always been making sure that we put together a magazine that is rich in content and cohesive, even though invariably we would have to pull pages out because we didn't have the advertising support. When you look through ESSENCE today, of course, you'll see all the major categories of advertising. Those challenges, thank goodness, are behind us.

 In my new role, I have some very different challenges. Mainly these include trying to work throughout the organization with the leadership in articulating a very clear vision and the values that have guided the magazine the last 30 years. We want to make sure that the new companies we're creating, the new divisions we're developing and the new leadership we've brought in to work with us buy into those values and vision.

NFC: Your monthly column is one of ESSENCE's most popular features and your books are best-sellers. What inspires you to write so poignantly and meaningfully with mass appeal?

Taylor: I write what I'm trying to live. My concern is that many people think, because I write about the power of the divine, that I have it all together. The exact opposite is true. No one walking the face of this earth is unchallenged. I believe that everything, all the challenges that show up in our lives, come to nourish and strengthen us, never to confound or confuse us. What I've learned is that there are principles that we can adopt to help us navigate what can be a very difficult experience-this living. We need to understand that we're more than we seem; we're human and divine and we can use all of the gifts that have been given to us.

NFC: Spirituality and emotions are meaningful parts of life that are sometimes overlooked or ignored in workplaces. Employees are expected to come to work and leave their feelings at the door. How can we shift this thinking to allow for more incorporation of our spirit, soul and mind into what we do?

Taylor: That's exactly what I'm doing with our organization now in my new role as publication director. It's really working with leaders. You work with your management team. You honor people. We don't have to ever mention the name of God, Allah, Jehovah or whatever we may call the divinity. That doesn't need to be mentioned in the workplace. Creating an environment that honors spiritual principles is what we're really talking about.

  When you honor people, when you pay people fairly, when you respect them and disallow any harsh or unfair treatment; and let managers know that disregard or disrespect to the people that report to them will not be tolerated, you create that kind of loving, nourishing and successful environment of which people want to be a part. If you have leadership that is being honored and made to feel as though they're valued, and also counseled as to how to value other people, then you've gone the distance in creating a loving, spiritual environment.

NFC: Oftentimes, leaders are blamed for failures in the organization. How do you think everyone can be aware of their responsibility for the success or failure of their organization?

Taylor: Leadership certainly gets a lot of credit for the success and therefore must withstand the criticisms for the things that don't work. Leadership has to be visionary. Anyone in a leadership position without a vision is an automaton and is just following along with what has been done. As a leader you have to empower people to be decision makers, empower them to get the best out of their employees.

 You have to have the best people in place. You treat those people fairly and you help them feel secure about their own positions and reward them for identifying talented people within the organization. When the leader of an organization, the person at the very top, creates an environment in which people feel they are really sharing in the success of the company, then I think they take responsibility for the things that are not working.

NFC: Work demands a majority of people's time and many things that are most enjoyable and satisfying are pushed aside. How can the pressures of life be balanced with the pleasures?

Taylor: I think that is the great challenge that we all share. I try to do something that I wrote in my second book, "Lessons in Living": You have to give yourself to yourself before you give yourself away. You don't leap out of bed and right into the work world. And this is what we usually do. Give yourself 45 minutes in the morning that are just for you. When you get up, thank God for the day. Then put your day in order. We usually overload our agenda with too many things that we will never complete. That creates insecurity and then we feel bad at the end of the day because we didn't do everything that was on an agenda that wasn't realistic to begin with.

  Get out of bed with an agenda, knowing what you're going to do, and then work out for 20 minutes. Jog in place, get on a treadmill, run around your house. Get that cardiovascular stimulation that we all need not only to balance our weight, but also to reduce yesterday's stress so we're not adding to it. So we're not allowing today's stress to be placed on top of yesterday's stress and tomorrow's on top of that. From there, take 10 minutes to be reflective, to think about your life and your blessings and to get still and in touch with your breathing. This is 45 minutes before you have to engage in the day. If you have youngsters at home, wake them up ever so gently rather than screaming, "Get out of bed! You're going to miss the school bus." Hug your beloved, if you have a partner, and say, "Good morning. I love you. Have a wonderful day." When you begin your day like that, things fall into place. You really live your day the way you begin it. We hold the reigns of our lives in our hands. That's what we have to recognize. We might own companies, we might work for companies, we may have children and mates and bills, but those things don't own us. Our lives belong to us and they are in our hands. Only by conscious consideration for what is best for us will we live a really fulfilling life.

NFC: What do you say to older generations or people that have been in the workforce for a long time that have sacrificed family to pursue their career, only to find out later what really mattered most to them? How do you help them come to terms with that?

