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Posts Tagged ‘David Whyte

Sometimes my heart feels like a solid rock.

Time to step back and ask if I am going in the wrong direction?  Life shouldn’t be this hard.

“The world is made to be free in.”  David Whyte

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Gratitude or selfishness?

When I first encountered the idea of a gratitude diary, I was discountenanced by feeling grateful for things like . . .  well, my coffee.  I suspected greed, not gratitude.

Once I started using a diary, then I realised that I was often thankful for the meals I had had that day.  I am grateful for a homemade soup, for example. but am I grateful just because I could have been out all day and been subjected to junk food?  Partly.  Yet  when I feel grateful for soup, I never simultaneously think of the disgusting fare served up as food up-and-down the arterial transport spokes.  I am think of much I appreciate a well made home made soup.  I experience pleasure not gluttony.

In short, I experience me.

This still seems selfish, doesn’t it?  But it is my job to see me.  It is my job to appreciate who I am.

The funny thing is that we cannot see who we are, or appreciate who we, are except in the eyes of the world.  It is when I reach out to some thing I value and treasure, when I recognize what is good in the world, that I recognize the good in me.

Khalil Gibran talks of adventuring a path and meeting the soul.  Not a soul.  The soul.

David Whyte talks of the universe taking its ball home too, when we get up and take our ball home. He points out that universe is not punishing us.  It is just that without “the faculties of attention, there is nothing to be found.”

We are what we are grateful for

We are what we are grateful for.  It’s a simple as that.  When we remind ourselves of what we truly appreciate, we remind ourselves of ourselves.  We are validated.  We belong.

But because we are simple folk and all these word feel like mental contortions, we can listen rather to the words of Mr Chips’ fellow teacher.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Employers for life

Today, CIPD published a story that we want an employer for life.

Insecurity distracting us from growth

Some people don’t understand the economic numbers and if they don’t, then the responses reported by CIPD spell out for them the meaning of a severe recession.

Employees are grubbing at the bottom of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy.

It’s not much of a life, and we won’t be going any where fast as a country until we reduce the fear and worry about basics.

Employment relations and psychology

We need to get the politics right.  We need to get every one to sit down and see what we can keep stable, and keep it stable.  Give people as much security as they can so they can plan.

But we also have to learn to function in the “whip and crack of the whirlwind.”  Other communities do.  We need to as well.

Careers have changed

CIPD was knocking the ‘free agent’ route.  Well, UK has not had much of tradition of self-employment or entrepreneurship.   We will get panic simply because we don’t have many role models around us.

Let’s take the intrapreneurship route with which we are more familiar.

Before social media

Our CV showed an obedient relationship with authority.

In a social media world

Our CV is our portfolio of original work and our evolving purpose.

What is our evolving purpose?

When we aren’t used to telling our story, explaining our purpose can be the hardest thing in the world.

So often our purpose has been no more than “hitch a ride on a gravy train.”

For too long, we’ve pretended

  • we can drive the train
  • make gravy
  • and that we are welcome on the train.

That is the crisis that we are facing.

But hey, if catching gravy trains is our skill and purpose in life, then at least we can become knowledgeable about gravy trains. When do they come and how do we hop on and hide?

We can write about it.  We might have to be like Banksy and keep our identify quiet. But we can write about it.  And show he evidence.

To carry on the train metaphor, we can show a picture of  us in Edinburgh in the morning and in London in the evening.  Of course, “they” will be looking out for us now.  No problem.  We are the experts.  Another route!

Psychologists reading this know where I am headed .  .  .

Build that portfolio!

You can call your life by any name you choose but there is only one life you can call your own.  Start you blog today!

Don’t do anything indiscrete.  Begin with the small things.  Take a picture of a train.

And then another.  Then another.

It’s a cheap hobby at least.

Bet it becomes lucrative though!

Acknowledgements:

“conduct your blooming in the whip & crack of the whirlwind” : Gwendolyn Brooks

“there is only one life you can call your own” : David Whyte

Why have managers ignored the poets for so long?

Contemporary English poet David Whyte

David Whyte uses contemporary language to talk about the essential ontological question of management, work, organizations and successful business.

When he takes his ball home, the universe takes its ball home too .  .  .

Far too often, our remedies for this world involve sulking.  Like an aggrieved child in a playground, we pick up our ball and go home.  We don’t address the lack of respect that sent us into a spin.

Persian poet, Khalil Gibran

Poets through the ages tell us that we find meaning and satisfaction through action, not inaction.  Through engagement, not withdrawal.

