truth or consequences

truth-or-consequences-sign

I have long been curious about relationships and honesty in organisations.

We have many relationships in organisations.  Leaders and led, managers and managed, teams, colleagues, friends, co-workers… And it seems to me we are typically comfortable talking about ‘stuff’ in organisations. Comfortable having conversations about ‘stuff’ in these relationships. The target, the project, the objective, the goal, the job etc.  Oh sure, some are tricky conversations. The performance management one, the looming deadline one, the efficiency might mean redundancies one…

However, in organisations in particular, we find it hard to speak the truth about deeper thoughts and feelings. About emotions. Especially the truth to power. Or the truth to a colleague. Or the truth to a line manager. Or the truth to a team member.

It seems to me that largely this is because of consequences.

Consequences real or perceived.

I heard a story the other day of a senior leader seeking to speak the truth to power.  They were encouraged to do so by their most senior leaders, so at a conference they spoke up, to the MD.  Expressing a deeply felt concern. They were subsequently embarrassed and throughout the remainder of the conference they were made an example of.

Such bravery is to be admired, but there are normal everyday conversations in organisational relationships which fall foul of the perceived consequences from speaking up.  Not just about important organisational stuff,  but about deeply personal stuff. Admitting a vulnerability, or a personal emotional difficulty from life’s roller coaster ride, inside or outside work, seems to be a truth too far. Expressing a gut feel doubt, or exploring a sense of frustration, disappointment, confusion, anger in our organisational relationships seems a harder truth than ‘you’re fired’. Seeking to explore different thinking, or values, or drivers or beliefs seems somehow a luxury that might be frowned upon or considered not real work.  Activities to be judged in our organisational world of relationships. Activities with consequences.

I wonder if we need to be more overt about consequences, or the lack of them? So that truth, vulnerability, feelings, difference can be encouraged to flourish? These are important things in our organisational relationships and if they can be nurtured, cultivated, grow and blossom without fear of consequences hanging over them like a watering can full of weedkiller… I wonder what might be possible?

speaking guttish


When we think, we can tangibly understand and relate to our thoughts. They have a language. Our language. It’s like a conversation. We can hear or see our thoughts. We can reason with them. Disagree with them.

When we think, we can tangibly produce outputs. Pros and cons. Information and data. Benefits and implications. Decisions. Choices.

But when our gut feel is in use, it can be harder to understand and relate to. Often we don’t know what the feeling means. There is no language. In fact we often struggle to find a language for the feeling, let alone interpret its intent for us.

So what does that mean for a decision based largely or completely on gut feel?

The flipism normative decision theory suggests making a decision based on a coin toss. Not a decision based on the toss itself, but on the feeling associated with the outcome. The theory being, if your gut really wanted the ‘heads’ outcome, you will feel positive if that’s the result and disappointed if the toss comes down ‘tails’.

But how do we know a positive feeling from a disappointed one? And what if our feeling on the outcome isn’t ‘disappointed’, but is ‘sad’, or ‘let down’ or ‘futility’ or ‘shame’… How do we interpret a sensation in our body and know precisely what it means? If the outcome our gut seeks is ‘satisfied’, do we know if the feeling is that? What if it’s ‘kind’ or ‘justified’ or ‘rewarded’ or ‘acknowledged’…?

Yet we make gut feel decisions daily. Often these are among our best decisions. The ones we accept readily without a desire to revisit, unlike some of our thinking decisions.

It seems building our language in this area might be useful? Building a way to communicate with our own bodies, helpful?

would you hire Archie?

Hierarchy

Think of four people you know. Friends, work colleagues, neighbours.

Now, including yourself, place these five people in a hierarchy. Who is top, who is bottom? What is the sequence? Who is above whom and what criteria are you consciously or unconsciously choosing as you create your list?

If the other people were to create a list, would it be the same or different? Where would they put you on the list? How much does that matter to you?

What if you were now to share the five lists with each other? The lists you and the other four people had compiled. Could you? How easy would that be? How comfortable? Would you be seek to justify your choices? Would you want to explain? Would you be honest? Would people expect there to be a reason, a logic? Would you be focused on how people were placing you in their hierarchy? How might your relationships be impacted by this exercise and revealing your view, your hierarchy?

We are naturally hierarchical. We compete. We try to get ahead. We judge success, we judge our position in the community, in society through hierarchies. It may be house, car, qualifications, money, job, pay grade, job title, grades our kids get at school, social ladder, societal groups we belong to, the universities our kids go to…

In most organisations there is a discrete hierarchy. An organisation chart. A boss, a team. Leaders and the led. Managers and the managed.  Pay, rewards, benefits, maybe where your office is, or the door you enter by, the technology you get given, or where you can eat? These are all symbols of the hierarchy.

Yet how easy would it be to create that hierarchy amongst friends, colleagues, neighbours, when they knew you had created it?

Strange that we live by criteria, structures and frameworks we find hard to own. Difficult to be honest about. Struggle to take responsibility for. There is both comfort and discomfort with hierarchies. Yet they are seemingly in our human psyche. A need to know where we stand in the group and a fear of what that might mean and the judgement that comes with that.

