I recently watched this PBS News Hour segment about Zappos, the Las Vegas based online retailer of shoes, and other clothing items. Zappos is famous for it’s amazing customer service, and for it’s unique and quirky corporate culture which emphasizes, among other things, an adventurous, creative, and open-minded approach to work.
As Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, mentioned in the interview, the company encourages self-management rather than traditional hierarchical, management from above.
That phrase – self-management – immediately jumped out at me.
Self-management – that’s exactly what I think most Alexander Technique teachers would agree they are teaching their students. It’s certainly what I’m always trying to do during a lesson.
Does that mean we’re training our students to work for Zappos, or a similar company?
Not really. What Hsieh is talking about is empowering his employees to think for themselves and to do their jobs as best they can, with as little direct supervision as possible. He wants his employees to take initiative and go through their workday doing what they believe is the best way to get their jobs done.
Alexander Technique teachers are also empowering their students to think for themselves, but we’re not primarily interested in the specific activities our students have chosen to do. We’re not their CEO!
What we are interested in is HOW they do the specific activities they have chosen to do – at work, at home, anywhere.
So, for example, if someone needs to spend a few (or many) hours working at a computer, we’re interested in what they’re doing with their body while doing that, and in showing them ways to do it with less strain and greater ease.
If their job involves sorting, lifting, and packaging of mail orders, we’re interested in how they can do those tasks more easily, and with less likelihood of injury.
We’re teaching a process that could be thought of as “internal self-management.”
Of course there is some overlap between the Zappos idea of self management and ours.
For example, Zappos has a lot of employees who work in phone support. They’re sitting at a computer terminal and speaking on the phone with dozens of customers a day, many of whom may have a problem with an order or a complaint of some kind. These employees are told to spend as much time as is needed to take care of problems and, in fact, one customer representative was singled out for special praise for spending over 10 hours on the phone with a single customer to resolve an issue!
My guess is that might not have happened if she was in pain from sitting so long or found herself getting laryngitis after a few hours of speaking.
Those are exactly the kind of issues the Alexander Technique can help with. It’s truly the art of self management.
If you’re intrigued, check out: How to Find an Alexander Technique Teacher or Course
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