Yesterday, I posted an excerpt on self-knowledge from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.  He says it too.

We don’t find our bliss by staying in.  We find our bliss by setting out on a path.  And on that path we don’t meet our soul.  We meet the soul.

It also matters little which path we follow.  Many lead paths to the soul. What matters is that we travel the path.  What matters is that we set out. What matters is that we adventure a path.

We will recognize the soul on the way because it will recognize us.  And we recognize ourselves, we acquire self-knowledge, when the soul says good day.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Similar lines were said in the iconic movie, Goodbye Mr Chips, by the German teacher to the gawky, awkward Englishman.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Only this time, let the world look at you.  I assure you, the world will like what it sees.

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Psychology blossomed in the noughties

Positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, and mytho-poetic tradition are well understood and taught in psychology and management classrooms in all corners of the world.

But we need a name

Paradoxically though, the technical names for these fields are relatively unintelligible to lay people. If there is anything we want to achieve in this field, it is to be intelligible to ordinary people.

Would personal leadership do as name?

Eventually, I settled on the term personal leadership.

We are concerned about styles of leadership that are personal.  What I do, for example is not strictly relevant to what you do.  And what I do today, has little bearing on what is relevant tomorrow.

And does the name contribute to our understanding?

Having described the rationale of this new field in these words, is it truly a discipline that belongs in the professions?

How can this definition of leadership generate a theory that is useful in practice? After all, if what is relevant today and is not relevant tomorrow, what use is that theory?

We have an ontological challenge

The difficulty is less in the epistemology, that is in the way we study leadership, than in the ontology, the nature of leadership.

We used to think of leadership as something we do.

Now we look at ourselves in context. Our unit of analysis, as researchers say, is “ourself in context”.

What are the practical implications of defining leadership as ourselves in context?

We don’t exist when we don’t see

David Whyte refers to attention. “When my eyes are tired the world is tired also”. We are our habits of attention. We are what we attend to. We are our capacity to pay attention.  When our way is lost, we find ourselves by paying attention. By becoming mindful and “touching and feeling” what is around us.

The big change in our understanding of leadership

Who we are is not what we do repeatedly and well.

Who we are is our frontier. Who we are is the place where we are curious about the world. Who we are is the frontier we cannot ignore.

Paradoxically, often when we feel tired, it is not because we are at our frontier, it is because we are not. We are not at a place where we are confronting the unknown carried by the energy of compulsive curiosity.

Leadership is not a spectator sport

We feel alive when we are in a place where “we want to know”. We are leaders when our curiosity about a situation leads us to ask questions. We are leaders when our compulsive curiosity asks questions which holds a mirror up to a situation.

We are leaders when our questions allow people to ask their questions.

How can we understand leadership in a way that allows us to share knowledge?

This question has two goals.

#1  What is the knowledge I can share?

There are many ways of sharing knowledge and we know stories are much more effectual than dry statistics answering questions that were unlikely from the outset to produce a practically significant answer.

We also know that knowledge is also more likely to be absorbed when people trust the presenter – when the presenter shares the journey of the students.

#2  What can I charge for my knowledge?

And probably more important is the heretical question of what can we charge for our knowledge. How can we claim and sustain status for our knowledge?

It is this question that personal leadership answers. We share knowledge not because we are right, but because we are willing to share in the gains and losses of a decision.

It is here that the field of personal leadership enters into the spirit of our age. Authority comes from being willing to share the gains and losses of a decision.

Are we so curious about the people we are with that they are willing to be changed by them ~ without notice and without guarantee?

That is knowledge to be passed on. Am I willing to act with you right now?

A good year ago I jotted down these three quotations.  Then I abandoned the draft. Now I am tidying up my blog, I wonder, what was going through my mind that day.

David Whyte on the willfulness of the world

“And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love, this is the black day someone close to you could die”.

~ David Whyte from The House of Belonging in River Flow, p. 7.

Was I thinking about the essential unknow-ability of the world and importance of living in the world as it unfolds and both tempts us and taunts us?

Goethe on the universe conspiring to help us

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

~ Goethe

Was I thinking about the need to be active and the magic that happens when we cross the Rubicon and move towards irrevocably towards what we want?

Isaac Newton on following our dreams in the large world around us

I don’t know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

~ Isaac Newton

Was I thinking about the impossibility of understanding the universe yet finding a corner within it where we live our lives heroicly and magnificently?

What sense was I making about mindfulness and action?

