Archive for November, 2015

At least once in their careers thoughtful employees will face issues at work that raise challenging, ethical – if not moral – personal questions. As these issues present themselves a person might find the following questions emerging into his or her consciousness: Which of my values do I have to consider compromising when I address this issue? Which of my ‘core values’ will I be asked to compromise; which will I consider compromising? Can I bring all of myself to work as I engage this issue? What will this issue reveal about my ‘Character’? Who is the ‘I’ that will engage this issue?

If a particular issue clearly involves a ‘right-wrong’ choice then one might find that it is quite easy to choose how to proceed. If, however, the issue involves a ‘right-right’ choice then one will, more often than not, experience what I call a ‘Right versus Right Dilemma.’ A ‘Dilemma,’ in this scenario, is a ‘forced, either-or choice.’ It is ‘Right’ in that I have two choices and both are ‘Right’ – there is, as far as one can determine, no ‘wrong.’ One must choose for there is no way to do both. For ‘designated leaders’ these ‘right-right’ dilemmas are legion. Here are a few of the common ones: Short Term versus Long Term, Individual versus Group, and Justice versus Mercy.

Consider the following example (this happened recently – the names have been changed): Fred was a store manager. The Regional Vice-President showed up one day and informed Fred that the store would be closed in four weeks. Fred was not to tell anyone about this until four days prior to the store closing. The reasons given to Fred made perfect sense to him.

Of course, there are no secrets in organizations. Four days later an employee came to Fred and asked him if he knew if there was any truth to the gossip that a number of stores were going to be closed – AND – if the rumor was true, was this store one of them? Now this was not just ‘any’ employee. When Fred became the manager of this store, eight years prior to this encounter, this employee had been working there for four years. This employee took Fred under her wing and helped him develop into an effective store manager – a manager respected (admired and liked) by the staff and the customers. He was also known for his integrity.

The employee noted that because of her age and because of the dearth of jobs in that area that she needed to know for she had some tough decisions to make. What should Fred do? How should he respond? If Fred was going to act rooted in integrity he was obliged to ‘tell the truth.’ If Fred was going to act rooted in integrity he had a duty to do what he had promised to do – not tell anyone about the store closing until a specific date. BOTH choices are rooted in integrity; both choices, in other words, are ‘right.’

Now, to complicate this scenario. The dilemma that Fred faced was not only a ‘Right versus Right’ dilemma, it was also a ‘Harm versus Harm’ dilemma. Why? No matter which choice he made some harm would occur. The extent and nature of the ‘harm’ would only unfold over-time; some of the ‘harm,’ however, could be predicted.

So, gentle reader: What is Fred to choose? Why this choice?

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I have been reflecting upon the following words from the Gospel of St. John: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth

For me, the essence of ‘the Spirit of Truth’ points to a comprehensive, inclusive approach to discerning ‘truth.’ It seems to me that this ‘Spirit of Truth’ is difficult for us modern folks to receive. We still live in a world inhabited by ‘either-or’ thinking – a thing is true or false. I am now recalling all of the ‘true-false’ tests I took when I was in school; at times I seem to approach life as a series of ‘truth-false’ questions.

How many folks today prefer the simplistic and too often adversarial approach to truth; it is easier to define truth by proving the other has lied. Remember the U.S. Senator who during our President’s ‘2010 State of the Union Address’ shouted out: ‘YOU LIE!’? We lost something at that point in time: We lost the opportunity to know the truth about the Senator’s way of thinking and his life experience that led him to disagree with the President.

Sadly, I too often find it easier to claim my own experience as ‘the Truth’ as this enables me to not have to listen to the other’s perspective. Like so many other Christians I forget that ‘The Spirit of Truth’ calls me/us to seek, to strive, to understand the multiple points of views of the others. Jesus told me that this is ‘the way’ and yet I find myself resisting not only the advocacy of ‘The Spirit of Truth’ I find myself resisting because the ‘truth-discerning’ process tends to be messy and complex.

As an espoused follower of Jesus the Christ, I struggle with His call to ‘love my enemy’ – talk about a radical demand of ‘The Spirit of Truth.’ ‘The Spirit of Truth’ tells me that I won’t discern the truth unless – until – I am willing to see the issue from my enemy’s viewpoint. In other words, I am challenged by ‘The Spirit of Truth’ to strive to view the world from God’s perspective not mine. As I recall, God created a world where many different people and nations have their own ways and lives. As I recall, God loves all of us. God loves ‘my people’ and God loves my enemies. Now what do I do? Now how do I respond? Now what do I think? Now how do I respond?

