Counseling psychologist Allen Johnson has been called everything from a “headpeeper” and “bug doctor” to a “shrink.” He takes issue with the latter label. In reality, he says he’s “an expander.”
He believes in the human capacity to create a better, more joyful world. It’s a message he gladly shares with others in his conversations, seminars, and two books, This Side of Crazy and The Power Within: The Five Disciplines of Personal Effectiveness.
After completing a doctorate at Washington State University (’85 Coun. Psych.), he spent six years as the principal organization and leadership development consultant for ICF Kaiser, an international, 3,500-employee construction and engineering company in Richland. While working there and with other firms, he discovered that problems employees face deal not with tasks, but with relationships. People come into an organization with “high spirits and low task skills.” Over time, they get better at their tasks, but their interpersonal skills lag behind.
In 1985, he created his own company, Johnson Dynamics, which specializes in human and organization development. His consulting work has taken him to nearly every state in the country, as well as Mexico, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. Audiences have ranged in size from a dozen to thousands. Now financially independent, he chooses to scale back his business travel and, instead, supplement his schedule with writing, volunteer youth services, and outdoor activities. He works out of his Richland home.
Johnson finds some people vibrant, full of life. They take on challenges with gusto. Others “just put in their time.” The contrast fascinates him. He set out to develop a correlation study between peace and joy and the work people do. He found that those who are most fulfilled, young at heart, are the “most disciplined.” He identified five irreducible disciplines: love, responsibility, vision, commitment, and service. They are the basis of his second book, The Power Within, completed in December 2000. He makes it clear that while these resources are often underused-even abused-they are available to all of us.
The disciplines are “about what people do” to become more purposeful, more at peace. “It’s about seizing life when others are just sleepwalking.”
The book is full of anecdotes and simple models that challenge readers to nourish their own minds and spirits as well as those of others, to live lives of nobility, to avoid procrastination, to listen, to resolve conflict, to build community, and initiate small acts of kindness.
This Side of Crazy, published in 1990, is a collection of “light-hearted columns” he wrote for The Tri-City Herald over a two-year period in the late ’80s.
In the corporate world, Johnson says, the main problem is that people spend 65 to 85 percent of their time doing the things that have a “sense of urgency, but are not necessarily important.”
Regardless of their position in the hierarchy of the company-from the entry clerk to the CEO-they need to receive and give love.
“The best organizations are run by lovers,” he says. “They love their clients. They take care of them like family. And they take care of their internal associates like family, too.
“If that makes the CEOs of the world uncomfortable, I’m sorry, because that’s the way it is.”