Compassionate Management

There’s been a lot of studies done on what makes businesses succeed and–what a surprise–it’s the same thing that allows any group of people to succeed. And note I said allows and not causes. People will naturally surprise us with their capability, the only question is; just how skilled is a leader at finding those opportunities?

1024-relax-and-succeed-a-bad-manager-can-take-a-good-staffEvidence of this can easily be seen when a new manager takes over an old group. The very same group of people that the previous manager felt were useless can suddenly become superstars–why? Very often it’s because they stopped being managed like they were in the military and they started being managed like they’re human beings rather than human doings.

Bad leaders think people do things for them, good leaders know that in a good team all of the people are working together toward a common, meaningful goal. In one scenario the staff work for the leader and in the other all of them work for each other. In one case their job title is ordered to perform a business function and in the other some human beings cooperate to get something done that’s of mutual benefit.

Many times management will be so off target that they won’t even have considered the texture and feel of their employee’s day. All the manager sees is their own to-do list and they imagine that all of these people have been gathered under them to help them get their manager’s list taken care of. Ordering something get done is not management, it’s just orders, and those you can get from a machine.

1024-relax-and-succeed-if-people-are-goodWeaker managers will often be baffled about what else they would even do other than get their own lists done. They just see work; you do this, he does that, she does the other thing. There is no philosophy driving the work or how it’s done, it’s just a daily list.

Meanwhile, a stronger manager realises that the work day is generally at least 1/3rd of their co-workers lives, which is close to the number of waking hours people will spend with a spouse. Ordering consistently unmotivated work to be done in an unmotivated fashion is the same thing as covering the windshield and then telling the staff where you want them to drive. They can understand the directions and maybe even find it on their GPS, but that doesn’t help them negotiate the daily traffic of their lives. The problem for the weaker manager is that they’re only managing their own life and not the lives of everyone that works for them.

As an example, let’s say a mom returning from maternity leave has returned to work. She’s capable, hard-working and liked by her co-workers, but she starts coming in late. A bad boss draws her attention to her lateness and then possibly sets some kind of penalty. She tries to explain the challenges created by where her daycare moved to, but the manager doesn’t really listen to how the woman’s windshield is covered. Maybe she’s a woman too and she raised kids and worked, so she doesn’t see the problem. So she tells the woman to get to work despite the covered windshield, as though there’s no limits to managing around a kid.

Around a kid. A manager should hear that come out of their mouth and know immediately that’s gotta be wrong. The manager is asking a parent to value their work more than their child. Now the bad manager would say that’s not what they’re doing, but that’ll just be their beliefs about themselves. There’ll be a but… in there for the manager. Yeah, I know she’s gotta a new kid and that’s challenging, but she still has to get her work done…. So the manager basically says; your problem, not work’s. And technically that’s true, especially in countries that don’t even have mandatory support for maternity leave.

A manager is best to try to help solve their employee’s challenge because something being technically correct isn’t actually very useful to a manager. Technical correctness is a term for things that look like they should work but they’re missing some humanity. A poor manager sees the staff like buckets of skills that you fill with work. The staff see work as a major part of their life and they absolutely will respond positively to any co-worker/manager who finds a way to make that daily experience more enriching.

If you’re on a staff somewhere, figure out if your manager is trying to build a team and if you’re cooperating with that effort or putting yourself first. Because you may very well end up further behind by putting yourself first. And if you’re a manager somewhere, make sure that you also are not putting yourself first. You will be rewarded well for any efforts you make toward ensuring that the people you work with have an environment that is generally understanding, constructive, pleasant, supportive, and rewarding. And fortunately, creating even one of those things often leads to the others developing quite naturally.

Now go get on a team. It feels good to surrender your wants for almost any goal achieved in cooperation with others. And a good manager knows that.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Observational vs Instructional Parenting

1019-relax-and-succeed-it-is-easier-to-build-strong-childrenWhen European settlers first came to North America one of the first clashes of culture existed in the realm of parenting. Corporal punishment was generally not used in the native cultures because they did not believe in corrective behaviour from an authority figure. Like most tribal cultures, they believed an entire community raised a child and that children learned to behave in alignment with their culture not by being told how, but rather by watching other people actually living in alignment with that culture.

Europeans on the other hand had unwittingly assumed the Christian original-sin belief into their daily life and so the idea was that no one was born worthy and rather one earned one’s worth. In the native cultures the worth of anyone was never in question. The European system lead to a top-down almost military style with the father in command, his wife second and then the children by order of age and gender. Meanwhile there weren’t even  things like lineups for native cultures, so therefore there were also no need to “order” people or things.

1019-relax-and-succeed-when-a-flower-isnt-bloomingAs well-intentioned as it is, the European model is based on a hierarchy rather than mutual respect. Being bound to someone by words and ideas is one thing, but caring about someone enough to make sacrifices for them is a much different thing. This is like the difference between a soldier fighting because he was told to by someone he doesn’t respect, versus he does so out of love for his leader.

