Dangerous Desks …


Dangerous Desks - Presenter Media

… and who am I to argue with a best-selling author, whose works continue to sell and be made into films and television series?

For some people, a desk is something other people have to sit behind, but for many of us, it is an essential piece of furniture, whether we toil in a cubicle, open office, or in our den at home.  The basic elements apply, even if you just spread out in a booth at a BreadCo or Starbucks.

I do wonder if some additional information is necessary, though.  Here are some quick diagnostic questions to ponder as you go about your daily work.  If you do not have a desk, take a few minutes to create a visual image of a desk that you might use, then answer the questions:

HOW DO YOU PHYSICALLY USE YOUR DESK?

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One-Way Airplane Tickets …


Airplane RIde - Presenter Media 7140WE USUALLY FLY ROUND-TRIP, DON’T WE?

We start somewhere that we think of as home and we fly off to another location.

Maybe we are traveling for work, or to visit family, to take a vacation, or participate in an event.  We might be looking forward to the trip or dreading the touchdown of the wheels in that other place.  If we travel often, we no longer notice the little details of flying and simply spend the time as we desire, productively or not.

We expect and arrange to fly back to home when we are finishing doing whatever we have traveled to do.  Our trip home may reflect exhaustion, exhilaration, or quiet satisfaction.

BUT WE ALWAYS EXPECT TO COME HOME …

EXCEPT SOMETIMES WE DON’T …

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Asking “Why?” …


Snow FLowerChip Bell regularly stimulates my leadership and management thinking … as he did recently with an amusing, but thought-provoking post over at the Lead Change Group, cleverly titled “Don’t Be A Leader of Stupid Rules, which ranks as one of my favorite blog post titles of 2016 so far.  

Chip’s post addresses the all too familiar tendency in the workplace to have rules and processes which everyone follows, but few know why.

Here’s my response to Chip’s post, with a little editing for clarity and expanded reflection:

 

I was once responsible for helping employees install a standardized organizational system for both paper and electronic workflow in an organization.  As part of that, I would spend much time working with individual employees as they literally took their workspace apart, organized all items into standardized categories and reorganized how they stored data and materials.

Analyzing work processes was a big part of this changeover.   One time,  an employee struggled with what to label a work step in which she received forms from another employee and in turn, gave them to a third employee, without doing anything to the forms, such as verifying or sorting.  After much discussion, we were unable to determine why she needed to do this step, other than that familiar “I was told this was part of my job and I’ve always done it this way” statement.

Similarly to Chip’s story about Catherine The Great and the flower , I finally learned from a long-time employee that decades earlier, two women who did not like each other each had responsibility for a step in this work process.  Since they could not get along, their manager chose to assign a third employee to receive and pass on the documents.

Over the years, just like the soldiers guarding the empty spot, generations of employees were taught to follow this  “system” without any awareness of why that step existed.

Two lessons here for me: 

1)  MANAGERS CREATE PROBLEMS WHEN THEY ARE RELUCTANT TO ADDRESS PROBLEM …

This is first and foremost a failure of management.  The original manager had the authority and the opportunity to directly address the issue.

Had that original manager addressed the workplace impact of  both employee’s behavior with them, and either directed or coached the employees to work together without affecting workflow, this story would not be mine to tell to illustrate poor management practice.

2) EMPLOYEES OFTEN FOLLOW DIRECTIONS WITHOUT QUESTIONING WHY THEY SHOULD DO SO …

Sometimes leaders overestimate their impact and sometimes they underestimate it.  Many employees, especially those new to a process, a workgroup, or an organization, will simply accept whatever they perceive as “the way we do it”.   In order to fit in, they then attempt to master doing whatever it is that the system requires them to do, with little reflection on why they are doing it

Fortunately, this is changing in the modern workplace, due to the efforts of a few thoughtful and forward-thinking souls.  A valuable employee is now more often seen as the one who will say “Wait … why are we doing this?” and expect a reasonable answer.   They will comply when to do so makes sense, but will question when motivations and reasons are not clear. 

Ira Chaleff is one of the most valuable and articulate voices driving this welcome workplace and societal trend.  For a great deal more about “FOLLOWERSHIP, click the link to read my previous post on this topic. 

Related Observation:  A GOOD MANAGER KNOWS WHEN TO ASK “WHY”  …

As an operations officer (think Chief Training Officer) in the US Army Reserve, I learned quickly that simply walking up to a tank idling in the wilderness and asking the crew “What are you doing?” as innocently as possible was a good thing.

Listening to the responses to this simple query would provide me with a wealth of insight into their morale, how the training was going, and whether they understood their roles and responsibilities within the context of our mission.

Pretty good return for a simple question …

Chip’s post is a good reminder of how we need to continually analyze what we are doing, why we are doing it, and whether we should stop or change doing it:)

Trying to remember to follow my own advice in the Heartland ….

John

Viewpoints and Books …

Quote


Book and Glasses - Morguefile.comThe purpose of a good education is to show you that there are three sides to a two-sided story.”

Stanley Fish

I have often heard some version of the following:

There are always three sides to an argument about the truth:   My side, your side, and the actual reality.

This is most likely very true, and as you add participants, the number of possible “sides” grows.  We are all creations of our culture, our experiences, our beliefs, and our values.

