Archive for Context of unity

Groupthink and it’s impact on Business, Sustainability and Decisions

Groupthink is the concept of having many people go along in agreement with a decision essentially because, either someone of authority has spoken and others are afraid to contradict their idea, or because in the silence of a discussion, each individual believes that others agree with the “apparent” consensus and don’t want to stir the pot. One other cause of groupthink is that everyone in the room has the same frame of reference for the discussion. In other words, they actually do think alike and make a decision in agreement, even though that decision may be uninformed.

The consequences on a larger scale may be what we experience as a society. We all begin to think alike because no one has challenged our assumptions. Environmentally, this has led to things like Climate Change because we jointly assumed that it was OK to keep going in the direction that we were going. Thankfully, mother nature eventually speak ups and shares her opinions through the impacts that we start seeing on the health of the earth. So the image of our earlier consensus is now, at least, being challenged and other voices are starting to be heard.

Establishing a Consultative Environment that Leads to Better Decisions » Continue reading “Groupthink and it’s impact on Business, Sustainability and Decisions”

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Changes in Thinking

When an organization has not thought about it’s own unity or the benefits of unity, it’s thinking is more about the way things are and it’s likely destiny on that path rather than how it could be if unity was established. For these organizations the most important action is convincing participants that a transformation is both possible and worthwhile.

After an organization has gone through a coaching program designed to help them think about unity, the exploration of new possibilities becomes a reality. Instead of wondering about results, the benefits become obvious.

The style of thinking changes in two ways.

1) For leaders, when holding others responsible, the change is towards a global self-accountability and effectively communicating to enhance learning. In other words, everyone learns to think in terms of “what could I have done that would have made the result better?” rather than, “why did someone else make that mistake?”. The questions we might ask include “How can I take the learning from the current situation and apply it to future situations?” “What might I do to more quickly act on negative emotions and energy to move forward and re-inforce positive learning?”, “What could I have done to help improve on the areas where the deficiency or failure occured?”

It is about learning to see that when others make errors, that there is still a certain truth in their understanding of the situation and only by taking that into account can the whole truth can be determined.

For example, we may see a person underperforming or missing a deadline. We may have a negative gut feeling toward the situation but if we act on it without first examining it carefully, we will only bring defensiveness from the individual involved.

If, instead, we look at our own role in the situation, we will determine that we also contributed. Perhaps we didn’t ensure that the item was on-track (i.e. abnegation vs. delegation) or perhaps we didn’t ensure that the combination of skill, challenge, motivation, communication, tracking, understanding and tools were adequate to the job. Our learning, if we are honest, is that we also contributed to the result in one form or another and that we will get better results if we address the issue, rather than blame the person. As leaders or influencers, we will always do better if we hold ourselves accountable first.

2) The thinking in a unified organization goes much deeper than just the leadership level. Leaders learn how to instill a different level of thinking in the staff.

The concept of Organizational Unity relies on a fundamental change in the thinking of each individual, and ultimately, one at a time, we each contribute to changing the whole organization. The thinking that each leader must learn to share is this, that each time we execute a job, even if we do less than perfect, it never speaks to inadequacy, rather to our acceptance of who and where we are at that moment of our lives and a fundamental belief that the rest of our life is always an opportunity to learn and progress. It is not about blaming others or defending ourselves. Rather, we understand that given our current state of mind, physical condition, skill, motivation and training, we have done the best that we could have done and that we always have the choice and opportunity to strive to do better. 

For example, if someone is late in deliverying they may have felt very little motivation, or they may have been under stress and not thinking clearly about the task, or they may have been unclear about instructions and expected outcome. In each case, they have acted with the resources available to them and come up short. This doesn’t mean that they are to be blamed either by themselves or by others. It means only that the actions taken have not met the anticipated result. As they learn to accept ultimately responsibity for improving each area in their own life they see positive opportunity and growth.