Did I come to the conclusion that world likes us to engage quite forthrightly following our interests yet understanding that others will be doing so too? Did I come to the conclusion that life promises us nothing yet demands our full attention?  Did I come to the conclusion that we will always be significant yet what we do is important?

Did I come to the conclusion that is OK to ask and the world loves us for it? Did I come to the conclusion that it is OK to be small ~ we all are?

What was I thinking that day?

I don’t do pain, even in my imagination

In my last post I described an exercise for testing the depth of our positive attitude: write a novel about myself and make myself feel pain.  I tried it.  It was hard!  I’m glad to know that I am not a masochist.

But I learned a little.  I learned that we hate to lose our ‘role’ and that I hate to be around people who are just pretending to have a ‘role’.  From there, I found myself listing the HR procedures for increasing belonging and the metrics to show how much value these procedures add to a company.

A manifesto for HR!

My worst nightmare

My worst nightmare is being in zombie-land.  I hate being in places where people have become cynical and at best are just “deteriorating as slowly as possible“.

Of course, I don’t really hate it ~ I am terrified by it.  We are terrified by anything which assaults our personalities.  I’m an INTFJ or a shaper/completer-finisher/resource-investigator.  I don’t do incoherent, lazy, out-of-it.   I may be misguided.  I may be slothful about many things.  But I will always have a purpose.  If I am going to be rudderless, I do it on purpose!

Our nightmare is not to have a role

This was my insight from the novel-writing exercise.   We are all terrified by the prospect of not having a role, or not belonging to our communities and workplaces.  We are very sensitive to rejection.  Even the nuances of rejection send us into a flat spin.

Many things that can lead us to feel that we don’t belong

A lot of things can lead to a sudden feeling that we are out of place.

  • Our general confidence
  • Policies of the firm which signal who is in and who is out
  • Cliques and favoritism
  • Mismatches with our own hopes and dreams
  • And storming – good old crises of confidence

Recraft your way to belonging

  • Heaps has been written in the last few years about recrafting jobs to meet our personal needs.  A waitress tenderly sweeping the floor of the cafe with good music playing in the background is recrafting her job just as the young guy who also works there recrafts his job by trying to sweep as fast and vigorously as possible.  Both put their personal stamp and sense of meaning on the job.
  • Poet David Whyte gives the same advice.  Begin with the ground, the hallowed ground on which you start.  Find meaning and belonging in what you already have and build from them.
  • Positive psychologist,  Christopher Petersen calls expanding from what we have “building a bridge while we walk on it”.
  • And for a good speech showing this is not just for me and you, but for the smartest and the brightest, listen to Dr Rao on Googletalk (YouTube).

Recrafting when we feel rejected

It is tough to recraft when we feel rejected though ~ for this reason.  We hate being rejected and we are loathe to admit that we have been excluded.

  • One, it hurts.
  • Two, we catastrophize and think that if this person rejects us, then everyone else will too.
  • Three, we worry that if we dismiss rejection, we may dismiss feedback that will help us manage future relationships.
  • Four, we catastrophize and think that if this relationship is not worthwhile, none will be worthwhile.
  • Five, we worry that the information that we have been rejected will be used against us!

Rejection put us in an emotional spin and bullies know it!  They’ll use rejection to keep you off balance.

That said, how do you work on finding the good in situation when you are feeling lousy?

Recrafting when we we are afraid

I would say we should do three things.

  • Make an objective assessment of the situation, as clinically as any staff officer in front of a paper map miles from the front line.
  • As you are not sitting behind the lines and you are actually in the thick of things, do as you would in battle. Move yourself, everyone else and everything you need out of the firing line.
  • Consider all the options including the options for negotiation and resumption of pleasantries.

This is really hard to do.  Believe me ~ being rejected by people like employers and teachers, on whom you depend, will frighten you almost as much as getting shot at.  In many ways it is worse.  You can allow yourself to be frightened by bullets as long as you act responsibly.  But to admit you are being “dissed” by your own side rips the guts out of you.

So you do the three steps: you take defensive actions, you try to be pleasant, you take time to make an objective assessment.  And guess what 90% of your energy is going into defending yourself from your own team!

Time spent on mending relationships in a firm

You are now being defensive and so is the next person and so is the next.  Guess what?  Anyone who wants to overrun this outfit, or take on this company, is going to win!

The firm is now in peril

This is my biggest nightmare.  It is quite clear once the spiral of defensive starts, the only thing allowing this firm to survive, is the incompetence of the opposition.  Anyone wanting to ‘take’ them would only have to distract the staff more for the whole ‘shooting match’ to fall apart.