So would you “hire Archie”?  Could you?

three pounds of misbehaving matter

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Barack Obama launched BRAIN, a collaborative neuroscience project, in 2013 saying,

As humans we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter between our ears.

Today my three pounds has been misbehaving, sending me thoughts that don’t make sense yet.

 

cheers to small steps

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I’m off to a celebration. Drinks.

Drinks to celebrate leaving – a friend has been made redundant and is leaving his job role shortly.

We do that don’t we? Celebrate leaving. Celebrate endings. Sometimes just before the ending, sometimes just after. Like a wake.

I have never been invited to a celebration to mark someone starting. You know, a week into their new role, let’s organise drinks to celebrate. Maybe I just don’t get invited to those?

But, perhaps more of note, we don’t celebrate the awareness, the personal learning and growth along life’s journey.

We don’t go out to celebrate discovering our purpose or that we’ve finally pinned down a core value that has driven our decision making and sense of fulfilment for years. We don’t high five people in the street because we realise structure and control are important to us.

Sure, endings mark new beginnings. But the point of transition itself seems to be our focus for note worthiness, for recognition, for celebration.

The steps, the learning, the awareness… all seem important steps to movement, to change, to choice, to growth. Yet we focus on endings and ignore the enabling awareness and learning.

Maybe we should raise a glass to steps? Small steps which can amount to something bigger?

I became aware of this today.

Cheers everyone.

the false memory in reflection


Listened to a really interesting talk by Dr Julia Shaw today on the illusion of memory.

The process in our brain by which we store memory and the one by which we imagine futures is largely the same. So we confuse the two. We all have what are termed false memories.

Proven in studies globally, eye witness recall is unreliable in that witnesses unwittingly lose detail or embellish the truth through imagination. This is not just the stress of witnessing crime – we all do it.

In essence every memory you hold might be untrue or inaccurate. Dr Shaw’s work demonstrates also how you can, simply, ‘con’ the brain into imagining a past memory. Watch here

I’m now sitting on a train looking at a reflection of the platform in a light cover. The reflection is upside down. Distorted. A bit like a false memory. But then, reflections are always distorted. Back to front or upside down. 

How apt. When we reflect on our experience, when we recall the memory, it has the potential to be distorted. Inaccurate. Missing key parts. Events that we imagined, added as truths. Events that actually happened, inflated or diminished in their significance, or removed totally.

Worth reflecting on?

‘stuff’ solutions to ‘us’ problems

In this modern technological world it seems we love to invent solutions to problems; problems that for many years had remained somehow hidden, unnoticed, unappreciated. Someone then says, “Here’s a cool solution to a real problem.” Suddenly we all want the solution. Even though we hadn’t ever struggled with the problem.

How many of us have a computer, a laptop, a tablet, a phone, maybe a mini tablet and now also use our TV to access the internet?  I don’t recall the day I said, “What I need are six devices at my fingertips from which I can do largely the same things.” Indeed, things that twenty years earlier I couldn’t do at all and didn’t know I wanted to.

The other day I was introduced to Samsung ad wash – add more clothes part way through the wash. There was a time when we sorted the clothes, put them all in the wash and got on with life. If something had missed the wash, it waited to next time. Now we have a solution to the ‘problem’.

For many years I have had hatchback cars.  It has proved to be little trouble opening the rear door; they have always been assisted with hydraulic struts, so you simply squeeze the handle, lift slightly and the tailgate lifts open.  Closing was straightforward too.  Reach up, pull down with a little tug and the door falls, slamming shut using that age old invention called gravity.  But now, my car has an automatic boot opening and closing gizmo. I can press a button in the car, or on the key fob, and the rear tailgate lifts by itself.  When I’m ready to close it, I press another button and it silently lowers and clicks shut.

What next?

It seems we have learned as a species to direct our talents to ‘stuff’. To improving ‘stuff’. We are now approaching a time in many areas, where improving ‘stuff’ is getting harder to warrant, so we’re fabricating ‘stuff’ solutions to once only imagined ‘stuff’ problems. But we stay stuck on the treadmill that is improving ‘stuff’. We know where we are with improving ‘stuff’.  We’re good at it.  It pleases us.

Meanwhile improving ‘us’ takes the back seat. ‘Us’ problems are real. ‘Us’ problems are there in our existence as individuals and there in our interactions and relationships. ‘Us’ problems cloud our thinking. ‘Us’ problems stop us maximising our potential. Our very humanity, our happiness, our fulfilment is stifled by ‘us’ problems. Yet we seem to struggle with ‘us’ solutions to our ‘us’ problems. We’re not good at it. It scares us.

Maybe we need a ‘stuff’ solution to the ‘us’ problem?  Or is that stuff and nonsense?

 

 

she fell for the fall


She fell over.

When a child falls and grazes its knee, that’s what we say. ‘She fell over.’

When an old aunt falls and hurts her hip, we say ‘She had a fall.’

When does our language change? At what age?

And why does our language imply ownership, responsibility to the young? But to an older person not? They seemingly  fell victim to the curse of the fall. They didn’t seek it, but were somehow handed it.

What are we unconsciously implying?