In some cases, a poor result may also mean that the individual is not in a position, at that moment, to execute the role adequately. In such cases, for the good of the individual and the organization, they may need to moved to a position that will better benefit them and the organization and be replaced with someone who is better prepared. In a unified learning environment, this never speaks negatively to the underlying worth as a human beings. It only encourages us to accept where we are and to strive and prepare for meeting future challenges. As we learn to accept consequenses of our actions, both negative and positive, and the input that others provide, we learn that each has some validity and value.

It requires us to learn how to filter the valuable information from the emotion and to recognize that each leader and contributor is also on a path of learning. Some communicate more effectively than others and we can help them to learn how to communicate with us by thanking them when their communications are helpful and calmly sharing with them when it is not. We have a responsibility to teach others how to communicate with us. We can also accept that life is not an exact science and that some leaders judge more effectively than others. Each provides us an opportunity to work on our own skills and attributes.

As we begin to view life as a continuous opportunity to learn and grow, our stress about the judgement of others is reduced and we learn how to gain from every action and interaction.

As these ways of thinking filter through the organization, the organization and its members contribute to a more positive environment for learning and improving. As each individual improves in their own skills, as the methods of communication improve, the organizational results also improve. As leaders begin to see a new environment of growth and contribution, they are also able to think about a brighter future.

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Individual thought in the context of unity

What kinds of thinking will be involved in establishing unity in an organization?

Emotional Acceptance

The first kind of thinking will, in a sense, be non-thinking. In other words, emotional acceptance of the concept. This involves a gut level emotional response. Here’s the question you need to answer.

Do you believe that there are benefits to establishing unity?

For now, just imagine that you have achieved it. How would your organization look different? What might change in your meetings, your attention to customers, your team work, your ability to implement change, the overall maturity of the organization? What might change in the employees when they begin to understand concepts that change the way that they view themselves, their relationships and the way they view others and the services they provide?

Rational Acceptance

The second kind of thinking will be rational acceptance. If we emotionally accept that Organizational Unity has benefits, we can also rationally accept that it is, at very least, worth thinking about. Even if we’re not sure of how it can be achieved, it is still worth making the initial effort of investigating ideas and coming up with a vision for the future. If we can prove to ourselves by example that Unity is possible on a small scale then it’s just a matter of scale. Most of us can remember at least one relationship in our life that demonstrates elements of unity. So we have some understanding of how it works, and we understand some of the benefits to our well-being and our ability to function. The question is “how do you convert the scale to encompass an organization?”. 

Scale

The third kind of thinking will be that of scale. If we can emotionally and rationally accept the benefits of Organizational Unity and accept that it’s possible on a small scall, we still need to think about how to structure an initiative to establish Unity on a larger scale. This is something that is strongly related to the Context of Unity and the Environment of Unity. Both are essential. If you haven’t already read these sections, you may wish to do so. Essentially, scaling is about creating a structure and method that causes a new set of ideas and concepts to spread. It needs to provide direct and concrete benefits to each participant in the process. This causes buy-in, participation and a desire to put effort into it.

Possibilities

The fourth kind of thinking is around the very interesting possibilities when we begin to accept the possibility or even inevitability of it’s outcome. What if? What happens now? What’s possible for our future?

In this entry, we won’t go too deep into these ideas. We will just present them for your thought. In future articles we can explore these ideas in depth.

Garth Schmalenberg

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Environment of Unity

The second change in creating Organizational Unity is in developing the ”environment” of unity. The “environment” is like the earth in which the seed of the concept is planted. If we look at the concept of organizational unity as a tree, it begins as a seed, grows to a seedling and then begins to sprout leaves, flowers and fruit as the tree matures. Throughout this process, it requires nurturing, it requires “air” which is the context of unity, and it requires the “environment” which is like the earth.

We talked earlier about the development of context. The “Context” creates the environment. The air  of context nourishes the earth and over a period of time helps to purify it. The earth slowly attains new qualities. In the case of organizational unity, the environment which is created is one where individuals begin to understand their power to make changes, their power to contribute and their power to take responsibility. It is an environment where growth is encouraged at all levels and where competition exists only to promote the growth of the whole entity. The qualities that the individual develops include those which are conducive to the development of unity. These include tolerance, unity in diversity, love, and respect.