God’s ‘Spirit of Truth’ does not see the world as ‘either-or’ – God’s ‘Spirit of Truth’ sees the world as ‘both-and’. Globalism and localism are not mutually exclusive. Immigrants (whether legal or not) and citizens do not have to be fearful of each other. Pro-life and Pro-choice folks are not necessarily adversaries. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote: Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need for one another.

We humans are, by nature, a communal species. It seems to me that in order for the community to discern the truth it needs to take into account the diversity of perspectives even when they seem to be opposite or contrary to each other. ‘The Truth’ emerges out of an exploration and understanding of the diverse points of view which are rooted in the differences (attitudinal and experiential) of the members of the community. ‘The Spirit of Truth’ also challenges the community to raise up the experiences and perspectives that might well be ignored by the dominant communal view. In order for the dominant view to do this it must embrace and trust ‘The Spirit of Truth.’ The Chinese Sage reminded us that ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear’ and so it is with ‘The Spirit of Truth’ – when the community is ready ‘The Spirit of Truth’ will appear.

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Fear is Afoot. . .

Fear is afoot! How close is Fear moving from walking amongst us to running amok over us. Will the waves of Fear that wash over us become the tsunami that destroys us? Thanks to social media we are reminded minute by minute of the fears we hold or of the fears that we should now hold. Paris on 13 November, 2015 confirmed, once again, that we are vulnerable to those who are determined to fill us with Fear. This morning steps are being taken to ensure the safety of those who will be visiting many professional football stadiums later today. How many of us believe that the efforts taken will ensure our safety? How many of us have a sense, if not a belief, that no matter the efforts taken a determined and well-organized small group can cause great harm – we are not as safe as we hope to be.

‘Paris’ woke us up and reminded us that we are truly vulnerable; what first-world city has been taking more precautions against a terrorist attack these past months than Paris – and yet… This type of awareness does not bring comfort; this type of awareness brings disturbance. Each of us responds ‘personally’ to the reality that I am, that you are and that we are truly vulnerable. We also have a collective response. France’s collective response today is rooted in their experience and our (we in the United States) collective response is different because we have not had their experience (yes, we experienced 9-ll and that was fourteen years ago; time and distance have supported an illusion that we are ‘safe’ – at minimum we choose not to be aware of how vulnerable we truly are).

The more fear a collective has the more vulnerable the collective is to what Thomas Merton called ‘organized despair.’ The collective uses more and more resources in order to ensure its protection from the Fear while at the same time moving closer and closer to resignation – no matter what we attempt to do to ensure our safety in the end we are still vulnerable. So, why even try? The ancient Greeks, among others, would say ‘Fate’ not ‘Fear’ will decide for you – so why fight it.

Fear can unite the collective. A united collective is at risk of over-reacting – naming a collective threat and attacking it, for example. This reaction is rooted in a ‘scapegoating’ belief: ‘If we get rid of THEM then we will be safe.’ We forget that the collective seems to need an ‘IT’ to focus on – we in the United States historically have sought an ‘IT’ to focus on (we are not the only collective to continue to do so); ISIS is one of our collective external ‘ITs’ today.

Fear can also divide the collective. This dividing moves the Fear from ‘out there’ to ‘in here.’ The Fear resides within the collective and we must name it and root it out (Senator Joseph McCarthy is one role-model for our country – he taught us how to be afraid of the negative internal forces that were afoot; forces he believed and many of us came to believe were ‘IT’). Today, for example, the collective is ‘Fear-full’ of the illegal immigrant (perhaps with Paris 11-13 the collective’s Fear of all immigrants will increase).

As a follower of Jesus the Christ I strive to embrace and live into and out of a belief that love and compassion drives out Fear. The first letter of John reminds me that ‘In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by love.’ Behind Fear is Courage waiting to be called forth. I cannot change the world; I can, however, strive to relate to each person I meet rooted in love and compassion. If enough ‘Is’ choose to do this then Fear will, indeed, be driven out.

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As I noted last time, a Healthy Organization is the result of a number of ingredients coming together in certain ways so that the result over time is more health than dis-ease. These ingredients include, but are not limited to: people at all levels of the organization choosing to nurture more than deplete one’s P.I.E.S. (the four dimensions that help define us as human beings include the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spirit(ual) dimensions); people at all levels of the organization choosing to be unconditionally response-able and responsible for being healthy at the P.R.O. levels (the Personal, Relational and Organizational levels); leadership ensuring that there are structures, systems, policies and procedures that promote more nurturance than depletion; reward, recognition and incentives that honor people choosing more nurturance than depletion (at the P.R.O. levels). The bottom line: more nurturance than depletion at all three levels – Personal, Relational, and Organizational – is required in order to ensure growing a Healthy Organization.

