A #SHRM18 Interview with Cy Wakeman: No Ego, How HR Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results



I’ve had the pleasure of knowing noted speaker, author and thought-leader Cy Wakeman for 10+ years.  Even better, I can call her a friend.  Her sessions are always fascinating, informational and packed.  She is a must see for me at any conference.

What key highlights would an HR practitioner gain from reading your book, No Ego, How HR Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results. 

What I hope leaders take away is that conventional leadership philosophies have taught some false assumptions--that change is hard and that engagement drives results. Those beliefs have inspired expensive attempts to shield employees from change, involve them in high-level decision-making, and keep them happy with endless “satisfaction surveys” and workplace perks. But what these programs actually do is inflate expectations and leave employees unprepared to adapt to even minor changes necessary to the organization’s evolution and success. Rather than driving performance and creating efficiencies, these programs fuel entitlement and drama, costing millions in time and profit.

In my research and experience, I think it’s time to modernize our leadership philosophy and stop worrying about employees’ happiness and start worrying about their accountability. My book reveals the new role of the leader and helps them understand the important role the ego plays at work and how to “bypass” the ego and call our teams up to perform at a higher level. I leave leaders with an entire toolkit of resources they can apply immediately to redirect their team’s energy into results.

Are there other key points from your session that you feel HR practitioners would learn from that are outside your book?

Yes, as a leader, you have probably been told that you’re in charge of motivating employees and you’ve been part of programs that will allegedly build a happy, motivated workforce. These programs and tools are well-intentioned, but deliver few results. Here’s something new to consider: Leaders can’t motivate others, because people make their own choices about motivation, accountability, commitment, and happiness. So for leaders, it’s an impossible task to create that feeling in someone else. The expectation that leaders should keep employees engaged and happy sets them up for failure.

Instead of trying to change people, leaders should think about their role as being directors of energy: managing energy in the direction that creates positive results. That means coaching teams to understand that their value at work comes from using skills and expertise to succeed in less-than-perfect realities instead of waiting for perfect circumstances. It means directing energy from “why we can’t” into “how we can.”

What made you decide to write this book?

In my research, I have found that the average employee spends nearly 2 hours and 26 minutes per day in drama. That’s 816 hours per year. Per headcount. While wages vary greatly from organization to organization, a hypothetical company with 100 employees, each earning $30 per hour and working 40 hours a week. Annually, wages paid would equal $6,240,000. Based on our research on the cost of emotional waste, well over $1,794,000 would have to be written off as a loss. Imagine the dramatic impact on profitability that would be seen if you could upcycle the time exhausted on emotional waste into productive behaviors and results? You’d be an HR hero! My book gives leaders the tools and skills necessary to recapture the 2.5 hours per day per headcount and reinvest it into results. Drama, emotional waste, is a tremendous economic opportunity to recapture lost productivity and improve the bottom line in the workplace. Sadly, many leaders have come to accept that drama is simply part of dealing with humans in the workplace. I’ve busted some common myths and revealed a new path forward as it relates to workplace engagement and keeping teams ready for what’s next. The end of the book is filled with practical tools leaders can readily use to recapture that lost time and energy and upcycle energy into results.

What is a book you’d recommend, other than your own, that HR folks would benefit from? It doesn’t have to be a straight HR book.

A book I love is “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. It reveals so much to the reader about their ego and how it constantly narrates our lives: keep us fearful and separated. It can be translated to the workplace by helping you better understand how to build relationships and say yes to what’s next.

Are there any other speakers do you plan to see at SHRM18 and why?

I am looking forward to hearing Adam Grant. I follow his research on giving and originality.  I wholeheartedly practice with the mindset that the world is full of abundance and those that give freely, without expectation, create a wide network of resources to build successful outcomes.

What is your can’t-miss recommendation for Chicago, other than the SHRM18 conference of course?

CW: I just love Chicago! I always try to take in the Aquarium, a Bulls Game or some fabulous shopping on the Magnificent Mile! For this trip, the Mag Mile is something I’m really looking forward to! I love the summers in Chicago to get out and enjoy the weather!

Book: No Ego, How HR Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results

2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition session: How HR Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results, Sunday 06/17/2018, 12:30 PM - 02:00 PM

Book Signing: Following Session at the SHRM Store


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