I’ve also listed intolerance as one of the qualities. The notion of intolerance is really one which prevents us from allowing ourselves to become embroiled in negative thoughts about others. The intolerance therefore is an intolerance for any long-term thoughts which prevents us from reaching our goal. Given that we also encourage compassion for our shortcomings, it is acceptable that we would occasionally find ourselves dwelling in negative thoughts or a loss of hope. The intolerance only means that we will bring ourselves back to a higher level as quickly as possible.

So let’s look at this environment a little more closely.

Environmental Item 1) Tolerance
The notion of tolerance is a necessary component for an environment of unity. Without tolerance, we find it difficult to accept other points of view. Tolerance does not mean that you necessarily agree with other points of view. It simply means that you respect another person’s right to express and believe in their own point of view. Remember that you’re creating an environment of unity, however, it may not yet exist. So even though you are tolerating other people’s perspectives, they may not be tolerating yours. when you first began the process of creating the environment of unity, this is to be expected. There is no way to know how long it’ll take for others to accept this perspective. This will create an environment that seems unbalanced.

For now, I simply ask that you trust the process and accept that any discrepancies in the environment which limit you from exercising your rights or expressing your perspectives will eventually evaporate. These descrepencies are, for now, opportunities for your own growth and to give you practice in tolerance. You have the opportunity to learn how to understand others and to accept them for who they are.

Environmental item 2) Unity in Diversity
In the environment of unity the only hope of maintaining unity is if we accept diversity as a benefit and not a detriment. The concept of “Unity in Diversity” means that we accept a certain kind of beauty in the differences between people . One example is the fact that people exist everywhere in the world and in each part of the world we have independently developed language, culture , and everything needed. Is it reasonable to conclude that one culture is right and another is wrong? The only thing that we can safely conclude is that the cultures are different. Unity in diversity goes beyond tolerance. It suggests that we actually learn to enjoy and value the differences. The simple as the example I can think of, is the example of flowers and a garden if all the flowers are the same color and type, the garden is beautiful but it’s also boring. If the flowers are of different types and colors,, the garden is much more interesting and much more beautiful. When we learned to look at differences of opinion in the same way that we would look at colors and a flower garden, we will begin to understand what unity in diversity means. We’ll see the difference in opinion not only as different, but as a necessary part of our world. We will see it as something that’s beautiful with a different fragrance, color, and shape. The next time you hear a different idea or opinion from someone else see what you can learn by searching for the beauty in the idea. If we learn to accept that all ideas contain value, we learn to mine each idea.

Environmental Item 3) Love
Talking about love within an organization is a little unusual and generally makes us feel a little squeemish. But, when we go home, we expect that we will have love for our family. Most of us are also OK with the concept that we should love humanity. For now, just think of love in the workplace as love for humanity.

Love in its simplest terms is the power of attraction. We are attracted to each other in some form. Whether we are attracted to each others differences or our commonalities, we are always able to learn from each other and we gain from the experience of being together. As we learn to love the world we are able to utilize its infinite diversities.

Although we understand and accept love conceptually, when it comes time to manifest that love, we sometimes don’t do as well as we could and that is true both at home and at work.

For the purposes of examining love in the concept of ”Organizational Unity” we can look at love as the binding force that keeps us together in some way and the respect we show towards others for their contribution to the whole. If we think of the world as a large organization, we need to know that we all belong. When there is no love between people, there is also very little desire to work together. In other words, either we learn to love the people we work with and for, or we begin watching our organizations break down. You might argue that we only have casual friendships with people at work. That’s true. It’s just a lesser degree of the same bonding force and since love isn’t always expressed in the same way, it manifests itself in the form of friendships and working relationships. What is common, however, is that the expression of love  remains a bonding force and which, in its ideal form, encourages and supports growth.

You might ask how love can be expressed when someone doesn’t “fit” the organization. This is a deeper topic and we will explore it later. For now suffice it to say that this does happen and there are solutions which will still cause the Organizational Unity to grow.

