Nothing new under the sun

I realised a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t had a proper break from my work for two years.  Suddenly, I felt wearied.  Accordingly, I furled in my sails and allowed myself to float about on the waves of content concerning leadership, organisational design and development, culture, purpose, values, and finance that flood into my Inbox. 

All the big consultancies and individual practitioner experts like myself issue so much stuff from articles to webinars to videos to memes to animations to… well, nothing new.  In writing my essay, I’m conscious I risk adding to the cacophony. 

However, my aim is to identify some “crotchets of note” that will scythe through the noise. Hopefully, these will provide a clear tempo for healthy organisations to create the conditions that raise rather than harm the well-being of the individuals who work there.

I’m old enough to remember the Irish entertainer Val Doonican singing about O’Rafferty’s motor car, “… used to be as black as me father’s hat, now it’s forty shades of green”.  This seems to fit with all I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to.  Material is cited as being distinct, discrete, and differential in its hue, yet so much appears to be another Pantone shade of grey (rather than green).  

All this got me thinking about whether the principles of leadership that I first encountered in a book from 1968 called “Motivation and Organisational Climate” written by George Litwin and Robert Stringer contain the golden threads on which we should not lose our cognitive and physical grasp.  Their work was informed and influenced by that of David McClelland, Kurt Lewin, and Robert Blake and Jane Mouton amongst many. 

McClelland’s work on motivation identifies people having three main motivational drivers, achievement, affiliation, and power.  The latter has two faces, personalised and social or institutional.  Are we mistakenly celebrating some leaders’ personalised power?  What risks arise from their “must win, me, me, me” drive?  For instance, how much is the pandemic crisis and our world standing on the brink of climate catastrophe due to this self-centred rather than selfless leadership (see later)?  As we combat the global climate challenge, what must be done to nurture and sustain healthy climates in organisations? 

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Movement or progress?

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse moves. Ask yourself: are you going to chose the path you walk, or be blown by the winds of circumstance?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about longevity – its impact on the modern workplace, our leaders, our health. All thoughts prompted by a great book called The 100 Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

And it’s funny how, as I’ve allowed this particular thread to lead me hither and thither, I’m increasingly struck by the sense that this brave new world perhaps isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I embrace my inner “grumpy old man” a little to easily, but bear with me.

Well being or being well?

As someone who works in learning, I’m very aware of our propensity, as learning professionals, to be taken in by the latest “shiny” thing, and I think it’s fair to say that wellbeing, mental health awareness, mindfulness and resiliance training are the sparkly new kids on the block…

And whilst I’m unconvinced by the claimed benefits of these “interventions”(which, by the way, is something only the UN should do) there’s a serious question to be asked about why, it would seem, people are so unhappy? According to the Trading Economics website, the average weekly hours worked in the UK are 32 – so we aren’t working ourselves into an early grave – and whilst we’re being sombre, the suicide rate is at its lowest for 30 years according to the Samaritans.

Yet, all I hear is how stressed people are, how much they have to do and how little time they have to do it in.  So, clearly, there’s a disconnect somewhere. The key question being – where? Which made me wonder if our problem is one of quantity over quality?

Continue reading “Movement or progress?”
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