What is the alternative to a firm where we are all watching our backs?

Inevitably, things do wrong in companies.  People do bump against each other quite unwittingly.  Feelings are hurt.  If we want to be successful (survive),we need to establish is a working culture where people are able to deal with shock and surprise without passing it down the line.

How do we stop defensiveness spreading?

Good HR departments, generally in larger firms work hard to keep a positive atmosphere  (I did say good.)

  • Good firms develop strong systems to minimize the management by whim. The reason they do that is to remove the objective threat to one’s employment that accompanies disagreements.  When there is no objective threat, then people can attend to mending their fences.  Good firms don’t allow people who are party to any “dissing”, in either direction, to take part in decisions about each others employment contract.
  • Good firms go to great lengths to manage the assimilation process ~ known as on-boarding or induction. They work with people through the forming, storming and norming stages and then take a watching brief during the performing stage coming back in when there are changes in a team or when someone leaves.
  • Good firms take some trouble to build diverse teams and to educate people why they need the very people who seem very different from themselves.  HR also takes some trouble to make sure that a team is not made of people who are too similar too each other and that the important bridging roles of team player and chairperson (the lazy roles!) are also present.
  • Good firms insist that everyone has an active career plan which is reviewed with you openly by committees chaired by senior members of the firm.
  • Good firms monitor diversity assiduously and keep a watchful eye on the formation of cliques.  HR is quick to intervene to minimize behavior that is rejecting and removes people’s attention from their own job.
  • Good firms design jobs carefully making sure that is is easy to get down to work (autonomy), that growth is possible in the job visible (competence) and that jobs allow us express ourselves meaningfully (relationships).  Work has goals, feedback built into the task itself, adequate resources, dignity, respect, physical safety, contractual safety, mentors and coaches.  We don’t want people so confused about how their jobs fit into the wider whole that they cannot think straight.

This is what I do for a living

My job is to make a system so that we are able to work together even when we are rubbing up against people.  I will see the effects of my systems in several ways:

  • People attempt to resolve difficulties without fear of their contracts.  People take the initiative; people don’t use the employment contract as a threat; negotiation of the employment contract is kept separate from other decisions; there is no fear in the organization or cynicism.
  • The output of people does not vary significantly when they move from group to group.   Nor does the output vary between people with different demographic characteristics.
  • The time taken for people to settle into the organization is known and the process is monitored and taken as seriously as quality on a Toyota assembly line.
  • Everyone has an active career path, we are mindful of who should be seriously thinking about progressing onto other firms, and we treat their onward progression as part of our competitive edge.
  • Deployment of individuals is not only done for and to individuals.  Teams are deployed so that they are balanced.  They are given time to bed down and their boundaries are respected.  Team work is not disrupted without investments being made in the time it takes to reestablish a team.
  • We have designed each job so that it has clear goals measurable by the incumbent, they can see how well they are doing and they can step-into the job in an orderly way sharing their successes publicly with others.

HR Metrics

To monitor my system, I have metrics on each process.  I also monitor HR Costs/Sales in each business unit and over time.  When people have the time to attend to their jobs, I would see small improvements in the ratio.

Take for example, the HR Costs/Sales ratio in manufacturing which is usually around 10%.  If people are able to do their job only 10% better, then the ratio will increase from 10/100 to 9/100 or done the other way from 10/100 to 10/110 or a 1% in Gross Profit.  That is generally going to be “pure” profit ~ that is, it is money that comes available for new equipment, training and even medical insurance and holidays.

When we are making more money because we aren’t worrying, then that is good profit indeed!

We do what concerns us and we are terrified by its loss

So it seems making a role for everyone comes from greatest concern -that we are going to have to sit around faking it.  That  led me to think that everyone wants a meaningful role.  Not everyone wants to sit around making meaningful roles. Who would make the money if we did?  While other people are off making things and selling things, it is my job to create an organization where we can get along without needless friction.

An emotionally healthy company requires good systems.  We must be able to work without fear.  Problems must be refereed as they arise and early.  And we must trawl our systems looking for emotional bruising that is getting buried.  If we continue to hide the casual rejection of people “because we can”, it will eventually cost us our livelihood. While we are all protecting ourselves from each other, our opposition will be taking over our business.

Simply, I am doing my job when you are able to do yours and I do this job because I cannot imagine what it is like to live defensively all day long!

PS I still don’t think I did the exercise properly.  It is very hard to imagine pain ~ even on a make-believe character that looks, moves and talks just like us!

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