Love may be expressed in many facits of an organization. In the concept of Organizational Unity, it is not so much the organization that we love, but the unity that can be found within the organization. It is the harmony between individuals and the different ways that they are able to work together, each using their own talents, cultures, ways of thinking, backgrounds, and experiences. We learn how to use these diverse resources in our interactions together to create new products and services. 

An attitude of customer service is another manifestation of love. It causes us to want to help our customers enjoy a better and more successful life. Isn’t that what we want for those we love? On the other hand, if you don’t feel love for your customers, how likely is it that you will treat them with care and respect. Here’s an example. I had a call the other day from a local TV provider who was attempting to up-sell me to their next higher service. My answer was that I was happy with my current provider and the price I was getting and that if he could get me a better service (e.g. HD) at the same price I was already paying that I would consider switching. The individual on the other end of the line upon hearing my request rather indignantly said, “I’m here to make sales, stop wasting my time.” I pointed out to him that he had called me, not the other way around. Did he demonstrate love for me as a customer? Not very much. Would he do well within the company from a sales perspective? Possibly. Would he enjoy the fruits of his labour? Here is my guess. When an individual values money more that people, they drive a wedge between themselves and that which has the potential to make them happiest, namely their relationships. Even to an unknown customer, there is always the opportunity to create a positive sentiment. Would he leave a good taste with regard to the company he was representing? Absolutely not. Would his vision of the world contribute to the whole? Not likely. Am I suggesting that this individual won’t learn? No, this is just his current state and hopefully, he will someday, perhaps after some challenging relationships, he will learn to love people more than his commissions.

No one is suggesting that we forget about profit, only that in the long run, it is the love of being with and serving others that will cause us to unite together in our efforts and to be successful in creating useful and functional enterprises that serve the needs of our world.  

Environmental Item 4) Respect
This factor is the one which provides the understanding for the others. If we find it difficult to love someone else, we will learn tolerence through having a fundamental respect for them. This respect is really just an acknowledgement that, as human beings, we all have an equal right to belong, to contribute, to receive, to think, to have an opinion. When this understanding is planted in the form of respect, it provides a foundation upon which love an tolerance can be built.

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Context of Unity

Concepts of Unity in Organizations

Unity in organizations involves several key elements. I’ll share a few concepts to help readers consider how these concepts may be applied to their own organization.

A Context of Unity
The “Context” under which unity is established in an organization is like the air which is breathed into the process to give it life. Although there are specific processes that eventually develop within an organization to assist the spread of these concepts, initally it starts with a seed which is the thought of possibility. The atmosphere begins to change the environment and everything it touches. The fundamental context in which the thoughts and feelings of unity start to grow begin inside each person. It is not necessary for everyone in the organization to hold these thoughts. It only requires that one person begin thinking in this way and to slowly “infect” others. Once these “kinds” of thoughts reach leadership levels, they can be shared with the organization more rapidly through training and a larger example. This is the “tipping point” for the organization. In addition, once these kinds of concepts reach high enough or deep enough into the organization, they change the culture of the organization.

Context 1) Recognition of the benefits of unity in the organization
The first context that will help unity to grow is a fundamental recognition that a greater sense of unity will have a positive influence on the organization. Generally, this context is fairly easy to establish. There are relatively few people who would argue that disunity is a better framework unless they are simply striving to be argumentative or cynical. Looking at this in more detail, consider a few scenarios that are common in the work place. It is generally accepted that, if there are strong teams, the net result for the organization is positive. Since the notion of unity also promotes Unity in Diversity, there is also no restriction on encouraging individual initiatives. Both are positive. The notion for unity is that All successes are encouraged unless they are damaging to the whole, and that the whole is always more important than the individual. Having said that, there is a further understanding that Success of the whole will always contribute, in the end, to the success of the individual. This second context will require additional examination and, at this point, sceptics may not accept this notion. We will discuss this in a later article.

