Archive for June, 2008

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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Welcome to the SustainabilityCulture.com

To celebrate my first entry on this new blog, I’ve decided to give a little taste of what’s to come.

Clearly in a world which is struggling in so many ways and, to be fair, which also has so many wonderful successes, my plan is to add a voice that helps all organizations become more successful.

Really the goal here is to help by providing tools, assessments, thoughts, ideas and information that will help you to have a closer look at your organization and figure out what will change it for the better.

My goal, of course, in this first post is not to get into detail, I’ll bring lots of ideas in future posts.

For now, I’ll simply leave you with this thought. An organization which has happy employees that work effectively together will be more resiliant to change than one that has employees who are unhappy.

That’s it for now. Later I’ll talk about why and what to do about it.

Garth

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