I have recently had two very interesting conversations with two of my clients, both at the executive level in their respective businesses, who consulted me for opposite reasons.
One of them, let's call him Mr. K, needed help to deal with resentment and frustration which he experienced after being laid off by his company. He had worked long hours in the previous 2 years, reorganizing the sales department and tripling productivity. He had been able to stimulate his team and other employees to internalize responsibility and take ownership for their work, improving communication and reliability. And then one afternoon, after working all day as usually, was called by the CEO, given the pink slip and escorted out of the building. Mr. K, was not really concerned about being laid off, he could get another job in no time. But after working 10-12 hours a day and really making a measurable difference in his company, he thought he deserved a different treatment.
Ms. X, on the other hand, was also a department executive and recently had to lay off a number of employees. She later had a "happy hour" discussion with a group of friends in which she was subtly accused of laziness since, in their opinion, she could have easily chosen a less aggressive way to improve productivity in her company, but which would have required much more time and energy. Ms. X was shocked to see the disdain and even anger manifested by her peers, some of whom she considered friends.
What are your thoughts and opinions? Were you ever in any of these situations?
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WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE -SEEING THE FULL HALF OF THE GLASS- AND DENIAL OF REALITY?..
In Camus' short story "Jonas or The Artist at Work" Jonas the painter expresses constantly his gratitude towards his lucky guiding star. He keeps going forward with serenity and acceptance, even when he is charged a huge rent for an apartment with very narrow rooms (rent included the "cubic air" accumulated under the very high ceilings). Even when his numerous daily visitors deprive his baby of sleep and do not let him work at his paintings. And even when a gallery owner proposes him an obviously disadvantageous deal.
It was Camus' short story that gave me more understanding of the position of two of my clients in a multi-cultural conflict management situation: a high-tech start-up, a CEO and a Director of Operations. As the heat of the market and the anxiety increase, my clients find themselves arguing excessively over the attitude toward the development of their product.
As it turns out though, the conflict included some personal / cultural issues: the CEO believes that there is that much one can do to influence the course of events. The Director of Operations believes that the CEO avoids taking responsibility as a leader and hides behind this belief that there is that much one can do, after which one needs to trust things will happen.
What are your opinions? Can you guess what are the cultures of origin of the two clients?
I am fascinated by different cultures, by the way individuals from different cultures manifest themselves and communicate, within their own community or with people from other cultures.
I counsel and coach multi-cultural social systems (individuals, organization, communities, families, couples), and I am amazed by how enriching is to accept my limitations and be a humble "expert" in multi-cultural relationships.
I would like to present Nazook, the Assyrian pastries crafted in Berkeley by Assyrian cook Bellit and her daughter Ninva (www.bellinva.com).
Assyria was a vast empire situated on the extremely fertile territory between two amazing and famous rivers: Tigris and Euphrates. In 934 BC it was the most powerful civilization and it encompassed at some point territories from the nowadays Iraq, Iran, Siria, Egipt, Iran. How often do you have a chance to taste a pastry that comes all the way from Nineveh and Babylon?..
Nazook is made with all natural ingredients, local as much as possible.
And look what I discovered on the pastry makers' Facebook page:
“You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit.”
― Joel Salatin
Do you agree, disagree?..
Whatever your answer is, if you are in downtown San Francisco you can have a delicious Nazook at Cafe Bianco, on Sutter St. And if you need company, I am right around the corner, in my Synergis Counseling office: I will always make myself available to accompany you for a coffee and a Nazook!
Individuals with strong opinions are rejected by many groups, employers and institutions, which see them being anything between an annoyance and dangerous. Many institutions and families promote "freedom of thinking", but once that gets translated into dissent, it is immediately sanctioned and the individual who openly expresses the dissent is ignored, cast-out, rejected, or transformed into a scape-goat to justify the problems of that particular social group. Differences of opinion is often accepted just because it looks good in terms of political correctness. It is still trendy to claim "diversity", as long as that doesn't really challenges the already decided course of action. This is what I call the process of McDonaldization of a social group (school, work place, family, nation): it is ok to be African, German, Russian, Pakistani or Chinese under the roof of the same McDonald's, as long as in the end you gobble up what's on the menu.
Some decision makers, says the famous corporate consultant Jamshid Gharajedaghi, are "not interested in the optimum solution. They are only interested in confirming the choices they had already made."
"Scooter covered in lavender" by Alejandro Gheorghe
Dakota Native Americans have a saying:
"When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount"
Many times governmental agencies and even corporations believe they can outsmart the Native Americans. Here are some of their "strategies"*:
1. Buy a stronger whip and use it more often.
2. Change riders.
3. Appoint a committee to study the horse.
4. Arrange to visit other countries, to learn how other cultures ride horses.
5. Lower the standards so that dead horses can be included.
6. Hire outside contractors to try to ride the dead horse.
7. Hire consultants specializing in riding dead horses.
8. Harness several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Provide extra funding and training to increase the dead horse performance.
10. Perform a productivity study: would lighter riders improve the dead horse's performance.
11. Declare that as the dead horse does not need to be fed, it is less costly, it carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy that live horses.
12. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for all horses.
And last but not least:
13. Promote the dead horse to a supervisor position.
*(Adapted after Russell Ackoff's "Systems Thinking for Curious Managers")