Context 2) Belief that unity is possible
A much harder belief to instill is that unity in the organization is possible. Many individuals will, at this moment, find themselves saying “no way will unity ever be possible in this organization”. Others will see this as not big task but may not be thinking of unity from the same perspective. Given the historical precidence of many organizations, it would seem that it true unity might be impossible. However, remember that this is setting a context and that the context doesn’t need to include everyone in the organization to start working. It only requires, at first, the setting of that context within a few individuals. And for now, just hold onto the possibility that there is a way. At this point, even if you can believe that it “may” be possible, that’s enough. 

Context 3) Acceptance of personal pesponsibility
This is where the rubber begins to hit the road. There is only one person that needs to begin shifting their thought to start. The very fact that you have made it this far suggests that you may have already started. You don’t need to do it perfectly, and you don’t need to accept everything at once. You only need to hold onto context 2 that “unity is possible” and that you have a positive role to play. You might look around you and be thinking that even if you did accept personal responsibility that “it’s still not possible”. But plant this tiny seed “it is Possible” and all you need to do is to take the responsibility to water it by reading periodically, learning a little more bit by bit, and it will grow. First it will grow in you, then in those you share the concepts with. As you learn more, you will have more ideas to share.

Why should you take personal responsibility? Because there’s a gift in this process. Anyone who takes on this responsibility receives a gift of personal growth that will change the way they interact with the world at all levels. Even as I discover and share this concept, it has changed my interactions with the world. And I know that it has changed other people around me as well. And I know that eventually it will change anyone who comes into contact with it. Also, remember that not everyone is ready to take on this responsibility just yet. This is part of the growth process. If you’re not ready yet, just book mark it and pass the note on to someone that you think might be interested. You can come back to it later when the seed has grown a little.

Context 4) Insured trust in what’s happening
The word insured means that there is a built in protection in what’s happening. The insurance is this: Whenever you strive to accomplish something, for every pain and test, there will always be a corresponding reward of growth and a better way to understand the world. It starts only with you and whenever you are able to move with it. By trusting in yourself, the one person you can always count on, you keep living and growing. You can always hold that, if things don’t go according to your plan or the way you anticipated, know that they are still unfolding in a way that will eventually benefit the world and that your thoughts and actions have already made the world better than it would have otherwise been. The only thing this context relies on is your continued Trust.

For example, suppose you witness someone in your organization doing something that is not what you would expect, anticipate or hope for. You simply need to look to yourself and see if you are doing what’s right for the whole and that you are not causing any intentional harm to anyone. You can have faith that, if you are acting according to this concept, you will always grow from whatever is happening even if the changes seem difficult or others are presenting tests for you. You can look at the other individuals and understand that they are also doing what they believe to be right, even if their perspectives appear distorted or wrong. Be curious and learn from the perception of others.

By holding tests as opportunities to find better ways to react and grow in the world, there is always a guarentee that nothing can ever really injure you, and that all tests will strengthen you. Being assured in this way takes away the need to act in anger or frustration and allows you to act rationally and with strength in response to negative influences. Reacting this way is always better than reacting irrationally or in weakness. Notice how this small change in perspective already changes your world a little.

If you notice that you are overcome with emotion toward a situation, this is just where you are in your current development. There is no need to feel down, or to blame yourself or defend yourself against others. You simply accept where you are, accept your emotions, and start to move forward as soon as you are able.  With some practice, it becomes easier over time to maintain this perspective and to move forward more quickly.

As you learn to accept this responsibility and mindset, you also learn to make choices about your future without feeling forced by anyone to do anything. All choices become your own. Others may strive to apply pressure to influence your actions by displaying anger, disappointment, or by using guilt trips. You will learn to evaluate their actions, to find any truths buried in their statements, to carefully make all of your choices based on the all the information that the world around you presents, and to take full responsibility for your own thoughts, choices and actions. As you learn to take care of yourself, you will notice that abusive comments are just reflections of a person’s current frustrated state and you need not feel intimidated or defensive. As the intimidation is removed, so is the power of the abusive language is also removed and your ability to assist and support others is strengthened. (I should note here that protection against physical abuse requires a similar removal of power but it also involves a physical removal.) As the language of others looses it’s emotional grip, you can freely make your choices to either accept all or part of their comments and suggestions in your effort to improve the world around you. As you begin to see others in their more vulnerable state and in a state of growth and learning, you are better able to interact with them and help them to overcome misguided interactions and replace them with more effective interactions.