Dis-ease itself is a fairly abstract concept, however, it can be found to be the root of the following symptoms: illnesses related to stress, depression, cynicism, apathy, high turnover, poor work performance, ineffective management, poor leadership (remember, ‘leadership is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led), and work-related injuries. For example, in 2008 in the United States more than 60 Billion dollars was spent on stress related illnesses alone.

Growing a Healthy Organization is not only possible, it is crucial when it comes to the long term success/viability of an organization. It is possible for people to be healthy and for the organization to be healthy and for both to have their highest priority needs served. The question: Are we willing to do what is necessary to grow a Healthy Organization?

Here are a few of the other ingredients that help ensure Organizational Health:
• People have a voice in the decisions that directly affect them (e.g. the person who uses the broom chooses the broom)
• A super-majority of people enjoy coming to work each day
• All are treated equitably (i.e. without prejudice or ‘politics’)
• People ask for and receive the resources they need in order to do excellent work
• People are motivated by what they view as ‘challenges’ versus being de-motivated by threats
• Policies and Procedures are flexible such that personal high priority needs are addressed (people are seen and experience themselves as being ‘unique’)
• ‘Attributions’ without data are at a minimum (e.g. ‘He is a poor worker’)
• People at all levels spend more time working distinctively than they do complaining
• All embrace and manage shifts and changes effectively
• Diversity (differences in life-styles, culture, personality, age, ethnic/racial diversity, etc.) are invited, valued, honored and encouraged
• All are encouraged and supported so they can develop themselves both professionally and personally – opportunities for development is inherent in the organization
• Problems, conflicts and ‘tough issues’ are raised and addressed in an open and safe manner
• People say: My work is, in and of itself, meaningful. (People seek to ‘make their work meaning-full’)
• The organization relates to people as the valuable human beings they inherently are – they are not viewed nor treated as commodities, assets or resources.

Gandhi remind us that: It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

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Simply stated: Organizations are individuals and relationships writ large. Hence, as living organisms they will at times be healthy and at times they will be unhealthy. Even a Healthy Organization is not dis-ease free or problem, paradox, polarity or dilemma free. Because the individuals and relationships that define them are imperfect, all organizations will have their dis-eases and they will also experience problems, paradoxes, polarities and dilemmas. A Healthy Organization accepts this reality and therefore a Healthy Organization is continuously discerning, identifying, naming and addressing the dis-eases and the problems, paradoxes, polarities and dilemmas that emerge. Because the Organization is, by its nature, imperfect, these also emerge as a result of the Organization’s Culture (the Organization’s Culture consists of, among other things, multiple Sub-Cultures, a Climate and an Environment).

We human beings are provided a signal when we become dis-eased – ‘Pain!’ Consider that ‘Pain’ is a sign of health. Without ‘Pain’ we humans would not survive. A healthy human being will be open to it; will recognize it; will accept it and will attend to it. We can attend to it by seeking to understand what it is signaling (the pain is a ‘signal’ it is not ‘it’). As members of a variety of Organizations we human beings are ‘pained’ in a number of ways. When we experience this type of ‘organizational’ pain we often choose to respond or react to the pain in one of two ways (too often our goal is to obtain relief from the pain, it is not to discern and address the dis-ease). Here are two of our favorite ways of responding to or reacting to our pain:
• Via Anesthetics = drugs (over the counter drugs, distractions, busyness, etc.), depression, apathy, cynicism
• Via Defense Mechanisms = denial, scapegoating the other(s), rigidity, dogmatic stances, aggression (passive or active)?

There is another ‘antidote’ available in response to our Organizational dis-ease and pain and that is Organizational Health. For example, we know that when individuals and relationships are healthy that the organization is more likely to also be healthy. We also know that if the organization is healthy that the individuals and relationships are more likely to be healthy. Organizational Health requires that the organization’s members commit to growing a healthy place to work.

Growing a healthy work place does not happen simply because good people work together. A healthy work place is the result of a number of ingredients coming together in specific ways so that the result, over time, is more health than dis-ease.

Next time I will name and briefly explore a number of these ingredients.

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