No wonder we cannot all just agree to get along … we cannot even look at something without creating multiple interpretations.   As has often been said, at least by me, “Your terrorist is my freedom fighter”.

Why am I harping on this today?

No special reason, even with the political campaign in full tilt boogie spewing examples over the landscape of how people see the same objective things very differently, very subjectively.

Take a little time to look at this image and think about what it seems to show you.  Cultural Optical Illusion - Opticalillusions.com

We need to keep reminding ourselves that our natural tendency is to view people, things, and events through our personal lens, which sets up us to be influenced by our own biases, fallacious reasoning, and stereotypes … which we all have or experience in abundance.

About the image:  Western eyes usually see a family in a corner of a room with some kind of vegetation visible in the window.  African eyes see the “corner” as a tree and the window becomes a container balanced on a woman’s head.

We see what we are conditioned to see …

Education, especially the reading and discussion of books, can be one of several powerful tools to help us move beyond our own perceptions into the larger world, IF WE pay attention to the following suggestions:

… Choose books written to expand thinking, rather than control knowledge.

… Ensure that books are written in the spirit of discovery and curiosity, rather than the zeal of blind passion and persuasion.

… Select books that contain viewpoints with which we do not already agree.

… Discuss what we read with people that hold varying viewpoints and know how to talk, rather than just convince.

… Remember the sum total of all each of us individually knows is like a single drop of water in the ocean.

… Use what we learn  from books to support our own continued discernment.

… Avoid using what we learn as a weapon to convert others.

Books can be powerful  learning tools or dangerous weapons … as with many things in life, it’s more about how you use something.

Well, I feel a little more prepared to move forward thoughtfully now.  How about you?

Trying not to feel overconfident about my own learning path in the Heartland ….

John

 

Images:

Book and Glasses – morguefile.com

Optical Illusion –  http://www.optical-illusionist.com/category/double-meanings/

 

 

 

Feeding Our Purpose …


Purpose - 3 Hungers JPEG - Morguefile.com

Quotation Source:  Richard Leider (The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better. p. 45)

The above quote is from one of Leider’s older books, which I thought would be a good place to start my personal exploration of purpose.  I am engaged in several projects right now that have to do with discerning and living out what we are meant to be and I am having a blast revisiting some tools and strategies I first learned decades ago, while reading up on the more current thinking around how we discern what we are here to do.

I find Leider’s statement useful, because it incorporate three basic concerns for anyone who senses that there is more to life and work than simply making money.

THE POWER OF CHOICE …

In a world where we often experience the effects of someone else’s decisions or something else’s action, remembering that we have the power to choose can be difficult.

A greedy CEO takes action to protect his personal wealth and a company fails, with resultant job losses and turmoil.

Mother Nature reacts to global behavior and floods somewhere, while somewhere else experiences a massive drought, and severe weather seems to have become the norm for many, with property damage, loss of life, and economic upheaval following.

However, as anyone who has read Viktor E. Frankl knows:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

The freedom to choose is an important element in our lives.

OUR UNIQUENESS …

We might now feel all that unique these days, as mass media continues to communicate how we ought to feel, think, and behave with shot-gun blasts of generalized messages in various forms.

The sheer weight of completing with 7.4 BILLION other people probably daunts many, which may be why so many of us seem unaware of all our neighbors and co-inhabitants of this planet.  

Our neighbors may be familiar to us in many ways.  They may resemble you physically, and we all share the same general range of emotions, values, beliefs, and attitudes.  Many of us have engaged in the same type of work as others, sometimes to the point of feeling lost in a gigantic stream of monochromatic “worker bees“.

Parents loves their children in a very universal way and the differences are usually superficial cultural, ethnic, or religious ones.

But nobody else is YOU… your unique combination of all of the above, plus your individual experiences in families, communities, and work environments … plus that “choice” thingie.   Even if your life is completely and totally the same as another, you have the ability to choose a different path.

MEANINGFUL USEFULNESS …

As I am finding out, Leider and others who try to help us lead more purposeful lives, have a mantra that is repeated time and again … Knowing your purpose is nothing unless you act to actually engage in your purpose.

I do not have the link, but I remember reading about research that indicates that people who learn their purpose, but do not fulfill it, are actually less happy than those who do not engage in discerning what they were made to do, and definitely less happy than those who discern and then act.

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

So says Marlon Brando‘s sad protagonist in the Oscar-winning 1954 film On The Waterfront.  If you only know of Brando’s more recent bloated and sinister acting, take a few hours to watch some  gut-wrenching acting.

We strive for purpose, because purpose creates a sense of meaning in our lives … if we then act on what we learn.  As I currently understand the journey to purpose, here is what purpose is not:

Purpose is not our work, although what we do for a living may reflect our purpose.

Purpose is also not what we enjoy doing, although we may enjoy living out our purpose.

Purpose is not our life goals, although our life goals may involve our purpose. 

Much more coming about this journey to purpose, but meanwhile:

How have you discerned your purpose in life?

How have you acted out your purpose?

What difference has this made for you?

Trying hard to consciously choose my best path and walk it with courage in the Heartland ….

John 

Image:  Morguefile.com/Meditation