The idea the natives naturally used is the one everyone’s actually using either way, whether their culture realises it or not. Kids don’t learn by what you tell them, it’s how we act. And if we realised that more consciously we would literally change the world.

The northernmost tribes in Canada, from the Gwich’in in the West all the way through all of the Inuit cultures and all the way East past the Innu to the Beothuk, the cold and barren surroundings and limited food sources have meant over time that patience, tolerance, cooperation and generosity are excellent strategies for staying alive. Since you couldn’t and can’t cultivate food you have to cultivate relationships that can lead to group dinners that ensure all are fed regardless of their individual hunt’s success. When you can end up living in the confines of an igloo it helps if you have an agreeable personality.

1019-relax-and-succeed-your-work-is-not-to-drag-the-worldSimilarly the Japanese and other Asian cultures learned to cultivate a courteous, respectful manner with others because the hydraulics of the terraced rice paddies meant that your neighbour had to choose to let you have the water next. These interdependencies can be seen as a lack of freedom, but they can also be seen to create more freedom. What is the point of any amount of freedom if it is primarily spent in a state of worry or fear when it could be spent cooperating with friends?

It is notable that these cultures are both very quiet. Words are seen as less important than the control of behaviour. This isn’t done in a subservient way; it’s done for the greater good of all. But for that to happen we first have to believe that a) we ourselves are capable of good behaviour, b) that our children are capable and naturally inclined to want to learn, and c) that lessons are not as important as examples.

Most parents I see are panicked that things are much worse than they are. Invariably I meet a caring, engaged parent who has the same kinds of flaws all of us have. Because people are generally good, just by living their lives the way they naturally do they end up raising really great kids too. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t follow every order exactly right. That won’t be what makes good character.

1019-relax-and-succeed-imagine-what-seven-billion-humansWhat’ll make a good fellow tribesman won’t be precise behaviour, it’ll be the general compassionate awarenesses that would lead them to do things like notice an older person struggling behind them, leading them to hold that door open a little longer for that fellow tribesman. What’ll make a good tribesman is not asking for apologies, but giving them. Then giving them will be natural to a child, just like they learn to avoid giving them. And forgive yourself for when they learn the bits about you you wish they wouldn’t. You’re worth those bits anyway.

Believe in yourself. Believe in the children around you. They’re all just waiting to sprout into something amazing if they just get the rest of us doing a bit of cultivating of ourselves. If we accept ourselves while we strive to grow, from there the kids will just naturally follow our lead, but lead we must do. Here’s to you exhibiting a great day of admirable behaviour.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #123: Female Leadership

983-relax-and-succeed-you-dont-need-a-reasonWhat if women ran things? Would government run differently? Would business run differently? Would their natural inclination be toward more cooperative efforts? I’m sure there’s advantages and disadvantages to each perspective but I would welcome giving more women a chance.

There are some signs in nature that this could work well. There are also signs that our natures are quite flexible given healthy circumstances. But even the most natural creature can break down if it has to live an unnatural life. That’s probably what happened to us. When we lose our reliance on each other we destroy ourselves.

It’s fascinating to listen to this remarkable story about the strange circumstances these baboons found themselves in, and how that lead to them being lead by the females which in turn lead to their culture becoming kinder and more compassionate. They thrived. It’s a good lesson for any family no matter what gender heads it.

Radiolab is always well done. This story is hard not to find fascinating. Enjoy.

Violent Baboons and Female Leadership

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

People in the House

Parents see it as parents and kids, but kids too-often see it as humans and tyrants because too often it is. As often as I’ll see it in a boardroom I’ll see it in a family; a total lack of awareness of the state of affairs prior to introducing something new. The kids act like idiots just when Mom and Dad were already at the end of their rope with a rough day at work. Or the parents are bending over backwards to help and the kids are attacking them as though they are the lowest life form on the Earth. These reactions are counterproductive to our own interests.

697 Relax and Succeed - Speak in such a wayWith interpersonal leadership from the parents, kids can be taught to communicate their mental weather. If a parent is losing their temper they can say to the child at that time, “Okay, I did not have a great day with my boss and now I’m getting upset with you—let’s talk about this when I have more patience because I don’t want us to treat each other disrespectfully.” Of course they’re little and can’t uphold their end of the bargain but that doesn’t matter—you’re teaching them, not the other way around. You can explain to them when you’re grumpy or tired or hungry or worried and by doing that you will teach them to eventually do it too.

The people who live together need to be aware of each others state of mind. That is the context in which all events take place. It doesn’t matter who’s younger or older or who’s the parent and who’s the kid, everyone contributes to the overall personality of a household and unaware parents are just as damaging to that peace as unaware kids. But parents who strive to maintain emotional awareness will also teach that skill to their kids.

697 Relax and Succeed - I used to think I was overreactingIf you’re a teen it isn’t unreasonable if a parent comes home worn out and is hurt that you couldn’t show your love for them by helping start dinner. Likewise it isn’t unreasonable for a kid to be tense and easily upset if they’re being bullied all day and now their parent is all-demands. It isn’t unreasonable for a parent to be upset that something they worked hundreds of hours in after-tax dollars to buy, ends up broken by their children through pure carelessness. It isn’t unreasonable for a teenager to be tired in the morning—when that is essentially biological.