You will learn to be compassionate with yourself and others who are suffering when it is difficult to make choices. When others bow to pressure of the world around them, rather than feeling offended, you can feel compassion toward them and slowly help them to make better choices. You simply need to be aware that they haven’t yet had the opportunity to develop the thoughts that are now available to you. They are also on a journey that will eventually lead them to a better way. If you can share a kind word with them instead of an angry reaction, no doubt it will shorten their journey and make your own experience more positive.

The other Insurance in this context is knowing that each effort you make will benefit the world. Each act of tolerance, patience, understanding or support will have a slow but far reaching effect.

Context 5) Expectation that you will act first
In this context, even before you take a single step, you begin to know that the responsibility to act lies with those who are aware. And after having accepted responsibility for your actions and choices, you will eventually build up the capability to make a difference for others. As you do so, you will begin accept the responsibility to share ideas and know that, as you share these ideas, it will make a difference for you and those around you. As others begin to be “infected” by the Unity bug, they will also begin to take responsibility and being to share the concepts. The context of “Expectation that you will act first” is the virus that will ensure that the concepts of Organizational Unity will continue to grow in the organization. It is not about expecting the organization to implement processes of developing organizational unity nor is it about waiting for someone else to start. It is about sharing first and when others are ready they will share too. Certainly, when an organizational leaders accepts these concepts the process will hit a “Tipping Point” of communication, but there is nothing stopping this concept from spreading organically from the bottom up. And this concept does not stop at the boundary of the organization either. It moves into the home, to the family and to every other organization.

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What is organizational unity?

The first thought that comes to mind when I think about “unity” in an organization is the notion that everyone in the organization is working toward the the same thing. That is a powerful component of driving a company forward, and it represents a form of unity (i.e. Unity of Vision). Still, there are many companies that have a clear vision of where they are going and their employees are in alignment and yet they still don’t demonstrate true unity.

What I mean by organizational unity is the concept that individuals in the organization have a deeper understanding of themselves and others in the organization and through this understanding are able to find greater unity. What’s more, it’s about developing a culture that continuously strives to increase this understanding.

This definition may be a little obscure. Let me try to give an example.

An organization has two departments which have difficulties working together. Each department manager regularly complains about the other to the VP noting their unreasonable actions, requests or behaviors.

The VP continues to struggle with the situation until he/she gains an greater and deeper understanding of the true nature of each of the managers and adjusts his/her expectation and actions.

After gaining this understanding, rather than loosing patience at the seemingly endless discussions, the VP is able to support and help each manager to better understand and interact with the other. And by gaining some ability to transfer this “wisdom”, each Manager also gains a different way of thinking about the VP and about the other manager and is able to accept certain things more easily and solve other things more easily. What happens in this process is that there is a systematic spread of “Wisdom” in the organization.

So how does this happen?

“Wisdom” is something that we normally gain with experience and is often accompanied by significant pain. The pain is generally the result of endless cycles of the same behaviors that only continue to deepen the pain until it is no longer bearable and finally, action is take to break the situation. Sadly the wisdom we sometimes gain is in this scenario is that we should move more quickly to break the relationship rather than gaining the wisdom of how to improve the relationship.

Another way of gaining “Wisdom” is through repeated cycles of guided trial and reflection.  In this scenario, certain wisdom and expertise is transfered to the VP by someone who has experience in the mechanics of transfering wisdom and the ability to solve relationship challenges. This wisdom helps the VP to reflect on what brings unity and what causes disunity in her/his own organization. The VP then begins to make changes in the way they look at the situation and, as the VP sees the situation in a new light, they begin to make changes in philosophy and actions, and as they reduce the pain, they also gain wisdom.

Although it may seem strange to talk about Wisdom when we talk about Organizations, it’s fairly easy to consider the consequece when the leaders of the organization lack wisdom.

I’ll talk more about this later and I’ll begin providing a method for implementing these concepts. For now, we can just think about it.

Garth


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