Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is David Frank Gomes (Canada).
The word synergy comes from the Greek word sin-ergo, meaning, to work together. It points to a mutually supportive atmosphere of trust, where individual elements work towards their own goals, and although the goals may be very different, because they are all moving parts of a synergetic network, they support the whole ecosystem.
Recently, I have been working on creating new human-centered training and consulting company with several of my brilliant colleagues. We all come from very diverse backgrounds and we all share different skills.
We began by asking ourselves a few simple questions.
- How might we build better workplaces?
- How might we engage the hearts, minds, and talents of people to create sustainable workplaces that don’t burn people out?
- What if enjoying ourselves was the key to improving our learning and performance?
- What if we could create a new paradigm of organisational structures and practices that did not rely on or even need empowerment because by design, everybody had a sense of power and no one felt powerless.
Those questions have enlivened and informed us about the kind of company we want to build, the kind of work we want to engage in and the kind of organisations and leaders we want to partner with.
Why do people and organisation stay the way they are?
You probably recognise this scenario. You suggest an innovative new idea. Everyone agrees. Everyone talks about how things need to change ” around here. ” But what happens? Nothing!
Maybe the team keeps on talking about it. Everyone is on the same page for the desired outcomes. Still, nothing happens. The conversations and hope slowly fades over time. Once in a while maybe the idea gets revisited, but often the same structures still stay glued into place, which only makes people feel more committed to things staying the same, since they can’t be changed anyway. Or maybe there is a lot of top-down change, created by people who may not know the reality on the ground, and it just creates more and more frustration and a feeling of having no power or autonomy over your work life.
So what get’s in the way of creating real changes?
What I have noticed from my conversations with leaders is things tend to stay the way they are because we live in a set of commitments that helps us to keep things stable and often predictable, which can be very helpful at times, however, our very need to maintain some semblance of stability also creates the dysfunction of a less than compelling workplace where your life is rented out for a paycheque.
Here are a few statements you might have heard before that I think need to be re-imaged or, truth be told, retired for the good of ourselves and our planet.
Myth: There is never enough
Truth: Yes, there is! But we have to move from a model of endless growth to sufficiency. As Lynne Twist says “Sufficiency does not mean we should not strive or aspire. Sufficiency is an act of generating, distinguishing, making known to ourselves the power and presence of our existing resources, and our inner rescues. Sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need.”
Myth: That’s just the way it is
Truth: No, it’s not! That’s just the biggest lie we have been told to keep the status quo in place, which serves the few rather than the many.
Myth: We tried that. It didn’t work.
Truth: Talk to Thomas Edison or Temple Grandin or Elon Musk about that.
Myth: It might work in certain organisations, but it will never work here: we’re different.
Truth: Of course you are different, but it will work if you create the right circumstances for something new to ferment.
Myth: It’s too hard.
Truth: Yes it is…next.
Myth: If we can’t measure it, it is not important.
Truth: Look at your hero’s – we don’t just admire what they did, but who they are. And they often didn’t look like much on paper when they began. Just because it can be measured, does it make it more important?
You probably have a few of your own to add to the list, and isn’t that list pretty dispiriting? So, in a strange way, these workplaces create within us a kind of immune response, where we are fighting off the new ideas and the required courageous patient attempts to bring them to life, which is always a prerequisite for real change to happen. Unless all of us, as individuals and teams alter our commitments, structures, and beliefs to reflect something new, our immunity response will shut us down every time.
So, how do we nurture new attitudes, ideas, and commitments that will make possible the new ways of being for which we long?
Is it possible to make meaning and money in the corporate world?
I like to think that both purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive, but actually, support each other.
I believe it is, in fact, it’s already happening and if you’ve read the book Reinventing Organisations, you can read about how workplaces are being re-imagined all around the world. However, there is still a lot of old school thinking in our work a day world.
Geoff Colvin argues in his book Humans Are Underrated that the most critical 21st-century skill is empathy and calls for a shift in emphasis from “knowledge workers” to “relationship workers.” First, we must bring the shadow values of security and predictability out into the light and be willing to make changes. And to do that we must be able to ask ourselves: what do we need to say no to? That creates clarity of purpose. Perhaps we need to say no to perfectionism or fear of making the wrong move. We don’t need more options, we just need the one that is most in alignment with who we want to be when we are hooked up with our core values – our DNA.
Leaders can help people see internal dissonance. Leaders can set a course. Leaders can inspire.
