Abraham Maslow was a famous psychologist best known for his “Hierarchy of Needs” theory. If you aren’t familiar with it, look it up. He purports than mankind is a wanting animal. That we have a series of needs that we seek to fulfil. As those needs begin to be fulfilled they cease to motivate us as we unconsciously try to meet the next series of needs in the hierarchy.
Often depicted as a pyramid, the very top tier is described as ‘self-actualisation’. In plain English this is about being the best we can be at doing what we were put here to do. A self-actualised person is one who is fulfilled and engaged in meaningful work for which they feel a calling and a sense of import, and perhaps destiny and legacy.
This upward trajectory is a totally human and unconscious trait that will in part explain man’s timeless search for improvement and betterment.
The significance that Maslow has for business owners and business leaders is huge.
If we have a natural need to progress through the hierarchy to reach a level of self fulfilment, to be the best we can be I wonder why so few of us actually find that opportunity in the world of work. I wonder why so few managers and leaders go out of their way to help their colleagues to grow and develop and blossom.
Maslow wrote “The person in the peak of experience usually feels himself to be at the peak of his powers, using all of his capabilities at the best and fullest….he is at his best, at concert pitch, the top of his form”. Just imagine, for a moment, if just one of your team felt this way about himself and his time at the workplace. How different would your business be?
Imagine if 20%, 40% or 60% of the workforce felt this way. What would your business look like, feel like and sound like to your team, to your clients and to you? What if every single member of our team could be in the peak of experience? What could we achieve then, together? The irony is that this can be done. It can be achieved. It is being achieved.
It is surely our moral and spiritual obligation to try to create such an environment. For as Deborah Stephens wrote in “Maslow on Management”, “Amid today’s impressive technological innovations, business leaders sometimes forget that work is-at its core- a fundamental endeavour”