Taylor: In truth, there are no mistakes in life-ever. Anything that we've experienced,
even if it's painful or shameful, can serve us well. If I were just becoming a parent
today I would be a very different parent than the one I was. I thought that I had to
give all my time and energy to my career; now I would give more to my child. But
I can't go back and live that over. What I do is have a very real conversation with
my daughter about some of the choices that I wish I hadn't made, and how I really
do value her. Sometimes we don't let our children know our vulnerabilities and share
with them the mistakes we may have made. I think that goes a long way in healing
any wounds that our children may have from feeling as though we gave more to our business lives than we gave to them. Also, I think it's important to speak to younger people, to talk to them about living a balanced life.

NFC: A recent Wall Street Journal article reported on 20- to 30- something's that are already burned out and suffering from an "early midlife crisis." What does this say about where younger generations are headed as they enter the workforce?

Taylor: I'm also seeing something on the other end. I'm seeing a large group of critical thinkers who are suggesting that they don't want to live like their parents. They don't
need to have three homes and four cars. I'm hearing women and men say, "I really
" want a family life. I want to become a mother. I'm not looking to become president
of the company. I want to have a fulfilling career, but even more important than that
for me is having a family, my health and my sanity." They got to watch the generation before them that maybe had the ability to achieve things in business that their parents
only dreamed of. That generation believed that they had to go full throttle in order to
have them.  As I look back I can see clearly how I could not only have done as well
as I have, but perhaps even better, by being a more critical thinker and by working smarter, rather than as I hard as I did.

NFC: What is a leader's primary role in empowering their employees to get the best out of them?

Taylor: I think the primary tenant of leadership is service-learning to serve. Caring enough about the people who report to you to see how you can get the best from them. That means giving them what they need to be comfortable and to thrive. Be willing to sit with people and ask, "How can I make this environment more productive for you? How can I make you feel more valued in our company? These are the things that I can't do-budgetary demands don't allow me to do such and such. Or, we can't move the plant to make you feel happy, but what can we do? What are the changes we can make? How can we make more efficiency, productivity and joy among you and in your department?" I think that's what real leadership is about-taking that feedback and coming back with a vision of how you can make it happen.

NFC: How can employees hope to understand the differences that exist between themselves and their coworkers to create a better working environment?

Taylor: We have to do more than pay lip service to honoring diversity. This country is not what it was even 50 years ago. In any workplace there are going to be different languages and religions, people of different colors and ethnic backgrounds. What we have to begin to do is really appreciate our differences. It's this willingness to love that is going to create the world that we're all hungering for no matter what our color, class or race. It's a world that is peaceful.

 There are more than 100 wars being fought on the planet right now. Every one of them is about difference and somebody believing that what they have and who they are is superior to someone else. I think the lesson that the divinity is trying to teach us is that we really are one. All the differences we have created are fears of our invention. We speak different languages; we are different colors, sizes and shapes. These are false divisions that we've used to separate ourselves from people. I think they really speak about the genius of our maker. What a variety we are. That there are six billion people walking the face of this earth and no two of us looks alike speaks about the genius of our maker. How dare we take those amazing things that speak to our remarkable differences and make them things for which we penalize others.

NFC: How do you see fear hindering and limiting people? How can they overcome that?

Taylor: The flip side of fear is faith. We want to know the unknown: whether we're going to get that job, or that raise or promotion. You can't know. It's the unknown that makes us fearful. What we have to do is live in this present moment. Be present where you are. Make the best of this moment. Do your best work in this moment because how you live this moment is creating your future. You may not achieve what you're aiming for but you're going to achieve something that is so magnificent because the aim is in the right direction-you're aiming forward and upward. Truly, life has a better plan for you then you could ever have for yourself. You have to trust life when things come up. The challenge is to not settle into a painful place. Whether it's work, a health issue or a relationship issue, any pain that shows up in your life is for your instruction. It's not meant for you to live with and it's not meant to punish you.

NFC: Your column in the December ESSENCE challenges the reader to look inside, identify areas for change and make that their goal for the new year. What types of resolutions are you making for yourself and ESSENCE for the upcoming year?

Taylor: I'm really committed to putting in place a company-wide vision and values, and do the critical work of having those meetings and those retreats that really help people to understand them and hopefully buy into them.

 Personally, I want to do some new business learning, moving from the creative side to the business side. I'm really looking at gaining greater prowess in the financial arena so that I can work more fully with budgets and numbers. I'm also looking at some management skills that I need to adopt and at how I can begin to get even more leadership training.

  On a very personal level, I really want to do what we've being talking about, and that is make time for me, so I can bring the best of what I have to give-my clear thinking and creative mind to everything that this company does.

January 2001Homepage

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