Leaders, however, do not change people’s commitments. That’s a choice individuals must make for themselves, because they find deeper value in making that shift than staying where they are. Perhaps the most crucial step a leader can take is to create the kind of workplaces that are responsible for growing the capacity of people to live and thrive in environments that are no longer predictable, stable or even recognisable sometimes. This kind of professional growth is the adaptive challenge of reinventing the organisation by revitalising the individual.
Two kinds of change challenges: Technical and adaptive.
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with fresh eyes and new perspectives. And the people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. How to fly a modern Boing 767 is a technical challenge. The skills and training necessary to do this are well known, and there is a direct path of time and training required if you want to become an masterful pilot capable of flying one of these planes. You will start in a much smaller plane and work your way up.
An adaptive challenge would be teaching a doctor how to develop a gentle beside manner or develop the skills of empathy and caring to be able to handle the human elements of illness, disease, or death and how to handle their own ability to manage the stress and difficulties of the job, and be with people who might be going through intense suffering, knowing they could not fix it, no matter how much training they may have.
There is no exact path for that, and it’s internal work, so it’s much more subtle and very difficult to accomplish without guidance and support. You might have had the experience in a hospital or doctor’s office where that empathy or understanding was not very present, which is clearly a very important and often neglected part of our health care system. But you can’t cut out emotional pain or fear with a scalpel. That requires a state of being that is capable of understanding the complexities of the human experience. It is an adaptive skill set.
Most leaders try to solve adaptive challenges with technical fixes. Perhaps it’s why so many top-down changes programs don’t really change much… and in spite of all the talk about values and culture, many so-called successful organisations are still just glorified treadmills, with some clever perks.
In coaching we have a principle that you don’t coach the problem, you coach the person, and it’s the same with trying to identify adaptive problems from technical ones. I believe you have to move away from the problem and move to the person having the problem to find the lasting solutions. Working a 16 hour day may be fine in your 20’s and 30’s, but is this how you want to live your whole life? We need better solutions than just working faster, harder and longer.
It appears many of don’t find the integration we are seeking in our lives, and the corporate world often does not offer much room for supporting the notion of a holistic approach to wellness. And senior leaders and management are often too busy running the race to even think about what it means, until they retire, and wonder what it was all for.
The constant tug of war between profits and people, values and success, work and play never seems to get resolved. It’s always one or the other that appears to win or take over.
The circle as a leadership philosophy
There are no sharp edges in a circle, and no way to know what is beginning and what is ending. It all becomes present and important. When you make your goals linear, you are always on the “Get somewhere journey” and while that has it’s place… is it any wonder people become so burned out? They are not taught nor encouraged to enjoy the process in their work lives. They are always just getting somewhere, but never arriving.
One must inhale to exhale.
Connection: The sacred in the ordinary
Learning to find the connections in our lives, the intimate dance we have with all things, the beauty in the most ordinary moments, all reduced or forgotten by the “next big thing” we need to get done. And yet, are not some of the most touching moments in our lives the most ordinary? A kind word, a smile or a shared laugh with a friend, walking the dog on the beach, a home cooked meal shared with your family, or a swim in the ocean.
The mythology of success
When you see success somewhere, understand it began somewhere else that was not successful. We tend to craft wonderful mythologies of the perfect leader, as if they were brilliant and made pitch-perfect decisions based on their secret knowledge of the future… but what about the beginnings? Every successful ending was an unknown, perhaps risky beginning. Every success story was once a question mark. Will it work?
It was only a seed in someone’s mind when it started. If you can connect to your business life as a circle rather than a straight line, you can see the importance and value of all of it, both the wins and the losses.
Give & Take
We say giving is important in our world, but how can we give if no one is there to receive it? They are equal forces for me, and each of us will be on both sides of that equation at some point in our life. Isn’t that a beautiful thought that one must receive in order to let someone else have the joy of being a giver.
Everything is connected to everything else, and you cannot separate out the aspects of your life you think are painful or unnecessary.
- It’s all necessary
- It’s all important
- It all matters
- It’s all equal in the end. It’s just how you choose to work with perceived opposites that matters.
In order to overcome our personal and organisational immunity to change, I believe a good place to start is uncovering the answers to these questions:
- What our true commitments are we want to focus on?
- What we are doing or not doing to support them?
- What are the things that really compete with our commitments?
- What is the big status quo assumption that actually prevents us from changing?
From there we uncover the strategies required to begin to implement sustainable change in people and cultures. The solutions we require in our 21st-century world are asking for a paradigm belief system shift, based on breaking old patterns that don’t serve us, but have become very comfortable. The phone has been ringing for a long time – It is just a question of how soon we will answer the call.
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