Yes, we can greatly mitigate reactions to daily experiences, but since we have the emotions to express negative things we will express them because that’s how the world is built. Otherwise nature wouldn’t have built those reactions. It’s just that before we’re enlightened we don’t like it when we inevitably have the less pleasant experiences. But that’s what Yin and Yang mean. Together they create the world. You can’t have one without the other.

No story can be all high notes. That would be boring to read, watch or live. Your life is a story. And your family’s life is a story. Use your awareness of that fact to make both yours and your family’s a truly a great one. There’s nothing stopping you. You are the author of your own pages. It is you who gets to write out an angry reaction—or an upset reaction to someone else’s angry reaction. But you can also write something more peaceful. You can see your character from a bit more distance which will allow you to make calmer choices. Over time we can take upset family members—and ourselves—and learn to slow the energy down, just as we’ve been inadvertently taught to speed it up by being impatient with anything short of perfection.

697 Relax and Succeed - How to really love a childDon’t try to win or get your way. Families ultimately want to go in fundamentally the same healthy directions, so focus on those commonalities and request that everyone keep in mind that everyone has their interior lives and that some graciousness and patience would go a long way.

Don’t shoot for perfection. Healthy families find healthy ways to deal with conflict by having to deal with conflict. As long as the parent leads and provides some time for mistakes and growth, this process can bring families even closer together. Even if on some days it feels like it’s doing the opposite.

The one thing you can count on is most kids turn out far better than their parents imagined they would and, in the end, that’s as good for the parents as it is for the kids.

Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Original Sin

Concepts like governments, laws, religions, or education or legal systems all create many ways for people to feel they are wrong. In the case of some religions you were even born wrong and your life is almost a form of apology where you try to make up for your failings to God. So we feel we owe God perfect behaviour, we feel we owe our parents and the system good grades, we feel like we owe it to society to obey laws—even the ones we don’t agree with.

Even the economy itself with its symbolic money means that you can now actually fail at just being alive. Born in Africa in a poverty-stricken war-torn country? Don’t have access to education or health care? Then too bad, you lose, because you won’t have the money to buy the food that you used to get for free from the Earth itself. But now someone invented the concept of ownership and then people needed guns to protect the things they owned and so now those fruits belong to someone else which means they don’t belong to you. A person somewhere else—someone with money—can eat it, but not the guy who picked it. That’s how silly our world is. We’ll actually let the picker die of starvation rather than let him eat. We’ll have the simple inexpensive medicines to save his life, but we won’t give them to him without the money.

Because modern life is loosely based on the rather undefined concept of progress, people will feel like they’re failing even if they’re standing still—because things like advertising or where they are on the bell curve at school will lead them to believe that everyone else is working harder than they are. So progress would be to work harder. And so modern life is set up around wants, which necessitates us starting from a position where we’re lacking, and effort or hard work will make up the difference between us and success.

So advertising or our church or our boss tells us we’re missing something and we need to earn the right to have it, and then we can check off the box that says we can stop beating ourselves up, (which in turn leads us into the habit of beating others up as well). Think about how much 618 Relax and Succeed - What is the waystrife is caused by parents pushing for better grades and think of how incredibly seldom those grades mattered to the quality of life the person ends up leading. There is no relationship between external success and internal happiness, so why are we willing to sacrifice so much of the latter in an attempt to get the former?

So many people feel they are starting behind, and that where they are now can’t possibly be good enough. They tend to manage their lives based on avoiding the pain of failure rather than on cultivating a life that enables our natural satisfaction and appreciation to exist unfettered by thoughts about what’s missing or how we need more. Think about it. What if a God you totally believed in came down, proved his power to you, and then ordered you to be happy because he deemed you perfect. Hey! Good for you! Praise by God! Now what?

We don’t need to beat ourselves into doing a good job. If what we’re doing has any kind of value at all then capable, open people will always find a way to invest themselves in that work. People that work in the arts will try to make things that you like or enjoy or approve of or maybe hate. But the true artists among them will just be being themselves whether you like it or not. So there’s a career that at its zenith experiences no social pressure whatsoever. They can do like Klein and paint an entire canvass one shade of blue and still they can have happy lives and 618 Relax and Succeed - Meraki to do something with soulsurvive all the judgment. Because you’re not living a spiritual life if you’re conforming to what everyone else wants. You’re living a spiritual life when you realize with absolute certainty that even if there wasn’t a single rule in the universe, you would still be made of love and your pure self could act like nothing else.

It’s time to stop beating yourself up using your ability to think. You weren’t supposed to tell yourself stories where you’re the villain. Save thinking for remembering directions or traffic rules or something. But don’t apply it like you’re some kind of judge and jury to yourself. There was no crime here. There is nothing wrong with you other than the fact that you keep comparing your perfection to other people’s perfection. Your problem isn’t who you are. Your only problem is who you think you are. So stop all the chatter and just be instead. Because that would be just perfect. 😉

peace. s